By Kathryn Jean Lopez
Caroline Glick is no stranger to the Corner crowd. She’s senior contributing editor of the Jerusalem Post and the senior fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs at the Center for Security Policy. She’s also author of Shackled Warrior: Israel and the Global Jihad.
I asked Caroline a few questions this morning about the current Mideast violence. Here’s the conversation.
Q: What exactly started this latest flare-up?
A: The fighting in Gaza today started about three weeks ago when Hamas renewed its rocket, mortar, and missile assault against Israel. Last June, Israel foolishly agreed to a six-month ceasefire with Hamas. Hamas used the time to have Iran double the size of its missile arsenal and double the range of its missiles, and to build up its Iranian-trained, armed, and financed Hezbollah-style army of 20,000 men. Hamas called its renewed offensive “Operation Oil Stain.” On December 17, Hamas attacked Israel with more than 80 missiles, rockets and mortars.
It took Israel ten days to finally respond to Hamas’s assault, which for the first time put Israeli major cities like Ashdod, Yavne, Beersheva, and Gedera under assault.
What is interesting about this latest round of fighting is that the world paid little attention to what was going on when it was only Hamas attacking Israel. People only started paying attention when Israel’s government said enough is enough and started defending its territory and citizens.
Q: Is the media here in the U.S. or internationally remotely fair?
A: When the media are only interested in what is going on when Israel defends itself, the answer is no, they aren’t fair. They don’t pay any attention when hundreds of thousands of Israelis are relegated to bomb shelters for weeks and months on end. They don’t care that Israeli children can’t go to school or day care because Hamas is targeting schools and day-care centers. They only cover the story when Israel finally decides to put an end to this crazy situation where our children are growing up underground. And this is appalling.
From CNN’s coverage of events here, for instance, you could easily come away from the news thinking that Israel is attacking Gaza for no reason. The European media, and much of the U.S. media dismiss the significance of Hamas’s missile, rocket, and mortar campaign against Israel by noting that these projectiles are relatively primitive and have no guidance systems. But this misses and indeed distorts the entire point. Hamas doesn’t need advanced weapons. Its goal is not to attack specific military targets. Its goal is to attack Israeli society as a whole and terrorize our citizens. That’s what makes it such an outlaw.
In fact, this random bombing of civilian targets is the very definition of war crimes. Due to their random nature, every projectile launched against Israel by Hamas is a separate war crime. And that’s the real story. But again, outside of publications like National Review and the like, the Western media have ignored this basic truth and worse, they have turned the criminal nature of Hamas’s campaign into a justification for it.
Q: What does the fighting mean for the future of Hamas-led Gaza?
A: There are four possible outcomes for Israel’s current campaign — two would be positive and two would be negative. The best outcome would be for Israel to overthrow Hamas’s regime and destroy its capacity to wage war against Israel or threaten Israel in any significant way. To achieve this goal, Israel would have to reassert control over Gaza. Since the Israeli government has already stated that Israel will not reassert control over Gaza, and since reasserting control would be extremely embarrassing for the current leadership, which led Israel out of Gaza with promises of peace three and a half years ago, it is fairly clear that this outcome will not be forthcoming.
The next best outcome would be something analogous to the end of the 1991 Gulf War. Although the U.S. left Saddam Hussein in power after that war, it asserted control over the no-fly zones and set up a clear sanctions regime that by and large prevented Iraq from rearming and apparently prevented Iraq from reconstituting its weapons of mass destruction programs.
Here too, chances that this outcome will prevail are not great because the Israeli government has already stated that it is unwilling to reassert control over Gaza’s border with Egypt which is where most of Hamas’s weapons are imported from.
The third possible outcome, which is already not a good one, would be for Israel to end its current campaign and just walk away with Hamas still in charge. In due course, Hamas would reconstitute its military forces and missile arsenals and reinstate its campaign against Israel. The positive aspect of such a future is simply that, subject to domestic political constraints, Israel would be able to go in and bomb Hamas anytime it felt that threatened. Israel would be under no international obligation to avoid defending itself, beyond the regular anti-Israel pressure.
The fourth, and worst possible outcome is that Israel reaches some sort of internationally sponsored ceasefire agreement whereby foreign powers the EU, the U.S., Egypt, Turkey, or whomever agree to form some sort of international monitoring mechanism to oversee Gaza’s borders with Israel and Egypt. The reason this would be the worst outcome is that Israel’s experience with such forces in Lebanon and in Gaza itself has been wholly negative. These international forces will never fight Israel’s battles for it. Instead they inevitably shield terrorists from Israeli attack while ignoring the terrorists’ moves to rearm, reassert political control over their populations and reinstate their assaults against Israel. Moreover, because these international forces fear the terrorists they shield, they tend to side with them against Israel and blame Israel for any violence that takes place.
Unfortunately, this is the outcome that the Israeli government is now pushing for in its diplomatic contacts relating to the war in Gaza.
Q: A lot of critics say that Israel is just going too far in its attacks. What do you make of the charge?
A: The interesting aspect of this claim is what it tells us about the success of anti-Israel propaganda. For instance, Richard Falk, the Jewish anti-Semite who the U.N.’s Human Rights Council appointed to act as its rapporteur against Israel began accusing Israel of committing war crimes against the Palestinians in Gaza the moment Israel began its campaign. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch systematically fabricate international “law” backed by “eyewitness” reports from Hamas supporters in order to accuse Israel of breaking it every single time it takes any steps to defend itself, no matter how restrained.
Israel has done nothing in its campaign against Hamas that could be considered going “too far.” It has done nothing in its campaign that could be considered “disproportionate.” It has targeted military targets and terror operatives.
The fact of the matter is that Israel is held to standards that are discriminatory while its enemy — an illegal, openly genocidal terrorist organization — is defended and shi
elded from attack by the media, by self-proclaimed human-rights activists and by hostile foreign leaders like British Foreign Minister David Miliband and Turkish Prime Minister Recip Erdogan. Luckily, with some one million Israelis now under assault, Israel has decided that we just aren’t going to pay attention to their obscene attacks on our right to self-defense this time around.
Q: Would you caution Israel at all?
A: Absolutely. I think it would be a grave error for the government to agree to any sort of international monitoring mechanism of Hamas. If the government doesn’t want to see this war through to a complete rout of Hamas, and doesn’t want to retake Gaza’s border with Egypt, then it would be best for us to just weaken the group as much as possible while we have troops on the ground and then walk away to fight another day. We cannot trust the kindness of foreigners to do for us what we will not do for ourselves.
Q: What does the future hold for the Palestinians in Gaza?
A: Their future right now doesn’t look too attractive. These are people who overwhelmingly supported Hamas in the 2006 elections. They supported Hamas when it expelled Fatah from Gaza in 2007. And they supported Hamas when it began shelling Israel’s main port city Ashdod and big cities like Beersheva with missiles. By throwing their lot in with a genocidal terrorist group, Gazans, and indeed Palestinians as a whole, have made clear that they prefer the ravages of war to the blessings of peace. Until they change their minds, it is hard to see how they can expect to prosper morally, politically or economically.
Q: What does the fight in Gaza tell us about the prospects for the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?
A: It tells us that such a process is both irrelevant and counter-productive. It is irrelevant because even in the event that there is a faction in Palestinian society that is willing to make peace with Israel, that faction will never bring about a broader rapprochement or even remain in power for long. What Hamas’s current war against Israel, its alliance with Iran and its popularity in Palestinian society tell us is that as a society, the Palestinians are not interested in peaceful coexistence with Israel regardless of what Israel’s borders are. They prefer to remain at war with Israel and to be led by terrorists. So even if the current Fatah leadership is really ready to finally lay down its arms, prosecute terrorists and reconcile to Israel, it cannot lead Palestinian society or the larger Arab world to the same conclusion.
Gaza also shows us that pushing a peace process is counter-productive. In the context of such a process, Israel is expected to hand over land to Fatah. In the history of Israeli land giveaways to Fatah since 1994, there has never been a case where these transfers led to a moderation of Palestinian behavior or feelings towards Israel. To the contrary, such Israeli moves have only radicalized Palestinian society that has come to see every Israeli concession as proof that Israel is collapsing.
Three and a half years ago, Israel gave its greatest concession to date when it removed all its military personnel and forcibly expelled ten thousand of its citizens from their homes and farms in Gaza and transferred the area to Fatah. Rather than moderate the Palestinians, this massive Israeli concession was seen as proof that Israel would soon disappear. Convinced that Israel’s destruction was at hand, the Palestinians elected Hamas the group most identified with the cause of Israel’s destruction to lead them.
So even though Israel may make concessions to people who claim to be “moderate,” the fact is those concessions only strengthen “extremists” and so weaken Israel while strengthening jihadist groups dedicated to its destruction. Obviously, this is not something that engenders peace and stability. Rather, such “peace processes” engender only war and instability.
Q: What should the U.S. response to the fighting be?
A: Just as the U.S. supports all its allies — from Pakistan to India to Britain to the Philippines — in their fights against terrorist groups, so the U.S. should be supporting Israel without qualification in its fight against its terrorist foes. And indeed, just as the U.S. tells its allies not to go wobbly in their fights against terrorists, so the U.S. should be encouraging Israel to stay firm and not try to cut a deal with its terrorist foes.
Q: Any advice to Obama?
A: The thing that concerns me about President-elect Obama’s views of Israel and the Middle East is that they are heavily influenced by his advisers, many of whom are Clinton-administration veterans. And these advisers — people like Richard Haass, Aaron Miller, Dan Kurtzer, and Martin Indyk, to name just a few — have built their careers championing the failed and dangerous peace process.
If Obama fails to recognize the folly of these advisers and replace them with men and women who use reality as their guide for policymaking, not only will he strengthen terrorist enemies of the U.S. like Hamas and Iran, he will weaken and endanger U.S. allies like Israel. So my advice to the incoming president would be to dump his Middle East team and replace it with advisers who have a clue.
To paraphrase someone you might have heard of once or twice, I’d rather have U.S. policy on the Middle East determined by the first 100 names in the Boston phone book than by this team whose policies have brought about the death of thousands in their pursuit of a fantasy of peace.
Originally published in National Review Online.