Hamas and the useless eleven-day war

Commentary: Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad were strongly weakened militarily and politically by a military adventure with no sense and no prospects. Today more than ever, there is the need for a respite and reflection in the search for a model of civil and political coexistence in what otherwise risks becoming a new "Hundred Years’ War"

An IDF soldier walks with Israeli flag near the city of Sderot. Photo: Ilia Yefimovich/dpa via REUTERS

In the history of the Israeli-Arab (and also of the Israeli-Palestinian) conflict, which has been going on for almost 75 years, the 1967 War - known to everybody as "the Six-Day War" - is still notorious. It began when, after a series of provocations by Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser, who went so far as to close the Straits of Tiran with his warships and expel the UN “peacekeepers” from the Sinai Peninsula, the Israeli army launched a military offensive on June 6 against Egypt, Jordan and Syria, which had joined forces to make their long-standing dream of “throwing the Jews back into the sea” come true.

The strategic objective of Israel's preemptive war was to secure its borders and, if possible, expand them at the expense of its traditional enemies.

We know how it went: after a few days, Israel had conquered the Sinai and the Gaza Strip at Egypt's expense, as well as taken all of Jerusalem and the West Bank away from the Hashemite Kingdom and occupied the Golan Heights and Mount Hermon, expelling the Syrians.

With the “Six-Day War”, Israel had set a strategic goal for itself and had achieved it. 

When, on May 10, Hamas unleashed its first rocket attack against Israeli cities, starting with Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel was celebrating "Jerusalem Day" (the Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City, i.e. the "liberation" of the Holy City) and facing a new wave of popular protests triggered by a series of evictions of Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarra neighborhood of East Jerusalem.

A rocket attack against the capital of a sovereign State is undoubtedly an act of war and therefore we are allowed to wonder what was the strategic objective of Hamas when it decided to launch a military offensive against its traditional enemy. 

The Western media readers and viewers have had nothing but confused answers on this subject, as the European and American media have preferred to focus their attention on the disproportionate number of Palestinian victims in the Israeli bombing carried out in response to the rocket offensive launched from Gaza (a toll of 243 victims, including 74 children), compared to those caused by Hamas rockets (12 adults and one child, besides a Jew lynched by Palestinian demonstrators in Lydda).

The humanitarian aspect of a war is always important and worthy of attention, but it cannot be the sole criterion for analyzing the motivations and responsibilities of the conflict.

Historians who have studied the Second World War have not only focused on the fate of the German children and civilians who died during the Allied Forces’ bombing raids, but have also rightly ascribed responsibility to the madness of those who, like Hitler and his acolytes, dragged German civilians into a bloody tragedy, the terrible outcome of which must be attributed not only to those who dropped the bombs but also to those who, with criminal recklessness, involved them and made them passive co-responsible people in a war of aggression.

The 74 children who died in Gaza were victims not only of Israeli bombs but also of those who, like the Hamas leaders, decided to place their rocket launch pads in the courtyards of the city's houses or to install their military command centers inside hospitals, schools and skyscrapers inhabited by hundreds of people.

The casualty count is not sufficient to establish responsibility for a useless war, because all the victims “are always right”.

Counting the dead, however, can be useful to understand the level of unscrupulousness of those who, like the leaders of Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, decided to attack an enormously stronger adversary, without apparently having any hope of victory or, at least, a clear objective, albeit limited.

While analyzing the first statements made by the Palestinian leaders in Gaza, it seems clear that, by attacking Israel and then suffering its inevitable military retaliation, the Palestinian extremists hoped to achieve the following goals: to stir a wave of indignation throughout the Muslim world, mobilizing the "Arab crowds" against the governments that sought an appeasement with Israel, first and foremost the signatories to the "Abraham Accords " which, since last year, have normalized relations between Israel and Morocco, Tunisia, the Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Sudan. This strategy has failed because, apart from a few obvious street protests, the Arab world has not "risen up" to protest against Israel's "crimes" and its governments have waited patiently for Egyptian mediation to reduce Hamas to terms. The second conceivable goal could have been to involve Turkey and Iran more massively in the military confrontation with Israel. The result, however, has not been achieved because, as far as Turkey is concerned, despite President Erdogan's heated propaganda tones in condemning the "Israeli aggression", support for the Palestinians has not gone beyond set phrases and clichés, not least because Turkey does not forget that in 1949 it was the first Muslim nation to recognize the State of Israel and its right to exist.

As far as Iran is concerned, with a view to understanding its substantial distance from Hamas’ initiative (allegedly also prompted by discreet, but effective pressure from the Chinese government), it is sufficient to note that from the Lebanon, the Hezbollah - a direct expression of the Iranian Pasdaran - only launched three rockets on Northern Galilee’s countryside, for purely demonstrative purposes, on the last day of war. 

If Iran had wanted to seriously support Hamas’ military offensive, it could have ordered Hezbollah to intervene from the Lebanon, thus putting Israel’s armed forces and government in severe difficulty.

At the end of the "eleven-day war", Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad come out strongly weakened militarily and politically by a military adventure with no sense and no prospects.

Also the idea of triggering a civil war in the cities of Israel with a mixed Jewish and Palestinian population has not been successful because, after the violent protests of the first days, the situation has rapidly calmed down and over the last few days, even in the major Israeli cities, "joint" demonstrations have been held with processions of Arabs and Jews calling for the resumption of civil coexistence.

Also on the internal Palestinian front, with their rockets the extremists in Gaza do not seem to have gained particular support.

The Palestinians of the West Bank did not take massively to the streets in solidarity with their "brothers" in the Gaza Strip, and the leader of the Palestinian National Authority, Abu Mazen, did not go beyond a few stock phrases in his reactions.

What is more important is that Abu Mazen has been very careful not to call new political elections in the West Bank, which have been suspended for years, precisely to avoid the risk of giving Hamas the victory in the polls that it did not obtain on the ground. 

The conflict has also brought Al Sisi’s Egypt back to the center of the Middle East scene which, also thanks to China’s discreet and reserved support (China has excellent relations with Israel) within the UN Security Council, has succeeded in the mediation activity which has led to the cessation of hostilities.

Ultimately, the "the eleven-day war" cannot be considered a military and political success of the more extremist fringes of the Palestinian movement.

Despite the success on the level of self-defense, however, Israel cannot afford to rest on its laurels, as it did after the "Six-Day War", but must address again the issue of pacification in the region and coexistence with the Palestinian reality, first of all by avoiding exposing itself to criticism and accusations of racism and apartheid coming from the pro-Palestinian (not to say anti-Semitic) European and American intelligentsia.

The commitment to peace will be a duty for the new Israeli government that will emerge from the current consultations or from new political elections. It shall start a new dialogue with Abu Mazen's component that has so far proved to be the most realistic and pragmatic one in the Palestinian movement.

Achieving peace in Palestine, however, is not only difficult because of extremists’ intransigence, but is also dangerous for the safety of those pursuing it. 

It is recent news the removal, or rather the violent expulsion from the Al Aqsa Mosque, of the city's highest religious authority, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Mohammed Al Husseini, accused of excessive moderation and closeness to Abu Mazen. 

The removal of the Grand Mufti reminds us of the sacrifices made by those who, on whatever front, have stood up for peace over the last 74 years, starting with Count Folke Bernadotte who died in Jerusalem under the blows of the Jewish terrorists of the Stern Group on September 6, 1948, while trying to mediate between the warring factions on behalf of the United Nations. He was followed two months later by the Egyptian Mahmoud Nokrashy Pasha who - for having tried to keep Egypt out of the war against Israel - was assassinated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the same organization that, on October 6, 1981 assassinated President Anwar El Sadat in Cairo, guilty - in its eyes - of having made peace with Israel.

Also Itzak Rabin, Israel’s hero of three wars and Prime Minister, fell under the blows of a Jewish extremist, for having shaken the hand of Yasser Arafat and signed the peace agreements of 1993 - while on the death in 2004 of the PLO’s historic leader, reliable rumors have been rife that he was poisoned with polonium by those who intended to eliminate a supporter of pacification.

In short, in Palestine - today more than ever, after the useless "eleven-day war" - there is the need for a respite and reflection in the search - also with the help of the more moderate representatives of the Arab world, the United States., Europe and the new protagonists of the global scene, such as China - for a model of civil and political coexistence between the contenders in what otherwise risks becoming a new "Hundred Years’ War".

Peace must be sought in Palestine, although those who have sought peace have all too often found death.

 

Professor Valori is President of the International World Group

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