There are two noteworthy stories in today's paper on Israel's ongoing invasion of Gaza. The first is David Kirkpatrick's "Arab Leaders, Viewing Hamas as Worse Than Israel, Stay Silent." For me, David Kirkpatrick and the Arab Spring are synonymous. His reports from Cairo's Tahrir Square in 2011 provided an excellent window on the Egyptian Revolution for Western readers. At that point, the Gray Lady and the U.S. government were in support of the people's movement to topple corrupt strongman Hosni Mubarak.
But times have changed, as Kirkpatrick makes clear in his article. The ferocity of Israel's Gaza invasion is bolstered by the support of Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Both nations despise Hamas:
Although Egypt is traditionally the key go-between in any talks with Hamas — deemed a terrorist group by the United States and Israel — the government in Cairo this time surprised Hamas by publicly proposing a cease-fire agreement that met most of Israel’s demands and none from the Palestinian group. Hamas was tarred as intransigent when it immediately rejected it, and Cairo has continued to insist that its proposal remains the starting point for any further discussions.
But as commentators sympathetic to the Palestinians slammed the proposal as a ruse to embarrass Hamas, Egypt’s Arab allies praised it. King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia called President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt the next day to commend it, Mr. Sisi’s office said, in a statement that cast no blame on Israel but referred only to “the bloodshed of innocent civilians who are paying the price for a military confrontation for which they are not responsible.”
“There is clearly a convergence of interests of these various regimes with Israel,” said Khaled Elgindy, a former adviser to Palestinian negotiators who is now a fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. In the battle with Hamas, Mr. Elgindy said, the Egyptian fight against the forces of political Islam and the Israeli struggle against Palestinian militants were nearly identical. “Whose proxy war is it?” he asked.
The dynamic has inverted all expectations of the Arab Spring uprisings. As recently as 18 months ago, most analysts in Israel, Washington and the Palestinian territories expected the popular uprisings to make the Arab governments more responsive to their citizens, and therefore more sympathetic to the Palestinians and more hostile to Israel.
But instead of becoming more isolated, Israel’s government has emerged for the moment as an unexpected beneficiary of the ensuing tumult, now tacitly supported by the leaders of the resurgent conservative order as an ally in their common fight against political Islam.So there you have it, direct from a foremost scribe of the Arab Spring: the Arab Spring has been rolled back, with Israel, operating in concert with the corrupt Gulf monarchies as well as Egypt, a prime beneficiary. The July 3, 2013 Sisi coup will be seen in years to come as a critical turning point in the Middle East.
None of the grievances that motivated the popular revolt against the Mubarak regime in Egypt have been addressed. People are being overawed by force of violence. That will continue to be the prescription going forward. And that is why the United States has radically shifted its stance since February 2011. The United States is no longer championing democracy. The Obama administration is more concerned with getting rid of Maliki in Iraq than it is about the rise of Islamic State -- which should tell us something. The plan going forward is for all of us to live in some form of totalitarian society. Whether religiously fundamentalist and anti-technocratic, or hyper-technocratic and profane, it doesn't make any difference to the plutocratic elite pulling the wires.
The second noteworthy offering on the Gaza war by the Gray Lady is Jodi Rudoren's exploration, "Quest for Demilitarization of Gaza Is Seen Getting Netanyahu Only So Far," of what Israel wants to achieve with its current war-crimes orgy. Demilitarization is the stated goal of the Netanyahu government:
Dore Gold, a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Netanyahu, said demilitarization had worked elsewhere in the Middle East, pointing to United Nations Security Council Resolution 687, which required Saddam Hussein to give up weapons of mass destruction after the first gulf war in 1991, and President Bashar al-Assad’s agreement in Syria to turn in chemical weapons last summer. Mr. Gold said that in demilitarization, Mr. Netanyahu now had “a very clear strategic goal.”The problem is that there is no clear path to that "very clear strategic goal." Unless of course one could imagine Israel driving Gaza's 1.7 million Palestinians into the Sinai, something which might seem unthinkable now but maybe not after a few more weeks of IDF atrocities.
The problem with demilitarization is that it is unenforceable, particularly now since Israel, faced with a return of an Intifada-level of unity among Palestinians, will have to loosen its blockade of Gaza in any lasting ceasefire agreement. Buffer zones won't work because Hamas and Islamic Jihad rockets can be fired from anywhere within Gaza and reach Israel.
No, Israel is not going to bargain. Israel will maintain its campaign of terror and carnage. The only way to break the spirit of the Palestinian people at this point is through mass starvation, and that appears to be option being seriously discussed within Israel:
In the years since, and particularly after Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006 and routed opposition forces from Gaza the next year, Israel has maintained an uneasy occupation. It restricts fishing and farming zones; monitors goods going in and out, ostensibly for security; and gives rare exit permits, mainly for medical treatment. But it is also Israeli power lines that provide Gaza’s limited electricity and Israeli trucks that, even during the raging fighting of recent days, ferry in milk, rice and sugar.
“You cannot win against an effective guerrilla organization when on the one hand, you are fighting them, and on the other hand, you continue to supply them with water and food and gas and electricity,” said Giora Eiland, a former Israeli national security adviser. “Israel should have declared a war against the de facto state of Gaza, and if there is misery and starvation in Gaza, it might lead the other side to make such hard decisions.”
Mr. Eiland has long argued that Israel should engage Hamas as the government of Gaza rather than try to isolate it, and advocated a Marshall Plan to rebuild the battered territory. Until recently, his was a rather lone voice.
Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s right-wing foreign minister, proffered a plan that would lift all limits on Gaza but seal its borders with Israel, essentially pushing the territory toward Egypt. Others imagined that making life in Gaza miserable might lead to Hamas’s downfall. But that approach failed as poverty helped foment violence, because Israel’s occupation of the West Bank hardly made it seem like paradise, and because the Palestinian struggle is inspired by ideas about liberation and identity.
Neither idea, in any case, accounted for the fact that Palestinians see Gaza as an integral part of their future state, as promised by the Oslo Accords signed in the mid-1990s.
“The Gaza Strip is not viable on its own, it’s certainly not viable being blockaded, and it’s not viable if it’s disconnected from the West Bank,” said Diana Buttu, a Palestinian citizen of Israel who lived in Gaza for more than a year and is now based in Ramallah, in the West Bank. “Violence is not just for the sake of violence. Violence is because there are political issues that haven’t been dealt with.”The Third Intifada will have to pick back up within Israel and the West Bank. Such an uprising is starting to take place, but it is not being reported. Outside of a McClatchy story I saw on Niqnaq's blog, I haven't seen anything about protests by Palestinian Israelis. But they are happening, and they need to grow larger because, as Kirkpatrick makes clear, no state actors are coming to Gaza's rescue.