Gwynne Dyer: Is the conflict in Gaza another pre-election war?

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      Let’s be fair: there does seem to be some sort of pattern here, but it is not very consistent. Five times in Israel since 1980 a right-wing government has called an election without launching a complementary military operation. The right lost two of those elections outright (1992 and 1999), more or less tied two others (1984 and 1988), and won only one of them decisively (2006).

      On the other hand, critics of Israel point out, three times since 1980 right-wing Israeli governments have combined an election campaign with a major military operation against some Arab or Palestinian target. And this combination, it has been argued, yields decisive electoral success for the right.

      Menachem Begin’s government won the 1981 election three weeks after carrying out a dramatic attack on the Osirak research nuclear reactor that France had sold to Iraq. In the view of most outside observers, the reactor, which was closely supervised both by the French and by the International Atomic Energy Agency, was not suited to the large-scale production of enriched uranium and posed no threat to Israel, but the attack was popular in Israel.

      Ehud Olmert’s coalition launched the “Cast Lead” onslaught against the Gaza Strip in December 2008 to January 2009. The three-week campaign of massive bombardments and some ground incursions left 1,400 Palestinians and thirteen Israelis dead. The election was held a month later, and Benjamin Netanyahu emerged as the leader of a new right-wing coalition.

      So here we go again, perhaps? Netanyahu is still the prime minister, and the next elections are due in January. What better way to ensure success than to go and bash the Palestinians again? A week later, with 86 Palestinians and three Israelis dead, his reelection is assured: Israelis overwhelmingly support the current military operation.

      That’s the case that is made against Israel. Does it hold water? Well, actually, no, it doesn’t.

      Begin’s attack on the Osirak reactor in 1981 may well have been an electoral stunt, although he was clearly paranoid about the possibility of a nuclear weapon in Arab hands. But Ehud Olmert, though undoubtedly a man of the right, was not leading a right-wing government in 2008. He was the leader of a new centrist party, Kadima, that had been formed by defectors from both the right-wing Likud Party and left-wing Labour.

      Moreover, Olmert had already resigned in mid-2008 over a corruption scandal, and was merely acting as interim prime minister by the time the “Cast Lead” operation was launched in December of that year. If it was an electoral ploy despite all that, it didn’t work. It was the right that actually won the election in early 2009, and formed a government led by the Likud Party’s Netanyahu.

      It is equally hard to believe that Netanyahu is seeking electoral gain by attacking Gaza this month. Every opinion poll in Israel for months past has been saying that he is going to win the January election hands down. For him, all the risk of “Operation Pillar of Defence” is on the downside: a major loss of Israeli lives in the campaign, while unlikely, could only work against him.

      So why is this happening now? Historians traditionally split into two camps: those who see purpose and planning and plots behind every event, and those who think most events are just the random interaction of conflicting strategies, imperfect information and human frailty. This latter approach is known in the historical trade as the “cock-up theory of history,” and it is very attractive as an explanation for the current situation.

      Netanyahu, cruising home to an easy electoral victory in January, had absolutely no need for a little war with the Palestinians. Indeed, his strategy of continuously shouting “wolf” about Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program has succeeded in distracting international attention from the Palestinians, leaving him free to expand Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank unhindered.

      Similarly, the Hamas leaders who ruled Gaza had no interest in triggering a military conflict with Israel. They had every reason to believe that the sweeping political changes in the Arab world were strengthening their position internationally, and they had no need to remind Arabs of their plight. So how did this idiocy happen? Another cock-up, of course.

      Hamas has been trying to maintain calm in Gaza and extend a ceasefire agreement with Israel, but it has little control over various radical jihadi groups who build popular support by making utterly futile rocket attacks on Israel. Even if they kill a few Israelis, so what? How does that serve the cause?

      Hamas faces the permanent political danger of being outflanked by more extremist rivals, so it cannot crack down too hard on the jihadis. Israel, fed up with their pinprick attacks, was looking for somebody to punish, and since it couldn’t locate all the jihadi leaders it decided to assassinate Ahmed al-Jabari, the head of the military wing of Hamas. Even though that was bound to end the ceasefire.

      So then Hamas fired a few of its own rockets into Israel, and Israel retaliated massively, and we were off to the races once again. A complete cock-up, and a pointless waste of lives.

      But since the miniwar doesn’t really serve the purposes of any major player, it will probably be shut down again fairly soon.


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      Just asking

      Nov 19, 2012 at 12:24pm

      Dyer purposely omits to write that Hamas launched dozens of rockets every day for one full week BEFORE Israel responded!!


      What would Canada do, lets say if dozens of rockets were fired from Point Roberts against Delta, Surrey, Langley, Richmond, Burnaby or Vancouver, for many days, forcing one million people to sleep in shelters? Destroying homes, schools, hospitals, killing and injuring scores of residents?

      For anyone who disagrees, what would you expect from your leaders and military to do??

      SPY vs SPY

      Nov 19, 2012 at 1:35pm

      This most recent part of "The Never Ending War", is just Netan-Yahoo's way of simply telling President Obama, that he can Go F_ck himself. If he thinks he can stop Israel from doing Anything They Want - Any Time They Want - To Any One They Want. Period

      It seem Moral people in "The Western World" could stand up to the Nazi's, the Soviet Union, The Serbs and countless others, however we cringe at the Idea of Stopping Israel from killing defenceless people, who simply want their LAND BACK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      In "The Western World" we live with Political Cowards as Leaders. Period


      Nov 19, 2012 at 1:59pm

      We must be living in the world where the weapon makers are the script writers. War is hell!

      Just asking

      Nov 19, 2012 at 4:52pm

      To thinkb4....!

      Am I right that you want the terrorists to be the "script writers"???

      SPY vs SPY

      Nov 19, 2012 at 5:07pm

      AH Just Asking,

      The Terrorists are the Script Writers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      The Israeli Governments perpetrates and initiates more TERROR on an hourly, daily and yearly basis than any other Nation on Earth.

      And Yes, they do write the script.

      Tired of Agitprop

      Nov 19, 2012 at 6:43pm

      I guess Gynnbag is preaching to the PC crowd here but really there are so many deliberate "inaccuracies" or lies that it is easy to pick apart his feces.
      Gynnbag would have you believe that Hams are actually Bibi's campaign mangers by helping him get re-elected.
      Secondly his "view that"

      "Hamas has been trying to maintain calm in Gaza and extend a ceasefire agreement with Israel, but it has little control over various radical jihadi groups who build popular support by making utterly futile rocket attacks on Israel."

      It's been widely accepted that the targeted killing of a Hamas "General" by the IDF was the mastermind (i.e planned and coordinated these "futile" rockets.). Secondly these rockets are either Soviet Grad or Iranian missiles no longer home-made ones from a kit that Gynnbag and his ilk have been calling "futile." These rockets are capable of reaching 80KM and further and carry a deadly payload. Finally what Gynnbag so disingenuously omits is that UN and human rights groups (Amnesty etc.) have declared that the firing of these "futile" rockets into civilian populated areas are crimes against humanity.
      What would you have Israel do in response? (It's rhetorical because to Gynnbag and his friends Israel should do nothing other than get out of the Middle East, which they have no intention of doing.) What is really shocking here is that Gynnbag calls himself and is actually paid by papers like the G.S. as a Military "Expert." Really he is a fool at best but more likley disingenuous with a deliberate rabid bias.

      SPY vs SPY

      Nov 19, 2012 at 10:20pm

      Dear Tired

      Today I heard a speech by Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Dovid Feldman of New York City, call Zionism Founder Theodore Herzl a HERETIC!

      The theme of his speech was, every action by Jewish People that harms the Palestinian People, violates Jewish Law and is simply a criminal action.

      The North Vietnamese Army continued to fight the aggressors, The USA, until a Peace Treaty was signed.

      Palestinian will continue to fight the Illegal War of the Occupation of the Great Nation of Palestine, until Israel retreats to it's 1967 or 1947 border.

      Today in the Insane State of Israel, War is Peace and Peace is Feared!!

      Just asking

      Nov 19, 2012 at 11:05pm

      Spy vs. Spy, or midget James Bond.

      I would believe that you are an honest human being when you will also fight for the people of Tibet, occupied by China, for the right of 10 million Germans to return to Poland, Russia and the Czech Republic and receive their assets back, the same for the 100,000 Greeks from Northern Cyprus, chassed away by the Muslim Turks almost 40 years ago!!

      Or the Japanese from the Curile Islands!!

      Otherwise, you are nothing, but a cheap Antisemite!!

      Your choice!!

      PS. No tricks!!


      Nov 20, 2012 at 7:50am

      Please people,the post column commentary today shows poor taste and would have been best left unsaid. If you wish to disgrace yourselves do it elsewhere and please have the courage of your convictions by not hiding behind a pseudonym when acting out.


      Nov 20, 2012 at 9:14am

      @Just asking,

      Don't forget to include all of the Hindus that the Muslims ethnically cleansed from Pakistan!