Eitan Haber, who once served as right-hand man to Yitzhak Rabin, is right. Writing in this morning’s Yedioth Aharonoth, Haber notes that the rules of war have changed, and that nation states no longer have the ability to deliver a strong knockout punch to an enemy in the traditional sense.
What Haber, omits, of course, is that the reality he describes is not new, and is not limited to the Israel-Arab issue. As Haber himself notes, Israel’s most convincing military victory – the mythical Six Day War – was followed just two weeks later by a massive Egyptian attack at the Suez Canal, causing heavy casualties on our side.
More importantly, Haber is also shows once again that he is one of the prime examples of the Middle East’s cardinal rule: Never, ever learn from a mistake. “There is no military solution to the conflict [with Hamas, and with the Palestinians]. The solution must be political.” As proof of political success, he cites Israel’s relationships with Jordan and Egypt.
(So what if Dany Nevo, Israel’s ambassador to Jordan, says he has never walked around the neighborhood of the Israeli embassy in Amman, nor could he do so safely? Remember that attack on the Israeli embassy in Cairo back in 2011? Here’s a good experiment for Haber to test the “success” that he claims for those peace deals: Walk around either country with a kippa, or even a simple t-shirt with an Israeli flag on it. Then lets talk about how “successful” those treaties have been. But I digress.)
In truth, wars have never ended with a simple military clop. Look at the American Civil War, in which the North which vastly outnumbered the south in terms of manpower, per capita income, industrial power and international diplomacy. But nonetheless, it took the North four-and-a-half years to emerge victorious, and decades longer of Reconstruction to restore the broken ties between civilians in the Union and former Confederate States of America.
Same for World War II – the fighting ended only when Germany and Japan surrendered to Allied forces unconditionally. After that, the Marshall Plan took a long-term approach to rebuilding Europe, and particularly Germany, in a manner to ensure that the country that had dragged the country into two world wars would not do so again. Same again for World War I, and other notable conflicts.
The common denominator that links these examples is that idea that a military victory, no matter how convincing, must be a first stage of a larger plan by the victors to remake the situation that led to the war in the first place.
That is where Israel has failed, time after time after time. In 1948, the War of Independence marked a clear victory over Arab attackers. But little thought was given to “what now” and to ways to remake Arab education in ways that would ensure equal minority rights and responsibilities in the new country in order to avoid a re-do of that war. We saw the results of that failure over the past week, in Kfar Manda, Tamra, Nazareth and other Arab-majority towns and neighborhoods around Israel.
This point is even more clearly illustrate ion the context of 1967. After the destruction of the Egyptian and Syrian air forces, Israel accepted a ceasefire instead of absolute surrender from Egypt and Syria. In Judea and Samaria, following 19 years of Jordanian occupation, Israel transformed what had been a third-world country into a first-world one under Israel. Roads and schools were built, universities established, electricity and water grids built and more.
I fear the common denominator between all these examples is a lack of belief in the moral and historical justice of Zionism. Could it be that we, as a society, ultimately do not believe in the justice of Zionism, in the right of Jews to live and prosper in the Land of Israel?