Political assessment for the Central Committee, Sept. 7, 2014
The war against the Gaza Strip lasted 52 days and ended as it had begun: the siege on the Strip continues, and both Israel and Hamas declared they had won, though in fact neither achieved victory. Like previous rounds in this destructive war, the people pay the price, particularly the Palestinian people who lost more than 2,000 lives, half of them civilians, as well as tens of thousands wounded and hundreds of thousands made homeless.
It is impossible to determine who won and who lost because the two sides cannot be compared. On one side, a developed country whose citizens enjoy a GDP of some $30,000 per capita, compared with $3,000 in Gaza; and an army using the most advanced technologies and a budget of $17 billion, compared with an organization armed with primitive weapons and a budget of just a few million dollars. Thus the battle is not between equals and the results are known in advance.
So the question is why Israel failed to bring down Hamas. The answer is simple: Israel had no intention of bringing down Hamas, because Israel has no alternative to the Hamas regime, and does not want to reoccupy the Gaza Strip.
Right from the beginning of the war, the Hamas regime was under no threat. This raises the question – why did Hamas continue to rain rockets onto Israel for so long, despite the terrible price Gazans paid in life, property and infrastructure? According to the Israeli defense minister, Israel poured $2 billion into the war effort and caused some $5 billion of damage.
The answer to this riddle can be found in the two sides’ conflicting aims. Hamas aimed to raise the siege on the Strip, just as it had aimed in the previous two wars. Israel, on the other hand, wanted to throttle the Strip and thus cause Hamas to lay down its weapons. The two sides had no choice but to wage a war of attrition – until one side succeeded in wearing down the other.
Gaza: between Qatar and Saudi Arabia
The war on Gaza cannot be understood without looking at events in the Arab world. For the first time, two clear axes have developed: one including Egypt and Saudi Arabia, the other including Qatar and Turkey. In the past, Hamas relied on the dissident bloc represented by Iran, Syria and the Hezbollah in Lebanon, but the Arab Spring reshuffled the deck and created a new reality. The old regimes collapsed, states became arenas of civil war and crumbled, and new axes arose in which the Gulf States play a central role. The Arab Spring caused a split between Saudi Arabia and Qatar within the Gulf Cooperation Council. This is a fundamental disagreement over how to address the Arab Spring, and all attempts to bridge their differences have failed. Saudi Arabia was adamantly opposed to the uprising of January 25 which brought down Mubarak’s regime in Egypt, but Qatar supported the Muslim Brotherhood which took over the regime in democratic elections. The disagreement is over the best way to douse the fires of revolution among the Arab peoples who are demanding democracy, bread and freedom.
Qatar believes the time of the old regimes embodied by dictatorships like Mubarak’s is over. But it does not seek Western-style democracy. It intends to halt the democratic uprising among the young revolutionaries who aim for a modern form of government, by assisting the Muslim Brotherhood in “democratically” taking over the revolution. Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, sees political Islam – particularly the version espoused by the Muslim Brotherhood – as a direct threat to its monarchist dictatorship, so much so that Egypt’s Salafi party Al-Nour (identified with Saudi Arabia) supported the military coup which brought down the Islamic president, Mohamed Morsi.
This is the background to the latest war on Gaza, in which Hamas was supported by Qatar and Turkey while Israel stood with Saudi Arabia and Egypt. This situation meant the sides could not reach any agreement and thus the war raged for such a long time despite all efforts to achieve a ceasefire. Egypt proposed a ceasefire followed immediately by talks towards an agreement between Israel and Hamas, while Qatar insisted any ceasefire would depend on the Gaza siege being lifted, the building of a sea port in the Strip, and the release of prisoners who had already been released in the Gilad Shalit deal and subsequently recaptured. The Egyptians also insisted that the Palestinians be represented by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and refused to talk with Khaled Mashal, head of Hamas’ politburo in Qatar.
The pretense of Palestinian unity
The war on Gaza also exposed the opportunistic