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.