This is the army that Israel’s supporters claim is the most moral in the world; the one that goes out of its way to prevent civilian casualties; the one that endangers its own before harming non-combatants:
Others here who might seem like natural liaisons with Israel in future peace-building dealings were also enraged. Fakhr Abu Awwad, a chemistry professor at Islamic University, who earned a doctorate at the University of New Orleans, had his house taken over by Israeli commandos days ago after he and his family fled.
When he returned to the house on Monday, he found bullet holes in the walls, televisions, closets and clothing. His toilets had been shot up; his cigars, watch and wife’s jewelry pilfered; and his floor urinated on, he said.
“This is the most moral army in the world,” he said in fluent English, a sarcastic reference to how Israelis speak of their military, as he walked around the house pointing out the damage. Mr. Abu Awwad said he was affiliated with neither Hamas nor Fatah.
Israeli officials repeat their miasmic mantra of talking points about the conflict: Israel gained a stunning victory and dealt Hamas a stunning blow which has caused Gazans to reconsider their support:
It remained unclear what impact the conflict had had on Hamas’s popularity in Gaza. Israeli officials said Hamas had been harmed politically. Transportation Minister Shaul Mofaz suggested that Hamas was rapidly losing its public support given the extensive damage. “In addition to the diplomatic isolation, I think Gazans understand today that it is Hamas that led them to this reality,” he said during a tour of southern Israel.
But Palestinians here showed little evidence of that attitude.
“I think Hamas is stronger now and will be stronger in the future because of this war,” said Iyad Serraj, a psychiatrist here who is an opponent of Hamas. “This war has deepened the people’s feeling that it is impossible to have peace with Israel, a country that promotes death and destruction.”
Even liberal doves like David Grossman who should know better seem to have accepted the standard line with a few serious reservations:
As satisfied as Israelis are that the technical weaknesses of the Second Lebanon War were corrected, we should be paying heed to another voice – the one that says the Israel Defense Forces’ successes in the confrontation with Hamas do not prove that it was right to embark on such a massive campaign, and are certainly no justification for Israel’s mode of operation in the course of the fighting. These military successes merely confirm that Israel is stronger than Hamas, and that under certain conditions it can be tough and cruel in its own way.
I’m sorry but how can one say weaknesses were corrected and that this war was a success? It accomplished none of its objectives as Hamas can easily resume rocket fire if Israel refuses to lift the siege. It lost about 300 of its 15-20,000 men under arms. The only way anyone could legitimately say that Israel corrected weaknesses or achieved success would be if it met an opponent like Hezbollah and performed better. Can anyone say that Hamas is such an opponent? The idea that the IDF proved its mettle because its F-16s succeeded in decimating undefended civilian buildings is beyond preposterous. The idea that an Israeli tank destroying a Gazan home filled with cowering refugees is a “success” is deluded, if not monstrous.
The only thing that Hamas learned from this was to save its powder and fight on terms more favorable to it than the ones the Israelis presented. The vaunted Israeli military machine stormed into Gaza and the defenders melted away. What does this prove? Only that Hamas has lived to fight again.
Stephen Walt has a cogent post in his new Foreign Policy blog about the much ballyhooed claim of Israel’s strategic brilliance in the various wars it has fought since 1948:
…There is no reason to think that Israel possesses uniquely gifted strategists or a national security establishment that consistently makes smart and far-sighted choices. Indeed, what is perhaps most remarkable about Israel is how often the architects of these disasters [1973 war, Lebanon wars, Gaza war] — Barak, Olmert, Sharon, and maybe Netanyahu — are not banished from leadership roles but instead are given another opportunity to repeat their mistakes. Where is the accountability in the Israeli political system?
This is a phenomenon I’ve often noted. Sharon was banished from Israeli politics after Sabra and Shatilla and yet still ended up prime minister. Olmert presided over Israel’s drubbing in Lebanon and was only toppled by a financial scandal. And if he is not convicted, then he too could return to politics. Barak failed at Camp David and was drubbed by Sharon in elections, yet has used his nine political lives to preside over the Gaza debacle.
To further prove there is no accountability, take a look at who’s up and who’s down in the election sweepstakes. Recent election poll results help us gauge who made the right bets in starting this war. Likud is polling around 29 seats, vindicating Netanyahu’s strategy of giving full backing to the war. Kadima is polling 26 seats, which points out the futility of Tzipi Livni’s calculation that a good war was just what she needed to boost her own party’s performance. Labor is polling around 14 seats which vindicates Barak’s decision to instigate the war. Without it, Labor would undoubtedly have barely had a heartbeat. With this “victory,” Barak might end up defense minister in a Likud-Labor coalition government.
Ehud Olmert yearned for this war as a means to vindicate his miserable failure in the Lebanon war. So like our own Iraq war, in which George Bush sought to redeem the “errors” his father had made in 1991, the Gaza war was Olmert’s effort to save face in the eyes of posterity.
It’s sickening really. Israeli politicians exploited the volatile situation on their border with Gaza to fight a war that proved nothing except scoring political points for those who instigated it.