Belgium (Brussels Morning newspaper) Does Khamenei have a point? Has Israel been defeated in Gaza, or at least stymied there? Has the much-vaunted offensive boggled down?
Hamas had three strategic goals in its incursion into Israel on October 7: (1) To provoke a regional war, derail the peace process between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and reassert the Palestinian cause; (2) To capture hostages and trade them for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; and (3) To humiliate Israel, expose its army as a paper tiger, and do away with its deterrence.
Hamas failed in accomplishing the first goal. Iran’s bombast notwithstanding, it made sure that none of its many proxies declared an all-out war on Israel. Hamas found itself isolated. Many Arab regimes would love to see it go. Again, the Arab states have abandoned the Palestinians to their fate.
But Hamas did accomplish the second and third targets on its list. And it sucked Israel into a war that it cannot hope to win. No military guerilla group supported by the indigenous people has ever been defeated in battle, let alone eradicated – not even in Vietnam, Cuba, and Afghanistan.
Here we are, 6 weeks after the atrocities committed in south Israel by 3000 Gaza Palestinians. I am using the phrase “Gaza Palestinians” rather than the habitual Hamas because by now it has become clear that the mob who breached the fence in the wake of the 1000 or so Hamas fighters committed most of the heinous crimes.
Hamas terrorists were relatively disciplined throughout the 12-24 hours incident (it took the hallowed and hollowed IDF that long to reach the scene in any meaningful way).
Having promulgated delusional goals for its invasion, Israel dawdled for 3 unnecessary and costly weeks before it mustered the courage and determination to penetrate the aerially devastated Gaza Strip. A stream of triumphant messages followed the ground invasion.
But reality and self-congratulatory propaganda rarely meet. In actuality, only 20-30% of Hamas’s fighting force and tunnels have been destroyed. Hamas is even more present in the south, near Egypt, than it is in the much-bombarded north.
Hamas is still firing rockets at Israel and is holding on to the hostages, negotiating brazenly for the release of the women and children among them in exchange for what amounts to a ceasefire.
In short: Hamas is far from capitulating. It is taunting Israel daily. International diplomatic support for Israel is being sorely tested by what is beginning to be widely perceived as its campaign of collective punishment, a war crime. Antisemitism is rife and public opinion is decidedly pro-Palestinian. Hamas’s own offenses and crimes are swept under the social media collective carpet.
So, what is Israel to do? Having backed itself into a corner, Israel must now declare victory and negotiate a cease-fire replete with the release of all the civilian hostages held by various militant and Islamist groups in Gaza. Extending the war to the southern part of Gaza may net a few dead Hamas leaders, but this has been tried before, multiple times and it led nowhere.
Fat chance of cool heads prevailing. Israel is led by a kleptocracy of grandiose malignant narcissists and petty criminals immured in fantasies and led by Netanyahu whose only priority is and always has been Netanyahu. The political echelons are estranged from the people. Israel is in the throes of a slow-motion, simmering civil war.
The military arm of Hamas is a fanatical and tyrannical death cult, headed by arch psychopaths and serial killers who propagate their own brand of faux “Islam” (for example: Sinwar). The political leadership is saner, but equally trapped in fantasies of revenge and restoration.
Yet, unlike al-Qaida and ISIS and much like Hizbullah, Hamas is supported by 31-53% of the Palestinian population who have little left to lose. Additionally, both Hamas and Hizbullah are numerous (about 150,000 warriors combined) and both outfits are well-trained and well-equipped: a definite match to the IDF’s best.
It will, therefore, be impossible to exterminate Hamas the way the West had dealt with ISIS, for instance.
Many on both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict now say that the only solution to the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis that has been going on since 1882 is ethnic cleansing by one of the peoples involved perpetrated against the other: the revived idea of transfer on the Israeli side and “Palestine from the river to the sea” to counter it.
Both parties maintain maximal positions and victimhood grievances. Both of them insist on possessing 100% of the territory of Palestine/Israel.
Currently, Israel is poised to exact revenge on Gazans for the October 7 atrocities and destroy Hamas. But even if, implausibly, Israel were to succeed, Hamas is the symptom, not the disease which is the Israeli occupation. If Israel is successful in eradicating Hamas, another resistance or terrorist organization will take its place. The same applies to Hizbullah.
Israel is a paper tiger. Its army is in bad shape, similar to the Russian army. Should Israel be confronted with aggression on several fronts – Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank, and Gaza – it will be defeated.
The Americans are aware of Israel’s frailty. This is why they are moving military assets into the region. Iran’s potential involvement may lead to an escalation of this local conflict to a regional one, akin to Vietnam.
Both parties commit war crimes against civilians habitually. Acts of terrorism is met with state terrorism.
There is a chance of Hizbullah involvement owing to Israel’s disproportionate reactions to Hizbullah’s initial provocations. Syria may also support Hezbollah sporadically as might the Iran-backed militias there and in Iraq.
But I doubt that this conflict will involve any other actors. The Palestinians have alienated literally all their supporters over the years. They are political, diplomatic, and military orphans, pawns in the hands of the likes of Qatar, Israel, and Iran.
But, luckily for Hamas, its conflict with Israel is just the latest piece in a much bigger geopolitical realignment.
With China’s acquiescence and then help, Russia has transformed its invasion of Ukraine into a proxy war with the West. This led to an escalation in conflicts along the fault lines between East and West all over the world, including in the Middle East and soon in Taiwan.
We are in the throes of a global reordering of power, similar to the period in the 1950s and 1960s when the West tried to contain both the USSR and Communist China.
But now, the United States is much diminished: it is polarized and paralyzed. Its democracy is threatened from within. It doesn’t even have a regular budget, only stopgap ones. The USA can scarcely provide military aid to more than 2 allies or proxies at a time. NATO is underfunded and under-trained. As Ukraine and Israel are going to find out very soon, the West is not a reliable or long-term ally.
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