Dr. Ian Lustick
Professor of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania
- Author of Trapped in the War on Terror
- Consultant on Middle East affairs and national security for every White House administration since President Carter
“By evacuating Gaza while refusing to negotiate with Palestinians about the terms or aftermath of the evacuation, Israel created a Hamastan. The idea was to isolate Hamas via a blockade of Gaza while periodically punishing it to enforce calm along Israel’s borders. But the sheer desire for revenge and anti-Israel action among the immiserated masses of Gaza and the revolution in Egypt have changed the game.
“Israeli leaders, including both Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak, have shown some signs of understanding that a major ground operation in Gaza would risk transforming Israel’s relationship with Cairo into the country’s most serious national-security challenge. Yet the temptations of political gain — Israeli elections are scheduled for January — and typical over-confidence in the efficacy of air-power to ‘shock and awe’ civilian populations into submission, have led to the current Gaza war.
“Palestinian leaders in Gaza know Israel wants neither to occupy the strip nor destroy Hamas; they are thus likely to welcome an Israeli invasion as a route to enmesh Egypt and other Muslim countries more deeply in their struggle, identify Palestinians fighting Israeli tanks with Syrians fighting Syrian tanks.”
“By voicing support for Israel’s right to defend itself President Obama gets credit for standing by Israel from Israel’s friends in the U.S. But he is also telling Netanyahu that the United States will not save him from the dilemma he faces, having launched this war. If Israel continues the air war it will not deter Hamas, but will severely damage Israel’s reputation by killing hundreds of innocent civilians. If the Israeli military is ordered to invade Gaza, it will inflict even bigger damage, and suffer significant casualties, affording Hamas with invaluable “photo-ops” of a victory. Meanwhile, the all important relationship of peace on Israel’s border with Egypt will be gravely threatened. Washington is using this dilemma, implicitly but effectively, to teach the Israeli government it must find a different way forward.”