Political Animal


November 16, 2012 11:21 AM Status Quo Minus in Middle East

By Ed Kilgore

I don’t regard myself as any sort of expert on the Middle East, so it’s impossible to ignore the escalation of hostilities between Israel and Hamas that could soon lead to Israeli ground excursions into Gaza, and/or a rupture of relations between Israel and Egypt. In terms of the impact on Israeli-Palestinian issues, Matthew Duss of TAP suggests any Israeli expansion of the conflict will just create an unfortunate shift in the balance of power among Palestinian factions:

[I]f the past is any guide, Hamas will still be there after the fighting has died down. After more rockets have been fired and bombs dropped, and more people have died, Israel will claim that “deterrence has been re-estalished,” and Hamas will declare victory by virtue of the fact that it had, once again, faced down the Zionists’ military might and survived. While Hamas remains officially committed to Israel’s destruction, its leaders have in the past enforced ceasefires with Israel, which has drawn the criticism of even more extreme factions like Islamic Jihad and Salafi-Jihadist groups, who consider Hamas too moderate. Indeed, if Hamas’ control of Gaza were significantly degraded, it’s most likely that these groups would rush to fill the void, which would be disastrous for all involved.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, on the other hand, may prove to be the most significant casualty of this episode. He was the biggest political loser of the last Gaza war, where the perception was that he supported the attack against his rivals. Abbas’s failure to achieve any tangible goods for the Palestinians, either through now-dead negotiations with Israel or through his half-hearted efforts to upgrade Palestine’s status at the U.N., make him more irrelevant by the day. It seems likely that this latest round of war will end with Israel’s most implacable enemy still in place, and its more moderate peace-partner even more weakened.

The 21st century has been one long downward spiral in Israeli-Palestinian relations, hasn’t it? When there’s change, it is rarely for the better.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.


  • Mimikatz on November 16, 2012 11:32 AM:

    What's that story about the scorpion and the animal carrying it across the river?

    Some people just seem destined to fight to the death. I just hope they don't take too many other people with them.

  • Gandalf on November 16, 2012 11:50 AM:

    Duss must be a simpleminded sucker. Abbas has kept his little piece of Palestine out of the conflict. No one is being killed or killing there and he's supposedly losing some kind of ground?

  • c u n d gulag on November 16, 2012 11:55 AM:

    And Israel can't understand the irony of why people like me see the continuing incursion of Jewish settlers into the West Bank and Gaza, and ensuing military action that occurs there in support of them, and think of it as a Jewish quest for "Lebensraum."

    There's an old saying, "You become what you hate and fear."
    The Israeli's too often act like Nazi's.
    And our Conservatives too often act like they follow some Communist "Cult of personality," and want their own one-party government, with their very own Politburo.

  • nerd on November 16, 2012 12:13 PM:

    It appears that Hamas and the hawks in the Israeli government are in a relationship where the actions of one reinforce the political position of the other. Hamas fires rockets into Israel and that reinforces the hawks' position with the Israeli public against the Palestinians. Israeli forces attack Palestinians and that reinforces Hamas' position with the Palestinian people.

    Barring some change this cycle will not stop.

  • Bo on November 16, 2012 12:15 PM:

    I am so sick and tired of Bibi and the Zionistas. It is sad, really. So much is at stake in bringing some peace and stability to an area that is the cradle of civilization. However, its future is being driven by a group of chicken-hawks who share a mentality similar to that which got the U.S. into Iraq . . . and is pressing for the same kind of misadventure in Iran.

    I desperately hope against hope that Netanyahu and his cronies are roundly discredited and turned out of office. The entire planet would be grateful.

  • cmdicely on November 16, 2012 12:16 PM:


    The 21st century has been one long downward spiral in Israeli-Palestinian relations, hasn't it

    So was much of the 20th, from the formation of Israel (and even somewhat before), except maybe for a brief interlude in the 1990s.


    Duss must be a simpleminded sucker. Abbas has kept his little piece of Palestine out of the conflict. No one is being killed or killing there and he's supposedly losing some kind of ground?

    More of a realist: violent conflicts tend to have -- at least in the short run -- a radicalizing effect, marginalizing the less radical.

    Occasionally, this works the other way after a long and continuous conflict like WWI when exhaustion and demoralization sets in (though that can also result in even more extreme radicalization with a directed at the local regime rather than the other side of the conflict, as in the 1917 Russian Revolution.) But, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict hasn't been an extended constant high-intensity violent conflict, its been on-again-off-again high-intensity conflict with periods of low-intensity conflict in between (which seems to be pretty much the ideal setup for maximizing radicalization while avoiding the kind of exhaustion that would either lead to an abandonment of radicalism or turn the radicalization on either side inward more than outward.)

  • Jack Lindahl on November 16, 2012 1:35 PM:

    It's all so incredibly boring at this point. I'm surprised it's even called "news" any more.

    There is no participant in this eternal conflict that retains any sort of honor, righteousness, moral authority, or blamelessness. Perhaps their fate is to pick at each other's scabs into eternity.

    But when will it all stop being called "news?"