Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Day 5 of the Gaza Siege - Long Term Strategy Considerations

In December, the beginning of the end of Hamas seemed inevitable. In public opinion polling, Hamas had come to a dangerously low-water mark just 3 weeks ago:
74 percent of the respondents support the renewal of the ceasefire between Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, and Israel. The cease-fire ends December 19.

Hamas would get 28 percent of the Palestinian votes if elections were held today while Fatah would get a comfortable 42 percent lead. The previous poll conducted three months ago gave Hamas 29 percent compared to 43 percent for Fatah.
What a difference 3 weeks makes.

In the interim, Hamas ended the truce in a dilemma: Either renew the truce, at which point it may have to genuinely make the transition from resistance movement to a more politically-oriented party, which is not easy (just ask the Sinn Fein/IRA), or resume the futile fight against Israel and regain standing when the inevitable reprisals result in civilian deaths.

The choice was apparently easy.

Hamas needs to be considered in terms of its overall operations, and not just the militant wing. Hamas is not just a terror organization with all the appropriately attired thugs and waste cases that populate such entities. Hamas is a party, a security apparatus, a charity, and a larger Islamic movement in Gaza and the West Bank. It's similar to the Lashkar-e-Taiba/Jamaat-ut-Dawa or Hizbollah model of combining charity and good works as a cover for the more nefarious activities.

For Israel to attempt to "root out terror" or Hamas in Gaza, it needs to destroy a massive portion of the Strip, which is exactly what Israel has done. From infrastructure, to police stations, to munitions dumps, and Egypt-linked tunnels, Israel has attacked a large number of disparate targets.

For Hamas, the end-game was simple - regain stature and popularity by attacking Israel, which results in an attack against the Strip, ending in the people rallying to Hamas again. Also, as an additional bonus, Israel's hyper-overreaction means that it has killed its own peace talks with Syria (which is housing big name Hamas leaders in Damascus), and embarrassed its Arab "allies" in Jordan and Egypt.

For Israel, this may result in a tactical "win" in terms of destroying some of Hamas' larger military capabilities, but what of the long term? Clearly, internal politics with an upcoming election and all candidates from Olmert on down wanting to appear "tough" means that Israel's political leaders had an incentive, so the short-term motives are obvious.

From a longer-term counter-insurgency point of view, it can only mean failure. A broad based attack on a civilian population (yes, not "purposefully") from the air or from a distance means that there is no chance of a propaganda war victory, no truly targeted attacks and no chance to win over the terrorized population of Gaza, weary from misrule.

There can be no winning over of the Palestinians from Tel Aviv.

So who wins this battle? Hamas, simply by starting the fight. Look at the end result:
1. Hamas has regained its popularity, and will see funds poor in to its coffers.

2. Israel has jettisoned all peace talks with Arab neighbours by its attack.

3. Israel is again marginalized in the Middle East.

4. Hamas' will win the propaganda war as Israel has attacked non-government buildings which appear to be more civilian related then terror-enabling (ie: why attack Mosques? You know that means trouble)
With Israel rejecting calls for truces and stopping aid and medical supplies at the borders, it shows once again its tin ear for world opinion and has acted against its own best interests.

This will be one more Pyrrhic victory that Israel will come to regret.

Israel blew it - Here's Jay-Z with "Lost Ones":

When you could look in the mirror like, "There I am"
And still not see, what you've become
I know I'm guilty of it too but, not like them
You lost one

Lose one, let go to get one
Left one, lose some to win some
You lost one

1 comment:

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