July 21, 2014
Looking for optimism

This is not a happy time, but there may be cause for optimism.

Protective Edge is still an operation, but may be on its way to a war.

Hourly and half-hourly news programs begin with the names of the most recent soldiers who have died, plus the times and locations of their burials. We hear comments from friends and family members, describing promising young men, their academic or professional accomplishments, and their dedication to the IDF.

Casualties reflect a broad spectrum of the Jewish population, leaving aside the ultra-Orthodox. Most are Jews, but there are also Druze and Bedouin.

Many are from families like our own. It is easy to identify with them, and to understand why hundreds or even thousands accompany them to the military cemeteries.

Testimony that the dead young man loved the army, and could not wait to return to his unit sound like patriotic fluff, but it is easy to encounter young Israelis who express similar sentiments. Being the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors or refugees from Arab countries may explain some of the patriotism. Even the youngest Israelis have known Palestinian aggression.

Two of the dead and at least of the injured came from overseas, and volunteered for selective units of the IDF. One of the dead had finished his service, but refused release in order to fight with his colleagues.

Newspapers are providing half-page stories, with pictures of each soldier killed.

This is not Sparta. There are Jews--not all of them ultra-Orthodox--who do what they can to avoid the IDF or reserve duty, and Jews who criticize the government and IDF.

We hear the numbers of IDF accomplishments. How many facilities attacked, how many buildings, rocket launchers and tunnels destroyed. Palestinian sources are cited for the incidence of casualties, and how many are civilians or children. IDF sources claim a higher incidence of fighters and a lower incidence of civilians and children among the casualties.

The IDF keeps journalists away from its soldiers. The news we hear comes mostly from official sources. During an operation like this the military censor is more active than otherwise. Several times in recent days we have heard about difficult operations, and have guessed that before too long it will be possible for the media to report the casualties.

One of the non-fatal casualties of the present operation is the radio journalist, Carmela Menasha, well known for her descriptions of military activities. Her usually pointed and informative items may have fallen victim to insufficient sleep. Several of her reports have been rambling and repetitive, and have failed to answer the questions asked time and again by the broadcaster trying to manage the program.

There is a policy to keep the soldiers' cellphones out of the action, but enough leaks to feed the Hebrew language Facebook and other social media. Some of it gets around before official announcements, but much of it is inaccurate.

For those wanting quick access to the media of the other side, al-Jazeera's English language site is not entirely off the wall.

There, as well as in CCN and BBC, one is likely to see dead children, screaming women, and men waving their arms and demanding justice. There is less likely to be commentary about missiles falling on Israel, or Gazans being pressured by Hamas to stay close to home, despite being warned to leave by IDF leaflets and text messages.

Here's one bit of Palestinian news that shows the same family having been killed in Syria and Gaza.

​Assad is taking advantage of media focus on Gaza by increasing his attacks. So far during the Israeli operation, the deaths in Syria have been three times the number in Gaza.

It's easy to encounter people who admit to being nervous, or sleeping less than usual.

Sunday night was an especially loud and long performance of the Isawwea lullaby, i.e., the sound of explosions as the police employed the crowd control devices of tear gas, stun grenades, and rubber bullets. I dozed off thinking that only 200 meters separated my bedroom from fanatics who would delight in slitting my throat.

The Jordanian delegation to the UN is demanding that the Security Council insist on a cease fire and IDF's withdrawal from Gaza.

That may reflect nothing more than the king's effort to calm domestic unrest.

Ban Ki-moon is proposing a long term cease fire.

Mahmoud Abbas is travelling from one Arab capital to another, having trouble for formulate anything significant.

John Kerry was caught in a non-public conversation condemning Israel's killing of civilians, but then on script was supportive of Israel's activity.

Barack Obama is also speaking with forked tongue. He proclaims Israel's right to defend itself, but is beginning to worry about the large number of civilian casualties.

Egypt holds a key by virtue of geography, and it has not been supportive of Hamas, or receptive to American efforts to participate in the mediation.

Obama-Kerry are paying a price for throwing Mubarak under the bus, and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood.

Nonetheless, John Kerry has come to Cairo to participate in something.

Israel appreciates the US contribution to Iron Dome. Americans' political clumsiness has been counterproductive since GW Bush sought to bring democracy to Iraq, then Barack Obama talked about human rights in Egypt, and sent Kerry to bring peace between Israel and Palestine.

Ha'aretz's cartoonist has portrayed the political competition among self-assigned mediators.

The leader of the Knesset opposition is supporting the operation. He and other Labor politicians have joined the call to keep it going until Hamas is deprived of the means and incentive to try again anytime soon.

Against them, a Meretz MK is worried about Gaza's civilian casualties. Israel's civil rights activists have asked the Attorney General to open an inquiry into IDF's violation of international law.

Here's the optimism--
That Hamas may come to see the cost of its fanaticism.
That it will lose enough of its arsenal, and Egypt's animosity will assure a tighter control than in the past against the smuggling of munitions.
And that the results will relieve Gaza's threat on Israel for years to come
With all the fanaticism of Hamas on one side, Hezbollah on another, along with other Islamic extremists plus the meddling of Iran, Qatar, Turkey and Sudan, it may be impossible to keep Israel's enemies from obtaining munitions, digging tunnels, finding political support and making other preparations for aggression.

The point is to give them good reason for not using those assets.

It isn't exactly the MAD (mutual assured destruction) that prevailed during the Cold War, or that continues between India and Pakistan, and may come to be the situation between Iran and Israel. Israel vs Hamas, other Palestinians, and Hezbollah is significantly more one-sided in Israel's favor. What we are now seeing is one of those occasions when Israel goes crazy, or breaks a few of the politically correct rules, in order to assert what can happen if its enemies do not behave.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 09:53 PM
July 20, 2014
The power of the weak

Israel was ready to accept a cease fire after a week of destroying enough of Hamas' assets from the air. At the time, the death toll was less than 50.

Israel is still ready to accept a cease fire, while suffering its own casualties from the ground assault, numbered as I write at five soldiers killed and about 30 injured, two civilian deaths and a number injured. The Palestinian death toll is climbing toward 400, and the physical destruction a great deal more extensive than when Hamas rejected the first call for a cease fire. More than 60,000 Gazan civilians have responded to Israel's warnings and left their homes for shelter in UN schools and other facilities.

Hamas is claiming that it has the upper hand, sifting competing invitations from aspiring peace mediators to discuss a cease fire, and rejecting them all.

Israel is responding by continuing to escalate. The IDF has called up 50,000 reservists, and is moving further into Gaza. We hear of bodies lying in the streets, and Palestinians demanding that the UN stop the slaughter.

It is not easy to understand Hamas' refusal to accept mediation. What is happening is on the other side of cultural boundaries that are damn near impenetrable.

Among the explanations are Hamas' insistence on improving the economic situation in Gaza in order to strengthen its rule. It is demanding open borders as well as agreements to develop air and sea ports as its price for a cease fire.

How much is it willing to see destroyed in order to enhance its economy?

Israeli leftists see reasons to accommodate. Shouldn't everyone have the right to live well?

Against this is the record that inflows in building materials and other economic assets go to facilities that will be used in attacking Israeli civilians. So far the IDF has uncovered more than 30 tunnels, some of which have brought fighters to Israeli homes near Gaza. Each is estimated to have required a year of work and cost one million US dollars.

Islam plays a role in Hamas' rejection of a cease fire. Politically correct westerners blind themselves by rejecting any condemnation of a respectable religion. It is permitted only to condemn Islamic extremism.

Maybe, but how many of the 1.8 million Gazans are not extreme? Or unwilling to bend to the demands of their extremist leaders?

Islam's doctrines are as complex as those of any other faith, but the practice in several sectors, including Gaza, emphasizes the most aggressive toward infidels, among whom us Jews rank as having to be kept subordinate to Islamic rule. Christians who have not already left the Middle East are probably thinking about it.

Also associated with Islam is a glorification of death. Suicide bombers and children who aspire to martyrdom are the ugliest examples.

Hamas leaders are glorify the death of others, while they remain in shelters under schools or hospitals. If Israel were intent on neutralizing the peak leadership of Hamas, it would have to destroy the main hospital of Gaza. The operation would not play well on CNN or BBC.

Prominent in the tactics of the weak is a campaign fought with the help of international media. What sells is human interest. The suffering of civilians has brought pathos from broadcasters and produced rallies in European cities. Palestinians and other Muslims are prominent in the demonstrations, but they are joined by large numbers of others.

So far the important governments of the world are preserving a balanced concern for Israeli as well as Palestinian civilians, and expressing support for Israel's actions against a regime that initiated all of this with its attacks against civilians.

Turkey's Prime MInister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has isolated himself even further from Israelis, and perhaps from others, by proclaiming that Israel's leadership is even more barbaric than Hitler.

An item heard once on Israel radio was that someone speaking for the White House said that Barack Obama would insist on a cease fire when the Palestinian death toll reached 1,000.

If that came from anyone more senior than a janitor, we can hope that the implementation will be more successful than recent efforts with respect to Israel-Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, and Iran.

Israel's democracy is more vulnerable to political pressures than the heavy handed control of Gaza by Hamas.

So far the major sources of likely opposition are muted. Jewish Knesset Members outside of the government are speaking in support of the ground action, praise the Prime Minister for his willingness to accept a cease fire and his gradual increase of the pressure. Reports of Palestinian casualties are given considerable attention in the media, but their impact on the left has been lessened by the suffering of Israelis, and especially the more vulnerable of Israelis who live closest to Gaza.

A missile aimed at Israel's nuclear facility in Dimona killed a Bedouin and injure several of his family members living in a flimsy structure with no shelter nearby. Then came demands from Bedouin and Israelis to improve facilities. Not so long ago, however, several thousand Bedouin demonstrated against a government proposal to relocate them from scattered tents and shanties to established towns.

The spread of Islamic extremism is, in a paradoxical manner, one of the factors isolating Hamas in its refusal to accept a cease fire that would not amount to its victory.

Established Muslim regimes are dithering about Islamic extremism, and acting forcefully against it. The picture is complex, and we can only guess about the thinking of elites. Sunni extremists who delight in broadcasting their killing of prisoners taken in warfare and their destruction of Christian churches have been too much for those ruling Iran. Iran itself is viewed as a threat by Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Turkey and Qatar, lined up behind Hamas, are engaged in a war of words with the Egyptian leadership. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have targeted the Muslim Brotherhood and its Hamas offshoot, as well as various smaller Jihadist gangs as movements to be repressed if not destroyed altogether.

Egypt is currently in the lead of the competition to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but has not offered anything close to what Hamas wants. Comments of prominent Egyptians with respect to the cease fire offered to Hamas are translated as "take it or leave it." And saying that Hamas may have to sweat some more before coming to the table.

Someone in the White House is being quoted as saying that Qatar would be an appropriate mediator.

We can hope that such sentiments come from the same janitor who said that Obama will step in once Israel kills 1,000 Palestinians.

Hamas' leaders remain in their bunkers, still refusing to consider a cease fire, while their constituents huddle in crowded UN facilities, or join the martyrs who have died for the cause.

Israelis suffer in their own way, hearing descriptions of each person who has died, wondering when this round will end, and how much time will pass until the next one.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 01:46 AM
July 18, 2014
Cultural dissonance

A ground operation has begun, spurred by the penetration into Israel of 13 Hamas fighters from a tunnel dug under the border, which followed several days of media discussion about the danger to Israel of numerous tunnels that have defied years of efforts to locate them before they are used.

The timing of Israel's ground attack may also have been helped by the downing of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine. For Israel, this offered the prospect of the world's media shifting from civilian deaths in Gaza to passenger deaths in Ukraine, and the folly of flying over a war zone with unpredictable fighters, some of whom were bound to have their hands on sophisticated anti-aircraft missiles. We know of at least one American newscaster who was moved immediately after the disaster from Jerusalem to Kiev.

Vladimir Putin, the President of the country that most likely supplied the missile, is trying to reverse the flow of attention by joining with the Iranian President and calling for an end to the operation in Gaza, then a renewed peace process.

Israel's ground attack will add to the deaths, at least partly due to the efforts of Hamas to keep civilians in the way.

Yet another spur to the ground action was the failure of several cease fire initiatives, and a continued rain on Israel of Gazan missiles that had not been dampened by more than a week of attacks from the air.

One of the barriers to a cease fire has been competition among the peace makers, with enmities between Turkey and Qatar against Egypt well established in other arenas of Arab politics getting in the way of formulating something that Hamas would accept. The Prime Minister of Turkey has described the Egyptian President as a dictator working with Israel against Hamas.

Also important is a lack of rapport among various elements of Hamas and other Islamic groups, plus family-centered militias, all of which have obtained munitions from one source or another.

We hear is that John Kerry invited himself to Egypt in order to announce with his great voice the onset of a cease fire and opportunities for the renewal of a peace process, but Egyptians told him to stay away.

Within the Hamas grouping have been disputes between overseas and Gazan cadres claiming leadership, as well as a lack of rapport within Gaza between Hamas' political leadership and its military commanders.

The cultural boundaries between us and the Palestinians are profound. We share the Hebrew language with most Arabs of Israel and many Palestinians of the West Bank and Gaza who have worked in Israel (or served time in its prisons). Numerous Israeli Jews are fluent in Arabic due to family backgrounds or schooling. Arabs share university classes with Jews. Professionals and technicians of the two communities work together. There are numerous friendships. Yet there are important traits of Arab culture, and especially the dominant Muslim ingredient, that get in the way of understanding and accommodation. In the case of Islamic extremists/fanatics, there is little hope of reasonable discourse.

It is tempting to approach the borders of the politically correct and think about the forces of light against those of darkness. While Israel makes an effort to warn civilians of impending attacks and invests heavily in the defense of its own population, Hamas hides its fighters in bunkers and pressures civilians--including women and children--to mass themselves around military targets as their primary means of defense.

Hamas fighters are moving from place to place in ambulances, accompanied by children.

Jews raise their glasses to life. לחיים. Muslim children aspire to become martyrs.

The contrast recalls Roman efforts to guard its civilization against those called barbarians, whose eventual ascendance brought Europe to the Dark Ages. There are some, but not enough Europeans, who view Israel as a barrier against another Dark Age, which looms in connection to porous borders and substantial migration from Muslim areas.

Not all Muslims are fanatics, and even the fanatics vary in their fanaticism. Some see hope in Iran's efforts against ISIS. Before we grant Iran entrance to the league of the enlightened, however, we should inquire a bit more to see if its efforts against ISIS are simply a matter of Shiites opposing Sunnis.

Labeling one's enemies as barbarians is not only the epitome of the politically incorrect, but it flies against the worthies of BBC, CNN, and a host of NGOs wrapping themselves in the coverings of the humane who focus on Israel's killing of civilians.

Israel's response is that the Palestinians are assiduous in keeping civilians on the battlefield, and delight in the carnage that they turn to media advantage.

That left wing Jews participate in screeds against Israel complicates the accusation of anti-Semitism. However, that label retains justification in the refusal of anti-Israel media to balance their reports about Palestinian casualties with inquiries into the exploitation of civilians by Hamas or by Gaza's bombardment of Israeli cities.

This operation, which may escalate in coming days to the official designation of a war, illustrates how violence can spiral out of control. There were months of exchanging limited barrages that did relatively little damage, and may have been directed away from populated centers in order to make noise and score only symbolic points. Then exchanges became serious after the kidnapping and killing of yeshiva students and the killing of an Arab by Jewish extremists. After nine days of missile attacks and air force reprisals, the IDF sent in the troops and the tanks. The officials announcement described a limited operation meant to neutralize the tunnels and other munitions, but some were talking about the impossibility of reaching a cease fire until Israel established its control over all of Gaza, with who knows what cost in the deaths of Israeli soldiers and Gazan civilians.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 10:42 PM
July 17, 2014
Calculations and questions

It's all economic. Not so much about money as profit and loss, benefit and cost.

Prominent in the calculations:
How many soldiers likely to be killed are worth a ground operation that can achieve what amount of value added?
Which goals are feasible? Which are likely to be attained? And which are marginal in terms of the capacity to achieve them at reasonable cost?
How much can be achieved without the risks of a ground operation, perhaps rendered moot by the time this is read?
Prominent among the goals that have been mentioned:
Stopping the rockets
Disarming Hamas and other organizations, and overseeing the disarming with reliable international supervision
Turning Hamas into a responsible party that can govern Gaza, with equal or greater benefits to residents as are received on the West Bank, without threatening Israel

Relevant to the last point is the reputation of Hamas as less driven by personal corruption than Fatah, and more inclined to win support via the provision of social services.

An ideal, perhaps not achievable in the near future, is Gaza as a peaceful neighbor, buying from Israel and selling to it, with workers free to enter Israel on a daily basis.

Also relevant are Israel's relations with other actors in its environment.
The US remains Israel's primary consideration, despite what has become the flaccid reputation of its political leadership.
European countries have been considered lap dogs of the US with respect their postures toward Israel and the Arabs, but that may be changing due to the record of Bush and Obama administrations.in international politics.
Egypt is a major factor in Israel's calculations, especially with al-Sisi's rescue of the country from the bungling of the US. Its initial offer of a pro-Israel cease fire, which Hamas rejected, may be viewed as showing Egypt current posture in Middle Eastern politics.
Is peace, or even a cease fire possible with competition among those offering mediation? Turkey and Qatar, allied with Hamas, are competing with Egypt, currently closer to Israel. Reports are that Qatar and Turkey have urged Hamas not to accept Egyptian offers, and to wait for what they can accomplish.
Saudi Arabia joins Egypt as a moderate influence, opposed to Islamic extremists. None of which prevents some Saudis from using their considerable personal resources to support the most radical of the Islamic extremists..
Jordan, with its record of careful kings, is a source of stability. It is deserving of Israeli support, kept low key or perhaps only potential, in order to accommodate the delicate balances within Jordan, made even more difficult by an inflow of refugees from Syria and Iraq.
Fatah is a corrupt organization, with a bloated bureaucracy not highly valued by the West Bank Palestinians, but it is what exists. Its leadership is welcome, supported financially, and even lionized as the great hope for peace, both in western circles and among Israeli leftists. The Israeli government must take it into consideration insofar as it is the most acceptable Palestinian player, warts and all.
Iran is a major problem due to its nuclear and missile aspirations, and its support of undesirables. However, it seems capable of dealing with Catherine Ashton, John Kerry, and Barack Obama. Complicating assessments and actions are its supporting the bad guys, but not the worse ones, in Syria, and opposing the worse who have moved from Syria to Iraq.
The UN is serving itself, is a caricature of the politically correct, but is of questionable weight in affecting what happens. Typical is the recent announcement of UNWRA, the organization that has coddled Palestinian "refugees" since the 1940s, saying that 79 Gazan schools and 23 medical facilities have been damaged, without noting how many had been also serving as storage sites for Hamas munitions.
International media is an actor of questionable credibility and influence. Despite its fascination with Palestinian suffering, it has not produced any great pressure from western governments that Israel must stop attacking. Disasters happen in war. Within minutes of the deaths of five children on a Gaza beach, without any time for inquiry, all began to blame Israel. Hamas as well as the media, treated it as a gift assuring an audience.. An Israeli journalist noted that one-sixth of the missiles fired from Gaza fall on Gaza, and asked if it could have been one of theirs.
Israel's population and economy are as important as anything as supplying pressures and constraints, but it is not easy to summarize their demands, or their impact on policymakers. Commentators are all over the map. People from the street interviewed on camera express with great emotion the same range of views.

The professional commentary (from academics, journalists, retired politicians and military officers) as well as from the street range from
An insistence on pursuing a military operation until Israel can control Gaza, the destruction of Hamas and other terrorist organizations, the destruction of their munitions and the institution of a regime that will assure demilitarization
Against this posture are assertions that it is impractical to demand anything beyond a cease fire and promises to behave. Associated with this are demands for a cease fire in order to relieve the suffering of Israelis kept close to shelters, and the casualties among Gazan civilians.

The stature, style, support and criticism directed at Prime Minister Netanyahu provide a focus and a microcosm of the larger disputes in Israel.

Among the points of praise and criticism are his moderation in so far avoiding a ground attack. Supporters see Netanyahu as cautious, while critics see him as afraid of international criticism. He is ridiculed for the contrast between bold expressions of extreme intentions, and the mildest of activity. Prominent here are his declarations about preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, especially that speech at the UN with a drawing of a bomb and his red line beyond which Iran must not be allowed to go, and subsequent years of accepting what others have done--or not done--about Iran's intentions.

Supporters praise Netanyahu's willingness to accept the Egyptian declaration of cease fire. Cynics say he did so for tactical reasons, pretty sure that Hamas would reject it and thus give him a free hand with support from western governments.

There is support from the center and left for Natanyahu's firing Deputy Defense Minister Dany Danon, for being too harsh in criticizing government policy in the midst of war (for being timid, leftist, and at the service of Tsipi Livni). Netanyahu's critics chide him for picking on one of the lesser lights among his opponents, and avoiding any discipline of Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, whose criticism of government policy has been no less extreme.

The current balance of casualties at 200 to 1 is both a measure of success and a cause for concern. Israelis are not salivating over the record of kills. Quite the contrary. There is substantial concern, both for the civilians caught up in the conflict, and for the impact of the statistics on international opinion and politics.

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 12:21 AM
July 15, 2014
Pondering amidst uncertainties

We went to bed with the rain of missiles from Gaza and the operation of the IDF in full tilt. We woke to a media blitz focused on a cease fire-then-negotiations proposed by Egypt.

Hamas initially rejected the idea, but observers should view any of its statements with considerable salt.

Israel's right wing, including its representatives in the government joined that rejection.

But both sides were declaiming to continue the fight until achieving their goals. Hamas spoke about its power, and is demanding an end to the blockades on Gaza. The Israeli right wing spoke about the complete destruction of Hamas.

Israel's government, led by the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, accepted the Egyptian proposal, with the reservation of continuing to operate in response to Gazan aggression. The government majority sees saw an opportunity to avoid a costly ground operation. It is satisfied with the destruction achieved and its message sent to Hamas. It desires that Hamas stay in control, while knowing quietly that it lost badly, but willing and able to control those even more intense about killing Jews in order to avoid yet another round of Israeli destruction.

No one would be able to declare victory in the style of V-E or V-J days.

However, no other government has been justified in claiming anything like that since 1945.

Opponents to both Hamas and the centrist Israeli government will declare something like shameful defeat.

I've heard from critics that any acceptance of an imperfect cease fire would be appeasement.

Such people should learn the languages and culture of this region, as well as how the US and other great powers have ratcheted down from imperfect endings to their wars.

Realities are imperfect.

It is not likely to be a smooth transition. Missile attacks and the IDF may peter out. There have been missiles fired since the cease fire deadline.

We have been in this performance numerous times. Involved in the frictions are the pride of the weak party, the willingness of the strong to let them score a few points for the sake of quiet, but a limited tolerance of any serious continuation of the missile rain.

It won't be neat, and many will not understand the logic, or the elements of political theater involved.

The background includes what follows. Nothing is close to certain, but these are among the considerations relevant to understanding what has happened.

Hamas is isolated amidst the chaos that has erupted throughout the Middle East. One can argue to what extent that chaos resulted from the Arab Spring, is the birth pangs of democracy, or is a product of Barack Obama Cairo's speech that won a Nobel Peace prize, but was widely received with wonder and ridicule throughout the Middle East.

Egypt is the closest geographically to Hamas, and perhaps the most intense antagonist/enemy, leaving aside the animosity expressed by Hamas' Palestinian rivals.

We should view Egyptian expressions of support for their Palestinian brothers as the lip service obligatory among Muslims, who hate one another no less than they distrust others. Look again at Syria, Libya, and Iraq for current examples.

Egyptian media have accused Hamas of responsibility for attacks against Egyptians in the Sinai, and have expressed an understanding of Israel's attacks against Gaza.

Saudi Arabia is busier elsewhere. Likewise Iran and Hezbollah. All those former suppliers of money, technology, and political support are involved in their own problems, most prominently on the territory of Syria and Iraq.

The Fatah regime of the West Bank is getting the humanitarian mileage out of the suffering in Gaza, but one can doubt its concern for Hamas.

US is close to a laughing stock. The style of Obama and Kerry, in particular, is widely derided, and seen as reducing whatever was left of American leverage after the presidency of George W. Bush. See this as an example.

Turkey's offer to mediate is easy to dismiss, given its anti-Israel postures.

Qatar remains Hamas' principal supporter and provider of money. Qatar's al-Jezeera has some weight in international politics, but the news media and the Qatar leadership is on the outs with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, its money does not come as promised. A Gazan health official has complained that international medical suppliers have stopped shipping due to debts that remain unpaid on account of donations waiting delivery.

Israelis are tired of partial solution, and want more than achieved by earlier rounds of conflict. The second Lebanon War (2006) is mentioned as an example. With all the criticism of details of Israel's management of that war, the considerable destruction of Hezbollah areas of Lebanon are thought to have contributed to 8 years of relative quiet on Israel's northern border.

Optimists see a repeat of that model in what Israel has done to Gaza.

Hamas bet a great deal on this round, and lost badly. Its escalation of missile attacks on Israel recalls the image of a Hail Mary pass in American football, going for the all in a desperate effort to turn aside an impending loss. Against Gazan deaths approaching two hundred and more than a thousand wounded, most Israeli casualties have been defined as stress, or injuries caused by tripping on the way to shelter. The majority of Gazan missiles land on nothing; some do not make it out of Gaza; and most of those calculated as likely to land on populated areas have been destroyed by Israel's Iron Dome.

Two of the missiles sent toward Jerusalem landed in or near Arab areas of Bethlehem and Hebron. Perhaps Iron Dome is not programmed to deal with what is seen as overflying Israel's population.

Hamas is left with the public relations asset of one sided international media. We've seen fiercely anti-Israel clips from CNN and BBS, meant to generate pathos or anger about civilian suffering without questioning Hamas policy of storing munitions in or alongside hospitals, mosques, or housing, its opposition to people leaving areas in response to IDF warnings, or the source of the conflict in Gazan missiles fired in the direction of Israeli civilians. For some, alas, the source of the conflict is Israel's existence.

UN sources report the percentage of children among the dead. IDF sources report the percentage of fighters.

Compared to animosity from international media, Israeli observers have noted relatively little pressure from western governments that Israel must stop the operation.

While Hamas has sought to keep its people near targets in order to protect them or embarrass Israel, Israel has provided layers of warning and protection. Several times while writing this note my computer has signaled me with a warning sound and message. My cell phone is has an IDF-supplied application that lets me know when something is headed my way.

There have been protests of Israeli actions in the West Bank and among Israeli Arabs, but the larger picture may be persuading many to keep a low profile.

Some Israeli commentators see an Israelization of Israel's Arabs, perhaps set back by recent events. There are signs of accommodation is the language of Israeli Arabs, whose Hebrew is in many cases better than their Arabic,with many reading and listing to Hebrew more often than Arabic language media. Israeli Arabs recognize their advantages from Israeli education, other public services and economic opportunities, despite complaints that they receive lesser shares than the Jews of Israel. Public opinion polls show support for Palestine among Israeli Arabs (and the Arabs of Jerusalem), but a preference for remaining Israeli.,

Against those signs are what appears to be an increase in the religiously promoted, modest dress of young Arab women.

There is talk of cease fire, but it's a time for pondering, rather than predicting.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 12:11 AM
July 12, 2014
Can Israel solve the problem of Hamas and its friends?

The short answer to the question heading this note is "No."

There are too many Muslims in the world, having weight in international forums, with the US and EU inclined to go along with them.

The ascendance of radicalism among Muslims makes any of their governments reluctant to challenge a hard line against Israel.

All that is true, but within those constraints, there is wiggle room for Israel and its friends.

Governments of Muslim countries routinely demand anti-Israel declarations in the UN and other bodies, and press governments of the US and EU to decry whatever Israel does. However, those same governments of Muslim countries do not deliver anything close to the financial support to Palestinians that they promise. Almost all of them have made life unpleasant for the Palestinian "refugees" living in their borders since 1948. Many Arabs and other Muslims (e.g., Iranians, Turks, Indonesians, Malaysians) are tired of the Palestinian claims of suffering. Yet Palestinian claims ring to some extent with the crowds that may riot against their governments. It's easiest to sing in their chorus when it does not cost much.

Many if not most of those countries do business with Israel, but quietly. Elites come to Israel for medical care. Personnel from Israeli firms fly in private planes to airports that do not welcome El Al or other commercial flights from Israel. They move around, sleep and eat with security, sell and service what Israel has to offer, and fly home until the next visit. Israeli industries use addresses in some other country for such transactions, which have the approval of government authorities.

Americans and Europeans sign on to the hypocrisy of the Muslim claims for the sake of humane values and what is easiest. Who knows the seriousness of politicians who say time and again that Islam is a blessing rather than a problem? Media personalities, activists, and many of the common folk take them seriously and join the chorus. Most do not care, and many recognize nonsense when they hear it. Some may recognize the nonsense in what they say, but politics involves getting along.

When the weak behave as barbarians, it is easy to excuse them as not yet ready for the clubs of the better class. What else to expect from them?

There is also at least a bit of anti-Semitism in what we hear, now dressed as opposition to Israeli excess.

The best educated and most WASPish of upper caste Presbyterians are among those who have joined the barbarians with their intellectual contortions.

Israel is a strong country, as democratic as any, with a world class defense establishment. But it is small, and cannot act like the US, Russia, Iran or North Korea, and still expect easy access to markets, including the exchange of science, medicine, technology, and culture with the better countries.

Politics involves the acceptance of insult as well as other criticism, and some loss of opportunity. It applies to countries as well as individuals, and more often to the weaker (individuals and countries) than the stronger.

Israel is stronger in many respects than North Korea and Iran, but does not wish to be as self-contained as those rogues..

Also involved in the explanation of Israel's Palestinian problem are the nature of Jewish values and domestic Israeli opposition to anything that is overly forceful and bloody. (Some will be sneering at this point and upping the volume of their accusations about Israel's genocide against the Palestinian people. We can put them in the category with the no nothings they support, and continue with the discussion.)

Jews do not like to kill. They take seriously the seventh commandment. No all, to be sure. There is also the passage in Talmud, "If a man comes to kill you, rise early and kill him first." (Tractate Berakoth, 58a). The IDF trains its soldiers to respect human life, to distinguish between combatants and civilians, and to reject orders that are blatantly illegal.

Among the pondering of commentators has been the pluses and minuses of an IDF ground operation, which can target more closely than air strikes to avoid Palestinian civilians, but will result in the deaths of soldiers.

Jews have been coping, rather than solving their problems, for at least 2,500 years. Whoever composed the various segments of Torah and other books of the Hebrew Bible described the coping of God, Moses, and lesser characters. The story of the Exodus and the books of Job and Ecclesiastes provide prominent examples. In modern times, cadres of Jewish psychiatrists, psychologists, and other care givers have explained to their patients how to deal with problems they cannot solve: chronic illness, difficult spouses and children, and other frustrations.

All of that may draw on the Jewish traits of being a small people alongside more powerful others, with a high degree of literacy and intellectual skills that provoke questioning, and tolerate argument on the way to decisions.

Israelis learned several wars ago that it is easier to live alongside their enemies than to destroy them.

A key source of frustration is the ascendance of Islamic radicalism. There is also the stubbornness of Palestinian nationalism, despite the naysayers who insist that they are not a people. They are far from united, but their narrative has legs. It has been reinforced by six decades of schooling and incitement. There is a great deal of distortion mixed in with bits of reality. No people's historic narrative is free of myth and exaggeration.

Israel is not about to slaughter Palestinians or to raze most buildings of Gaza. Egypt will not accept responsibility for a flood of Palestinian refugees, or the administration of Gaza. Palestinians might pride themselves with the label of refugees, but they are also outcasts among fellow Muslims.

Israel is stuck with its neighbors by virtue of geography and politics (its own and others').

Hamas spokesmen are boasting about accomplishments that have not occurred, and threatening to continue the destruction of Israel for months.

The IDF has urged 100,000 or so Gazans living close to the border to move elsewhere.

Who can remember the names of all the military operations in Israel's modern history? We can begin with 1967, 1973, or the first Lebanon war that began in 1982, the first Intifada that began in 1987 or the second Intifada that began in 2000.

Since the beginning of the Second Intifada there have been 20 named operations, up to and including Protective Edge.

In the last few days we've scurried to cover three times in Jerusalem, luxuriating in the 90 seconds between the sirens and the boom. In Sderot and other communities close to Gaza, there are many more incidents, and 15 seconds between the onset of the siren and the boom.

Varda was caught on the road in one instance, and came home excited about seeing the contrails of a missile interception.

The imbalance of casualties and destruction is profound, but does not appear to dent the certainty of Islamic extremists.

Among the most loneliest of people are secular Muslims, and those who dare challenge the blather of the intense.

This operation is likely to end in a week or so, and come back for a replay after who knows how many years or months. Gaza has no shortage of fanatics who oppose Hamas for not being sufficiently dedicated and aggressive.

Optimists are hoping for an outcome like that achieved from the Hezbollah of Lebanon as a result of a heavy bombardment in 2006. Since then, Hassan Nasrallah has sought to express his charisma from underground via television, with few appearances that expose him to what the IDF might do. Except for an occasional incident, Israel's northern region has been quiet for eight years.

It is not desirable to destroy Hamas. A political vacuum is Gaza is likely to be filled by those even more extreme.

John Kerry is busy elsewhere, no less naive than during his recent efforts here..

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Afghanistan on Friday its transition to a self-reliant state hung in the balance after a contested presidential election, urging officials to focus on investigating all fraud allegations to prove its legitimacy.

Both Boston and Chicago are also known for political shenanigans. John and Barack might do better closer to home.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 09:25 PM
July 10, 2014
The current war

We've been here countless times, and the general picture is all too familiar.

Our Jerusalem residence close to Arab villages is an element of safety. We're pretty near the limit of what the Gazans can shoot, and they are most likely aiming for areas more certainly Jewish. However, their aim is far from exact, as noted by an Arab friend when I said that the location of his family was the best the defense of my family. He recalled missiles from Lebanon falling on Arab villages,

There is nothing else on the news, except for an occasional mention of the latest victory in the World Cup. Media outlets have added to their news reports, with the details and commentary doing more to stimulate nerves than provide useful information.

Among the items is an increase in emotional counselling provided by the health and welfare agencies, as well as volunteers, due to children and adults bothered by all the reports of missiles falling, missiles being intercepted, Gazans killed and injured, and the frenzied actions on both sides.

Some of the noise recalls hourly reports about body counts during Vietnam (later revealed as inflated). Israeli reporters do not glory in the counts of enemy killed as did Americans 45 years ago. Here are reports about the number of targets attacked by the air force, the number of reservists drafted, the number of missiles directed at Israel, and the number intercepted by anti-missile missiles.

For the first couple of days, the air force has targeted the homes of the Gazans' military commanders. The commanders themselves are most likely elsewhere, but a pile of rubble and some missing family members may drive home the cost of what they are doing.

The IDF has sought to minimize the carnage. It calls or texts ahead to warn civilians to distant themselves from targets, and has fired non-destructive warning missiles.when finding that the neighbors, including women and children, have been assembled on the roof to provide human protection for a building. In at least one case, Israeli commanders figured that two warning missiles were enough, and then destroyed the target.

Mahmoud Abbas calls this genocide, despite Palestinian reports that 70 of their people--including fighters--have died. He made be applauding quietly, however, insofar as the IDF is targeting has political rivals.

Egyptian authorities are talking about pressing both sides to stop the violence. Given the animosity between the current Egyptian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood/ Hamas, Cairo's pressure may be modest.

Jordanian security personnel have mobilized to protect the Israeli Embassy from restive crowds.

Gazan media are now claiming that the IDF is striking buildings without providing prior warnings, but the IDF denies that report..

We hear that Gazan security personnel are preventing civilians from leaving targeted buildings in response to Israeli warnings.

Israeli reporters are counting up the collateral damage of the young, the old, and the female, but so far there is little domestic opposition to the operation.

The current resident of the White House and his Secretary of State are impressed by reports of civilian casualties. UN worthies are worrying about civilians on both sides.

There is considerable imbalance in foul intentions with respect to civilian casualties between the Palestinians and Israelis, and the imbalance in their destructive capacity. The missiles coming our way are directed at civilians, but most land on nothing or get shot down by defensive missiles if radar and computers indicate they are heading toward populated areas. Some of them fizzle before getting out of Gaza. Over the years they have killed more Palestinians than Israelis.

There has been some property damage, and Israelis treated for distress. It's the Palestinians who are being killed and injured. The physical destruction is considerable. Israeli munitions turn concrete buildings into piles of rubble alongside sizable craters.

Several times each day civil defense officers tell us how to protect ourselves, while the Gazans have no shelters and are called to defend with their bodies buildings being targeted, with an eye to the carnage that will sell on international television.

As any war, there is a lot that we do not hear, and much that we question. While in earlier episodes we had to rely on word of mouth or land line telephone calls said to originate with someone who knows, now it comes from the universality of smartphones and bloggers, some of them with no limit to their imagination or vocabulary.

There are reports about the pressure building on Hamas. Two efforts to send heroic bands of killers or kidnappers into Israel ended quickly and badly for them. Hyperbolic boasts and threats in Palestinian media cannot sound all that convincing to a population living alongside the sound, smoke, dust and rubble of several hundred air strikes per day. Even before this started, Hamas had run out of money to pay its workers and fighters, so it cannot be a festive Ramadan.

Sooner or later the Gazan missile firers or those intent on martyrdom by infiltrating Israel are bound to get lucky, and we'll hear about destroyed apartments and Israeli casualties.

Meanwhile the news is of tanks, artillery pieces, thousands of soldiers assembling near Gaza, and the likelihood of a ground operation.

The West Bank and Arab areas of Israel have quieted, except for some demonstrations in behalf of their brothers in Gaza. Either the previous wave ran out of steam, or activists are concerned about a toughening Israeli response.

Palestinians are worrying about the lack of support from Arab media and governments. Bloodier conflicts among the Muslims outweigh this little corner of the Middle East. We've heard in the past that other Muslims are tired of the Palestinians.
One cartoon in the Arab press shows people more excited by telecasts of the World Cup than Gaza.

The drumbeat of western worriers will increase, and there is no let up in sight from radio and television.

If it lasts a week, it will be a long operation.

No one with any authority or sense imagines that this will be the last of its kind. Optimists are hoping for enough damage to keep Hamas and its friends quiet for 18 months. Only the most wild are hoping for three years of peace.

Those having at least a bit of sympathy with us may enjoy this item.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 04:34 AM
July 08, 2014

Things have escalated in the south to the point where the IDF is now pursuing an "operation." The Hebrew, צוק איתן, touches more buttons than the official English translation, "Protective edge." Alternative translations that might touch different buttons, are "Strong rock" "Impregnable rock," or "Impregnable fortress."

In IDF parlance, a named operation is less than a war, but more than a limited response to a limited attack.

Yesterday saw more than 80 missiles fired toward Israel. As usual, the vast majority landed on empty land. IDF responses--more than 50 and still counting--are better targeted and more destructive.

One attack on a building that included both Hamas facilities and family housing came only after a telephone call from an Israeli officer, urging an immediate departure from the site.

That says something about IDF intelligence, accessing the cell phone of innocent civilians living alongside a military target.

Let's see how much credit the humanists of the world bestow on Israel.

Predictions are that this will continue for a while. Hamas is threatening destruction throughout Israel. The IDF has issued a limited call up of reserves, and the unit responsible for civil defense has cancelled all large gatherings and kids' summer camps within 40 km of Gaza. It has opened civil defense shelters, and urged people close to Gaza not to venture more than a 15 second run from protection. Ben Gurion University in Beer Sheva and Sapir College in Sderot have canceled classes and exams scheduled for the next few days. Hospitals are moving patients to more secure locations.

Israeli homes built since the first Gulf War have "strong rooms" in each apartment, with protective walls and ceilings, fortified doors and steel shutters that can be lowered in front of the window. Most buildings built between the 1960's and the 1990s have a common shelter the basement.

Over the normal course of events, those shelters become store rooms for old furniture, and now is one of the times when civil defense officials are calling on us to clean out the junk and equip them with fresh drinking water.

This will also lessen the media attention devoted to what had been in the headlines.

Police and judicial authorities are moving through their routines against the Jewish barbarians who kidnapped, beat, and burned an Arab youth who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

People should take another look at the video that went viral, seeming to show a young man beaten to near death by personnel of Israel's Border Police. A day and a half later the same young man, a Palestinian American visiting for the summer, appeared on TV walking normally and with some bruises on his face. He claimed innocence. He was only watching a demonstration until attacked by police.

The police story is that he had wrapped his face and head in a kaffiyeh like accomplished stone throwers and fire bombers, and was mixing it up with the others.

He may have been roughed up when taken into custody, but nothing like what was portrayed in the video. Most likely that was fabricated by Palestinians seeing another way to make Israel look bad by dressing up as Border Policemen and pretending to beat savagely a friend portrayed as their victim.

Remember the earlier video showing two Palestinians being shot to death, but managing to fall to the ground with their arms extended in a way to assure that they wouldn't be hurt while on camera.

Also pushed into the background is the story of the Netanyahu family furniture. Beginning to get scandal headlines was Bibi or Sara ordering of new furniture for the official residence, at public expense, having it delivered to their private residence on the coast, and moving some old stuff from the coast to the official residence in Jerusalem.

All that broke before the kidnapping of three yeshiva students, and it will take some journalistic digging to get it back in the headlines.

There are either fewer commotions by the Arabs of Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, or they have been moved off the front page by Gaza. Yet we went to bed Monday night under the sound of helicopters, and the next shift was up there when we woke Tuesday morning.

The Israel police are moving against Arabs of Israel, arresting those filmed throwing stones and fire bombs in East Jerusalem and Arab towns in the Galilee and Negev. The police are also arresting Jews led to rock throwing and other vandalism by calls to "kill Arabs."

Also suffering will be the dramatic announcement of Avigdor Lieberman that he is undoing the alliance between his party, Israel our Home, and Likud. It has become not much more than a "so what?" in comparison with the noise from the south.

We've been in this theater several times, perhaps once every two or three years. Performances are as predictable as disaster alerts, rain, wind, destruction, and cleanup during hurricane season along the US East Coast.

Analysts are saying that this uptick comes as a Hamas act of desperation, seeking to attain some stature in the face of Egypt's onslaught against its Muslim Brotherhood parent, the failure to gain traction from a unity agreement with Fatah, a lack of shekels to pay its bloated bureaucracy and security units, the chaos that has taken the place of international Muslim unity, and uppity rivals in Gaza who demand even more extreme actions against Israel.

Note the use of shekels in the previous paragraph. Palestine operates on Israeli currency.

While there are some urging the government to destroy Hamas, that isn't in the cards. Given the ascendance of aggressive Islam, and countless young people aspiring to die as martyrs, the most to be done is enough damage to buy some months or years of relative quiet.

Barack Obama and John Kerry are already saying that Israel has a right to defend itself, but urging all sides to be calm and seek peace.

What comes next will depend on the language not made public adopted by the inner cabinet along with the heads of the IDF and other security services, the responses of Hamas and other missile firers to each day's IDF activity, the onset of international pressure against what is sure to be called Israeli overreaction, and the efforts of Israeli moderates and leftists to press for limitations in destruction and carnage.

Every Palestinian with a smartphone will be supplying stuff to the professional journalists seeking their own opportunities in Gaza. One can hope that items of great drama will have a larger ingredient of reality than fabrication.

Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Tel: +972-2-532-2725
Cell: +972-54-683-5325
Fax +972-2-582-9144

Posted by Ira Sharkansky at 12:23 AM