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What Does Israel Want?
Imagine a group of high ranking generals who simulated for years Third World War scenarios in which they can move huge armies around, employ the most sophisticated weapons in their disposal and enjoy the immunity of a computerized headquarters from which they can direct their war games. Now imagine that they are informed that in fact there is no Third World War and their expertise is needed to calm down some of the nearby slums or deal with soaring crime in deprived townships and impoverished neighborhoods. And then imagine - in the final episode in my chimerical crisis - what happens when they find out how irrelevant have their plans been and how useless are their weapons in the struggle against the street violence produced by social inequality, poverty and years of discrimination in their society. They can either admit failure or decide none the less to use the massive and destructive arsenal at their disposal. We are witnessing today the havoc wreaked by Israeli generals who opted for latter course of action.
I have been teaching in the Israeli universities for 25 years. Several of my students were high ranking officers in the army. I could see their growing frustration since the outbreak of the first Intifada in 1987. They detested this kind of confrontation, called euphemistically by the gurus of the American discipline of International Relations: ‘low intensity conflict’. It was too low to their taste. They were faced with stones, molotov bottles and primitive arms which required a very limited use of the huge arsenal the army has amassed throughout the years and did not test at all their ability to perform in a battlefield or a war zone. Even when the army used tanks and F-16s, it was a far cry from the war games the officers played in the Israeli Matkal – headquarters – and for which they bought, with American tax payer money – the most sophisticated and updated weaponry existing in the market.
The first Intifada was crushed, but the Palestinians continued to seek ways of ending the occupation. They rose again in 2000, inspired this time by a more religious group of national leaders and activists. But it was still a ‘low intensity conflict’; no more than that. But this is not what the army expected, it was yearning for a ‘real’ war. As Raviv Druker and Offer Shelah, two Israeli journalists with close ties to the IDF, show in a recent book, Boomerang (p. 50), major military exercises before the second Intifada were based on a scenario that envisaged a full-scale war. It was predicted that in the case of another Palestinian uprising, there would be three days of ‘riots’ in the occupied territories that would turn into a head-on confrontation with neighboring Arab states, especially Syria. Such a confrontation, it was argued, was needed to maintain Israel’s power of deterrence and reinforce the generals confidence in their army’s ability to conduct a conventional war.
Talal Salman, As-Safir (Beirut), 14 July 2006
It's war again. As in the past, it's an Israeli war in terms of the men and material; a joint Israeli-American war in terms of its declared and implied political aims. We must prepare for a long, bitter, and costly confrontation because the first aim of the war is to change the rules of the game radically in Lebanon, for starters, then in its neighbor Palestine, then in the rogue state Syria and rebellious Iran.
Nothing but an excuse is the claim that this is a response to the successful capture by Hizballah fighters of two Israeli soldiers (with the aim of securing the release of Lebanese prisoners who have languished in Israeli jails for decades). The real reason for the war is the presence of the resistance, and then its influential role, not only on Lebanese politics, but on the Arab level in general and the Palestinian level in particular.
The waves of this resistance have reached out to Iraq under the American occupation, where the blood of its martyrs spelled out the invaluable lesson that only with unity could liberation be achieved. With sectarian strife comes only partition and fragmentation until the homeland disappears.
The aim of this war is to liberate Lebanon from the resistance which crossed borders and thereby provided the excuse for the American-Israeli plan to be carried out in its entirety, by resorting to the implementation of UN Resolution 1559 and by pressure to implement it to the letter -- that is to say, to treat the resistance as if it were some armed militia that must be disarmed... as a necessary first step to pushing it back from the borders, beyond the range of its missiles, and then handing over the task of guarding the blue line border to Lebanese government forces aided by international troops.
Whatever may be the fate of the captive soldier Gilad Shalit, the Israeli armyís war in Gaza is not about him. As senior security analyst Alex Fishman widely reported, the army was preparing for an attack months earlier and was constantly pushing for it, with the goal of destroying the Hamas infrastructure and its government. The army initiated an escalation on 8 June when it assassinated Abu Samhadana, a senior appointee of the Hamas government, and intensified its shelling of civilians in the Gaza Strip. Governmental authorization for action on a larger scale was already given by 12 June, but it was postponed in the wake of the global reverberation caused by the killing of civilians in the air force b! ombing the next day. The abduction of the soldier released the safety-catch, and the operation began on 28 June with the destruction of infrastructure in Gaza and the mass detention of the Hamas leadership in the West Bank, which was also planned weeks in advance. (1)
In Israeli discourse, Israel ended the occupation in Gaza when it evacuated its settlers from the Strip, and the Palestiniansí behavior therefore constitutes ingratitude. But there is nothing further from reality than this description. In fact, as was already stipulated in the Disengagement Plan, Gaza remained under complete Israeli military control, operating from outside. Israel prevented any possibility of economic independence for the Strip and from the very beginning, Israel did not implement a single one of the clauses of the agreement on border-crossings of November 2005. Israel simply substituted the expensive occupation of Gaza with a cheap occupation, one which in Israelís view exempts it from! the occupierís responsibility to maintain the Strip, and from concern for the welfare and the lives of its million and a half residents, as determined in the fourth Geneva convention.
Israel does not need this piece of land, one of the most densely populated in the world, and lacking any natural resources. The problem is that one cannot let Gaza free, if one wants to keep the West Bank. A third of the occupied Palestinians live in the Gaza strip. If they are given freedom, they would become the center of Palestinian struggle for liberation, with free access to the Western and Arab world. To control the West Bank, Israel needs full control Gaza. The new form of control Israel has developed is turning the whole of the Strip into a prison camp completely sealed from the world.
Besieged occupied people with nothing to hope for, and no alternative means of political struggle, will always seek ways to fight their oppressor. The imprisoned Gaza Palestinians found a way to disturb the life of the Israelis in the vicinity of the Strip, ! by launching home-made Qassam rockets across the Gaza wall against Israeli towns bordering the Strip. These primitive rockets lack the precision to focus on a target, and have rarely caused Israeli casualties; they do however cause physical and psychological damage and seriously disturb life in the targeted Israeli neighborhoods. In the eyes of many Palestinians, the Qassams are a response to the war Israel has declared on them. As a student from Gaza said to the New York Times, ìWhy should we be the only ones who live in fear? With these rockets, the Israelis feel fear, too. We will have to live in peace together, or live in fear together.î (2)
The mightiest army in the Middle East has no military answer to these home-made rockets. One answer that presents itself is what Hamas has been proposing all along, and Haniyeh repeated this week - a comprehensive cease-fire. Hamas has proven already that it can keep its word. In the 17 months since it announced its! decision to abandon armed struggle in favor of political struggle, an d declared a unilateral cease-fire (ìtahdiyaî - calm), it did not participate in the launching of Qassams, except under severe Israeli provocation, as happened in the June escalation. However, Hamas remains committed to political struggle against the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. In Israel`s view, the Palestinians elections results is a disaster, because for the first time they have a leadership that insists on representing Palestinian interests rather than just collaborating with Israel`s demands.