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Gaza: An Israeli Step Back would be the Truer “Success”


The invasion of Gaza has begun. As the bombardment of Gaza has failed to break Palestinian "will," now the gamble is that ground troops will. According to Ha’aretz, a significant portion of Israeli "top commanders" dissented from the decision to invade, arguing that the airstrikes had already dealt Hamas a "heavy blow" and that Israeli casualties could be heavy as well. Clearly they shared the concern that Israel was escalating the war without regard for strategy. How will Israel de-escalate? How can it invade Gaza on the empty goal to engage in an "all-out war" with Hamas and plausibly leave before that unfulfillable end-state is achieved? How can Israeli commanders and politicians who believe a war is going well be persuaded to back down before they commit hubristic blunders that decimate the people of Gaza and make sustainable peace and security less achievable?

This is a plea for what amounts at this point to cynicism. Israel should arbitrarily declare victory and get the hell out of Gaza. Hamas will claim victory too. But it was always going to claim victory, and every hour Israel is in Gaza pummeling them without destroying them is an hour that Hamas will be able to claim that more plausibly, just like Hezbollah did in 2006. That’s how these types of asymmetric wars work; and also why it’s better for the larger party not to launch them. Israel may not want to hear this now, but it’s playing on Hamas’ strategic terms. Stepping back is the truer "success" at this point.

What there is no real evidence of Israel doing, however, is committing ethnic cleansing, and so I must dissent from my friend Siun’s speculation. A two-year An Israeli TV report from earlier this year of unknown reliability does not count as credible evidence of an Israeli war plan of such monstrous intention — the Jerusalem Post report cited in her post only reports that Israeli TV reported such a thing, not that it’s true — and still less that this plan is that alleged plan. The invasion of Gaza is horrible enough without making such leaps. If it’s difficult to understand what Israel is doing, I’d submit that that’s because Israel doesn’t really know what it’s doing. All countries blunder. It’s up to their foul-weather friends to pull them back from the brink.

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Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman