Gambling on Gaza

Gaza is an exercise in Israeli and Middle East statecraft.

Israel left Gaza to circumvent pressure to make peace. We were to pull out to the international borders and show the world that ‘we are not the problem.’ We assumed that if the Gazans ‘misbehaved’ we could shell them into submission and the world would understand. We got Hamas, rockets and the world didn’t understand.

Israel decided to blockade the Hamas to weaken it and prevent arms flow. Hamas built tunnels, got rockets and Israel got BDS. We went to war repeatedly to cause resentment of the man in the street who would remove Hamas. There are many fewer streets, but the men in them still support Hamas.

In other words, Israeli policy per se has been an abysmal failure.

Gaza sues for peace, and Israel is in another bind. The Gazans are barely existing. Not because of the blockade, but in spite of it. Israel has always allowed humanitarian aid into Gaza. It would continue to do so, but Hamas, the PLO and Egypt are preventing supervision. The Egyptian borders are closed, Egypt ruthlessly blocked the tunnels. Both Egypt and the PLO are at dagger drawn with the Hamas.

More fortuitously. we see the unpredicted spin off the Arab Spring.

Assad has imploded and with the implosion Iran has lost the pincers consisting of Hamas and Hezbollah. Hamas is no longer an Iranian client, and the Hamas is, probably mortally wounded. Turkey has become the only Muslim Brotherhood friendly state willing to help Hamas. Turkey wants to enjoy the potential immense off-sea wealth being brought online in tandem by both Cyprus and Israel.

Now Israel has another strategic choice to make. To try and make an agreement with a highly unstable Erdogan at the expense of our stable, meaningful and healthy relationships with Egypt, for whom the Muslim Brotherhood and Erdogan are anathemas. The effect on the burgeoning relationship with Cyprus can only be negative.

However, Israel being Israel, where political expedience has left us without a Foreign Minister, will mean that we will make a superficial and erroneous short term decision. And the Middle East being the Middle East will throw up entirely unforeseen and unintended consequences.

Israeli policy making has been naive, shallow, counterproductive and lucky. Not since Begin and Dayan have anyone thought things through.
In any casino, luck runs out, and fortunes are lost. It is the time to leave the casino and start managing our affairs in a more seemingly and comprehensive manner.

In the Middle East, everything is connected. We are the butterfly wings in the theory of complexity — the storm is bound to come. There can be little doubt that Netanyahu lost his many layered gambles with Obama. No one leaves the casino when we are on a winning streak. Maybe this was the losing streak we needed.

If we are indeed lucky, as per usual, unforeseen consequences will deal with Iran, and we will start managing our affairs outside the casino.
But luck runs out when it is factored in.

About the Author
Born in Leeds in 1944, Michael Benjamin is a retired Psychiatrist and medical auditor, co-founder of Oranit, aspiring author and inveterate cynic.
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