Monday, February 26, 2024

On Winning and Losing

Reading and watching Israeli media one can sense, from all sides left-center-right, that the war is excruciatingly tough and, holds unpleasant surprises including the post-war status of Gaza and the West Bank. Conversely, reading and watching Arab media, you have a feel that the fighting is over, Hamas won the war, and Israel, in a post-war scenario, shall either self-destruct because of internal bickering or, the Israelis in a moment of unbearable despair would simply pack and go!

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Whilst critics in Israel are holding their guns -for the time being- leaving their scores to be settled after the war, the Arab world seems to have no plans for any post-war accountability. Why did Hamas order the Oct 7 attacks knowing full well the ultra-aggressive reaction of Israel against the civilian population in particular? Why did Egypt refuse to open the Rafah crossing in the early days of the air bombing campaign to give shelter -even temporarily- to hundreds of thousands of fleeing Gazans? Why did the West Bank not erupt in an Intifada that would have put additional pressure on Israel? Why did Lebanon abandon the UNSCR 1701 when the American armada arrived in the Eastern Mediterranean and when such resolution could have been of much use? Why did Hezbollah -who denied all military activity against Israel from the South of Lebanon to other Lebanese faction- allow the use of such ‘hot border’ by Islamists and fanatical Sunni militias? Why did Jordan become so insignificant except for Queen Rania’s rantings on TV? Why did Syria become so irrelevant despite its pro-Palestinian rhetoric and the competitive advantage of the Golan? 

Israel’s government, and chief amongst them the PM, will face a severe political reckoning after the war. It is anticipated that Netanyahu will end his mandate and his political career on the same day. Gallant too, will not survive the military and intelligence failures that transpired from Oct 7, 2023. The opposition would try to fill-in the seats of power with Gantz and Bennet appealing to center-right voters and Lapid and maybe Olmert, or Livni appealing to the left. Something’s gotta give and someone’s gotta go. You can almost rest assured that, post-Gaza, a political earthquake will impact both Israeli politics and policies towards the Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world. This tectonic event would usher either some ultra-conservative policies or more liberal ones. It would give birth to either a neo-isolationism within hard boundaries, or a softening of the stance towards Palestinians and the two-State solution. However, one can be confident that a leadership shakeup will take place.

On the Arabs’ side, almost assuredly, nothing will happen except that the lunatics will take over the asylum. Lebanon would officially be under Iranian dominion, with full US blessing, and Hezbollah will be put in charge of the State, from the presidency to gas resources and from the army to the banking system. In Gaza and the West Bank another, more radicalized version of the Hamas/ISIS movement might emerge, maybe a Brotherhood faction of some sort aligned with Turkey and financed by Qatar, again. This would forever bury the PLO’s nationalistic legacy. In Jordan nothing would change. The King will huff and puff and do the US’ bidding, whichever administration is in place. Egypt will sink deeper into a geopolitical irrelevancy and stay engulfed in a series of self-made economic disasters. In Syria, Assad would remain atop a decrepit nation and even enjoy some sympathy, now that his country is occupied, semi-permanently, by four armies: Russia, Iran, Turkey, and the US. The GCC would host the successive COP forums and the World Cup and Golf tournaments, sell fossil fuels, and diversify its economies.

They say failure is a teacher. Israel will surely learn few hard lessons from this war, but what would its enemies learn? That kidnapping civilians including women and children pays off. That irresponsible political decisions have zero accountability. That winning few foreign sympathizers on campuses but losing 15,000 of your own, is a winning strategy? What future or hope does this legacy leave for present and future generations unless, rewards are not on this earth!

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Winning and losing are rational, quantifiable, discernable terms. They are not relative definitions or interpretation of heavenly scriptures.

Socrates said “The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” 

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