Could a Gaza Land War lose the Middle East for America?

Abd al-Ra’uf Arna’ut writes in the PLO newspaper al-Ayyam (The Days) that behind the scenes, the Obama administration and its European allies are exerting enormous pressure on Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu to refrain from launching a land invasion of Gaza.

He maintains that the air war against Gaza, which might attrite Hamas’s stock of rockets, is unobjectionable to the West assuming it does not kill many civilians and does not go on very long.

A land war in Gaza could be very costly in lives of non-combatants, and would be fairly intensively reported on this time, unlike in 2008-2009. Images of dead babies would inflame the Muslim world and cause huge headaches for the US.

But here is what is at stake, in his view:

1. The current government of Egypt headed by Muslim Brotherhood leader Muhammad Morsi has correct relations with the US. But it could be pushed to be more radical by a Gaza land war. He argues that Morsi’s hands could be tied by an Israeli ground war, Arna’ut does not say so, but if the Brotherhood looks like it is too close to the US to protest the Gaza action, it could lose out in the next parliamentary elections to even more hard line Salafis, creating an impediment to US diplomacy in the region.

2. Likewise, Jordan’s fragile and protested government may be forced to take steps contrary to Washington’s desires, just to survive. Arna’ut does not say so, but some of the Jordanian crowds’ rage against the monarchy is not just high fuel prices but also the peace treaty with Israel and the government’s refusal to revoke it.

3. The US has gone to a lot of trouble, with Qatar, to create a new leadership organization for the Syrian exile community. But an Israeli ground offensive in Gaza would take the focus off Syria and would strengthen the hand of the Baath Party. The new Syrian opposition council risks being seen as ineffectual and beholden to the US and the Israeli Likud Party, and so discredited. US policy of helping gradually take down Bashar al-Assad would be stymied.

20 Responses

    • The US has gone to a lot of trouble… Joey89924

      Like lying to the world about Sadam’s WMD, Killing hundres of thousands of innocent Iraqi’s, creating about 5 million Iraqi refugees, about whom American Free News Media never talks.

      Condi Rice & Collen Powel Lying to the world in the UNO; gone to a lot of trouble for whom…

      US or Israeli war criminal never punished, so they have more free hand to kill.

      Its time for the US to wake up to the realities of the changing world.

  1. “…the air war against Gaza, which might attrite Hamas’s stock of rockets, is unobjectionable to the West assuming it does not kill many civilians and does not go on very long.”

    This goes along with the idea that “targeted assassinations” are kosher since everybody’s doing them.

    Tell that to JFK!

    • “This goes along with the idea that “targeted assassinations” are kosher since everybody’s doing them.”

      First, who is “everybody” you claim are engaging in targeted assassinations?

      Second, are you claiming that it would be better to engage in random, “untargeted” assassinations? Please clarify.

  2. This is an interesting point, but it joins many, many others that might be gamed, that all go to the underlying unsustainability of the Israeli mindset exhibited in various related colors since 1967.

  3. But they do not object to assassination, blockade (7 years ?), sniping from the border, etc.? And, turning to West Obama and others do not seem to think it worth mentioning that settlers and settlements (buildings on confiscated land) and wall (ditto) are present illegally.

    Palestine/Israel is a wilderness, wild, a land outside the law. There is no legal restraint on Israel, no legal recourse for Palestinians. And the USA is the chief implementer. If Obama cares at all, he can only be waiting for Israel to outshine its usual horrible self. (So easy to “go too far” when you’re on a roll.)

    1948? 1967? 2005 (blockade of Gaza)? The history stretches back and is of no importance to those who (what?) manage current brush fires?

    And Egypt and Jordan have given Obama a “green light” it seems to give Israel a “green light” for more of the usual. Nice to have friends in high places.

  4. One thing that I do not see discussed is at what point does Hezbollah enter the war. What would happen if they unleash their missiles? What is the relationship between Hezbollah and Hamas? Can Israel fight a 2 front war?

  5. With Gaza so much in the news it bled over into my viewing of Spielberg’s Lincoln. Being made aware of the deplorable living conditions and second class citizenship endured by blacks and without any legal rights, made me think of the modern apartheid and inhuman conditions inflicted on Palestinians by the Israeli government.

    I wondered through out the movie if anyone, other than myself, would make this comparison. I doubt Mr. Spielberg, a favorite son of Israel, would see the similarities, which made his telling of the human rights victory for blacks ring a bit hollow.

  6. Also, Turkey’s prime minister justdeclared Israel a “terrorist state”.

    This is a nation that had earlier considered Israel an ally.

    Qatar had even given several million dollars foreign aid to Israel as a reward following its disengagement from Gaza in 2005 to construct a soccer stadium for Jews and Arabs to use.

    Operation Cast Lead and the current military operation have made Ariel Sharon appear to be a liberal. His diplomatic gains have evaporated under the Olmert and Netanyahu governments.

    • Indeed. The current Israeli government is not only belligerent, but quite irrational in its behavior, in terms of the rational pursuit of the country’s self-interest.

      • Particularly if one focuses on the variety of real interests of actual Israeli citizens, rather than Israeli government and political figure statements on what those interests are and how they will or won’t be satisfied.

        Like anywhere, powerful institutions, leaders, parties, and groups have interests that may not be the same as that which is most positive and helpful to the citizenry, but they will make sure to talk about what they do or want to do as if they’re one and the same.

      • Barbara Tuchman has a whole interesting book on what she calls “The March of Folly,” the constant, unvarying (except in local intensity) refrain in human “governance” of leaders and rulers acting so very clearly against what one might think was the “general welfare” and so often even their own survival interests, establishing and pursuing “policies” of self-defeat in the face of many better options, and despite clear advice on ugly and inevitable consequences. Like the Trojans pulling that horse inside the walls, without even poking it with spears. And the 14th-century Popes, pursuing worldly glory by destroying the Church. And the Bourbon monarchy. And the US in imperial adventures like Vietnam and Iragafanipakistan.

        Wonder what the triggers for the Israeli Defense Force keepers of those 400 nuclear warheads are, under their version of the Single Integrated Operational Plan, and what their targeting maps look like… It would be interesting to know if any “US interests” have little rings of fire drawn around them.

        There’s a lot of characteristics that various proponents claim to set us apart from the rest of nature — self-awareness, laughter, that opposable thumb. It sure seems to me that the most telling is the ability consistently and repeatedly to do stupid stuff to ourselves. With huge consequences.

  7. Dear Prof. Cole. I read your blog nearly daily and am often amazed at your insightful analysis, especially regarding this part of the world. However, as a foreigner living in Jordan for almost 7 years, I would hesitate to call the government here “fragile”. Yes, people have been protesting for quite some time now, but the Arab Spring type protests have not captured the imagination of most. Even the recent fuel subsidy protests have died down, although perhaps they’ll reemerge on Friday. And while it’s true that maybe “some” of the protesters want the treaty with Israel ended, this is not an issue that will be a tipping point for the average Jordanian. People are upset and concerned with the rising fuel prices, but most people I know rather prefer the relative stability afforded them here, especially when compared to what is going on with their neighbors in Syria.

  8. Frankly, I think the Israel of today would be very recognizable and compatible with the vision of many of those fighting for an independent state of Israel in the 1940s.

    It should be noted that the rosy picture of a group of innocent, beleaguered, plucky, Jewish settlers fighting for an independent Israel was always a myth. Just as the Zionist call for “A land without people for a people without land” was a myth foisted upon a world that had little knowledge of the area. Many of the founders of the state of Israel were terrorists, plain and simple. The Sterngang, the Irgun Zvai Leumi, and other entities were certainly terrorist organizations, assassinating both British officers and Arab inhabitants of the British Mandate of Palestine.

    Yitzhak Shamir, a future Prime Minister of Israel, was a member of the Sterngang. Menachim Begin, Another future Prime Minister, was a leader of the Irgun Zvai Leumi. On July 22, 1946, the Irgun carried out a terrorist bombing of the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing several British officers. On September 17, 1948, members of the Sterngang assassinated Count Folke Bernadette, the UN Representative in Palestine. Just five months before the assassination of Count Bernadette, on April 9, 1948, the Irgun massacred some 150 to 250 (the figure has never been satisfactorily confirmed) Arab men, women, and children in the village of Deir Yassin. The purpose of the Irgun and Sterngang’s attacks on, and massacres of, Arabs was to create a climate of fear among the population so that they would flee. Some 700,000 Palestinian refugees fled Israel before and after its establishment. Some fled because of Arab broadcasts to leave before the invasion, but many had already fled as a result of Irgun, Sterngang, and other Jewish terrorist acts designed to intimidate them into leaving. It was clearly a form of ethnic cleansing.

    I yield to no one in my belief that after 64 years, Israel has certainly earned its right to exist without a continued threat to that existence. Nevertheless, to understand Palestinian and Arab resentment, one only has to review dispassionately the sordid history of those Zionist leaders who used terrorism, and who committed plenty of atrocities, in the lead-up to the establishment of Israel.

    • Good history of the founding of Israel.

      It should also be stated that Plan Dalet was formulated by David Ben-Gurion and other Jewish notables that created Israel. It was a grandiose scheme to ethnically cleanse Arabs from key areas of Palestine.

      Very, very few native-born Jews were leaders of this movement. Most came from Eastern Europe as refugees following WWII.

  9. Juan,

    Some years ago, in an infamous interview, the Israeli historian Benny Morris suggested that Israel would have to ethnically cleanse the West Bank pre-emptively if Islamist regimes took power in Egypt and Jordan. We are now half way there. Do you think this is closer to happening?
    David Kaiser

  10. Back up just a minute: Where did the USA get the idea it ‘had’ the Middle East in the first place? This is the wrong language in which to be thinking, & it has certainly expedited these problems.

  11. My question is the same as the previous commenter. In what way do we have the Middle East to lose it?

    “He maintains that the air war against Gaza, which might attrite Hamas’s stock of rockets, is unobjectionable to the West assuming it does not kill many civilians and does not go on very long.”

    I think that is not true for many of us in the West. We want the killing to stop right now.

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