Rami Khouri
The Daily Star (Opinion)
December 29, 2009 - 1:00am

A year after the Israeli attack on Gaza, a scorecard of “winners and losers” suggests that nobody won anything, but Israel has probably suffered political losses that it could not have envisioned when it decided to invade Gaza. I count seven main aims that Israel had in mind when it launched its war a year ago and tightened its siege of Gaza; one of them was achievable without a war, and the six others have either remained unachieved or have turned things to Hamas’ and the Palestinians’ favor. Here is my review of where things stand a year after the Gaza war.

Israel’s first aim was to stop the small projectile fire that was directed at southern Israel from Gaza. Hamas and other Palestinian resistance groups had twice stopped firing projectiles at Israel from Gaza in the two years before the war, according to the terms of truce accords that had been negotiated. The idea that a war was needed to stop the attacks is an example of Zionist lying and deception at their worst, given that the attacks had been stopped through nonviolent agreements that saw Israel also cease its much more vicious and destructive attacks against Gaza.

Israel’s second unaccomplished aim was to try and destroy much of Hamas’ military and political infrastructure, and weaken it as a movement to be reckoned with. Hamas remains firmly in control of governance in Gaza, and a major national and regional actor. The greatest irony is that Israel has intensified its negotiations with Hamas, through German intermediation, to release the Israeli prisoner of war Gilad Shalit.

The third Israeli aim was to force a weakened and chastened Hamas to release Shalit on terms advantageous to Israel, but the opposite is happening now. Israel’s stepped-up negotiations to release Shalit only strengthen Hamas’ credentials as a movement that resists Israel and thus generates more respect and credibility for itself. The imminent prisoner exchange will represent a tacit admission by Israel that its military tactics failed, and that it must engage Hamas politically instead.

Israel’s fourth aim was to weaken Hamas’ standing in Palestinian society and strengthen the standing of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. The war had exactly the opposite effect: Abbas was grievously weakened by his Fatah movement’s behavior during and after the war, to the point that he had to admit that he would not run for re-election.

The fifth Israeli aim was to re-establish its deterrence power and political supremacy over the Palestinians and other Arabs, as it had tried to do in attacking Lebanon in 2006. Israel assumed that unleashing its massive military power to kill or maim thousands of civilians and destroy normal life would cause Palestinians and fellow Arabs to meekly comply with Israeli demands. This has not happened. The Arabs refused to offer even symbolic gestures of conciliation to Israel when US President Barack Obama asked for these in exchange for an Israeli settlement freeze.

Israel’s sixth aim was to reassert its self-confident political posture and sense of supremacy in the international community. The exact opposite has happened in the past year, as reflected in five dynamics: The international movement to boycott or divest from Israeli investments has gained steam; Israel is increasingly, ignominiously, compared to Apartheid South Africa; the Goldstone report by the UN Human Rights Council struck a severe blow against Israel’s sense of invincibility and exemption from complying with international law; Israeli officials are more hesitant to travel abroad for fear of being detained and indicted for war crimes; and, hardline pro-Israel groups in the United States and Europe are increasingly being challenged and subjected to public scrutiny.

Israel tightened its strangulation siege of Gaza, hoping to force the Palestinians to surrender. The opposite has happened. The most important new development during the last year has been the world’s repeated negative assessment of Israeli behavior, and calls for international political action to rein in Zionist military and colonial excesses. The latest example of this was the report three days ago by 16 British humanitarian and human rights organizations (including Amnesty International, Oxfam International, and Christian Aid) asking that the European Union commit itself to ending the blockade of Gaza and putting its relations with Israel on hold to achieve this.

Israel militarily attacked and laid siege to Gaza, but a year after the war it now finds itself under political siege by much of the world. Some Israeli political and military leaders should not only be investigated for war crimes; to judge by the balance sheet of Israel’s standing a year after it attacked Gaza, they should also be held accountable by the Israeli and Jewish people for massive political incompetence and outright stupidity.


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