The Stolen War
by Uri Avnery
IS THERE no limit to the villainy of Hamas? Seems there isn't.
This week, they did something quite unforgivable.
They stole a war.
FOR SOME weeks now, our almost new Chief of Staff, Benny
Gantz, has been announcing at every possible opportunity
that a new war against the
Several commanders of the troops around the Strip have
been repeating this dire forecast, as have their camp-
followers, a.k.a. military commentators.
One of these comforted us. True, Hamas can now hit Tel
Aviv with their rockets, but that will not be so
terrible, because it will be a short war. Just three or
four days. As one of the generals said, it will be much
more "hard and painful" (for the Arabs) than Cast Lead
I, so it will not last for three weeks, as that did. We
shall all stay in our shelters - those of us who have
shelters, anyway - for just a few days.
Why is the war inevitable? Because of the terrorism,
stupid. Hamas is a terrorist organization, isn't it?
But along comes the supreme Hamas leader, Khaled
Mash'al, and declares that Hamas has given up all
violent action. From now on it will concentrate on non-
violent mass demonstrations, in the spirit of the Arab
When Hamas forswears terrorism, there is no pretext for
an attack on
But is a pretext needed? Our army will not let itself be
thwarted by the likes of Mash'al. When the army wants a
war, it will have a war. This was proved in 1982, when
Ariel Sharon attacked Lebanon, despite the fact that the
Lebanese border had been absolutely quiet for 11 months.
(After the war, the myth was born that it was preceded
by daily shooting. Today, almost every Israeli can
"remember" the shooting - an astonishing example of the
power of suggestion.
WHY DOES the Chief of Staff want to attack?
A cynic might say that every new Chief of Staff needs a
war to call his own. But we are not cynics, are we?
Every few days, a solitary rocket is launched from the
empty field. For months, now, no one has been hurt.
The usual sequence is like this: our air force carries
out a "targeted liquidation" of Palestinian militants in
the strip. The army claims invariably that these
specific "terrorists" had intended to attack Israelis.
How did the army know of their intentions? Well, our
army is a master thought reader.
After the persons have been killed, their organization
considers it its duty to avenge their blood by launching
a rocket or a mortar shell, or even two or three. This
"cannot be tolerated" by the army, and so it goes on.
After every such episode, the talk about a war starts
again. As American politicians put it in their speeches
at AIPAC conferences: "No country can tolerate its
citizens being exposed to rockets!"
But of course, the reasons for Cast Lead II are more
serious. Hamas is being accepted by the international
community. Their Prime Minister, Isma'il Haniyeh, is now
traveling around the Arab and Muslim world, after being
Now he can cross into
Brotherhood, Hamas' parent organization, has become a
major player there.
Even worse, Hamas is about to join the PLO and take part
in the Palestinian government. High time to do something
about it. Attack
become extremist again.
NOT CONTENT with stealing our war, Mash'al is carrying
out a series of more sinister actions.
By joining the PLO, he is committing Hamas to the
agreements and all the other official deals between
a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders. He has let
it be known that Hamas would not contest the Palestinian
presidency this year, so that the Fatah candidate -
whoever that may be - would be elected practically
unopposed and be able to negotiate with
All this would put the present Israeli government in a
difficult position. Mash'al has some experience in
causing trouble for
Netanyahu government decided to get rid of him in
A team of Mossad agents was sent to assassinate him in
the street by spraying his ear with an untraceable
poison. But instead of doing the decent thing and dying
quietly from a mysterious cause, like Yasser Arafat, he
let his bodyguard chase the attackers and catch them.
King Hussein, Israel's longstanding friend and ally, was
hopping mad. He presented Netanyahu with a choice:
either the agents would be tried in
hanged, or the Mossad would immediately send the secret
antidote to save Mash'al. Netanyahu capitulated, and
here we have Mash'al, very much alive and kicking.
Another curious outcome of this misadventure: the king
demanded that the Hamas founder and leader, the
paralyzed Sheik Ahmad Yassin, be released from Israeli
prison. Netanyahu obliged, Yassin was released and
successor, Abd al-Aziz Rantissi, was assassinated soon
after, the path was cleared for Mash'al to become the
And instead of showing his gratitude, he now confronts
us with a dire challenge: non-violent action, indirect
peace overtures, the two-state solution.
A QUESTION: why does our Chief of Staff long for a
little war in
war, a very very big war.
Well, he knows that he cannot have it.
Some time ago I did something no experienced commentator
ever does. I promised that there would be no Israeli
military attack on
An experienced journalist or politician never makes such
a prediction without leaving a loophole for himself. He
puts in an inconspicuous "unless". If his forecast goes
awry, he points to that loophole.
I do have some experience - some 60 or so years of it -
but I did not leave any loophole. I said No War, and now
General Gantz says the same in so many words. No
just poor little
Why? Because of that one word: Hormuz.
Not the ancient Persian god Hormuzd, but the narrow
strait that is the entrance and exit of the Persian
Gulf, through which 20% of the world's oil (and 35% of
the sea-borne oil) flows. My contention was that no sane
(or even mildly insane) leader would risk the closing of
the strait, because the economic consequences would be
catastrophic, even apocalyptic.
IT SEEMS that the leaders of
the world's leaders read this column, so, just in case,
they spelled it out themselves. This week they conducted
conspicuous military maneuvers around the Strait of
Hormuz, accompanied by the unequivocal threat to close
force, if needed.
How, pray? The mightiest multi-billion aircraft carrier
can be easily sunk by a battery of cheap land-to-sea
missiles, as well as by small missile-boats. Let's
might of the
Iranian ships will be sunk, missile and army
installations bombed. Still the Iranian missiles will
come in, making passage through the strait impossible.
What next? There will be no alternative to "boots on the
occupy all the territory from which missiles can be
effectively launched. That would be a major operation.
Fierce Iranian resistance must be expected, judging from
the experience of the eight-year Iraqi-Iranian war. The
oil wells in neighboring
states will also be hit.
Such a war would go far beyond the dimensions of the
American invasions of Iraq or Afghanistan, perhaps even
Is the bankrupt US up to it? Economically, politically
and in terms of morale? The closing of the strait is the
ultimate weapon. I don't believe that the Iranians will
use it against the imposition of sanctions, severe as
they may be, as they have threatened. Only a military
attack would warrant such a response.
heard of," as our former Mossad chief put it - that will
make no difference.
action, and close the strait. That's why the Obama
administration put its foot down, and hand-delivered to
Netanyahu and Ehud Barak an unequivocal order to abstain
from any military action.
That's where we are now. No war in
prospect of a war in
Mash'al and tries to spoil the chances of that, too.