Elias Harfoush
Dar Al-Hayat (Opinion)
January 5, 2009 - 1:00am

The confrontation between the Israeli army and the Hamas movement following the ground invasion of Gaza is similar in many aspects to the confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah in summer 2006.

The same method was adopted in both cases: systematic and gradual escalation of the attack, starting with intensive air strikes followed by a ground invasion, in addition to the large number of victims and the huge destruction through which Israel aims at spreading terror. But there are also other common points which cannot be overlooked: the common ideology between the two Islamist organizations, which is the same ideology governing the mentality and practices of the Israeli Army, an ideology that solely rests on power as a means to settle problems, regardless of the negative repercussions the use of power and the perpetuation of such heinous carnages will have on the future of any potential peace process and on Israel's chances to live peacefully alongside its neighbors if it wishes so. This conclusion was addressed last week by a number of liberal writers in Israel who realize the significance of using the reason instead of bombs.

The stated goals of the Israeli operation in Gaza are similar in some ways to the goals Israel set for its war on Lebanon, i.e. distancing missiles from the border and restoring normal life to the settlements aside from shelters and sirens. Since Israel had failed to fulfill its stated goal in the July war to crush the back of Hezbollah, its leaders avoid announcing such a goal with respect to Hamas for fear of facing the same fate and failing to achieve this goal too in Gaza.

Israel has succeeded in distancing the missiles from its border with Lebanon, but this success was very costly to Lebanon and Israel as well. The Winograd report pointed to the poor military performance and the failed planning of this war. Israeli commentators see that the current war on Gaza is in part an attempt by the Israeli military command to compensate for this failure and boost the morale of the army two years after the Lebanon war. Nevertheless, Israel's success in distancing the rockets from the northern settlements fulfilled a very important goal for Israel and alleviated its concern about this front. The international presence in southern Lebanon prior to the war served as a cover for this goal, with this presence expanding after the ratification of Resolution 1701 upon which the international soldiers and the Lebanese Army were deployed to the border making up a fence that protects northern Israel. The leaders of the Hebrew State hope to see a similar fence in the northern Gaza Strip, whether through international observers or any other arrangement.

It is difficult to perceive an end for Israel's war on Gaza with the situation returning to its previous status, i.e. with Hamas and other active organizations in the Strip retaining the freedom to fire rockets whenever they want. Regardless of the arrangements required for a way out of this situation, it is certain that Hamas will be a key party in reaching this solution, thus entailing an international recognition of Hamas' control of the situation in Gaza. Hamas will regard this recognition as a major gain and will ask for its political price in return.

This is how the war on Lebanon ended. Though Hezbollah's military activity is distanced from the border and its freedom to move on the southern border was curbed, the party's manipulation of its steadfastness and ability to withstand for 33 days enabled it to assume a prominent position on the political map and maintain a significant influence over the international decisions. Furthermore, the security arrangements on the southern border are contingent upon the party's approval and endorsement of their terms. Thus, the situation on the border is within the hands of Hezbollah which can manipulate it to its advantage and in line with its interests.

Such situation will please the Hamas leaders if they manage to impose it on the current equation of conflict, not only between Hamas and Israel, but also with their rivals in Fatah on the Palestinian arena. Manipulating the steadfastness and the ability to withstand has proven successful both publicly and politically in Lebanon and based on the public atmosphere in Palestine, this method is likely to succeed as well. Perhaps this is what the Hamas leaders mean when they talk about the "coming certain victory" even if this victory is at the expense of the Gazan martyrs and from under the rubble of Gaza's buildings.


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