One sure way of knowing what deluded notions are running through the minds of Israeli policymakers is to follow Ethan Bronner’s reports in the N.Y. Times. The reporter sometimes teases out what’s realistic from what’s absurd; but often he just reports and leaves it to his readers to get the rest. In this report he’s done a little of both.
In the aftermath of the alleged Gaza ceasefire, Israel’s war planners are spinning like mad:
Israeli officials say, an offensive that caused average people to suffer put pressure on Hamas in real and specific ways.
“Hamas is the dominant organization in Gaza,” a top military official said in a briefing last week that was given on condition of anonymity. “They are the regime and feel very connected to the people. They do not want to lose that connection to the people.”
This is utter nonsense. Israel’s madness did precisely the opposite from putting pressure on Hamas. It turned Hamas into resistance heroes and as we’ve said here many times–just by surviving it won.
But the best and most alarming part of this article reminds me of the old New York radio and television jingle from the 1980s about the Israeli electronics retailer who slashed prices so steeply he was known as Crazy Eddie. So let’s christen this the “Crazy Eddie” theory of Israeli war:
The Israeli theory of what it tried to do here is summed up in a Hebrew phrase heard across Israel and throughout the military in the past weeks: “baal habayit hishtageya,” or “the boss has lost it.” It evokes the image of a madman who cannot be controlled.
“This phrase means that if our civilians are attacked by you, we are not going to respond in proportion but will use all means we have to cause you such damage that you will think twice in the future,” said Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser.
This of course, assumes that Gazans feel they have something to lose. In other words, Israel is making a fundamental error in its strategy. It presumes a conventional enemy who feels they have a patrimony to protect. Or as Bob Dylan sings: “When you ain’t go nothing’ you got nothin’ to lose.” And the Palestinians have nothing to lose. Thus madness is no deterrent.
It is a calculated rage. The phrase comes from business and refers to a decision by a shop owner to cut prices so drastically that he appears crazy to the consumer even though he knows he has actually made a shrewd business decision.
The Palestinians in Gaza got the message on the first day when Israeli warplanes struck numerous targets simultaneously in the middle of a Saturday morning. Some 200 were killed instantly, shocking Hamas and indeed all of Gaza, especially because Israel’s antirocket attacks in previous years had been more measured.
When Hamas’s prime minister, Ismail Haniya, appeared on Hamas television from his hiding spot last Monday, he picked up on the Israeli archetype, referring in Arabic to the battle under way as “el harb el majnouna,” the mad or crazy war.
For most, of course, feeling abused like this has created deep rage at Israel.
And that rage will breed madness from the Palestinian side. Even now, schemes and plots are being hatched to take revenge. What nation expects that it can go whale on its neighbor and not pay a price?
Bronner’s next passage confirms this:
“If you want to make peace with the Palestinians, they are tired of bombs, drones and planes,” said Mohammad Abu Muhaisin, a 35-year-old resident of the southern city of Rafah who is affiliated with Fatah, the rival to Hamas that rules in the West Bank and was ejected from Gaza in June 2007. “But a guy whose child has just been killed doesn’t want peace. He wants war.”
There are, however, limited indications that the people of Gaza felt such pain from this war that they will seek to rein in Hamas.
There are limits to the Crazy Eddie strategic doctrine and Israel has discovered them. It should also remember that Crazy Eddie offered those low prices so long the company finally went out of business. Electronics retailers don’t seem to have a long shelf life. I hope Israel’s will be longer.
Giora Eiland provides further evidence of the delusions at the heart of Israeli military thinking:
…Eiland, the former national security adviser, noted that Israel “can destroy the infrastructure of the regime, and that is much more painful than only hitting military targets.”
“The regime will be under pressure to stop the violence and will be careful not to repeat this experience again,” he said. “Due to the terrible devastation on the ground, there will be a lot of political pressure.”
Does he really believe that a country that has virtually nothing has “infrastructure” whose loss will cause significant pain or pause to Gazans? Loss of a parliament building, police station, university–this is what Eland believes will rein in Hamas? Who is he kidding? Any Palestinian schoolboy or girl would be able to tell him there is no building more sacred to them than an idea–the idea of national freedom. How can bombs take that away from them?
What pressure will Hamas be under to “stop violence?” That presumes Gazans blame Hamas for this violence. It presumes they will hold Hamas accountable by removing them or turning their backs on them. Will that happen? Do I hear any wagers from you, my readers?
Unfortunately, the only sanity coming from the ranks of Israelis emanates from people like this who have virtually no impact on the army’s thinking:
Shlomo Brom, a researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University and a retired brigadier general, said it was wrong to consider Hamas a group of irrational fanatics.
“I have always said that Hamas is a very rational political movement,” he said. “When they use suicide bombings, for example, it is done very consciously, based on calculations of the effectiveness of these means. You see, both sides understand the value of calculated madness. That is one reason I don’t see an early end to this ongoing war.”