Mit einem gewissen, etwas zynischen Lächeln verfolge ich, wie die deutschen Medien versuchen, ihr Problem mit der Bundeskanzlerin zu umschiffen. Sie nehmen ihr ihre Unterstützung für die israelische Abschreckungsmaßnahme übel, können das aber nicht direkt sagen. Noch ein Eiertanz.
Inzwischen lassen sich weiterhin interessante englischsprachige Texte finden. Zwei davon möchte ich verlinken. Eine nüchterne Beschreibung der Quadratur des Kreises, vor und in welcher die israelische Regierung und Gesellschaft stehen, – dafür hat Benny Morris, ein bekannter israelischer Historiker, in der New York Times gesorgt (Link). Er beschließt so:
What is common to these specific threats is their unconventionality. Between 1948 and 1982 Israel coped relatively well with the threat from conventional Arab armies. Indeed, it repeatedly trounced them. But Iran’s nuclear threat, the rise of organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah that operate from across international borders and from the midst of dense civilian populations, and Israeli Arabs’ growing disaffection with the state and their identification with its enemies, offer a completely different set of challenges. And they are challenges that Israel’s leaders and public, bound by Western democratic and liberal norms of behavior, appear to find particularly difficult to counter.
Israel’s sense of the walls closing in on it has this past week led to one violent reaction. Given the new realities, it would not be surprising if more powerful explosions were to follow.
Erstaunlich ähnlich sieht ein anderer Autor die Lage, das ist Bret Stephens, ein erfahrener Journalist, diesmal beim Wall Street Journal (Link). Ich bringe den Text sicherheitshalber komplett:
If only it were a parable, the endless confrontation between Israel and its enemies would be the case of the hedgehog and the fox. The fox, said the Greek poet Archilochus, knows many things, while the hedgehog knows one big thing.
Once upon a time — say, from modern Israel’s first stages in the early 20th century until the 1973 Yom Kippur War — it was the Jews who played the role of the hedgehog. Zionism, for all of its factions and facets, revolved around the straightforward idea of getting and keeping a state. Doing so required land, people and arms, the more of each the better. Only secondarily was it about legitimacy, peace, economic growth, cost-benefit ratios or any other, more delicate, ingredients in the overall makeup of modern statecraft.
This was a heroic period in the movement’s history, not because it was without folly, setback or tragedy, but because Zionism was able to achieve most of its historic objectives against large odds. It was helped along by enemies who, implacable though they were in their hatred of the “Zionist entity,” were beset by their own internal power struggles. To describe the Arab states of this period as “foxes” is a stretch, since they tended to be incompetent. But it was a fox-like form of incompetence, in that the Arabs were trying their hand at many things.
Today, however, it is Israel that has assumed the role of the fox. It defeated the second intifada in 2005 and then promptly withdrew its settlements and soldiers from Gaza. It bombarded Lebanon for 34 days in 2006 not for the bald sake of victory (a word that appears to have been banished from the Western military lexicon), but for a much more ambiguous goal of “quiet.” Israel pursues an identical aim in its current conflict against Hamas, where it previously attempted to walk the fine line between squeezing Gaza economically without quite prompting a humanitarian crisis.
All this fine-tuning of policy is in some ways natural to any state that has achieved basic national objectives and must balance competing domestic and international interests. But Israel’s problem is that it hasn’t yet fully achieved its national objectives. Its borders remain subject to revision. Its claim to statehood is denied by roughly a third of the world’s governments. The United States continues to maintain its embassy in Tel Aviv, notwithstanding countless congressional resolutions.
By contrast, it is Israel’s enemies who have become the hedgehog, none more so than Hamas. Since winning parliamentary elections in 2006, Hamas has delivered a diet of economic ruin to the Palestinian people. In the run-up to the current fighting, Hamas was roundly warned — by Israel, by the Egyptians, even by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas — not to renew its rocket barrages against southern Israel.
But Hamas knows one big thing, which it labels “resistance” or, for Western audiences, “ending the occupation.” Just what that means was made clear by Palestinian cleric Muhsen Abu ‘Ita in a televised interview. “The annihilation of the Jews here in Palestine,” he said, “is one of the most splendid blessings for Palestine.”
This kind of genocidal incitement is more than idle ranting: Gigantic ambitions sustain political movements through hard times. Hamas is also sustained by the insight that Israel’s considerable military capabilities are unlikely to be matched by political will. It believes that whatever attacks come will be tempered by a host of humanitarian and diplomatic considerations. It believes that Israel wants to avoid a public relations debacle (so Hamas will do everything it can to engineer or fabricate one). It believes that the weight of international sympathy will be on its side. It believes, too, that the last thing Israel wants is to reoccupy Gaza, with all the costs and complications that entails.
Hamas believes, in short, that while Israel will do many things, and do them well, it will not do the main thing. And that, in turn, means that as Israel exhausts its target list, as eventually it will, the storm will pass. Then the green flag of the movement will fly defiantly over the tallest building left standing, its prestige hugely boosted — and Israel’s commensurately diminished — throughout the Muslim world.
Does all this also mean that Israel’s attacks amount to a fool’s errand? Outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert likes to point out that no Hezbollah rockets have fallen on Israeli soil since August 2006 — never mind that Hezbollah is both politically and militarily more powerful today than it was before the war. A similar outcome in Gaza would be equally disastrous.
This is not a counsel of restraint, of which Israel has shown more than enough through years of provocation. It is merely to point out that no ingenious conceit can disguise the fact that war offers no outcome other than victory or defeat. This is one big thing that Hamas understands, and that Israel must as well. The fox cannot beat the hedgehog. But the bigger hedgehog can — and in this case must — defeat the smaller one.