Friday, January 9, 2009

The End of Israel?

Israel’s current attack on Gaza has several objectives, according to news reports:
1. Stop Hamas rockets being fired into Israel.
2. Destroy Hamas as a governing body
3. Get the Kadima party re-elected in Israel.

Of these, only the third is achievable.

The rocket materials and other weapons are coming in from Iran, Syria, and elsewhere via Egypt. It is unclear to me why it is impossible for Israel to seal the borders of Gaza. All they would need is a strip a few kilometers wide on the Gaza side of Egypt. Tunnels could be closed. The rest of the borders are easy. No more rockets.

Border monitoring must be more difficult than I realize. I never could understand why the U.S. did not seal the Iraqi borders early on, either. Sure, it’s expensive; sure it takes a lot of manpower. But it has got to be cheaper than war. Whatever the reasons, it apparently cannot be done so the rockets will continue to come in and be fired into Israel.

It may be possible to disable Hamas in Gaza for a while by disrupting their operations. But already Hamas leaders are pronouncing eternal revenge from Syria and elsewhere. Hamas will be around for a long time.

Israel does have the moral and legal right to defend itself against rocket attacks, of course. If Mexico started lobbing rockets into Texas, there is no question that a vigorous response would follow. It is no different for Israel.

However, bombing Gaza is a knee-jerk reaction. Since Hamas locates its weapons and military centers inside schools, hospitals, and universities (with callous indifference to its own people!), then attacks on Hamas have high collateral civilian damage. Then, since the news media are born to sell news, the desperate plight of the civilians is highlighted without consideration of the underlying causes.

Israel cannot hope to overcome the negative public opinion that results from biased news reporting. They have barred reporters from Gaza for that reason, but it is futile to attempt a news blackout. So they are losing, and will continue to lose international goodwill. Even in the U.S. it is not inconceivable that the “Special Relationship” between the U.S. and Israel could disintegrate rather quickly, due to changing public sentiment, however unjustified it might be in military terms.
(Photo Welt Online)

But let’s just suppose that some kind of ceasefire is called, say around January 20, 2009. Some clever diplomatic language will be found to allow Israel to monitor smuggling into Gaza while declaring that the borders are “open.” Hospitals are rebuilt, bandages changed, food supplies restored.

How long is it going to take for the Palestinians to forget about the attack? How long will it take Gazans and their compatriots in the West Bank to forgive? A couple hundred years might not be enough. Israel should not imagine it could ever achieve peace with the Palestinians after something like this attack. It is self-destructive behavior, no matter how righteous it feels at the moment.
(Photo Welt Online)

Then there is the problem of demographics in Israel. Palestinians out-breed the Israelis, and soon will be a majority of the population, certainly in the West Bank, and probably in most other parts of Israel as well. This could happen within 50 years. What will Israel do? Will it maintain a minority – rule, apartheid government? As we know, that solution has little long term viability. But a fully open democracy would lead to the obvious outcome of Palestinian rule, and it would not take long after that to replace the flag.

The Israelis could establish an iron-fisted dictatorship. That could work for a while, but in the long run, would surely cost the economic support of the U.S. There would be no Israel today without U.S. foreign aid, and that would be withdrawn from a dictatorship. Maybe some other country would be willing to pick up the slack. But it would be the end of Israel, the idea, leaving only Israel, the junta.

There is no apparent scenario under which Israel survives and prospers for another century as a democracy, and perhaps not at all. So maybe we should start adjusting our thinking now.

Maybe it was not such a good idea for the Western powers to arbitrarily carve an artificial country out of Palestine in 1948. It was an experiment; it didn’t work. Maybe the U.S. should start tilting its foreign policy to the Arab/Muslim world, which is the Next Big Thing.

With the demise of Israel as a state, what would become of the 7 million Israelis? Some might choose to live under a benign Palestinian government. It is sort of working like that in South Africa. Some could emigrate to America. Look how enormously we benefitted from the last great Jewish immigration. We could do it again. Some probably would want to set up another theocracy somewhere, like Somalia maybe? They need a government.

This Gaza war is more than a symptom. It is a signal that we may need to start imagining a world without Israel.

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