Friday, January 02, 2009

The Need for Realistic Goals

From BESA Center Perspectives Papers No. 53, January 1, 2009 by Efraim Inbar, professor of political studies at Bar-Ilan University and director of the Begin-Sadat (BESA) Center for Strategic Studies:

... The end to the Israeli operation is in Hamas' hands. The equation is simple: the sooner Hamas stops firing at Israel, the sooner the IDF will halt its offensive. Hopefully, the learning curve of the leadership in Gaza is flexible enough to minimize the pain Israel is inflicting.

...Ending the Hamas attacks on Israel is attainable if the Israeli military operation threatens Hamas' rule in Gaza. After all, the main goal of Hamas is to stay in power. All else, including the cherished goal of destroying the Jewish state, is subordinated to the survival of the Hamas regime.

It appears that Israel has gained international understanding, including from certain Arab states, for administering a blow to Hamas and for quieting its southern border. .... Uprooting Hamas rule from Gaza, however, is beyond Israel's power; Israel cannot install a new government in the Strip. ... Hamas is here to stay and Israel cannot but feel sorry for the Palestinians doomed to ignorance, poverty and fanaticism – the inevitable result of Islamist rule.

While a Hamastan in Gaza is not the ideal neighbor for Israel, there are several advantages to continuous Hamas rule.

First, the entrenchment of Hamas makes it crystal-clear who rejects peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel is largely off the hook.

Second, the Hamas military coup of June 2007 dealt a death blow to the two-state paradigm that the world is still paying lip service, but is patently not working. A growing realization of the futility of this paradigm might allow the emergence of a more realistic approach to deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In light of the depressing reality among Israel's neighbors, and in particular the Palestinians, the strategy of the Jewish state should be modest. Israel should refrain from trying to influence the societies in its vicinity. Israel is located in a truly dangerous neighborhood and the bitter truth is that the country has little to gain from cultural and economic interactions with its neighbors.

Therefore, what should be of exclusive concern to Jerusalem is the ability of the neighboring Arab states to inflict harm. Israel's diplomatic and military resources should be directed toward just that objective – minimizing the damage they are capable of inflicting against Israel. This is the only realistic goal of the IDF operation in Gaza.

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