President Trump’s policies to contain Iran and de-internationalize the Arab-Israeli conflict combined with Israeli technological superiority and European’s growing fear of Islam give Hamas something to think about
The Jewish-Arab conflict in the Holy Land has undergone several phases in its 150-year old history. Between the 1880s and 1948 it was substantially tribal and even clannish. It was won by the Jews because they were behaving (substantially) as one big tribe or clan, while the Arabs had more loyalty to their clans then to the common cause of defeating the Jews.
Between the years of 1948 and 1967, the conflict was a typically regional one, with the new state of Israel pitting itself against the equally new states of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria. Israel won that phase because while neither side had major international sponsors, Israel leveraged rich and influential Diaspora Jews and the still very strong feelings of guilt over the Holocaust in Western Europe to build a better funded and better equipped military force. It also helped, yet again, that Israel acted with unity of purpose while the Arab states did not.
The Israeli victory in the 1967 Six Day war internationalized the conflict and opened a new phase, that of the Cold War. In this phase, Israel and the Arab states of Egypt and Syria acted as client states for the US and the USSR, respectively. Jordan has substantially dropped out of the conflict, but a new force emerged; the Palestinians. This new force is not independent of the Cold War narrative because it was from its very inception a KGB operation. Never having the resources to match America’s power in major weapon systems, the Soviet Union developed a highly successful methodology for fomenting local uprisings against American-supported regimes or states. This approach worked well from Angola to Cuba and yes, the Middle East was no exception.
It was the Soviets who trained Arabs in the black art of terrorism and it was they who gave them their name and created the myth of the Palestinian indigenous identity. The Soviets then used their predominance in the UN to push the Palestinian narrative and engaged in a highly successful public relations campaign whose purpose was to reverse the roles of David and Goliath in the world’s perception of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Prior to 1967, Israel was seen as the underdog. With the 1967 victory, it was an underdog that won over the bully, the David that slew Goliath. For a few years, this image made many a European boy and girl fall in love with Israel and come volunteer at a kibbutz. However, the Arab uprising in the so-called “occupied territories” fomented and supported by the USSR required Israel to respond casting it as the villain. All of a sudden, Israeli troops were seen not in tanks repelling Arab armies, but in civilian homes and check points “oppressing” a “peaceful” civilian population.
This was a huge victory for the Arabs and it makes the outcome of the Cold War phase of the conflict lasting from 1967 to the fall of the USSR in 1990 a substantial draw. While Israel won all the major military battles in the 1973 Yom Kippur War and in the 1982 First Lebanon War, it lost the public relations war and was forced in to an era of internal self-doubt culminating in the ruinous Oslo accords that established the Palestinian authority. Israel also gave up its hard-won security buffer zone in Southern Lebanon, allowing the Hezbollah to take it over and establish in it a base of military operations against Israel.
Nevertheless, Israel’s conciliatory actions towards the Arabs in return for which it received nothing but terror and rocket attacks have begun eroding the Arab position as the favorites of the wealthy liberal Western elites. The massive repatriation of Soviet Jews coupled with lower taxation and regulatory regimes in Israel created an economic miracle that made Israel into the “Startup Nation” and the darling of the more conservative circles in the post-Cold War West. The victory in what I am going to call after Francis Fukuyama the “End of History” period of 1990 – 2001 goes to Israel, on points. During that time, Israel suffered horrible terror attacks and the subsequent loss of many civilian lives, but it established itself as a technology superpower and for the first time in its existence built a thriving economy.
Then came 9/11 and the American response to it that made Iran into a regional superpower and flooded Europe with Arab and other Muslim migrants. Iranian flunkies Hamas and Hezbollah began rocketing peaceful Israeli towns and villages and cities, though neither Gaza nor Lebanon had a single Israeli soldier on their territory, nor did they have any territorial disputes with Israel. As European TV screens filled with images of screaming Israeli children running to shelters with sirens blaring, the streets of Europe were filled with murderous, rapist, literally dirty Arabs. One could almost see the wheels turning in many a young Euro-liberal’s head; who is the David and who the Goliath here after all?
The shift in public opinion in Israel’s favor was offset for a number of years by president Obama’s ruinously one-sided Middle East policies. His hatred of Israel and love for her enemies, especially Iran, led him to implement policies that continued the destabilization of the region that had begun under his predecessor G.W. Bush. Obama allowed the Syrian civil war to escalate and he averted his gaze as Iran was pumping the Arabs on Israel’s southern and northern borders with ever more advanced rocketry and while it continued developing a nuclear arsenal.
President Trump’s reversal of Obama’s policies and his staunch support for Israel and Israeli actions against the Iranian encroachment in Syria have begun stabilizing the region while his support for Saudi Arabia and its anti-Qatar actions have completed the pincer movement against Iran and her interests. This left the Hamas in Gaza with no options, but weekly zombie attacks on Israel’s border that they dubbed the “March of Return”, meaning return to what they see as their lands in Israel-proper or pre-1967 Israel, the Israel that is recognized by the entire international community with the exception of Iran.
But something has changed. The lack of European public interest and support as well as Israel being so clearly in the right to defend its recognized international border meant that Israel could simply shoot any would be intruders dead. Rocket fire from Gaza was substantially ineffective due to interceptions by the Iron Dome system and the Israeli retaliation was brutally accurate and once again uncondemned by public opinion. Finally, Qatari money, the lifeblood of Gaza, now came with different strings attached. Whereas under Obama they were Iranian strings pulled by the arch-arsonist Obama himself with the purpose of igniting conflict, the new Qatar, the one that was forced to bend the knee to Saudi Arabia, is using its money as an instrument of peace.
No longer can the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad play Egypt and Qatar off against each other. Both of these are now acting in unison, making sure that the Hamas understands that if they persist with carrying out the Iranian orders to harass Israel and destabilize the region, they would have to face Israeli wrath alone and unassisted. There is no longer any reason to send Arab youth to be shot by Israeli soldiers on the border; the cameras are running, but no one is buying the footage. Europeans have enough Arab zombies on their own streets, they don’t need to see them on their TV screens.
Israel, just a week ago, killed 36 Arabs in Gaza, most of them senior Islamic Jihad operatives. Not a single casualty was suffered by Israel and yet no one took the Islamic Jihad’s side in the exchange. The Hamas leadership understands that this same fate can befall them just as it befell their slightly more rabid brethren and they have much more to lose.
Nothing in the Middle East is certain and it is impossible to overestimate the potential for violence from radical Muslims. Things will get worse again, no doubt. But for now, Israel’s technological superiority, president Trump’s efforts to once again de-internationalize the Arab-Israeli conflict and to isolate Iran, and the growing European disdain for all things Islamic are combining to keep in check any Hamas dreams of making money through violence against Israel. They may just be beginning to find out that peace has more to offer after all.