By William Pfaff
The guarded remarks by Hillary Clinton on Tuesday have produced equally guarded hope that there will indeed be change in American Middle Eastern policy under an Obama administration.
Such is tragically overdue, as the reciprocal self-destruction of Palestine and Israel continues in a bewildering and savage concatenation of decisions that have no rationally achievable purposes. One of them is the objective that Israel has set as its priority in Gaza.
Many Israelis have observed that the announced purpose of the assault on Gaza is to stop Hamas from firing rockets into Israel. This would seem to have little chance of success, since rockets are plentiful and the number of young Arab men determined to fire them has no practical limit.
If this actually is the measure by which the success of the operation will be judged by Israel’s citizens and the international community—as if the international community’s opinion counted for much in Israel today—the operation is guaranteed to fail. The Israeli military commentator Martin Van Creveld has observed to the European press that if stopping the rockets—which continue—is the sole criterion of victory, it remains and will remain unachieved.
In the days following the end of Israeli army operations in Gaza, the first in a new series of rockets will be fired at Israel. This is as certain as anything can be. Such Hamas militants as survive the Israeli attack will be applauded as the victors in parts of the world where international opinion does count for a lot. Remember that in 2006, for much of the world, Hezbollah “defeated” Israel’s invasion of Lebanon.
Hamas in Gaza will have its victory, according to the official account, despite having broken the truce that had prevailed in the months leading up to this crisis. Resuming rocket attacks on Israel was even more stupid and useless—with catastrophic results for Gaza’s people—than what Israel’s leadership has done.
Even if it were true, as widely claimed, that it was the Israelis who for their own reasons deliberately first broke the truce, the Hamas leaders are doubly stupid for having reacted like automatons to the provocation. Their reaction will have caused the destruction of their community and the deaths of hundreds, possibly thousands—when the count is made—of their guiltless people.
The people of Gaza are much worse off now, but so are the Israelis. The poison of hatred has spread even further in both camps, and in much of the non-Western world, and particularly in Western Europe.
A member of the European Parliament asked a few days ago how many times Israel was going to expect the European Community—chief furnisher of funds to the United Nations’ and the nongovernmental aid agencies supporting the Palestinian population—to rebuild the Gaza and Palestine (or Lebanese) infrastructures for Israel to destroy once again. A loaded question, but so are most of the questions that are being asked these days, everywhere except in Israel and the United States.
There, the idea still prevails that what this is all about is a morbid and racist Palestinian passion to destroy Israel. No one any longer seems to recognize that now, with the two-state Israel-Palestine solution seemingly dead of a thousand wounds inflicted by the Bush government, Palestinian militants are engaged in what has become a desperate effort to take revenge on the Israeli expansionists, the fanatical settler movement, and the Israeli government for having robbed the Palestinians of some 40 percent of the land still legally belonging to them after the 1967 war.
The Palestinian militants are what remains of what used to be called a national resistance movement—an unsuccessful one, now driven by failure and the encouragement of Iran, into self-destructive acts. Israel gains nothing from this. Only peace can save the two of them.
Visit William Pfaff’s Web site at www.williampfaff.com.
© 2008 Tribune Media Services, Inc.