Every Time is Different
Although those of us on the right are fond of pointing out how little the world changes, we must also recognize that a man never steps into the same river twice.
Either the man or the river or both will have changed. The general rules stay the same. Human nature is what it is, but the situation is always unique.
It appears that we may have come to the temporary end of this round of war with Hamas-stan. I don’t know if anything better could have been achieved given the political limitations Israel faces at this time.
I don’t know better than any other civilian what considerations led to Netanyahu making the choice he made, basically accepting a cease-fire which returns us to the status-quo of 3 months ago, but here are some reasons to hope that this time will be different.
As opposed to the situation over most of the last 7 years, there is now an Egyptian government which is actively pursuing Hamas and preventing the use of tunnels to smuggle arms into Gaza. This means that Hamas will likely not be able to re-arm, at least not to the same degree and with the same speed as they did after operation Cast Lead in 2012.
Hamas has been hurting financially ever since they joined the PA ‘unity government’ a few months ago. The PA has been withholding payment for some 40,000 Hamas terrorists (“employees”). Before the beginning of operation Protective Edge 51 days ago Hamas seemed to be on the brink of financial collapse and internal chaos. They may well return to that situation now. Combined with the real feelings of the populace in Gaza when they calm down from their ‘victory’ parades and realize they lost their homes and loved ones for nothing in return, and that Hamas is responsible for this debacle, this financial reality may lead to the collapse of the Hamas government in Gaza.
There is so much going on in the region that it’s difficult to keep track. The havoc wreaked by IS (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria is so dramatic that regional alliances which once seemed unimaginable are becoming unavoidable. There is a quiet alliance of the Sunni, anti-ISIS states, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and even Assad’s Syria, with Israel, the largest military power in the region. There seems to be an understanding that Israel’s military strength could end up, in the absence of American willpower and timely decision making, being the deciding factor in a war between modern (though often despotic and repressive) states and a return to medieval violence and rapine.
Despite the empty protestations of the UN, the regional actors who matter have been remarkably quiet about the recent conflict. Hopefully this grudging acquiescence to Israeli needs will continue to grow as our role as an anchor of stability becomes more and more indispensable to the other nations in the region.
Iran is the elephant in the room, as it has been for years. In the eyes of our Prime Minister it’s the only serious threat to our existence faced by Israel. As tragic and difficult as the conflict with Hamas has been, it would pale in contrast to the consequences of Iran hanging a nuclear sword of Damocles over our very existence, or worse yet, using it. We don’t know what calculations are going into Israel’s plans to face this threat in the face of international ambivalence and naiveté. Many of the countries in the region share Israel’s interests vis-a-vis Iran.
Danger and Opportunity
As frustrating as the current situation may be, as much as it may feel like déjà vu from 2012, it’s not. Things are moving forward (and backwards and sideways) and the cataclysmic shifts in the Middle East are opening new doors. Along with the great dangers the current situation presents Israel with, we also face a new world of possibilities. As always, we should plan for the worst and hope for the best. Both extremes are probably unrealistic, but there is reason to believe that change for the better is possible, even likely.