Israel has fallen into a Hamas trap

23rd July, 2014 8:31 am

israel sunset

Only 15% of Britons think Israeli air-strikes on Gaza are justified, according to polling by YouGov yesterday. In one sense this is surprising given that most of the British press has traditionally been stridently pro-Israeli. But it also says something about shifting attitudes towards Israel as pictures of dead Palestinian children start to dominate the news.

Internationally, Israel is becoming a pariah state, backed stridently only by the United States. Two years ago, a global survey by the BBC found that Israel was among the most negatively-rated countries in the world, sitting alongside Iran, Pakistan and North Korea. Attitudes towards Israel were on a downward trajectory, with around 68% of Britons viewing the country negatively and only 16% positively. Germans and Spanish rated it even more negatively, while Australians and South Koreans weren’t far behind.

These negative sentiments aren’t (primarily) driven by anti-semitism or Muslims, they are driven by Israel’s own actions in the Middle East. People can see what its doing and they don’t like it.

In all the commentary that has predictably erupted since the bombardment of Gaza, little has been said about how badly Israel is handling all this. Again.

Until recently Hamas was struggling – financially and politically. It had lost support from traditional allies such as Syria, Egypt and Iran. But by goading Israel into an invasion again, it has ensured its own survival.

Since the last time Israel invaded Gaza to wipe out Hamas, the militant group has become even more powerful and has even better rockets. The last time it hit Tel Aviv, Gazans celebrated. One enterprising perfume maker even named a special scent after Hamas’s rocket: M75.

With Hamas rockets now reaching Ben Gurion airport and flights to Tel Aviv suspended, Israel is having to simultaneously convince everyone that Hamas isn’t much of a threat to its airports but a big threat everywhere else.

Plus, Palestinians are losing hope. Last week Benjamin Netanyahu gave up all pretense of working towards an independent Palestinian state in a much under-reported speech. Palestinians can see that illegal settlements (in the West Bank) keep getting built even during peace-time. They live in extreme poverty, unemployment and squalor, having to beg even for spare parts to get drinking water. Their dreams of a better life, let alone independence, are further away than ever.

For these reasons, it is in Hamas’s interests to provoke Israel into invading Gaza. Every time Israel attacks, it spends more money, further polarises domestic opinion and kills Palestinian children. Each invasion weakens the country’s international standing and makes it more of a pariah.

Its doubtful that even American public opinion will carry on staying positive. Social media has exposed American eyes to pictures and stories that previously their own media networks were unwilling to show. In fact, it’s likely that American cable TV will follow the lead from social media as it has done on many other occasions. If Israel loses the support of Americans, and as a result the political establishment, it really would face an existential crisis.

The Israeli Defence Force keeps asking: “What would you do [if rockets rained on your country]?” Its a very succinct and emotive question but also leads Israelis to miss the bigger picture. Israel has once again fallen for the trap Hamas laid for them.

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  • Hugh

    “The Israeli Defence Force keeps asking: “What would you do [if rockets rained on your country]?”

    And what’s your answer? You note yourself that Hamas is getting better and better rockets and can now succeed in disrupting flights. What should it do – quittting settlement building aside, which it certainly should, but which won’t stop the rockets?

    • JoeDM

      Nothing will stop the Hamas rockets whilst Israel continues to exilst. The destruction of the state of Israel is written into the Hamas constitution.

      Israel has every right to defend itself from such an organisation.

      The leaders of Hamas should be brought before the international court for war crimes for the use of women and children as human shields.

      • ColinAdkins

        In that case why did Israel and America undermine Fatah which is an organisation with which Israel could have established a comprehensive peace settlement on pre-67 borders? Why because the Israeli right which is in power wishes to deny Palesitinian nationhood and they have succeeded where Hamas have failed.
        We need leadership. Israel rightly demands security but security will not come until there is a comprehensive peace settlement. The Palestinian leadership too weak to deliver a deal and the Israeli leadership too strong so they do not believe they have to make one.

        • Hugh

          What’s the evidence the Palestinian leadership want a deal exactly?

          • ColinAdkins

            Hugh I accept this is not clear. But the majority strand is in favour of a deal. The Israeli PM has gone on record as opposing as Palestinian state so you could equally ask the question of Israel.

          • Hugh

            “But the majority strand is in favour of a deal.”

            Of Hamas? Can you let me know your source for that?

          • ColinAdkins

            Sorry I thought you knew Hamas is in power in Gaza. By far the majority of the Palestinians are on the West Bank and there Fatah ‘governs’.

          • Tom Miller

            The fact that the Likud led government rejected peace negotiations with Hamas, then with Fatah because it could not represent Hamas, and then with the Hamas-Fatah ‘unity government’ because it *did* represent Hamas. Whack-a-mole.

            It is interested in stalling forever but not negotiating. As the stronger party this is all the more irresponsible.

            The only thing Likud has agreed to is a ceasefire offer drafted by Israeli allies in the Egyptian army. A sorry state of affairs.

            No wonder the rest of the world are unhappy?

            During this operation substantially more Israelis have died than did during two years of rocket attacks.

            Israel needs the left in power, it needs a Rabin, but currently it doesn’t have the courage or awareness to do it. And as the party with the serious weapons and the occupying forces, it’s the first place that sacrifices primarily need to come from.

            In the interests of both its long term security and world status, it should start talking.

          • Hugh

            I’m slightly at a loss as to how that answers my question.

      • imran_24

        Israel should b brought to justice in the international court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel should stop occupying Palestinians land and start demolishing illegal settlements immediately. Israel has crossed all the limits of humanity and should b removed from the world map. The are sick minded people.

    • Doug Smith

      Events related to the peace process in Northern Ireland should serve as a road-map.

      When the IRA were pursuing their terrorist campaign the UK didn’t respond by bombing the Catholic areas of Belfast back into the stone age.

      • Hugh

        “Events related to the peace process in Northern Ireland should serve as a road-map.”

        Unless you want to sketch out what that means in practice, that strikes me as practially meaningless.

        • ColinAdkins

          Well one parallel we can draw is that peace in part progressed because Blair refused to accept a Unionist veto. Now if the US was to challenge the Israeli veto of peace on their terms only.

          • Hugh

            Another parallel we might draw is that it began with a complete cessation of violence on the part fo the IRA. One parallel that doesn’t fit so well, is that one of the IRAs founding aims wasn’t the annihilation of England.

          • ColinAdkins

            But the IRA did not renounce the armed struggle until after the peace deal. I thought you may have also known that.

          • robertcp

            The PLO renounced armed struggle and accepted Israel’s right to exist about 20 years ago.

    • shadowmatt

      The rockets did stop after the last war. Agreements about lifting the blockage and land theft were never followed up by Israel. They also continued to assassinate Hammas leadership in that period.

      Remember this didn’t start with 3 settler kids being kidnapped, before that the IDF shot and killed 2 kids throwing stones and things went downhill from there. This included the 200 arrests for the kidnapping, itself an overreaction of large proportions given they arrested politicians and also those freed in another recent agreement.

  • charles.ward

    With Hamas rockets now reaching Ben Gurion airport and flights to Tel Aviv suspended, Israel is having to simultaneously convince everyone that Hamas isn’t much of a threat to its airports but a big threat everywhere else.

    But that works both ways. It’s difficult for other countries to claim that Israel is overreacting (because Hamas rockets are ineffective) while their airlines are not flying into Israel.

    • ColinAdkins

      Charles, Hamas is not the only one having it both ways as the Israeli PM is gonig to have a word with the American authorities over the ban on the basis that the rockets are largely ineffective.

      • Steve Stubbs

        In the wake of the shooting down in Ukraine of the Malaysian airlines flight by separatists using captured Ukrainian missiles, it will be a brave government that says it is safe to operate in Israeli airspace. (Mind you, I have yet to see anyone blame Israel for that shooting down. No doubt someone like that nutter Galloway will try).

        • ColinAdkins

          I heard this was so on the Today programme.

  • alex_bjarnason

    What you don’t seem to get, and it’s a common
    failure of people who write about the Middle East but don’t really understand
    it, is that there are a series of bad options and no magical course of action
    that will resolve everything. Yes, Israel is doing what Hamas wants by engaging
    them in conflict (although Hamas almost certainly misjudged Israel, they didn’t
    think they would put troops on the ground to destroy their tunnels), but the
    only other alternative for Israel is that they let Hamas & PIJ fire rockets
    at their civilians. You then have two impossible scenarios, there isn’t a
    third, so what do you do? This is the Middle East in a nutshell- one appalling
    scenario, or another appalling scenario. You no doubt think Israel is being
    short sighted because this operation loses them international support (after
    all, who wouldn’t be angered and appalled by dead children?), sows the seeds
    for more hatred (and recruits to Hamas), and damages them politically and
    economically. But the aim of the operation is to stop the Hamas capability to
    attack Israel- it isn’t about overthrowing Hamas, or stopping them from
    recruiting new people, it’s about limiting the military capability of an enemy.
    When it comes to security, Israeli leaders know they live in a dangerous
    neighbourhood where fear trumps love, and where international isolation with
    safe citizens is better than backing at the UN while your civilians sit in
    bunkers under fire. The responsibility of any state is the security of
    citizens- Palestinian militants in Gaza continue to fire rockets at civilians,
    and the Israeli state then has a responsibility to protect its citizens and
    stop that rocket fire. The question you have to answer is, if they shouldn’t
    stop that rocket fire through military means, how do they stop it? If you can
    answer that question, then you will have an idea we need. However, if you
    cannot answer that question, and only repeat that military action in Gaza is
    bad, your opinion is neither insightful or important.

    • Tom Miller

      “When it comes to security, Israeli leaders know they live in a dangerousneighbourhood where fear trumps love, and where international isolation with
      safe citizens is better than backing at the UN while your civilians sit in
      bunkers under fire. The responsibility of any state is the security of
      citizens- Palestinian militants in Gaza continue to fire rockets at civilians,
      and the Israeli state then has a responsibility to protect its citizens and
      stop that rocket fire.”

      All great reasons to negotiate with someone who refuses (as yet) to recognise them. It’s not as if they themselves recognise Palestinian statehood either anyway firstly, and secondly, they know they are far stronger and can afford to give.

      We should be there, not here. So what’s the plan?

      Whilst the right remains in power, fed electorally by the cycle of violence, there isn’t one. All that can be done to stop the cycle at the moment is robust international intervention.

      • alex_bjarnason

        I think it’s relatively likely there are secret back channels & some dialogue between Hamas and Israel, but it will never be anything more because Hamas simply aren’t interested. They have a fundamental misunderstanding about Israelis, and think they can win a war of attrition & they’ll leave- until that mindset changes, and they realise no amount of violence will force Israelis out, there isn’t the basis for any significant talks beyond ‘quiet for quiet’. The only good plan I’ve heard in the last month is the Shaul Mofaz plan for massive investment and development in return for demilitarisation, but that’s totally incredible. There are just a lot of bad options here, there isn’t a golden bullet and there isn’t a single policy or idea that will resolve things. It’s fatalistic, but when it comes to Gaza, there shouldn’t be any optimism.

  • Steve Stubbs

    It’s a no-brainer. Israel will stop pounding Gaza when Hamas stops firing rockets at Israel. You can’t retaliate when there is no provocation to retaliate to.

    • ColinAdkins

      And Hamas will stop firing rockets when Israel stop occupying the West Bank and imposing a siege on Gaza. In this case you’re logic is reversed and it is Hamas who are retaliating.

      • Hugh

        “Hamas will stop firing rockets when Israel stop occupying the West Bank and imposing a siege on Gaza”

        Very unlikely I would have thought.

        • Steve Stubbs

          I love this continual squeal of Israel somehow blockading Gaza which has a land border with Israel. Israel has the right to determine who or what crosses its border. As we would too, if our useless Border Agency actually worked and we got oout of the EU.

          Gaza also has a land border with Eqypt, a sea coast onto the Med and airspace that Israel cannot blockade even if it wanted to. Israel pulled out of Gaza years ago, and abandoned its settlements there.

          Must be a pretty poor blockade by Israel if all those thousands of rockets are getting into Gaza in the first place.

          I presume therefore Eqypt is also blockading Gaza on behalf of Israel?

          • ColinAdkins

            Tell that to those killed trying to break the blockade by sea.

          • Tom Miller

            The sea coast is blockaded Steve.

          • Steve Stubbs

            As I understand it, they search ingoing traffic for weapons. Everything else gets through,

        • ColinAdkins

          Is this an assessment or your view? If the former Israel doesn’t weant a deal. If the latter you don’t and if so say so.

          • Hugh

            If it’s my view Hamas would continue to fire rockets were Israel to leave it be and pull out of the West Bank that means I don’t want a deal?

            How so?

      • Steve Stubbs

        Hamas is firing their rockets from Gaza which is not occupied by Israel. And occasionally from Lebanon which is also not occupied by Israel. But not from the West Bank, although it is occupied by Israel. But that is because Hamas’s writ does not run there.

        • Tom Miller

          Oh? Who controls the food inflow and power supply?

          • Steve Stubbs

            With the billions in aid from the EU alone, I would have thought they could solve the water supply with a couple of desalination plants. Nothing I have read anywhere suggests a food shortage in Gaza, Power I don’t know, but I would have thought with all that arab oil about, a few oil fired power stations being built and operated by say French and British companies would do the trick, instead of supplying cash which can, and probably is, being diverted at least in part to buy the rockets they fire over the border. Surely there is no legal or moral obligation on Israel to support a political system that exists only the destroy them?

          • Lee Griffin

            So, essentially, you don’t actually know anything about the plight of the Palestinian people, but you’re fit to make quite a few claims about the rightfulness of Israeli action? Interesting. The fact you think that the palestinian political system exists to destroy Israel is telling.

          • Steve Stubbs

            Hard for anyone in this country not to know a lot about the Palestinian and Israel problem, given the sheer amount of broadcasting time and press space continually covering it. I don’t know about you, but in news broadcasting terms I watch BBC, ITV, Al Jezera and Sky. Quite amazing the difference in reporting of the same events between that lot. I think that helps develop a balanced view. I don’t need to guess what the Palestian leaders think about Israel, they tell us often enough. Watch their pronouncements and statements. They are unambiguous.

          • Shaun Murphy

            “When Israelis in the occupied territories now claim that they have to defend themselves, they are defending themselves in the sense that any military occupier has to defend itself against the population they are crushing… You can’t defend yourself when you’re militarily occupying someone else’s land. That’s not defense. Call it what you like, it’s not defense”

  • MikeHomfray

    Israel is an illegitimate state as it stands. It would have been better if it had never been established in that area yet alone the naive expectation that those who lived in the area would simply go. That said we start from where we are. The settlements are fast making a two state solution impossibke. We are heading to a situation where Palestinians are going to be a majority in the space occupied by Israel. The continuation of an apartheid state with two ‘bantustan’ like territories – one a literal giant prison camp – must be questioned. The option may have to be a single state where those living there will simply have to try and co-exist. Alternately the settlements could be removed and the 1967 boundary reverted to as a bare minimum.

    • Steve Stubbs

      Given that Israel was established under the authority of the UN, on what basis do you think it is an illegitimate state as it stands? Yes the land that was occupied after the 6 day war was not part of the original state of Israel, but the point is that Israel would not be occupying that ground now if the surrounding states had not attacked it, and most of it other than what was Jordon has been given back already.

      Also you seem to be ignoring that the arab polulation of Israel have a vote, there are arab members of Kenesset, I can’t see many israelis living and voting the lands surrounding. Actually I can’t see almost anyone having a vote in the lands surrounding. And when a government does get elected (Egypt) it is promptly overthrown with accompanying bloodshed.

      I don’t know the resolution to the problem. Two states or one state, neither is going to work. But then again firing rockets into Israel isn’t going to work either. They have no place else to go.

      • ColinAdkins

        Supporters of Israel are fond of quoting UN mandates and resolutions when it suits. When is going to heed the resolutions on the occupied West Bank?

        • Steve Stubbs

          Not being either Jewish or a supporter of Israel, I can’t help you there. However I noticed this on another website this morning.

          “The UN is possessed of an annihilationist agenda that formally tolerates
          Israel’s existence but in reality denies it by consistently opposing
          Israel’s right to self-defence. If you oppose self-defence, you must,
          logically, oppose the self that seeks to be defended.”

          Seems pretty accurate to this interested by not involved observer.

          • ColinAdkins

            I never asked whether you were Jewish so there is no equation between this and supporting Israel.
            You appear to have adequate research skills when it suits. Why not deploy these in addressing my points?

          • Steve Stubbs

            I agree that Israel should not have developed or be building on the occupied territories. Quite how you resolve the problem that exists now, with half a million settlers on the West Bank, I have no idea. The reality is that Israel will hang onto Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and enough territory in excess of their 1967 borders to at least give them some sense of security, regardless of what the UN says. Turkeys do not vote for Christmas.

            As far as complying with UN resolutions is concerned, if all countries ignoring them were ejected from the UN it could sell its building in New York and meet in a cafe instead. Look at the UNHCR, loaded with counties that have not even a passing relationship with human rights, and sitting passing resolutions with are blatantly political and directed against Israel.

            I have no solutions to offer, just a sense that the deep rooted anti-antisemitism of the west is gettng worse, a thing I have never understood, and which seems to get deeper and more entrenched the further left one moves in the political spectrum.

          • ColinAdkins

            I welcome you continuing the discussion. I also understand the Jewish peoples needs for a secure homeland. Aren’t the Palestinians entitled to the same?
            I too am concerned about the anti-semitic tone of some comments. But I am also concerned about the anti-Arab tone of some other comments. An understand of the discriminatory treatment afforded Arabs in Israel would let your concerns have greater authority.
            If the UK treated Jews under the law in this country in the same way that Israel treats Arabs this would truly be anti-semitic.

  • Ashurstman

    The problem is that both sides believe that there is a military solution.
    When in truth neither side can win a military victory and in the meantime civilians on both sides live in fear and continue to die.
    Israel will never crush Hamas and its attempts to do so are simply acting as recruiting sergeants for Hamas. Equally Hamas will never destroy Israel as than would be genocide.
    But Israel as the occupier needs to be smart and sadly there is no sign that the current Israeli leadership shows any sign of that.

  • Paul

    The idea that losing the social media war might equate in any way shape or form with losing the actual war, which involves real weaponry, is simply gibberish, Sunny.

    Israel might start to lose if it the US starts to cut its military support massively. There is no hint that there is any appetite for this amongst actual US decision makers, for whom support for the Israeli state has been, since 1967 at least absolutely sacrosanct.

    And for Israel (as well as American Jews, who still identify themselves very closely with Israel in a way which is akin to citizienship-by-proxy) there is no way foreign condemnation via websites or any other media channel is likely to shift the deeply held belief – whether you call it psychosis/pathology is a complex matter – in the possibility of a second holocaust.

    The crucial holocaust-national identity link has been explored and researched for 50 years by scholars, yet no-one in the modern commentariat even mentions it. Try google on that. Yet that is the single biggest driver for Israeli behaviour.

    Of course that doesn’t excuse the current behaviour, but to try to develop a strategy for a social media-based victory, which is the logical next step to Sunny’s analysis-of-sorts, without taking into account Israeli/Jewish American national identity, is – and I’m trying to be kind – simplistic.

    • Steve Stubbs

      Someone made the point that in rear rather than paper wars Israel only needs to loose once for another holocaust to follow. Jews all over the world support Israel for the obvious reason, it is their only homeland. As an atheist, even I can understand that.

      Israel is getting close to self sufficiency in weapons manufacture, and exports loads. clearly it is looking to the day that America under another pathetic weakling like Obama pulls the plug.

  • imran_24

    Israel should b brought to justice in the international court for war crimes and crimes against humanity. Israel should stop occupying Palestinians land and start demolishing illegal settlements immediately. Israel has crossed all the limits of humanity and should b removed from the world map. They are sick minded people. Their mind and heart can b understood easily from their statement “Palestinians mother and sister should b raped to deter them from rocket launching.

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