Bubbles Bursting in Air II

A list of five political myths usefully shredded by the recent Israel-Hamas skirmish, and one very big myth that is dangerously taking root. Beware the inane argument that jihadists can be massaged into pragmatists; that Hamas can be co-opted into peace by giving it power. 

Published in The Jerusalem Post, November 28, 2012. Click for a printer-friendly copy.

(Earlier versions of this column were published in Israel Hayom on November 20 and November 21, 2012).

Quite a few “bubbles” have been burst by the recent Israel-Hamas skirmish. More than a few political myths have been shredded, usefully so.

The “Tel Aviv bubble” was the first to go. After Hamas slammed its nasty airborne calling cards into Gush Dan, it’s no longer that easy to preach pretty Palestinian statehood from the porches of Kadima and Meretz headquarters in Tel Aviv. Residents of the south, of the settlements, and of the sushi bars of Tel Aviv are all in the same boat. This helps dispel the myth that Tel Aviv (the “bubble”) would be safer if more territories were handed over to the Palestinians.

The second burst bubble was the belief that Israel would and could clobber the Palestinians with impunity the minute they used violence and terrorism against us. Remember Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Gaza disengagement bravado? ‘If they use Gaza as a launching pad for terrorism after Israel withdraws, Israel will respond with no-holds-barred, and have international legitimacy for doing so’ – or something to that effect.

Poppycock. 8,000 rocket strikes later, The New York Times gave us sanction to retaliate by bombing “empty Hamas training sites” (yes – that’s what a Times editorial actually suggested!). The world community let us get away with a few days of pinpoint terrorist targeting. But we had and have no international sanction for truly disarming the Iranian vassal-state established by the Palestinians in Gaza, bunker by bunker. We have no international legitimacy for completely clobbering Hamas or dismantling the terrorist infrastructures that have been built across our southern border. That’s one of the reasons why Jerusalem stopped short of a ground offensive.

This leads to the third bubble that has been burst: The notion that there ever can be something called a “demilitarized Palestinian state.” Alas, demilitarization is nonsense; a complete fairytale. The Gaza experience has shown that if given a state (or in the case of the Hamas, when they grab a state), the Palestinians inevitably develop their own foreign and defense relationships and arm their state to the teeth. All international guarantees against this, and so-called “security arrangements” to prevent this, amount to naught.

Nobody has stopped Gaza from becoming a client of Iran and part of the Iranian army. Nobody has prevented Hamas from developing strategic partnerships with the radical Islamic governments of Egypt and Turkey. Few serious analysts really believe that Mohamed Morsi’s Moslem Brotherhood Egypt is going to guarantee Israel’s security for the long-term by preventing the rearmament of Hamas (– although Egypt may interdict a few high-profile shipments of weapons from Iran in the short-term, to make a nice impression on Washington).

A fourth myth that should be put to rest is that Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority has a legitimate, serious claim for international recognition at the United Nations as a state representing “the Palestinian People in the West Bank and Gaza.” There already is an independent Palestinian state, in all but name in Gaza. That state is not under the control of the PA in any way, shape or form; it is not peaceful; and Abbas has no realistic plans for making it so.

It is also good to be able to burst the bubble and belay the myth, propagated by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, that Israelis are exhausted and have no strength for continued struggle. Not true. Operation Pillar of Defense showed that even when civilian areas are under intense missile fire, Israel’s national resilience and spirit is strong. Almost all reservists showed up for military duty, and they were ready and willing for a tough ground fight.

But not all bubbles burst so easily. Some political myths die hard. One such whimsy is the inane argument that religiously-extreme, anti-Semitic radical movements like the Hamas can be drafted into cooperation by giving them power.

This is the illusory “cooption” theory, a favorite among some Western leftist “intellectuals.” In our case, it’s the fable that sovereign power and the assumption of day-to-day responsibility for the welfare of their people will willy-nilly moderate Hamas; that Western recognition, Israeli respect, economic aid, and open borders can massage jihadists into pragmatists.

Everything in the Hamas’ record and current posture indicates this to be utter hogwash. The evidence shows that jihadists like the Hamas are willing to sacrifice all of the above benefits on the altar of permanent holy war against Israel.

Nevertheless, Peter Beinart, Roger Cohen, Tom Friedman and other liberal journalists are pumping the dangerous argument that Hamas is obstructionist and violent only because it hasn’t been fairly and properly “engaged.” Inversing cause and effect, these “intellectuals” assert that poor Hamas has never been given an “incentive” to abide by a ceasefire or come to terms with Israel. In fact, these sages argue that America and Israel are responsible for radicalizing Hamas by blockading Gaza and by insisting on “non-essential” things like the Quartet principles (recognize Israel, renounce violence, and accept past peace agreements). Thus Washington and Jerusalem should shape a political strategy that maximizes the chances of Hamas eventually accepting the two-state solution, by allowing Hamas, for example, to compete for political power in the West Bank.

This advice is doubly appalling: It asks Israel to go down the same colossally-mistaken path we took with Oslo, and it manufactures hints of non-existent Hamas moderation to justify this. It seeks to duplicate in the West Bank the Islamic army and open-air prison that Hamas has built in Gaza.

Appeasement is an age-old disease, and it immunizes the brain against logic and clear vision. As a result, some political myths seem to have a life of their own, impervious to reality. Unfortunately, not all bubbles burst the same way.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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