Friday, January 16, 2009

The Rice-Olmert Spat and a Unilateral Cease Fire

The bizarre diplomatic spat sparked by Olmert's annoucement that he had intervened with Bush personally to overrule Rice should not be blown out of proportion, but it reveals something about the shortcomings of both of these lame-duck administrations (in Jerusalem and D.C.):
"In Jerusalem, however, officials went to sleep thinking the Americans had only agreed to support a 48-hour humanitarian cease-fire. At 1 A.M., final confirmation came from New York: The U.S. had promised that no cease-fire resolution would be brought to a vote any time soon. An hour and a half later, however, it became clear that not only was the Security Council due to vote on a cease-fire resolution at any minute, but Rice had ordered America's UN ambassador to support it. Olmert promptly telephoned U.S. President George Bush to complain about Rice's behavior and demand that he restrain her. What Bush said to Rice remains unknown. What is known, however, is that the U.S. suddenly changed its vote from "yes" to "abstain." 

The whole story would have ended well had Olmert behaved like a responsible adult and restrained his own impulses. Even his close associates admit that he would have done better to skip the public boasting about how he persuaded Bush to overrule Rice. Quite aside from the fact that this embarrassed the U.S. administration, Olmert's associates understand all too well that this story merely provides fresh ammunition to those who claim the Jews are the ones who really control America. " (Ha'aretz)
If this is correct, the Secretary of State was responsible for a diplomatic screw-up that could have cost Israel dearly, and in fact hurt its position. What matters here is not the substance of the particular resolutions in question but the fact that State had signalled to Israel that there was nothing to worry about. I cannot understand Ha'aretz's concession here to the "Zionist lobby" antisemites. This has nothing to do with Jews "controlling America, but with proper diplomatic coordination among allies.

Meanwhile, the Israeli cabinet is set to vote on a unilateral cease fire. With Hamas having rebuffed the Israeli position, and the Damascus wing of the organization, publicly supported by the presidents of Iran and Syria, continuing to adhere to a totally rejectionist line, I am having trouble making sense of this development. At the moment, Israeli troops are deep inside Gaza. Israel should not withdraw troops without an agreement involving the Palestinians. 


16 comments:

Rebecca said...

could it be that the cabinet wants to present incoming President Obama with a ceasefire?

Ariel said...

Amos, do you really believe that anything beneficial will come out of this operation? Granted, the IDF has reestablished its reputation. But beyond that, what good will come out of this?

It's not even clear to me what this operation is really aiming for. It seems that in the wake of the unattainable stated objectives of Lebanon 2006, the government has adopted a new policy: assure the public that there are concrete goals, while assiduously abstaining from enumerating them. The other day we had Olmert announcing that the IDF was close to achieving its goals, the next day reports of Barak and Livni believing that the goals had already been achieved, but Olmert still wanting to carry on. So what exactly is it that Israel has supposedly achieved or almost achieved?

Clearly it has weakened Hamas a great deal. But this is obviously only temporary. Does anyone believe that the moderate wing of the organization is somehow going to emerge victorious here?

At the same time, Fatah is being put under unbearable pressure, so that for all we know it could return to armed resistance just to stave off growing Hamas popularity in the West Bank.

And of course Israel's image has received another blow, one probably only made worse by the decision not to allow any foreign journalists in. The latter, while they certainly would have reported Palestinian deaths in gory detail, might also have offered some independent confirmation for the IDF's claims that Hamas was firing from or near schools, hospitals, mosques and UN buildings.

It all might be worth it if a ceasefire with real security guarantees was achieved, but is this realistic? I'm not sure, but it seems like a long shot to me.

Nobody said...

Ariel said...

Amos, do you really believe that anything beneficial will come out of this operation? Granted, the IDF has reestablished its reputation. But beyond that, what good will come out of this?


Ariel

In our region this may be the first thing you need to establish above all. As to strengthening moderates and similar stuff, you should not have any illusions. From the moment any moderate wing emerges in an Arab society, it's already weakening itself just because it's moderate

:D :D

Ariel said...

Nobody,
I know this is your view, and I see its merits to a certain degree. But do you think that "Israel is a mad dog" is a viable long-term strategy? As for Arab moderates, weak or not, they are in control in Jordan, Egypt and, for now, the West Bank, and this seems like a situation worth trying to preserve to the extent Israel can do so--don't you agree?

Nobody said...

Ariel

I would agree that this operation was vastly overdone. In my view Israel cannot afford wars that last more than two weeks because of their huge PR damage.

On the other hand, we should be reasonable people and understand that we live in a very, lets call it peculiar, region. There is a reason why all around you see such cruel and repressive regimes. It's because nothing else survives in this region.

We don't have any viable long term strategy and we can't have it right now. The only thing that we can do is to make a strategic decision to stop the settlers from taking over the West Bank. One day we may give it back to the Arabs when these regain some sanity. But right now we don't really have partners. You may think that you see light in the house, but I am telling you that nobody is there.

Ariel said...

Fair enough. I can't say I entirely agree, but I take your point about no long-term strategy being available at the moment.

A report in Haaretz has Barak once again assuring us that we have goals but studiously avoiding any explanation of what those might be: "After three weeks of Operation Cast Lead, we are very close to reaching the goals and securing them through diplomatic agreements." What I don't understand is the press's silence on this policy of vagueness. It seems that everyone in Israel is intent only on thinking of this operation as an inevitable and just retaliation to intolerable provocation.

The more I think about it, the more I feel that even the objective of preventing Hamas's rearmament across the Egyptian border is not only chimerical, but unreasonable. It will not be possible to maintain a total blockade of Gaza forever. Doing so will not weaken Hamas, but it will eventually make it impossible for Israel to cast itself as the innocent victim of aggression. The only reasonable thing to do is to stop settlement building on the West Bank and in fact dismantle as much as possible, to make a sincere attempt at a more equitable placement of the separation wall, and generally to facilitate movement. Perhaps if Palestinians see that nonviolence can yield concrete concessions, they will be more apt to eschew violence as policy. I don't say I have very high hopes, but it seems a more promising strategy to me. Of course, as Nobody keeps reminding us, this is the Middle East--which means neither side will give an inch unless somehow forced to.

Nobody said...

@Ariel

There is a self defeating element in your reasoning when you say that this war will only serve to strengthen Hamas, because this means that we are facing a fundamentally suicidal culture. This culture is not only producing suicide bombers by hundreds everywhere from Morocco to Pakistan, but it's suicidal in its essence. s

I am kinda impressed by the fact that I did not see any Arab blogger saying that Hamas should stop its futile resistance project for the sake of sparing its people. You would expect to hear at least some voices on the other side demanding from Hamas to stop this nonsense, agree to ceasefire and save the Gazans from pointless death and destruction.

Given that this did not happen, that means that their society not only does not have mercy on its enemies, it does not have any mercy on its own people. The value of human life, including their own, is pretty much zero over there. They are not behaving as a normal human society, it's a culture with a tremendous propensity to self destruction, which you can easily see during their civil wars.

Non violent means, encouraging moderates.. it's just dreaming or a kind of sleepwalking

Nobody said...

Regarding the goals of the operation... It's not considered a good style these days to declare any clear objectives. At best one should confine himself to muted threats and minimalist agendas. But for all practical purposes, the idea is very clear. There can be no "controlled" hostilities anymore on any of our borders. Israel is reserving for itself the right to respond disproportionately. That's the only point. They are allowed to try to play this game again. They should simply know that reaction may be out of any proportion. Israel's message is very clear. It's like "see what we can do to you? It's just for your information."

Ariel said...

Nobdoy,
As I said, I don't harbor much hope for a less militaristic approach, so there's nothing dreamy about it. An FYI to Hamas, on the other hand, is not much of an accomplishment. Now we have Olmert posing for the cameras declaring victory to an Israeli public that is so certain of its own righteousness that it seems entirely uninterested in what this whole operation was really worth beyond a short-term calm. If, as you say, we are dealing with a self-destructive culture to which no peaceful overture is of any use, then the only arena worth fighting in is the one of international image and reputation. In that case not finding a way to stop after the first few days of bombing was a colossal blunder.

Nobody said...

I agree with this. I would prefer short one week campaigns, repeated if necessary, but short enough to avoid even involving the international community. I don't share this passion for multilateralism.

The IDF also could do more to avoid civilian casualties. This would have probably required losing a couple of dozens of soldiers but otherwise you create an impression of slaughter. The bleeding heart Mahatmas want to see some blood on both sides to satisfy the criteria of proportionality. Regardless of how senseless it all is, we have to play by their rules.

The irony is that we become victim of the IDF's astonishing success. Absolutely nothing worked for Hamas. Tunnels, bunkers, roadside devices. I have no idea how the IDF managed to avoid all this. Truly astonishing. But on the PR side it was as if there was no Hamas there at all, as if the IDF was fighting ghosts there.

Of course if you have a patch of land of 40 km long and 10 kn wide, you can see the whole place from drones. Judging by the clips, many Hamas fighters died even before they made any contact with the IDF. They were simply spotted from drones and killed on the spot. By the way, this is apparently a new IDF tactic to attach a drone to every unit and monitor them all the time. You can hear them occasionally instructing the troops like you guys have two laying in ambush at your right, three approaching you from the left. It was no contest at all.

Anonymous said...

Good analysis as usual. Too bad you don't have more traffic. Why don't you post on CIF? Those
Europeans are really in need of some dispassionate commentary. They are going bonkers!
I am so relieved it is over. It is horrendous for Jews outside Israel.
P.S. what is it with this tick tock character? Where is he based?

Amos said...

Thanks! I've never gone on "Comment is free." Will investigate.

The tick tock character is just some troll. I haven't been keeping up to date on deleting the trash he leaves here.

Nobody said...

Anonymous said...

P.S. what is it with this tick tock character? Where is he based?


The character used previously to post as Zionism is Racism. He is based in the US to where he migrated (or maybe he was born there) to show to the world that no amount of American welfare can subdue his resistance bent and freedom loving Palestinian nature.

Anonymous said...

rice is part the govt that recognises israeli actions will damage US image. the US about-face tells the world that america should not be a peace patner in this conflict, and its action are hindering the peace process with its bias view.hopefully the new administration will put pressure on israel to withdraw from all occupied land according to international law.but i doubt it. no other country has defied the UN more than israel and i find it amazing that israeli leaders can condemn others for ignoring UN resolutions.
moshe dyan once said that israel needs to be a mad dog no one will touch. looks like he was write

Anonymous said...

i can only congratulate the IDF on destroying the defencless gaza strip.they must all be patting each other on the back at this latest genocide.no one can bring devastation and dispair like the IDF,but with 60 years of practise i can see why they are so successful.shooting arab children in the back is just the norm these days with no critisism from the 'peaceful'jewish people.thats why only israeli leaders who have washed in palestinian blood are elected.

Anonymous said...

The time where you can invoke the events of ww2 in order to justify the genocide in Palestine are over. Zionism is doomed. tick tock tick tock.