World View: Mideast War or Peace? Depends on What Hamas Wants

This morning's key headlines from

  • Hamas says that all Israelis are now targets
  • Hamas will decide whether it's war or peace

Hamas says that all Israelis are now targets

Several Palestinian spokesmen that I heard on Tuesday on the BBC and al-Jazeera said that any Israeli, man, woman, or child, is now a target of Hamas, since Israel has been "illegally" occupying Palestinian territory since 1948. 

Hamas has been trying, in fact, to make every Israeli citizen a target by launching hundreds of missiles into Israel from Gaza. Some of these are Syrian-made M302 rockets that can reach as far as Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, much farther than Hamas's capability in the past. 

This has resulted in a war of air attacks. Israel is retaliating with its warplanes by attacking hundreds of suspected rocket launch sites in Gaza. 

Israel's Defense Force (IDF) called up 1,500 reservists on Monday and on Tuesday announced that it would begin calling up 40,000 more reservists in preparation for a possible ground invasion into Gaza. 

This does not imply that a ground invasion is imminent. It will take a number of days or several weeks to make all the preparations necessary for a ground invasion. In fact, Israeli officials have suggested that they're proceeding slowly in order to give Hamas room to stand down. Jerusalem Post and BBC and Jerusalem Post

Hamas will decide whether it's war or peace

First, I have to remind long-term Generational Dynamics readers that the very first major analysis that I wrote was in May 2003, when President George Bush issued his "Mideast Roadmap to Peace," which called for a Palestinian state by 2005, side-by-side with Israel. In that analysis, I wrote that the Mideast Roadmap would fail, and that in fact the Mideast was going to re-fight the 1948 war between the Arabs and the Jews that followed the partitioning of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. I said that this war would be delayed as long as the survivors of the 1948 war, particularly Yassir Arafat and Ariel Sharon, were alive, because they remembered the horrors of that war and would do everything possible to keep those horrors from being repeated. 

There have been four wars since then: the war between Israelis and Hezbollah, fought largely on Lebanon's soil in 2006; the war between Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah in Gaza in 2008 which led to Hamas controlling Gaza; Operation Cast Lead, the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza early in 2009; and the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in November 2012. 

However, none of these wars spiraled out of control because, as the saying goes, cooler heads prevailed. And those cooler heads would most likely be survivors of the 1948 war. 

But cooler heads are disappearing as the years go by and the survivors die off. More and more, younger generations are determining policy, and these are not cool heads. In the last weeks, we've seen young Israelis call for "Death to Arabs" on social networking sites, and we've seen what are undoubtedly younger generations of Palestinians rioting in the West Bank and shooting off rockets in Gaza. 

More and more, you hear Palestinian leaders say that they have no desire or motivation to seek peace. (The major exception is Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas, who is also a 1948 war survivor.) 

This is especially true in Gaza. Hamas used to have a friend in Egypt, but the new government under Abdel al-Fattah al-Sisi considers the Muslim Brotherhood to be a terrorist group and sees Hamas, which is an offshoot of the Brotherhood, in the same way. Hamas used to have a friend in Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but Erdogan has too many of his own problems, especially with Syria. Hamas used to have friends in Syria and Iran, but those friendships became diminished when Syria's president Bashar al-Assad began his "industrial strength" campaign against Sunni Muslims. Hamas just became part of a "unity government" with the Palestinian Authority, but Hamas is clearly a partner in name only, with little real influence in the joint government. 

So Hamas really has no friends left, and Gazans deeply resent the "Gaza prison" that they live in. So there's little or no desire, especially among young people, to show restraint in attacking Israel. 

Undoubtedly many Gazans want a war with Israel, and undoubtedly many feel that they can win a war with Israel, when it becomes a war between Jews and all Arabs. If all Arabs join in, then those sentiments are undoubtedly right, as you can see by comparing populations. Israel has a population of 7.8 million. The Arab nations and territories that adjoin Israel include Gaza - 1.8 million; West Bank - 2.7 million; Lebanon - 5.9 million; Jordan - 7.9 million; Syria - 18.0 million; and Egypt - 86.9 million. 

So that's Israel's 7.8 million versus 123.2 million Arabs in the adjoining countries. There's little doubt who would win that war. And when one of the Palestinian television commentators said on Tuesday that Israel had no right to exist because it was on Palestinian land, he was saying that the 1948 war would be re-fought, and that this time the Arabs would win. 

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, that the Mideast is headed for a major war, refighting the 1948 war between Arabs and Jews, is 100% certain. I said this in 2003 in commenting on President Bush's Mideast Roadmap to Peace, and I've said it repeatedly since then, especially during the recent farcical "peace process" engineered by John Kerry and the Obama administration. 

So now Israel and Hamas are headed for some kind of imminent conflict. Will it spiral into a full-scale war between Arabs and Jews? The Israelis don't want that, because they know they would almost certainly lose. The Israelis can only hope that some of the Arabs turn against each other. So whether it's war or peace is really up to Hamas and the Palestinians. The groups launching the rockets into Israel certainly want war, but there are still a few cooler heads around, even in Gaza. These full-scale wars have to come in their own time, and it may not yet be the time. 

A full-scale war between Arabs and Jews is coming with absolute 100% certainty. But whether it happens "this time" or "the next time" or "the time after that" remains to be seen. But one of these times, it will happen. Times of Israel and International Middle East Media Center (Gaza)

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