Gaza: what lesson?

Netanyahu continues to rely on military operations

The shelling continues into the fifth day. Operation pillar of defense, the israeli army’s attacks on targets in gaza, continues, and israeli media today report a "drumfire of rockets", that hit israeli territory, fired from gaza. The image being conveyed places rough emphasis on balance: "more than 70 rockets have been fired at israel since saturday, and the idf has attacked a similar number of targets in the gaza strip."

How to continue? What is the political plan behind the military one?? What is the netanyahu government’s vision for the future of gaza?? The questions are getting louder by the day, and there is no non-military answer yet.

There will be no cease-fire until no more rockets are fired from gaza, netanyahu replied to u.S. President obama, german chancellor angela merkel and italian prime minister mario monti. If egyptian prere on hamas fails to produce results and rockets continue to be fired at israel, israel will be forced to invade gaza with ground troops, ha’arez newspaper reports netanyahu’s current intentions. All attention is focused on the man who is on the campaign trail.

Criticism of the politician, who bases his reputation on toughness and tends toward ultima ratio, is not heard amid the war alarm. So far, netanyahu is being blunted by key western governments; the international public is also holding back. But that will change, and the ripples will come from another side, israeli observer chemi shalev points out. From now on it could go downhill, even if israeli pr has worked well so far

Shalev bases his prediction on a series of historical antecedents – the first lebanon war, in 1982, operations grapes of wrath (1996), defensive shield (2002), the second lebanon war (2007) and finally operation cast lead (2008), also in gaza. The course of the public perception of the actions was similar in essential stages.

At the beginning, the world public roughly conceded to the first military actions that there were good reasons, since the opponents were terrorists. The success of the first idf actions, if they turn out to be surgical, will not be doubted. On the contrary "military connoisseurs" are impressed, and world public opinion remains quiet as usual.

But sometimes this was quickly followed by the next phase: the first opinion articles questioning the motives of the israeli government and making the excessive use of militaristic force an ie. This could turn around within 72 hours once civilian casualties of palestinians or a failed operation come to light. It would not be long before international condemnation "david against goliath"-image dominates the public perception.

If a ceasefire didn’t happen soon, israel would end up with exactly this outcome, as in previous conflicts. Only with the difference that the public opinion in the arab countries since the uprisings in 2011 has a different political relevance and effect and mobilization ability. By which shalev implies that netanyahu can provoke reactions that could turn the momentum that is currently in favor of israel into something quite different if he stays on the course of militaristic harshness: an unwanted uproar.

Lessons on the other side

So far, the news about an inhumanity of the israeli attacks is still rare. But there are. For example, the arabic newspaper al-akhbar reports 500 attacks by israeli warplanes on targets in the gaza strip in the last 48 hours. This is a different number from that given by the idf. 54 palestinians reported killed, 530 injured. With similar numbers and photos electronicintifada tries to.Net to draw attention to the other side. This is dismissed as propaganda in the western media because of the striking positioning of the two publications.

However, palestinians and other arabs see this with a different eye, directing the propaganda accusation against the portrayals that dominate in the west. The two camps’ truths will continue to accompany the war unaccustomedly.

If the mood in the west changes, netanyahu will be in trouble. So far, the successes of the idf, its public relations work, and its demonstration of surgical strikes have obscured the fact that it has not made one iota of progress politically. That the situation is fundamentally asymmetrical. That the israeli government is not doing anything decisive to meet palestinian demands for freedom and justice. Judging by their actions, it is more acceptable for the netanyahu government to attack gaza than to give independence to the palestinian territory.

Experience has shown, according to another israeli commentator who also looks back at the history of the conflict, that israeli governments have been willing to make concessions only when pain has been inflicted on them, as in the intifada:

If history has taught us something, it’s that in those rare occasions when the other party is able to inflict too much pain and discomfort on israelis – thus making the status quo "less tolerable" – concessions are finally made. This is the way the first intifada led to oslo and the second one to the disengagement (much in the way the 1973 war lead to the peace treaty with egypt). In all these cases, the palestinians (or egyptians) paid a heavy price – much heavier than israel – but they were able to move israel out of its comfort zone.

The lesson that israeli leaders claim to teach palestinians, according to noam sheizaf, is that in reality you get nothing, not a political concession, but a lot of violence. Israel pursues a gaza policy, says sheizaf, namely to keep the situation as it is.