[cross posted at E Pluribus Unum]
I was born in the Middle East and I still have family there -- on both sides of the expanded conflict.
I've written about this in a couple of diaries over the years. Here's one. Here's another.
Long story short, you'll find no greater defender of Israel than I. Which is why it pains me to say that the latest incursion into Gaza is making Israel weaker, not stronger, by repeating the mistakes of the Lebanon incursion of 2006.
Bottom line: it's time for Israel to try something new because the application of military force will not solve Israel's problems in the long run.
I'd like to sketch out an alternate scenario. But first, a recap...
Where We Stand Today
The Israelis have three explicit and implicit objectives which they hope to achieve going in to Gaza:
These were the same objectives that the Israelis had in striking back at Hezbollah in the 2006 Lebanon war. And while Gaza is a smaller military objective and the application of Israeli force is greater (and with smarter more talented people running it), they're still faced with the historical fact that in 4th generation warfare, the smaller force wins by not losing and the larger force loses by not winning.
Yes, Olmert can stop the rocket attacks for a time (although that hasn't happened quite yet). Yes, the Israeli Defense Forces can destroy the tunnels and other supply lines into northern Gaza (until they are established again elsewhere).
But as for toppling Hamas (not an explicit objective but a real one just the same), for every Hamas leader killed, there will be 10 Gazans who will revere his memory and vow to seek revenge against the Israelis. It's not rational; it just is what it is.
Hatred is fungible; destroying its supply-lines by force is impossible.
Is There An Alternative?
Yes, but it requires both sides to admit that their counterparts are in the region to stay -- for good. The people of Israel and the people of Gaza (and the West Bank for that matter) must come to terms with the idea that they will be living next to each other for a long, long time to come. Neither side is going to go away. Israel will not be pushed into the sea and the Palestinians will not be going away either.
In other words, if you think this is a fight to the death -- of either Israel or of Hamas (or whoever is the next terrorist organization to spring up in their place) -- then it would be a good idea to start looking around for more alternatives.
Middle Eastern Treaty Organization
For starters, I think the US should promote a Middle East Treaty Organization (METO , like NATO) made up of Israel, the US, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. If the Saudis want to join, fine. All of these parties would be at least receptive to the idea that they could balance the power of an ascendant Iran (and its pawns, Hezbollah and Hamas).
For example, I strongly believe that Iran has no interest in nuking Israel. If they're going to nuke anyone, it's the Saudis. The Saudis have all the rest of the oil not already controlled by Iran; and they have Mecca as well; and lastly, they are Sunnis. Israel and the Saudis have a common foe. Why not ally themselves against it?
Middle East Free Trade Association
Not only that: I think the same parties should also get going with a Middle East Free Trade Association (MEFTA, like NAFTA) made up of the same parties -- Israel, the US, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq. Why not? Those parties must know that if the Arabs and the Jews got together they'd take over the world -- they'd have all the brains AND all the oil.
Seriously, both sides are going to have to put aside past grievances to get to a place where they can entertain these alternatives. There's nothing to be gained by the Israelis in pointing out, yet again, the inherent antisemitism in the European reaction to the latest war. And there's nothing to be gained by the Palestinians in accusing Israel, yet again, of being a colonialist subjugator of their Arab neighbors. Enough. None of this is news and none of it helps them achieve their common objective which is to live side-by-side in some semblance mutual cooperation.
The solutions have to be big and bold. And the US has to be engaged in seeing to it that both sides give a little to get a lot in return. The sooner that happens, the better off we'll all be.
[cross posted at E Pluribus Unum]