But dealing a defeat is not the same as getting a victory. Yesterday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire, with the US significantly failing to veto it. Also, president-elect Barack Obama has voiced concern about the number of casualties -- a statement that, for an American president-elect, would be considered by some as verging on antisemitism. This comes as a diplomatic blow for Israel, despite the considerable effort invested by Zionism in the propaganda arena. Zionists have fielded an impressive army of spokespeople, speechwriters, pundits and bloggers who have spent the last two weeks splitting hairs over the definition of "disproportionate" (when in fact, disproportionality is now an official Israeli policy).
But the public does not pay much attention to those tireless (and tiresome, and tire all) efforts. As Gideon Lichfield has noted:
Six hundred Palestinians dead versus nine Israelis, as of today's figures: There's just no way to make that proportion look pretty. Retired generals can drone on all they like about what "proportionality" really means in the laws of war, ambassadors can helpfully point out that many more Germans were killed than British in the Second World War, but these are theoretical notions; on television, what looks bad looks bad.
When the dust settles (not a short-term scenario, admittedly, given the enormous amount of dust lifted), Israel will have to negotiate with Hamas. This prospect drives some Zionists crazy: Hamas is committed to the destruction (obliteration or annihilation in other renderings) of Israel! As one of our readers asked: Have you read the Hamas Charter?
Well, yes, I've read it. I tend to despise people who don't know how to write, and I despise more the people who actually quote the pathetic hoax The Protocols of the Elders of Zion (itself terribly written), and even more those who call for obliterations. I also believe, however, that, with regard to Hamas, there exist certain glasses that are half-full, despite the stubborness of some in seeing them as (pardon the oxymoron) fully empty.
Hamas has proved it is capable of holding a truce. The period starting from June 2008 was marked by a sharp decrease in the number of imprecise rockets lobbed at southwestern Israel. The following chart (from The Huffington Post via Jews sans Frontières, and based on data from Israeli diplomatic sources) makes this quite clear:
These are the rockets fired at Israel in 2008. The truce started in June, in the context of an average of 200 rockets per month in the January-May period. By July the number had decreased to 1 rocket in the whole month, which was repeated in September and October; August was slightly worse with 8 rockets. While not perfect, this is a huge improvement. Also, the 11 rockets launched in those 4 months were fired by other organizations than Hamas: Islamic Jihad, for instance. One could expect Israel to understand these exceptions, given that the country often claims it can't control its own settlers.
The truce was undermined by Israel, not by Hamas, by imposing a crippling blockade on the Strip. And it was breached by Israel, not by Hamas, when the IDF killed 6 Hamas members in early November. It is undeniable that Hamas did more than its part to uphold the truce.
Does Hamas promise to destroy Israel in its charter? Yes it does. Do clerics in Hamas-controlled Gaza call for horrible things done on Israel and the Jews? Yes they do. But actual actions speak louder. And, moreover, it's just as easy to build an impressive case against Israel by examining its own record when it comes to charters and statements.
Take, for instance, Likud, the party that was leading the polls when the current war started. The Likud party's platform expressly rejects the idea of a Palestinian state, and is adamant that the settlers must stay put.
The Likud will continue to strengthen and develop these communities [i.e. settlements in Judea and Samaria] and will prevent their uprooting. (...)
The Government of Israel flatly rejects the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan river.
The Palestinians can run their lives freely in the framework of self-rule, but not as an independent and sovereign state. Thus, for example, in matters of foreign affairs, security, immigration and ecology, their activity shall be limited in accordance with imperatives of Israel's existence, security and national needs.
And its charter claims sovereignty over the whole Land of Israel, which (as different from the State of Israel) includes Judea and Samaria. The charter calls for:
Preserving the right of the Jewish Nation to the Land of Israel as an eternal, inalienable right; perseverance in the settlement and development of all parts of the Land of Israel; implementation of the State's sovereignty on them.
MK Uzi Landau confirmed this when he declared:
I am against the establishment of a Palestinian state and everything must be done to prevent it.
As for Jewish clerics, they have advocated a genocide in Gaza in response to the harmless rockets:
"If they don't stop after we kill 100, then we must kill a thousand," said Shmuel Eliyahu. "And if they do not stop after 1,000 then we must kill 10,000. If they still don't stop we must kill 100,000, even a million. Whatever it takes to make them stop."
Joining the verbal warfare are Likud politicians such as Moshe Feiglin, currently running for the Knesset on the party's ticket:
Why should non-Jews have a say in the policy of a Jewish state? (...) For two thousand years, Jews dreamed of a Jewish state, not a democratic state. Democracy should serve the values of the state, not destroy them. You can’t teach a monkey to speak and you can’t teach an Arab to be democratic. You’re dealing with a culture of thieves and robbers. Muhammad, their prophet, was a robber and a killer and a liar. The Arab destroys everything he touches.
So a case could be made that Palestinians have no one to talk to, no partner for peace. And they have all the right in the world to refuse to negotiate until:
- The Likud is illegalized, or its charter and platform modified so that they'll accomodate the possibility of a Palestinian state.
- Incitement by rabbis and politicians is stopped.
- Feiglin is expelled from the Likud, and preferably jailed.
Of course, Israel supporters wil ask me to see the half-full glass: Likud's platform notwithstanding, the party did not create any trouble when timid steps toward Palestinian statehood were taken; and Eliyahu and Feiglin's words have not influenced mainstream politics. Fine; I ask them to display a similar pragmatic approach with regard to Hamas.
Israelo-Palestinian negotiations that will include (either directly or indirectly) both the Likud and Hamas are inevitable. Dismissing the latter as a group one can't negotiate with because of its charter or statements is an instance not only of stubborn disingenuousness, but also of a pot calling a kettle black.