Israel-Gaza Calculations (Elections, Ahmed Jabari, and Ehud Barak)


What moves most of us about Israel and Gaza, I think, are the stories relating to threat and slaughter suffered by innocent people. That is the moral dimension to armed conflict. But what about the “wicked” who determine these conflicts  from positions of political authority? There are a lot of thoughts out there alleging a electoral calculation behind the Israeli decision to escalate the conflict in Gaza. There is also a claim or a theory that Hamas was just about to agree to a cease fire just before Israel killed Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas military chief-of-staff. I’m not buying any of it. And as always, Ehud Barak sheds a lot of light, much of it unpleasant.

[1] Re: the idea that Netanyahu and Barak ginned this up to score electoral points, check out this piece by Nahum Barnea, a distinguished Israeli political reporter and no friend (?) of Netanyahu. His point is that starting a military operation like this involves so many unknowns, so many incalculable ways that things can and do go wrong, that there’s no political advantage apart from not looking weak, when push comes to shove. This would suggest that the political calculus on Netanyahu’s part was purely reactive, not proactive.,7340,L-4306671,00.html

[2] Peace activist Gershon Baskin claims that he was just about to conclude a long term truce with Ahmed Jabari, the Hamas military head, just before he was killed by Israel. There are a lot of strange things about this line of thought that has gotten a lot of traction in leftwing circles. The first is that Baskin is just a private citizen, working on his own, I suppose. This calls into serious doubt the status of this or any other discussion between the two, which was held only via third party since Jabari wouldn’t even talk to Baskin. What’s also strange is the notion that Hamas would have agreed formally to subcontract Israeli defense needs from the Gaza side of the border, as well as the idea that Israeli intelligence would ever consider sharing information via Egypt with Hamas. Bakin’s article appeared in the New York Times. That Hamas let it be known that they were interested in a truce just days before the killing of Jabari may have been an attempt to blow a little snow, to cool things down after having crossed serious Israeli redlines along the Israel-Gaza border. You can find at my previous post Emily Hauser’s timeline, which I found at Atlantic Monthly. My guess is that any attempt to reach a truce ran out of time. For Baskin’s take, see:

[3] If you want an insider’s view of Israeli strategic calculations as articulated by Defense Minister Barak, see Yossi Verter’s piece in Haaretz. It’s an eye-opener. Two things are explained: [1] Barak makes clear that Israel was not going to kill Jabari at a time of relative quiet. Killing Jabari was a matter of timing in which wanting to close a long term account coincided with an immediate round of conflict that justified the act.  That is, there was the closing of two circles, a long arching circle that moves slowly, and the short circle of intense escalating conflict. [2] The immediate trigger had less to do with Hamas missiles on the Israeli towns and communities in the south and everything to do with fighting along a very narrow seam area (1000 yards?) on the border and then the Hamas attack on the IDF jeep inside Israeli territory. About this, see Emily Hauser’s timeline in the most recent post here at JPP, which I found at Atlantic Monthly. It seems to me that military people (like Barak, like Hamas) tend to be much more sensitive and more aggressive when military assets are attacked than when civilian populations are. Think back to the attack on soldiers that triggered the 2006 war with Lebanon. The logic is clear, cold, brutal, maybe persuasive.

These are the cold, cold logics that ordinary people suffer. It has almost nothing to do with them.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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