Thursday, February 29, 2024

Is Israel losing, and Hamas winning, in Gaza?

It’s been nine weeks since Israel began its genocide in Gaza to wipe out the “animals” they call Hamas. Yet we hear from the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) itself that only 15 per cent of the Hamas so far has been cleaned up. They also admit that it could take the entire 2024 to fulfil their objective

We are further told by Israel’s military how amazed they are at the scale of Hamas’ strength. That they have a de facto terror army stationed 50 minutes away from Tel Aviv, owning hundreds of thousands of weapons, including advanced rocket launchers, strike drones, explosive charges in various sizes, etc.etc. 

The instance of Beit Hanoun in Northern Gaza is cited where after weeks of clean-up operations, Hamas terrorists are still showing up with weapons: And Beit Hanoun is small and local and isn’t the location where Hamas is at its strongest. 

We now have the official statement from Israel that since Hamas’ attack on October 7, some 1,593 Israeli soldiers have been wounded: This came after refusing for weeks to share the numbers with the public or media. Israeli newspaper Haaretz has done its own investigation and reported that there is a considerable gap between the government’s data and real figures. The hospital’s data shows twice as much numbers. Further, Israel is not sharing the number of its dead soldiers. 

All this is eerily similar to the Tet Offensive of 1968 in Vietnam: It destroyed much of Vietnamese revolutionaries’ underground political and military infrastructure they had built patiently for years. Yet by staging simultaneous attacks on more than 100 targets across the country on a single day, the lightly armed local guerrillas shattered the illusion of victory which the US was propagating to its citizens. The Americans realized thousands of men they were losing to a cause in a faraway land was not winnable. 

Henry Kissinger’s famous lament in 1969 is instructive: “We fought a military war; our opponents fought a political one. We sought physical attrition; our opponents aimed for our psychological exhaustion. In the process we lost sight of one of the cardinal maxims of guerrilla war: The guerrilla wins if he does not lose. The conventional army loses if it does not win.”

Such sentiments are being echoed by none other than the US defense secretary Lloyd Austin. He now has said that Israel’s attacks killing thousands of Palestinians risks driving “them (civilians) into the arms of the enemy (Hamas)…a tactical victory with a strategic defeat.”

North Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh was a great admirer of American revolutionary Thomas Paine who believed that you could lose most battles but still win the war. 

Israel so far has appeared unwilling to respond beyond devastating military attacks. But if Hamas was to manage just one attack in the heart of Israel, a dispirited citizenry could take down the resolve of Benjamin Netanyahu in an instant. Israel has ceased caring about Palestinian children, it could come back awashed in hatred and blow themselves up in the heart of Israel. It would reduce Israeli security to a mere illusion. 

As it is, people are staying away from restaurants and public gatherings; credit card records suggests consumption has fallen by a third; spending on leisure and entertainment has sunk by 70%. Tourism, the flagship of Israeli economy, is frozen, flights are being cancelled. The tech lobby is claiming one tenth of its workforce among the 360,000 reservists have been mobilised. Construction work is paralysed because Palestinian workforce in the West Bank has been quarantined. What do you think is happening to Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which is backbone of Israeli economy? 

And amidst all this, we have the word of IDF, no less, that entire 2024 could go towards eliminating the Hamas. How impossible it would be for Israel to be anything other than a pariah state? How long do you think the United States could stand by with Israel on mere word-play? And without the US funds, could Israel really withstand the encircling Arab sharks who have smelt blood in the pool? And what happens if one fine day Israel is forced to negotiate with Hamas —it has happened in history that those termed terrorist bodies, like ANC or Taliban, have ended up taking over a country. 

It’s becoming so clear now that Hamas was prepared to pay the big price to isolate Israel which had begun to forge diplomatic ties with neighbouring Arabs; Israel was being positioned as a trade hub between Asia and Europe etc, etc. It’s now been over in an instant, as if Hamas has a veto power over what Israel-US was hoping to achieve in the region. 

Initially it was said that the Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar has failed in two of his major war plans: One, forcing Hezbollah and other Arabs’ hands to join the war; and two, causing a rebellion among the Palestinians in the West Bank. But now that the IDF admits it could go on past 2024, there is no guarantee it won’t come true. 

Analysts indeed are today marvelling at Hamas’ bold vision. They had realized the status quo was bringing a slow death to the Palestinian movement. Hamas wasn’t looking for just the municipal governance of Gaza, as Palestinian Authority (PA) was doing in the West Bank: It looked for a renaissance of national resistance. 

All this could have a transformative effect on West Bank itself where Palestinians are being arrested, killed, displaced and state-sponsored settlers are scaling up attacks. It would strengthen Fatah to mirror-image Hamas and weaken the Palestinian Authority (PA) which has been propped up by Israel, and the US. 

If anything Israel is ignoring historical lessons from its own patron, the United States. The US military didn’t have clear wins in Lebanon, Somalia, Haiti etc. Post 9/11, the ones against Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria were serious efforts yet despite losing thousands of US soldiers, they didn’t end as victories. It’s quite possible that Gaza could be the first such defeat in Israel’s impressive military history. It would not just be catastrophic for Israel but also pretty damaging for the United States. 

Israel has always wanted to reduce the Palestinian population between the River and the Sea (between Jordan River and Mediterranean Sea). But if you ignore history, it could come back to bite you. The longer this war goes, Israel would be that extra down in the whirlpool. Hamas have paid their dues in Palestinian blood–how far is Israel’s turn? 

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