Thursday, November 22, 2012

Hard power versus "faith-martyrdom" power in Gaza?

“Hamas has been legitimized, treated almost as a sovereign government,” says Jim Reilly, professor of history of the Arab Middle East at the University of Toronto. “Foreign ministers from the region as well as representatives of the Arab League beat a path to the door of Hamas.”
So did the American secretary of state and the secretary-general of the United Nations, to work through Egypt.
“The Arab Spring has changed the calculus,” says Reilly. “What we are seeing is the mainstreaming of Hamas. Whatever new Palestinian entity emerges, it’s going to have a very strong Hamas representation in it.” Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas are “the biggest losers. They are marginalized.” As for the two-state solution, “it seems to be receding further and further away.” (from Siddiqui: Hamas emerges stronger from Gaza war, Toronto Star, November 21, 2012, excerpted below)
Hamas, perceived and presented as a terrorist group in and to the west, is now a significant player in the Middle East. Islam, apparently using all available means to claim respectability, and political power, including violence, seems to be on the march and bending both the ear and the will of the world. And to our western ears and eyes, we seem confounded when Hamas leaders claim "victory" in their press conference following the announcement of the cease-fire...not a peace treaty!
There is still a canyon of difference between the capacity of the Palestinians, the military strength of all branches of the Palestine community, and the military strength of Israel. In fact, there is an easy, and somewhat glib evoking of the David and Goliath story, with Palestine as David and Goliath as Israel.
Hard power, however, is not necessarily a guarantee of either strength or victory, in the long run. Is it possible that both Israel and the United States are fast coming to the wall, in their realization that hard power, so long their security blanket and insurance against whatever threat might emerge, and having to face the irony of history that hard power no longer will suffice.
Indeed, is it now time to openly admit that hard power could serve as a deterrent to the long-term aspirations of both the people of the United States and of Israel?
If the two-state solution has slipped further from reach, out of the hands of both the U.S. and Israel, in spite of their overwheening power advantage, has not history once again proven that massive spending on military security can be undermined with low-budget, high commitment and nefarious tactics and strategies including terrorism, propaganda, suicide bombers brain-washed into  sacrificial martyrdom and epic patience. All of these ingredients have been enhanced and magnified by social media, and the ability to mobilize "instant mobs" for whatever political, propaganda purposes needed. Add to this mix, the Islamic commitment of many to martyrdom, in the cause of the Islamic "revolution" adn you can hear the voice of one Hamas leader, "We are not looking for votes (as is Netanyhu); we are looking for body bags!"
There is no way that secular "hard power" can or will ever compete on a level playing field with radical, fundamentalist commitment-including-martyrdom of the Muslim community. There may be physical victories, and cessation of the firing of rockets and missiles from Gaza into Israel, and even a brief recognition of the effectiveness of the Iron Dome, that million-dollar anti-missile capacity in Israel to bring down rockets and missiles from the air, with their own missiles.
Cyber-spying, too, is available as one of the new weapons in global conflict, and the obsession with hard power, so far, has not included the up-grading of capabilities in this arena in the west, compared with the commitment to cyber-security by countries like China.
While the Arab Spring has spawned stories and photos, protests and tear gas, those uprisings may be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the change that is being wrought in geopolitical power, and the potential of the west being outstripped by a cadre of passionate, violent and fundamentalist religious zealots who have no boundaries between the "church and the state"....
Mr. Obama, the ball is in your court, and your wisdom, and capacity for vision and courage are needed if we are to forge a way forward that all people can live with tolerably...
Siddiqui: Hamas emerges stronger from Gaza war
By Haroon Siddiqui, Toronto Star, November 21, 2012
...
As part of the negotiated ceasefire, the Israeli offensive on Gaza has, of course, achieved promises of respite from rockets hitting Israel. But will it prove something other than previous counterproductive Israeli actions against Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinians in general?
When Hamas won the Palestinian election in 2006, Israel branded it a terrorist outfit. Crippling sanctions and a siege of Gaza followed. The idea was to turn the 1.5 million Gazans against Hamas and to delegitimize it, while propping up the Palestinian Authority, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, the more pliant interlocutor.
The opposite ensued. Hamas crushed an attempted PA coup. It kept the confidence of Gazans.
The 2006 Israeli invasion of Lebanon only helped strengthen Hezbollah. Today, it wields near-veto power in the government in Beirut.
The 2008-09 Israeli air and ground war on Gaza did little to weaken Hamas. It also strained, and ultimately snapped, Israel’s relations with Turkey, its long-time Muslim ally.
The latest Gaza offensive was supported by the U.S., Canada and much of Europe — Israel has a right to self-defence. But, more tellingly, they wouldn’t sanction an Israeli ground war, as in 2008-09. In fact, they actively intervened to avert it. Netanyahu’s chastened demeanour on Wednesday was telling. The tens of thousands of troops he had called up must be demobilized.
More startlingly, Hamas deployed rockets that reached Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, albeit without hitting many targets. The bombing of a bus near the military headquarters in Tel Aviv brought terror to the heart of Israel.
Hamas, shunned by Canada, the U.S. and allies for years, has just been courted by the same parties, directly or indirectly, to arrange the protocol with Israel.
If Israel had conditions, so did Hamas. Israel wanted an end to rockets from Gaza and the smuggling of arms through underground tunnels. Hamas wanted an end to Israeli attacks, an easing of the blockade, and the opening of the border crossings to allow some normalcy to what has been the world’s largest open-air prison.
“Hamas has been legitimized, treated almost as a sovereign government,” says Jim Reilly, professor of history of the Arab Middle East at the University of Toronto. “Foreign ministers from the region as well as representatives of the Arab League beat a path to the door of Hamas.”
So did the American secretary of state and the secretary-general of the United Nations, to work through Egypt.
“Hamas is now the indispensable Palestinian interlocutor. It has put itself at the centre of things.”
This has happened against the backdrop of the Arab Spring.
Egypt’s elected president did not rubber stamp Israeli actions, as Hosni Mubarak would have. Sure, Mohammed Morsi’s hands are tied. His priority is to fix Egypt’s economy, for which he needs American help. He does not want war with Israel.
But he sent his prime minister to Gaza City, where he was photographed kissing the body of a child said to be killed in an Israeli strike. Morsi mediated between Hamas, Israel and America. The man from the Muslim Brotherhood, spiritual mentor of Hamas, emerged a player.
So has Turkey, the second big power in the region and the only Muslim member of NATO. Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a thrice elected leader, stood in solidarity in Cairo with Morsi and the Gazans.
The elected government of Tunisia sent its representative. The emir of Qatar, lacking democratic legitimacy, tried to win plaudits by pledging $400 million on a trip to Gaza days before the hostilities began. In Jordan, the only other Arab nation besides Egypt with a peace treaty with Israel, King Abdullah is facing a popular revolt, mostly over high prices but also over general unease with the undemocratic order.
“The Arab Spring has changed the calculus,” says Reilly. “What we are seeing is the mainstreaming of Hamas. Whatever new Palestinian entity emerges, it’s going to have a very strong Hamas representation in it.” Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority and President Abbas are “the biggest losers. They are marginalized.” As for the two-state solution, “it seems to be receding further and further away.”
Netanyahu’s Likud has joined Yisrael Beiteinu, led by the anti-Arab Avigdor Lieberman, for the January election.
“This indicates that there isn’t a serious commitment on the part of the dominant political parties now to anything that the rest of the world would recognize as a two-state outcome. It’ll be Israel in military control of the entire country and pockets here and there of Palestinian administration that are demilitarized.”
If so, that’s a recipe for maintaining the status quo that has proven to be self-defeating for Israel, time and time again.
Will Obama — having won re-election and inserted the U.S. so unexpectedly and so forcefully in recent days, in concert with the international community, to work with Egypt and Israel — let that go unchallenged?

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