The Arab Spring has brought drastic geopolitical changes to the Middle East — with the region increasingly looking like it may become a United States of Islam. It stands to reason, therefore, that Israel, the odd man out, is increasingly becoming more isolated in the region.
The conflict between Israel and Hamas forces in Gaza escalated this month with increased rocket fire into Israel from Gaza despite an earlier truce. The Israeli response, which was to assassinate Hamas military leader Ahmed Jabari, sparked more rocket fire from Gaza and, in turn, more airstrikes by Israel.
The upsurge in violence has deflected attention from larger conflicts, such as in Syria, where more than 39,000 people have died in 20 months of rebellion against the Bashar al-Assad government.
Five Israelis and at least 100 Gazans have been killed in the renewed fighting. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and on Wednesday announced a cease-fire just hours after a bomb exploded aboard an Israeli bus near the nation’s military headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Israel’s critics say its reaction has been excessive and lacks “proportionality,” a silly and nonsensical canard in warfare. Proportion is an aesthetic term — it refers to art and sculpture – and only a losing side would seek to apply it to warfare, as the aim of war is never to use the same force as the enemy but to destroy the enemy’s capacity to wage war. Overwhelming force is required so that the enemy’s will is diminished, not “proportional” attacks.
“Classic deterrence won’t work here,” Daniel Pipes, the director of the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, a think tank promoting American interests abroad, told us. Merely killing some Hamas leaders won’t destroy the organization. According to Dr. Pipes, Hamas leaders accept they will “get a bloody nose” but continue to fire rockets against Israel to elicit a punishing response that they’ll propagandize among Arab League nations and the international community.
Israel, highly aware of its precarious position, has not unleashed its full power. Instead, it strategically bombed locations in Gaza from which rockets are launched – a challenge considering the dense population in the area and the fact some rockets are launched from civilian dwellings. Since 2009, Hamas has smuggled more weapons, including longer-range rockets, into the Gaza Strip despite the widely criticized Israeli blockade. These weapons, often described as “homemade rockets,” are often supplied by Iran; others are suspected of coming from as far as post-Arab Spring Libya.
Israel’s sophisticated missile-defense system has minimized casualties from the hundreds of rocket launches. However, economic ramifications are tremendous. Beyond damage to infrastructure, which is significant, is the cost, up to $90,000, for each Hamas rocket intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system, partially funded by the U.S. The Iron Dome is credited by Israeli officials with downing about 250 rockets.
Despite the negotiated cease-fire, optimism about the future in the region seems difficult to justify. — From the Orange County Register, a Freedom Communications newspaper.