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Belmont Club

The Last Turn of the Vise

November 17th, 2012 - 12:14 pm
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It’s all too one sided for the Left. Glenn Greenwald who now is based in the UK Guardian, writes “stop pretending the US is an uninvolved, helpless party in the Israeli assault on Gaza.” Translation: Obama, stop Israel.

Jeffrey Golberg writes in the Atlantic “Barack Obama hasn’t turned against Israel. This is a big surprise to everyone who has not paid attention for the last four years, or who had decided, for nakedly partisan reasons, to paint him as a Jew-hater.” Maybe that’s because Israel is winning the missile war.

But there’s a hook in the bait. Goldberg goes on to add that Israelis “lack strategic thinking” — unlike a certain president he knows — and that anyway “a ground invasion of Gaza is a bad idea.”

The air campaign against Hamas rocket sites is understandable and defensible. A ground invasion will lead to misery and woe; to a total rupture with Egypt; to a further loss of legitimacy, and thus, deterrent capability — and, at the end of the day, does anyone actually believe that Israel would be able to fully neutralize the Hamas/Islamic Jihad threat? These groups might need time to rebuild, but they would be rebuilt. And then what? Another ground invasion? Now is the time to try the Egypt card.

As the previous post noted, the Gaza campaign is putting Obama in an impossible dilemma. “The potential collision between Egypt and Israel over Gaza now threatens to catch him between two fires. A collision between the two American ‘allies’ will force him to reap the bitter fruit of trying to be all things to all men; of trying to support the Brotherhood, with its hostility to Israel — and Israel. He will have to square the circle or openly choose sides in a way that not even the New York Times can conceal.”

For Obama it is too late to stop the rocket war. His only chance to avoid the fatal rupture is to head off the ground campaign. Goldberg lays out what must be done for Israel to prove it has got “strategic vision”: negotiate.

Give Palestinians hope that Israel is serious about the two-state solution. And how do you do that? By reversing the settlement project on the West Bank. It is not unreasonable for Palestinians to doubt the sincerity of Netanyahu on the subject of the two-state solution, when settlements grow ever-thicker. There’s no way around this: The idea of a two-state solution will die if Israel continues to treat the West Bank as a suburb of Jerusalem and Kfar Sava, and not as the future location of the state of Palestine.

That would be nice, if it could happen. But the problem is that Hamas believed it could take on Israel by main force, a fact which Goldberg himself asserts without realizing how it undermines his principal argument. He quotes the Washington Institute:

Here is David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on where Hamas went wrong in this latest round of violence:

Hamas seems to have miscalculated on several fronts. First, it may have believed that Israel would avoid major action for fear of antagonizing the new government in Cairo, given Gaza’s proximity to Egypt and Hamas’s close ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. It may also have believed that recent shows of regional solidarity (including the Qatari emir’s visit to Gaza last month and ongoing support from Turkey) would raise the diplomatic cost of Israeli action to prohibitive levels.

In other words, Hamas was relying on the diplomatic effect of the Arab Spring as cover to attack Israel and got their sums wrong. “Hamas may not have expected an attack against a high-profile target like Jabari, which was a change from Israel’s pattern of sporadic retaliation to rocket fire.”

It was the death of Jabari which constituted the escalation point for Hamas. It shocked Hamas that the Israelis should take the rocket attacks so seriously. As in the case of the 2006 Lebanese War, which was precipitated by a Hezbollah kidnapping operation against an Israeli border post, Hamas miscalculated both the effects of its missile fire and the deterrent effect of the Arab Spring. It got them into waters from which they are now trying to figure out how to extricate themselves.

In a week full of miscalculations Obama may have overestimated the power of his waning influence as well. The Turkish Prime Minister and the Egyptian President “said Saturday that Egypt and Turkey are capable of jointly bringing stability to the Middle East. He made his comments during a speech at Cairo University after holding talks with President Mohamed Morsi on the situation in Gaza where at least 39 Palestinians have been killed in an ongoing Israeli onslaught on the coastal strip.”

Erdogan ominously added that Turkey and Egypt could go it alone — without outside brokers — i.e. Obama.

Erdogan praised Morsi’s decision to recall Egypt’s ambassador to Israel, adding that Turkey will continue to cooperate with Egypt on Gaza. The Turkish premier affirmed that his country will work with Egypt and the international community to support the Palestinian people.

He added that Turkey and post-revolution Egypt can guide the region without the need for outside “brokers.”

As the previous post noted, if Obama thinks he has troubles now they will be nothing compared to what may happen if the IDF goes into Gaza on the ground. Then he can no longer have it both ways. He will either have to bring Israel under control or quell the objections of Egypt, Turkey and the Arab world. Turkey is in a position to increase its traditional influence over the area at the expense of Obama. And Obama has the opportunity to continue whatever it is that he’s been doing.

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