Opinion: U.S. should enter Mideast fray again

November 21, 2012


— An Israeli official was listening a few days ago to the familiar critique that Israel doesn’t have any strategy in Gaza, just periodic tactical assaults on Hamas. The official finally exploded: “That is our strategy. Don’t you understand? We don’t have any other choice except to punch our adversary in the face every few years.”

The most depressing aspect about the latest Gaza war is that it dramatizes this “no exit” aspect of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Wars recur every four or five years, but they never seem to settle anything. The Israelis pound the Palestinians until they accept a cease-fire, but it’s temporary. The emotional state of war continues.

The first time I watched this movie was 1982. Israel invaded Lebanon to stop the rockets that were then harassing northern Israel. The invasion was called “Operation Peace for Galilee,” and the Israeli army rolled all the way to Beirut. With their massive firepower, the Israelis assumed the Palestinians would cut and run, as Arab armies had in previous wars. But the Palestinians stood their ground.

It turned out the Israelis didn’t have a good endgame strategy in that war, any more than in the current one. In 1982, they accepted American mediation that eventually forced the PLO to leave south Lebanon and Beirut. But this proved a mixed blessing, to put it charitably: The PLO guerrillas were replaced by more disciplined fighters from Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia that was created by the war.

Now it’s Hezbollah that poses the deadly rocket threat to northern Israel. Hezbollah suicide bombings forced Israel to invade Lebanon again in 1996 (“Operation Grapes of Wrath”), then withdraw in frustration from Lebanon in 2000, then attack Hezbollah once more in 2006 (“Operation Change of Direction”).

Gaza has been a similar exercise in frustration, with each cycle of violence buying a few years of quiet, followed by more war. The Israelis withdrew from Gaza in 2005, only to have Hamas fire about 12,000 rockets and mortars at the Jewish state. The Israel Defense Forces invaded in 2008 (“Operation Cast Lead”), and a cease-fire followed. But in the years since, Hamas has fired more than 3,000 rockets and mortars, despite periodic cease-fires.

On Nov. 14, the Israelis got fed up and retaliated (“Operation Pillar of Defense”) They assassinated Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari, triggering 1,500 new Hamas rocket attacks, to which Israel responded by bombing more than 1,400 targets. The lopsided death toll (at last count, 113 Palestinians and three Israelis killed) led to some international criticism, which undercut some of the military benefits for Israel.  

Is there any escape from this Israeli-Palestinian version of hell? The mark of an Israeli realist is to say, glumly, that this is as good as it gets. Few Israelis imagine that real peace is possible with adversaries who refuse to even accept Israel’s existence. The idealists who embraced the Oslo agreement of 1993 have died, moved away from Israel, or given up.

Maybe it’s because of Thanksgiving Day, our national festival of optimism, but the idea that America should simply accept the inevitability of perpetual conflict on Israel’s borders seems like a betrayal of both sides. This kind of war grinds down decent people’s characters, so Palestinians can cheer when they hear about rockets targeting the families in Tel Aviv, or Israel supporters can denounce newspapers for running a picture of a sobbing Palestinian journalist cradling his lost child, or send emails headed, “Cue the Dead Baby.”

Acting as peacemaker in this conflict has been a thankless job for America. It begets enmity in Israel, which doesn’t want its closest ally to be “evenhanded” in this life-or-death conflict. And it begets cynicism and bitterness among Arabs, who have heard so many American promises, to so little effect, that many have concluded the process is a charade.

But at the beginning of Barack Obama’s final term, he needs to take on this burden once more, as he did when he came into office. He has worked hard to develop relationships with three important backers of Hamas — Egypt, Turkey and Qatar. Even the Israelis think that Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government has acted constructively in the crisis, and they’d like to see Egypt have more control of Gaza.

A cease-fire in Gaza would provide a new platform for negotiation — weird, unstable, but worth the effort of trying a few more steps. What’s the risk? Another war? The threat of future missile attacks? That dismal picture is called the status quo.

— David Ignatius is a columnist for Washington Post Writers Group.


ThePilgrim 5 years, 7 months ago

Israel's endgame is to keep from getting pushed into the Mediterranean. Or at the very least status quo. Hamas' endgame (stated repeatedly) is the destruction of Israel, either by force or by negotiating them out of so much that they effectively lose. There is no solution to this because they want the same piece of land, and Hamas' does not even want Israel to exist, let alone"share" it. This is not rhetoric, it is very verbally stated.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

And yet, it's Palestinians who've been "driven into the sea," hemmed in by Israel to be blasted like fish in a barrel any time an Israeli election comes around.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

Gilad Sharon, son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, wrote an op-ed on Sunday calling for even more aggressive Israeli strikes in Gaza.

"We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza," states Sharon in The Jerusalem Post.

He concludes his defense of Israel's actions with a hawkish message:

"There is no middle path here – either the Gazans and their infrastructure are made to pay the price, or we reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Otherwise there will be no decisive victory. And we’re running out of time – we must achieve victory quickly. The Netanyahu government is on a short international leash. Soon the pressure will start – and a million civilians can’t live under fire for long. This needs to end quickly – with a bang, not a whimper."

Israel's Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai is reported by The Yeshiva World News to have said, "We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages, destroying all the infrastructure including roads and water." Haaretz also reports that Yishai stated, "The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages."


Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

*** Do you really expect me to categorize Hamas, -who have killed a whopping 30 Israelis in the last 10 YEARS as a "terrorist organization" while Israel butchers that many women and children in 1 DAY??? Take off the Zionist blinders buddy...

You are regurgitating the old Neocon/Zionist rhetoric about Hamas without knowing any of the changes that have occurred within that organization or taking into consideration Israel's terrorism and injustice committed towards Palestinians decade after decade.

For starters I recommend you read: "NIXED SIGNALS" on Fair (dot) o-r-g -- to get a better understanding on Hamas' current position regarding a peaceful solution and Israel.

It becomes perfectly obvious to anyone who has studied the Israel-Palestine conflict that Israel violates Palestinian's basic human rights and international law for the past 60 years.

The 1947 Partition Plan was rejected by Arabs (would you give up more than half your land and resources to foreigners because other foreigners said so?) and it was also rejected by Jewish religious extremists like Menachem Begin (- IRGUN Jewish-Terrorist leader) who went on to massacre and expel Palestinian from their homes/lands and erased hundreds of Palestinian towns off the map, leading to the Nakba (Palestinian exodus) in 1948. The remaining Palestinian towns were taken over by the Zionists and renamed with Jewish names.

Not much has changed since then. Israel policy, established in 1947 (like Plan Dalet - Operation May) aimed at ethnically cleansing Palestine to make room for Jews. See: The West Bank "Jewish-Only" colonies on Palestinian land. **That is called COLONIZATION.

The pro-Israel crowd likes to ignore Israel's history of terrorism and violations of basic human rights 24/7. The issue revolves around injustice and Israel's refusal to work towards a peace and stability.

The world is not blind to Israel's terrorist policies, no matter how much you push that played out Zionist rhetoric.

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

This is depressing, especially if folks over there think this is as good as it gets.

We have to decide what our role is - are we simply arming Israel and supporting them, or do we have a different/better role, as agents towards a peaceful resolution?

If they're committing to fighting over that piece of land, do we want to help them keep doing it, endlessly?

I imagine that most people in both Israel and "Palestine" want a peaceful resolution, and to be able to live their lives without the constant violence and threat of violence.

What could we do to help them achieve that?

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

Good luck

The big picture goal (IMO) is Israeli-Western economic and military dominance in the Middle East. The U.S. and Israel do not want Iraq, Lebanon, Iran or any other country to become a dominant player in the region. That is why Iraq is destroyed, Lebanon is destroyed, Palestine is under occupation and Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia are all in the West's pocket.

If I am wrong then Iraqis will eventually nationalize their oil resources ( fat chance with transnational Big-Oil companies sitting on Iraq's Oil Council), Iran will be left alone, Israel will let go of the West Bank, Gaza, the Litani River in Lebanon and Golan in Syria. ----> Do you see that happening???

Lots of money and power to be gained by colonization, war and destabilization. Just look at world history.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

The 'both-sides-are-awful' dismissal of Gaza ignores the key role of the US government The temptation to wash one's hands of the whole conflict is understandable, but US support of Israel is a central force driving it all-- by Glenn Greenwald


jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

You focus on the key role of the U.S., but ignore the key roles of many other regional players. The Palestinians are firing thousands of rockets into Israel. Where are they coming from? The answer today is Iran, but that has not always been. At various times, almost every country in the region has supplied the Palestinians with weapons and/or financial support.

There are many who wish to limit the discussion to an Israel vs. Palestinian conflict. That ignores history. Israel did not fight wars in 1947-48, 1956, 1967 and 1973 against the Palestinians. Those wars were fought against the combined armies of multiple Arab countries. Likewise, the fight today is not limited to Israel vs. Palestinians. If you are going to expand the discussion to include the role the U.S. plays in it's support of Israel, you must also include the role of other regional powers that supply and support the Palestinians. If Israel is a U.S. surrogate, then the Palestinians are surrogates of Iran, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Bedouins, Hashemites, Alawites, and yes, even organizations such as Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

You're right. The Palestinians have their enablers-- not that it enables them to do much of anything but cling to the miserable existence that Israel (abetted by US aid) imposes on them.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

And you believe Israel's situation is all wine and roses. They are surrounded by hostile forces that have been at war with them since it's inception. Israel's neighbors continue their decades long policy of the three no(s), no peace, no recognition, no negotiation. There is no trade. There is nothing good.

I can't imagine living in the squalor and hopelessness that is Gaza. Nor can I imagine living in an Apartheid West Bank. Likewise, I cannot imagine living in Israel, surrounded by hateful forces that wish to end your existence and fire 100 rockets per day into your cities.

If you are going to condemn Israel for the plight of the Palestinians, surely you would equally condemn Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, al Qaeda, Sunnis, Shiites, and on and on.

Israel signed a peace treaty with Egypt. Egypt got 100% of it's land back, with the exception of Gaza which it did not want back. Jordan likewise has made peace, though similarly did not want back the West Bank. Too bad. Had they, peace might have prevailed, though perhaps without a Palestinian homeland. Or it might have led to that homeland after a period of peace and trust. Instead, the many regional forces that want Israel's destruction have used the Palestinians as a pawn in their struggle against Israel's existence. That the Palestinians have too often been willingly used, joining those who would destroy Israel, they have brought much misery upon themselves. I would not deny their misery. But there is another path, the one Egypt and Jordan chose. The path Israel walked with Egypt and Jordan. The Palestinians will have peace when they want it more than they want to destroy Israel.

Ron Holzwarth 5 years, 7 months ago

Gaza might not be terribly pleasant by our standards, other than the beautiful climate (if they would only allow tourists!), but it's not as bad as Egypt. The standard of living in Gaza is higher than that in Egypt. And compared with some nations in Africa, the people in Gaza have it made. No one is starving, despite what some propaganda might have you believe.

And, is the West Bank Apartheid? Well yes it is, Jews are not allowed to be there, except on the 5% of the West Bank land that the settlements are on. And, if you're Jewish, you're under constant fear of attack in the West Bank. I can't imagine why anyone would want to be there, actually.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian citizens of Israel are quite safe, and have a much higher standard of living than any of the other Palestinians. It was not a good idea to flee in 1949, the descendants of those who stayed are citizens of Israel, and always have been.

People forget - 15% of the population of Israel is Muslim. Unlike most Middle Eastern countries, freedom of religion is guaranteed in Israel. And yes, they get to vote, and there have been 66 Israeli Arab members of the Knesset since the first Knesset elections in 1949. (Some Israeli Druze dispute the label "Arab" and consider Druze a separate ethnic group, but they are still included in that 66.)

If only the Arab countries would have supported the creation of Palestine at the U.N. on November 29, 1949, there would be two nations side by side today, but that was not acceptable to the Arab nations every time it was proposed.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

You must have missed the numerous studies that came out a few years back proving that more than half of Israel's Jewish-Only colonies in the West Bank were built on PRIVATELY OWNED PALESTINIAN LAND.

BTSELEM - Israeli Human Rights Group in the Occupied Territories


March 2012 "The report examined Israel's policy of declaring land in the West Bank "state land". The research reveals that large areas were classified as state land for the use of settlements even though the land was actually privately or collectively owned by Palestinians. This was achieved by re-writing the interpretation to the Ottoman Land Law. This way, between 1979-2000, Israel declared more than 900,000 dunums as state land, an addition of 170% to the total before 1967."

Israeli Settlement Policy in the West Bank July 2010 "A report analyzing the mechanisms Israel uses to gain control of West Bank land for building settlements. The report, which is based on official state information, shows that one-fifth of the settlements' built-up area is private Palestinian land and that the settlements control 42 percent of West Bank land."

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

LOL @ "its not as bad as Egypt"

So you are saying that despite Israel's constant attacks on Gaza, use of illegal weapons like white phosphorus, depleted uranium and DIME weapons (all of which release highly toxic / carcinogenic chemicals into the ground, air and warter) - That Gazans have it better than Egypt??? --- You are quite the humanitarian!

BTSELEM --- Palestinian Food Insecurity


"According to a survey conducted by the International Red Cross, in May 2008, 70 percent of Gazans were living in poverty, with a monthly income for a 7-9 person family of less than $250 (one dollar a day per person), and 40 percent of urban dwellers were living in deep poverty (a monthly income of less than $120, a half a dollar a day per person). The Red Cross’s figures also showed that, in 2009, 75 percent of the residents, more than 1.1 million persons, lacked food security, compared with 56 percent in 2008, and that dependence of the entire population on external aid was 5 percent higher than before the siege, and stood at 26 percent. "

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

If Israel doesn't want to feel threatened (laughable considering their military power), maybe they shouldn't be violating Palestinian's basic human rights and international law decade after decade. Maybe the U.S. shouldn't enable Israel's terrorist policies against Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Palestinians..

Or are your Zionist blinders on so tight that you can't see the obvious double standards that you are repeating over and over???

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 7 months ago

"And you believe Israel's situation is all wine and roses."

No, I don't believe that. But it's infinitely better than the situation that Israel imposes on Palestinians.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 7 months ago

The bad conditions in Gaza are imposed on them by a combination of forces, Israel being just a part of it. Just imagine if all the aid Iran has given to Gaza was for peaceful purposes, rather than in the form of qassem rockets. Imagine if all the aid Saddam Hussein gave was peaceful aid, rather than money given to families of suicide bombers. Imagine if all the tunnels that run beneath the border with Egypt were filled with materials for schools, hospitals, infrastructure. Had they sowed the seeds of fruit trees rather than sowed the seeds of hatred, they would now be reaping different rewards.

When Israel completely withdrew from Gaza, the residents had a chance to elect leaders with that vision. They chose instead to elect an organization dedicated to the destruction of Israel. So, sure, Israel imposes hardships on Gaza. But it is even more true that Gaza imposes hardships upon themselves.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

jhawkinsf -

Do you mean infrastructure like this???

BTSELEM -- Israeli Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Act of Vengeance: Israel's Bombing of the Gaza Power Plant and its Effects, Sept. 2006 http://www.btselem.org/publications/summaries/200609_act_of_vengeance

September 2006, Status Report

"In the early morning hours of 28 June 2006, following the abduction of Cpl. Gilad Shalit, the Israeli Air Force attacked the only electrical power plant operating in the Gaza Strip. Six missiles were fired at the power plant's six transformers. Two of the missiles missed their target, so two more missiles were fired a few minutes later, destroying the remaining transformers.

Three months have passed since the attack. Public and media attention has long since shifted elsewhere. Nevertheless, for the 1.4 million residents of the Gaza Strip, who have been forced to live without electricity for long parts of the day and night, the harsh effects of the attack continue to be felt."

  • Here are some more examples of how Israel uses "collective punishment" in the most inhumane and criminal ways against Palestinian civilians.

BTSELEM - Infrastructure in the Occupied Territories http://www.btselem.org/search/google_cse_adv/infrastructure

BTSELEM - Collective Punishment http://www.btselem.org/search/google_cse_adv/collective%20punishment

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

What army fought Jewish-Terrorist militas in 1947-48 when the Irgun, Haganah and Stern Gang invaded and ethnically cleansed hundreds of Palestinian towns???

Oh wait! That was BEFORE any "wars" --- What were the Zionists like Menachem Begin doing? Do you know?

jafs 5 years, 7 months ago

These sorts of cease fires and truces tend to be temporary over there, so the issue isn't settled.

Of course, it's a good thing nevertheless.

notaubermime 5 years, 7 months ago

The biggest factor in this isn't the US, or Israel, or Gaza, or even Iran. The biggest factor is Egypt and Morsy.

On one hand, the US provides valuable trade and financial support to Egypt, so it is unlikely that the Egyptians want the US to see them as part of the problem. On the other, Iranian weapons go through Egypt to enter Gaza and Morsy belongs to the Muslim Brotherhood, a party with strong sympathies for Hamas.

That said, it doesn't seem likely that Egypt has the power to change that any more than the US has the power to stop drugs from entering its borders, or guns from entering the hands of drug cartels. Further, Morsy seems to have a fair bit of respect from both Hamas and Israel.

If there is a solution to this cycle of violence between Gaza and Israel, it can only be through someone like Morsy who has close ties with both sides (with the exception, perhaps of Iran).

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

How about if Israel obeys international law - lifts the siege on Gaza and military occupation of the West Bank and respects Palestinian's right to self-determination and progress in their own state of Palestine?

It's not like there is a shortage of solutions, but all of them require that Israel do the right thing, abandon its colonial ambitions of a greater Israel and allow Palestinians to live with basic human rights and sovereignty in their own state.

Don't hold your breath tho

notaubermime 5 years, 7 months ago

Of course. Because, like you said, the Jews are a bunch of Nazis.

Plan_Dalet_and_Operation_May 5 years, 7 months ago

Here is what I said scooter, please explain to me how that translates into "Jews are a bunch of Nazis"

  • "How do people ignore the fact that Israel has violated Palestinian's basic human rights as well as international law for 60 YEARS? -- Defending Israel's terrorist policies is like defending Nazis. "

( Zionist Trolling much???) I recommend you buy a new Hasbara manual or call up some more trolls on you GIYUS Megaphone.

notaubermime 5 years, 7 months ago

You made the equivalence between Jewish Israelis and Nazis, and yet clearly I am the one that is trolling. Got it.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

The war for oil control and control of the world economy by way of militarily occupying the mideast for the past 33 years has been nothing short of a disaster.

It is also an embarrassment that democracy looks like something Hitler was trying to pull off. USA drones raining down on innocent communities throughout out the world is quite difficult to explain much less understand.

Richard Heckler 5 years, 7 months ago

Strategic Errors of Monumental Proportions

What Can Be Done in Iraq? by Lt. Gen. William E. Odom (Ret.)

Text of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 18 January 2007

Good afternoon, Senator Biden, and members of the committee. It is a grave responsibility to testify before you today because the issue, the war in Iraq, is of such monumental importance.

You have asked me to address primarily the military aspects of the war. Although I shall comply, I must emphasize that it makes no sense to separate them from the political aspects. Military actions are merely the most extreme form of politics. If politics is the business of deciding "who gets what, when, how," as Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall in New York City once said, then the military aspects of war are the most extreme form of politics. The war in Iraq will answer that question there.

Strategic Overview

The role that US military forces can play in that conflict is seriously limited by all the political decisions the US government has already taken. The most fundamental decision was setting as its larger strategic purpose the stabilization of the region by building a democracy in Iraq and encouraging its spread. This, of course, was to risk destabilizing the region by starting a war.

Military operations must be judged by whether and how they contribute to accomplishing war aims. No clear view is possible of where we are today and where we are headed without constant focus on war aims and how they affect US interests. The interaction of interests, war aims, and military operations defines the strategic context in which we find ourselves. We cannot have the slightest understanding of the likely consequences of proposed changes in our war policy without relating them to the strategic context. Here are the four major realities that define that context:

  1. Confusion about war aims and US interests. The president stated three war aims clearly and repeatedly:

  2. the destruction of Iraqi WMD;

  3. the overthrow of Saddam Hussein; and
  4. the creation of a liberal democratic Iraq.

The first war aim is moot because Iraq had no WMD. The second was achieved by late Spring 2003. Today, people are waking up to what was obvious before the war -- the third aim has no real prospects of being achieved even in ten or twenty years, much less in the short time anticipated by the war planners. Implicit in that aim was the belief that a pro-American, post-Saddam regime could be established. This too, it should now be clear, is most unlikely. Finally, is it in the US interest to have launched a war in pursuit of any of these aims? And is it in the US interest to continue pursuing the third? Or is it time to redefine our aims? And, concomitantly, to redefine what constitutes victory?

  1. The war has served primarily the interests of Iran and al-Qaeda, not American interests...


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