The cease-fire is holding between Hamas and Israel. What is considered normal daily routine for Arabs and Israelis have begun again. The winners, losers, in general the “fall-out” from the latest fighting has begun. And simple old truths remain, while dramatic changes within the region have occurred.
Israel ‘lost’. This author places the word lost in quotation, because in any conflict with the Arabs they lose. This is not a surprise. What is interesting is how the Western media continue to comment and analyze the obvious. So it is interesting that the Economist would follow suit and make the title statement “old dawn” and lament that Israel and won the military campaign and lost the political one. See article: http://www.economist.com/blogs/pomegranate/2012/11/after-ceasefire?fsrc=nlw%7Cnewe%7C11-23-2012%7C4228644%7C35801140%7C
This has always been the case. Anytime in the past ten years, one may argue twenty years, that Israel has mounted incursions into Gaza (we all should remember 2009) the IDF is successful but public opinion in Europe and on most North American news and print media show Palestinian victims, so it is Hamas or the Palestinian Authority that win a political victory.
In a good piece Geoffrey Goldberg wrote this past week he gave the Hamas-Israel conflict in the context of a Cold War that occasionally become “hot”. This as good a reference point for Americans. But with domestic politics as main headlines and the economy the main concern for so many people, this latest conflict in Israel is soon to be forgotten.
What should not be forgotten is the precarious situation that Israel now faces. Each of its borders are no longer secure. The Arab states that experienced the so-called Arab Spring such as Egypt, that played such an important role in creating the cease-fire agreement, is a country now run by the Muslim Brotherhood. A group largely sympathetic to Hamas. The PA within the West Bank has been completely sidelined. Syria is still fighting its civil war, Lebanon has been and continues to be fought over by all, while Jordan is facing its own-yet largely ignored by Western press-domestic problems. The common thread in each nation is the rise of Islamist groups and the shadow of Iranian influence is evident.
The hope and enthusiasm that much of Europe and the U.S. shared with newly declared Arab nations during the Arab Spring is no more. The Hamas-Israel war of attrition has shed light on a new reality in the Middle East. The Arab Spring is no more. It is now an Arab Winter.
For those of you not listening or reading the news, Operation Pillar of Defense has entered its sixth day. This is the current fighting taking place not in Syria but in Gaza between Hamas and Israel.
In a good analysis BICOM (British Israeli Communications & Research Centre) one sentence stood out, “Both sides want to win and, more importantly, neither side wants to come across as being seen as the losing party.”
That is the difference now. The Western press may increasingly show shelled buildings in Gaza City and wounded and displaced families and largely ignore the same pictures from Israeli towns across the border; unlike the early 2000s and previous incursions by IDF into Gaza before the disengagement in 2005, a cease-fire will be much harder to obtain.
Hama’s role within Palestinian society has strengthened while its rivals in the West Bank has weakened. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu no longer has “friendly” Egypt to contain Hamas actions and for truth’s sake, Netanyahu ideologically would like Hamas to be destroyed.
So, while there is talk for a cease-fire, both sides should prepare for a long campaign. And this applies to the Palestinian and Israeli citizens whose homes and streets and stores and playgrounds are in the cross hairs.
Ground war would be too expensive and costly in terms of lives lost and equipment. There are too many uncontrollable variables such as time and external forces (Arab neighbors) supplying Hamas.
Domestic support is favorable towards Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. In two or three months time this may not be the case.
The United States and other ‘friendly’ European nations i.e. United Kingdom are publically supportive, but this is only so far as Israel has been able to show to a better degree now than in previous “incursions” how they are the victim and deserve the right to defend themselves. This public rhetoric of support and good will expressed in the UN and in world capitals will only remain if Israel is seen not as the aggressor.
Finally, Benjamin Netanyahu is a realist in both the classical sense of the term as well as the practical sense. He will not sacrifice his personal or his party’s or his country’s long-term strategy for a short-term hope of getting rid of Hamas terrorists. But this is for a longer analysis and another post.
- Deficit summit
Congratulations. If I may be bold and offer some advice.
1. Meet with Speaker Boehner. Just the two of you figure out the deficit compromise. The positions are not different than before. Meet soon. In doing so, you will not have to deal with a new congress with egos and personal agendas. You also will not have to deal with the new lame duck Congress with no incentive to work. You can make true on your campaign stump speeches and election night victory speech on this issue. Also, you can get to Boehner and co-opt him, turning him (most unwillingly) into an ally. In the process you:
Neutralize the Tea Party who still can (could) push and pull Boehner in the closed door caucus and make compromise nearly impossible (we all remember summer 2011). Also being the first to make the move puts the opposition off balance. You control the agenda and news cycle. A re-elected president who is seen as trying to solve the finances before the December fiscal “cliff” gets more support than a politician or Party that opposes.
As Bill O’Reilly said on Fox News, Americans like images better than words.
2. Use Mitt Romney. Find a place in the administration or at the very least ally him to the administration in some meaningful, valuable, and public way. Yes, there is a bit of The West Wing fiction to this idea, but putting two smart men in the same room to solve problems…
3.Israel: First official visit either in January 2013 or even nicer as a Hanukah surprise, go to Israel and visit Prime Minister Netanhayu before Christmas. You neutralize a persistent claim by conservatives, and alleged during the campaign, that you don’t care about Israel. Show that friends can disagree and still be friends (even if you hold a grudge that Mr. Netanhayu wanted your opponent to win) and in doing so reaffirm American-Israeli special and strategic relationship (not to mention reaffirm American jewish support). In doing this you allow Netanyahu to host you on his home turf and can discuss Iran and Syria face to face. Again, what is the harm with two smart men in the same room…
Anyway, Congrats again.
Living in Europe, I am seven to ten hours ahead of the U.S. depending upon the time zone of course.
What this means is that I will not see live the presidential debate between President Obama and Mitt Romney.
There has been too much written about this, in equal parts discouraging and optimistic. Ever since Ronald Reagan quipped at President Carter and four years later at Water Mondale, ever presidential debate has searched for a magic moment. The one-line retort that sunk the opposition or better yet the utter failure by the candidate in question to perform. Various people may remember specifics about Bush 41 and Bill Clinton and I am confident many more people remember the debates between Bush 43 and Gore and later John Kerry, though in the former instance I wonder if SNL should be given credit, since it most likely is their parody the people actually recall.
Honestly, I doubt there will be a clear winner tonight. I may be wrong. The advisors from both candidates will “spin” the evening regardless of the result. It is the nature of debates. Period.
I wish both of them well. Mr. Romney does need this a bit more, if one pays attention to, or more appropriately puts weight in polls. However, I think the poll numbers like the preparation and debate about this debate underline a crucial point of American politics post-Reagan-Bush 43. So much anticipation and the inevitable restless preparation destroys any genuine moment on stage. So what the viewer, if he or she actually watches, is another scripted reality show.
Who will be the winner? The better question is why does the American people become every four years the loser?
When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke before the United Nations on Thursday September 27, 2012 and in a dramatic moment of showmanship he displayed a picture of a bomb and drew a red line, the ghost of Winston Churchill must have smiled.
For Mr. Netanyahu the context of his message, his words, even his body language was not new. As Churchill warned his nation and those throughout Europe who did listen about German remilitarization and the intention of Hitler, so Netanyahu is doing to his own nation, his close ally the United States, and those in the world who wish to listen.
A red line is necessary. Are we listening?
On the War in Afghanistan, then candidate Romney in 2008 supported the Bush doctrine introduced after military operations began in Afghanistan against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Using language that satisfied his Party’s conservative view on national security and neoconservatives firm attitude towards terror and those who would attack America; American military response. And Romney offered his opinion that military and nonmilitary resources should be used in an effort with other allied nations to assist the Arab world toward modernity and moderation.  As to on-going American involvement in Afghanistan Romney in both 2008 and 2012 campaigns supports U.S. military commanders decisions but also stresses that the responsibility lies with the Afghanis.
“I want those troops to come home based upon not politics, not based upon economics, but instead based upon the conditions on the ground determined by the generals … But I also think we have learned that our troops should not go off and try to fight a war of independence for another nation. Only the Afghanis can win Afghanistan’s independence from the Taliban.” 
This does contradict his 2008 stated opposition to bringing American troops home based upon economics,
“There will be some who argue it’s too expensive now, we’ve got to bring the troops home right now, or others will say, politically we need to make one decision or another … You don’t make a decision about our involvement in a conflict based on dollars and cents alone or certainly not with regards to politics.” 
But supports his remarks in a June 14, 2011 debate when he shocked many party insiders, “It’s time for us to bring our troops home as soon as we possibly can — as soon as our generals think it’s OK,” Romney said. “One lesson we’ve learned in Afghanistan is that Americans cannot fight another nation’s war of independence.”
Romney’s position on America’s relationship with Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan has been rather consistent since his first campaign. In July 2007, Romney had said, “In places like Pakistan America needs to work not just on a military front.” In support of his point, he would send in his proposed ‘Special Partnership Force’, a team of Central Intelligence Agency agents and Army special forces to work with the local population to aid in military support, gun supplies, and “to help make sure that they have the rule of law, water projects, bridges built.”  However, Romney has also offered contradictions though within the political perimeters of campaigning.
Romney criticized then-candidate Barack Obama in 2007 for stating that, as President, he [Obama] would launch military strikes against ‘high-value terrorist targets’ in Pakistan, even without the Pakistani government’s approval.  Romney had viewed this as arrogance. In 2011, after such a strike resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden, Romney said that, if he had been President, he would have done “exactly the same thing.”  This kind of opinion flexibility so-to-speak is fine as a candidate but more difficult when in a position of power. Another example is from his 2012 foreign policy paper entitled An American Century, Romney claims that the Obama administration is “undermining allies (p.3) only later to affirm that a Romney administration would “reassure allies” (p.13) while there is in fact very little clarification of who those allies are. Moreover, the dubious language regarding Pakistan on page 31-32 is quite stark,
It is in the interests of all three nations to see that Afghanistan and the Afghanistan/ Pakistan border region are rid of the Taliban and other insurgent groups…. Pakistan should understand that any connection between insurgent forces and Pakistan’s security and intelligence forces must be severed. The United States enjoys significant leverage over both of these nations. We should not be shy about using it. 
In a summer 2007 Foreign Affairs article, Romney highlighted his initiative, the aforementioned Partnership for Prosperity and Progress supporting moderate Muslims in secular education, modern financial and economic policies advocating democracy promotion.  This idea from his 2008 campaign in fact an extension of one of several points mentioned by President George W. Bush as part of the Global War on Terror; helping to defeat radical and violent Islam.  Furthermore, since the Arab Spring began the official policy of the United States under the Obama administration has also touched upon these exact themes with democracy promotion and economic support to new democracies such as Egypt and Tunisia.