Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gaza War Ended in Utter Failure for Israel

Gaza War Ended in Utter Failure for Israel


By Gideon Levy





On the morrow of the return of the last Israeli soldier

from Gaza, we can determine with certainty that they

had all gone out there in vain. This war ended in utter

failure for Israel.


This goes beyond the profound moral failure, which is a

grave matter in itself, but pertains to its inability

to reach its stated goals. In other words, the grief is

not complemented by failure. We have gained nothing in

this war save hundreds of graves, some of them very

small, thousands of maimed people, much destruction and

the besmirching of Israel's image.


What seemed like a predestined loss to only a handful

of people at the onset of the war will gradually emerge

as such to many others, once the victorious trumpeting subsides.


The initial objective of the war was to put an end to

the firing of Qassam rockets. This did not cease until

the war's last day. It was only achieved after a cease-

fire had already been arranged. Defense officials

estimate that Hamas still has 1,000 rockets.


The war's second objective, the prevention of

smuggling, was not met either. The head of the Shin Bet

security service has estimated that smuggling will be

renewed within two months.


Most of the smuggling that is going on is meant to

provide food for a population under siege, and not to

obtain weapons. But even if we accept the scare

campaign concerning the smuggling with its

exaggerations, this war has served to prove that only

poor quality, rudimentary weapons passed through the

smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt.


Israel's ability to achieve its third objective is also

dubious. Deterrence, my foot. The deterrence we

supposedly achieved in the Second Lebanon War has not

had the slightest effect on Hamas, and the one

supposedly achieved now isn't working any better: The

sporadic firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip has

continued over the past few days.


The fourth objective, which remained undeclared, was

not met either. The IDF has not restored its

capability. It couldn't have, not in a quasi-war

against a miserable and poorly-equipped organization

relying on makeshift weapons, whose combatants barely

put up a fight.


The heroic descriptions and victory poems written abut

the "military triumph" will not serve to change

reality. The pilots were flying on training missions

and the ground forces were engaged in exercises that

involved joining up and firing weapons.


The describing of the operation as a "military

achievement" by the various generals and analysts who

offered their take on the operation is plain ridiculous.


We have not weakened Hamas. The vast majority of its

combatants were not harmed and popular support for the

organization has in fact increased. Their war has

intensified the ethos of resistance and determined

endurance. A country which has nursed an entire

generation on the ethos of a few versus should know to

appreciate that by now. There was no doubt as to who

was David and who was Goliath in this war.


The population in Gaza, which has sustained such a

severe blow, will not become more moderate now. On the

contrary, the national sentiment will now turn more

than before against the party which inflicted that blow

- the State of Israel. Just as public opinion leans to

the right in Israel after each attack against us, so it

will in Gaza following the mega-attack that we carried

out against them.


If anyone was weakened because of this war, it was

Fatah, whose fleeing from Gaza and its abandonment have

now been given special significance. The succession of

failures in this war needs to include, of course, the

failure of the siege policy. For a while, we have

already come to realize that is ineffective. The world

boycotted, Israel besieged and Hamas ruled (and is still ruling).


But this war's balance, as far as Israel is concerned,

does not end with the absence of any achievement. It

has placed a heavy toll on us, which will continue to

burden us for some time. When it comes to assessing

Israel's international situation, we must not allow

ourselves to be fooled by the support parade by

Europe's leaders, who came in for a photo-op with Prime

Minister Ehud Olmert.


Israel's actions have dealt a serious blow to public

support for the state. While this does not always

translate itself into an immediate diplomatic

situation, the shockwaves will arrive one day. The

whole world saw the images. They shocked every human

being who saw them, even if they left most Israelis cold.


The conclusion is that Israel is a violent and

dangerous country, devoid of all restraints and

blatantly ignoring the resolutions of the United

Nations Security Council, while not giving a hoot about

international law. The investigations are on their way.


Graver still is the damage this will visit upon our

moral spine. It will come from difficult questions

about what the IDF did in Gaza, which will occur

despite the blurring effect of recruited media.


So what was achieved, after all? As a war waged to

satisfy considerations of internal politics, the

operation has succeeded beyond all expectations. Likud

Chair Benjamin Netanyahu is getting stronger in the

polls. And why? Because we could not get enough of the war.



Gideon Levy is an Israeli journalist for the Ha'aretz newspaper, where he is also an editorial board member. He is a prominent left-wing commentator. He formerly served as spokesman for Shimon Peres from 1978 and 1982.




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