Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Norton on Washington/Tel Aviv Calculations re Gaza

From the field: Israel strike kills up to 60 members of one family#links

Andrew Richard Norton on bringing the invasion of Gaza to a close:

The Israel/U.S. Endgame is quite transparent by now, which is to say that Hamas will survive as a movement but will be expected to resubordinate itself to the PA and stop the rockets. The border of Gaza and Egypt will be subject to strict and beefed-up controls, and Israel's economic siege of Gaza will be reduced in scope. Given the time that it will take to put monitors in place, respond to the massive humanitarian crisis caused by Israel's air and ground strikes, and bring bring the fighting to an end, Israel will need to wrap up its war in a seven or eight days. The longer Hamas hangs on and the closer we get to January 20th, the lower the likelihood that the I/US Endgame will be satisfied. Hamas has a low hurdle to get across in order not to lose, namely to remain standing, whereas Israel has several high hurdles get over in order to win. Israel's major problem is that in order to defeat Hamas in a week, it is going to have to use brutal tactics, meaning the proportion of civilian casualties will grow. Pressure for a ceasefire will necessary grow in the days to come. Will the U.S. or Israel blink?

Logically (not that logic necessarily will play any role), since Hamas won the last (and only) democratic Palestinian election, Hamas should not be expected to "subordinate itself" to Fatah. Hamas could logically be expected to demand either control over Gaza or a new Palestinian election. Just what chance would Fatah, sitting calmly on the sidelines watching the slaughter of Palestinians, have to win an election in Palestine today? So:

  • If Hamas gets an election, it scores a big win.
  • If Hamas agrees to subordinate itself to Fatah but remains as some sort of Gaza administrator, it still scores, but not so big.
  • If Israel somehow avoids a deal with Hamas at all, Israel scores...for the moment, but one wonders who, in that case, it would work with to govern Gaza - Fatah? Hmmm, Vichy France as the model? Or, perhaps, for a price, Egypt could be persuaded to serve as U.N. Trustee.

Norton's comment about Hamas winning simply by remaining standing (clear analogy to Hezbollah, summer, 2006) raises interesting points as well.

  1. For example, what minimum body of individuals may be said to constitute Hamas? Presumably the Hamas leaders in Syria will remain standing, so one may wonder how Israel can possibly knock Hamas over.
  2. Second, I would just like to ask about Fatah's prospects, as this invasion progresses, of "remaining standing." I suppose one could imagine Israel trucking in loads of Fatah officials and funding them to rebuild Gaza much as Hezbollah rebuilt southern Lebanon in 2006. One can imagine Fatah and Israel pulling this off, right? One can also imagine a degree of negative Palestinian reaction.

Obama? Obama? Where are you, Obama?

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