Friday, July 14, 2006

Poor Mr. Goliath

The infrastructure for the recent, new escapades by Israel and the IDF is to be found, of course, in the ’special relationship’ between the United States and Israel. This relationship provides the military wherewithal and the political “cover” for any Israeli action and is the geo-political instrument through which the United States imposes its hegemony in the region. Both sides are obligated to a coordinated response when and if their interests are endangered. Though it is a firm and long standing alliance, each partner does have its own way of looking at things and can develop separate modes of operation.

Israel for its part is more and more intoxicated with power. This state of perpetual inebriation seems to have impaired Israel’s sense of proportion and understanding of reality. One might have to admit that there is something intoxicating in the control over arsenals of doom’s day weaponry and the enjoyment of unlimited superiority against any of its opponents. This sense of superiority nurtures a specific Israeli neurosis, one that engenders illusions, which may in the long run turn out to be self-defeating.

Neither the Palestinian irregulars nor the armies of the neighboring Arab countries are capable of launching any military action that could endanger Israel’s existence or even cause it serious harm. In these circumstances, the Israeli ruling circles have a wide range of strategic alternatives at their disposal. Instead of utilizing these advantages, Israel threatens disproportionate massive military responses to each and every incident. By insisting that it will not distinguish between different levels and types of military actions against it, Israel paints itself into a corner. This fact is not lost on those interested in defying the present status quo.

A Soldier is Kidnapped

Everyone understands that any soldier, even if he is a member of the strongest army in the world, can be easily taken prisoner by the enemy. And what is the strategic significance of such an occurrence? Of course, having one of your soldiers kidnapped is not a very pleasant affair. Even so, a kidnapping is almost always an expression of local and chance circumstances, and in and of itself has no strategic or political importance. It isn’t a pleasure, but it is not the end of the world. This also holds true in principle regarding the dispatch of primitive, home-made rockets from the conquered territories into Israeli towns on the periphery.

Of course, the injured side will look for ways to prevent the recurrence of the rather degrading low-casualty incidents which cause more harm to Israeli prestige than anything else. A responsible government in these circumstances, faced with provocative and embarrassing incidents, would know how to articulate its demands without tying its hands and promising the public that it will respond to every future incident as it were an existential challenge. Responsible statesmen do not usually post a “price list” of retribution and revenge in order to impress everybody that they may throw restraint to the wind. It is precisely this kind of arrogance that ups the ante and promises rewards to those forces determined to prevent the consolidation of a new status quo. The disproportionate threats to launch a full scale offensive over what are really local incidents does go down well with most of the citizenry, but it also creates a dynamic that can spin out of control.

In order to prevent actions which are of course inherently loathsome to any occupying power, Israel is wont to classify each as a causa belli. However, it is quite clear to almost everyone that Israel is simply trying to stamp out embarrassing incidents and events that are inevitable expressions of resistance, even within the given relationship of forces, so overwhelmingly favorable to Israel. In its frustration, Israel issues threats which tend to force its own hand. It seems that the Israeli leaders have begun to believe their own manipulations to the effect that anything less than full scale aggression would damage their credibility and deterrent capacity. However, Israel’s ultimatum demand for a quiet and undisturbed occupation is as unrealistic as it is immoral. Thus, Israel beats the drums and builds tension that sets the stage for wide scale military action.

Wiser politicians would be honest enough to explain to their electorate that the law regarding the limitations of power is also operative regarding Israel, and there are certain types of occurrences that it cannot prevent, as long as the conflict goes on. Instead of acting with restraint, Israel begins declaiming the mantra that “no sovereign country can allow itself to tolerate such things.” Any time that the “empire” suffers indignity, even though the actual damage is minimal, it proceeds to feed media hysteria. Thus, Israel actually promotes initiatives such as kidnappings, and this is, of course, especially true regarding planning by any group whose political goal is served by undermining the present status quo.

Bush – Jerusalem – Beirut

It is indeed probable that Israel, carried away by an attack of self righteousness, has forgotten its main task in the region: to maintain a modicum of calm and normality in order to block developments that could harm the basic interests of the United States or Israel. Israel’s pretensions to maintain a “quiet occupation” without any challenges has hurled the region into a new round of war and destruction. Israel, quite clearly guilty of serious crimes against humanity by creating a major humanitarian crisis in Gaza in the south has gone on a campaign of aggression against Lebanon in the north.

In accordance with the norms of the “special relationship”, Washington has issued the obligatory condemnation of the Hezballa and cited the responsibility of the Syrians and the Iranians. At the same time, Washington has made every effort to ignore the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. It is still not clear how the U.S. and Bush are involved in Israel’s recent escapades. Bush is, of course, up to his neck in Iraq. Though, we must countenance the possibility that there are some forces in Washington which might be playing with a monstrous scheme for a wider conflagration in the entire Middle East, it is too early to see the recent Israeli adventures as a prelude to a wider aggression and hard to believe that Washington is ready for all out confrontation with Iran and Syria.

Meanwhile, with Israel choking Lebanon and starving Gaza, it will be more and more difficult for (even) Bush to justify all this under the cynical caption of “Israel has the right to defend itself.” After all, Lebanon, now being pulverized by IDF bombs was supposed to be the U.S. star pupil in democratic transformation.

Israel has made its move: it demands that the world recognize its right to a deluxe, resistance free occupation or it will go to war. The international community will have to take a stand on this issue, sooner than later. At the heart of this crisis: the refusal of the international community to fulfill its duty to establish a just peace based on the creation of an independent, viable Palestinian state. History will not bypass this requirement.