World View: Egypt Rushes to Mediate Truce in Israel-Gaza War

This morning's key headlines from

  • Hamas and Israel each demand retribution as conflict escalates
  • Egypt rushes in to mediate between Hamas and Israel
  • Greek protesters attack German official after slur on Greek workers

Hamas and Israel each demand retribution as conflict escalates

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday
Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh on Thursday

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, a war doesn't just start on the day that somebody officially declares war. The preliminaries can go on for decades, with periods of low-level conflict intermixed with periods of truce. But each period of truce is followed by another period of conflict more violent than the previous one.

This alternation of truce and escalated conflict continues, until one or both sides crosses a "red line" during a generational Crisis era, a time of heightened nationalism, anxiety and xenophobia. Such red lines are called "regeneracy events" in generational theory, because they serve to unite the country and regenerate civic unity for the first time since the end of the preceding crisis war. ("Basics of Generational Dynamics")

Once enough of these regeneracy events occur, a full-scale generational crisis war begins. The level of nationalism and genocidal violence continues to escalate on both sides, until the war ends months or years later in an explosive climax.

In the last 24 hours, there have been two major regeneracy events in the Gaza vs Israel conflict:

  • Israeli warplanes on Wednesday killed a top level Hamas official, Ahmed Jabari, the commander of Hamas's military wing, as we reported in detail yesterday.
  • On Thursday, Hamas struck deep inside Israel with Iranian-made Fajr-5 rockets. These rockets carry large payloads and can destroy a lot of property and kill a lot of people, but they have no guidance systems, and so they can't be used to destroy a specific target. However, they have much longer range -- 70-75 km -- than the Russian-made Grad rockets, which can only go 40-45 km. Thus, the best targets for the Fajr-5 missiles are large dense areas, like big cities, where they can cause maximal damage and casualties. The missiles launched on Thursday targeted the sprawling city of Tel Aviv, but even with that large a target, they landed in the sea off the Tel Aviv coast.
My focus today is not the military aspects of this conflict, but the "regeneracy event" aspect. Both Hamas and Israel are deep into a generational Crisis era, with extremely high nationalism, anxiety and xenophobia.

As long as Israeli warplanes were only targeting weapons stores, the Gazans were prepared to live with it. As soon as it appeared that Israel has the capability to target and kill a high-level Hamas official, nationalism kicked in big time, and demands for revenge have been surging.

As long as Hamas's Grad rockets were targeting small villages near the Gazan border, with lots of empty spaces, Israelis were prepared to live with it. But as soon as it appeared that Hamas has the capability to strike the city of Tel Aviv, making millions of people vulnerable to attack, nationalism and anxiety have kicked in big time, and demands to put a stop to the attack have been surging.

Whether Hamas and Israel can somehow reach a truce before going to a full-scale crisis war remains to be seen. But if there is a truce, then it will be a temporary one, and at some point there will be new regeneracy events that will lead to full-scale war.

In the meantime, the rhetoric has become extremely belligerent. Israel's prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel takes pains to avoid civilians, while:

"It is important to understand one simple point: there is no moral symmetry between the terrorists in Gaza and Israel.

They are committing double war crimes: they fire at Israeli civilians and hide behind Palestinian civilians."

Ismail Haniyeh, the prime minister of Hamas's Gaza government, has been trying to pressure Egypt to come into the war on the side of Hamas:

"We call on our Arab brothers, and especially Egypt ... and the new Egyptian presidency, to suppress this barbaric campaign in defense of Gaza and its people."

Reuters and Al-Jazeera

Egypt rushes in to mediate between Hamas and Israel

President Barack Obama's strategy during the last four years of blaming President George Bush for failing to resolve the Mideast problem, and then giving speeches that appear to reward Hamas's intransigence while ignoring Israel, appears to have backfired. President Bush was respected by both sides, though hated by one side, because he made it clear that he would defend Israel while working for a two-state solution. President Obama, as far as I can tell from reading the Mideast press, seems to be neither respected nor liked by either side, with a statement like "he's worse than Bush" appearing often in opinion columns.

Similarly, there's little respect on either side for the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, or Kofi Annan. The latter was particularly ridiculed for his pointless farcical six point plan to end the Syria conflict.

Now, there is someone almost completely unexpected preparing to fulfill that role. Egypt's president Mohamed Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has gained credibility in the Mideast because of his willingness and ability, so far, to play a conciliatory role in his own government and in the region. In his own government, he appears to have taken a number of shrewd steps to regain power from the military junta that took over after Hosni Mubarak was deposed, and the demonstrations and violence in Tahrir Square seem to have cooled off.

On Wednesday, he condemned Israel's assassination of Ahmed Jabari, but he took the weakest possible diplomatic action that he could possibly take, short of doing nothing: He recalled Egypt's ambassador to Israel. One can imagine much more confrontational steps -- closing embassies, completely breaking diplomatic relations, moving troops into the Sinai -- but none of those happened.

Furthermore, when the Chief of Morsi's presidential cabinet was asked whether Morsi planned to repudiate Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel, the response was as follows:

"No, not at all. Not at all, because we have declared several times and repeatedly that we abide by our international commitments. But respecting the peace treaty does not mean they're idle or indifferent to what is going on along our borders and what is touching our brothers. And we cannot be indifferent to human sufferings. So we are abiding by our legal obligations, but we are active to help establishing real peace in the area."

Morsi is sending a high-level Egyptian delegation to Gaza on Friday, and has already spoken to both Hamas and Israel in phone calls. Morsi has a great deal of credibility right now, and it's quite possible that Morsi will succeed, and that he will find a way to bring about a temporary truce before the conflict spirals into full-scale war. Al-Ahram (Cairo) and CNN

Greek protesters attack German official after slur on Greek workers

Greek protesters in the northern Greek city of Thessaloniki physically attacked a German official attending a meeting on Greek-German relations, forcing riot police to step in for protection. The attack was apparently triggered by Hans-Joachim Fuchtel, a Labor official in Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, who said that Greek cities should try to cut back on employees, because it takes three Greeks to do the same job as one German. After the incident Fuchtel issued an apology, saying that he had great respect for Greek workers. Deutsche-Welle and Kathimerini

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