The following is an abridged version of Bernard Avishai’s latest post, “Playing With Fire: A Dispatch From The Front — Of The Television” at Open Zion (Peter Beinart’s edited blog at The Daily Beast) and Avishai’s own Bernard Avishai Dot Com blog:
The Gaza war, if that’s the word for it, has reduced Israelis living more than 40 kilometers from the Gaza border to spectators of a kind of reality TV show: familiar contestants but no clear plot…. Hamas’s Haniya says that killing al-Jabari would “open the gates of hell” for Israel. Shas’s Eli Yishai says that Gaza should be bombed back to the Middle Ages (presumably, an era Shas knows well). …
The key here, as it always is at first with air power: find “quality targets” while minimizing civilian casualties. And in the opening hours of the operation IAF commanders operated as if Judge Goldstone were looking over their shoulders, releasing videos of pinpoint strikes against missile installations and cruising Jeeps, with no damage caused to nearby homes or mosques. Yesterday, however, there were the predictable “errors,” along with the usual recriminations about Hamas using Gazans as “human shields,” and, horribly, the corpses of small children being dragged from rubble.
To be clear, Hamas is using human shields. Even the most ardent peace advocate does not doubt that–whatever the grievances of the Naqba and occupation–Hamas has been engaging in terrorism of the most brazen sort, which must be stopped. This brazenness is earning Israel something unusual: the near universal, if provisional, sympathy of Western nations. There can be no excuse, none, for firing hundreds of rockets into Israeli cities, aiming to kill Israelis at random, betraying a totalitarian political imagination in which the people here become mere categories (“Zionists,” “occupiers”), and categories have become candidates for elimination.
…. But while 90 percent of Israelis support the operation, 70 percent oppose invasion, and not just because they fear the losses. In a way, they are intuitively more afraid of the losses they will inflict–and for good reason.
Sure, Israel has the moral authority to “defend its citizens,” as President Obama automatically (and quite properly) put it. The thing is, no Israeli offensive on the ground can reimpose occupation without using what even Americans will see as disproportionate force. The thing Goldstone could never quite grasp was that no Israeli officer will fail to use tank shells against a sniper in an apartment window if this means minimizing the risk to his troops–and damn the children in the adjacent apartment.
This was the real lesson of Cast Lead in 2009, and the second Lebanon war in 2006, too. It has sunk in. …. [I]t is also clear what the terms of a cease-fire will look like: formal guarantees by Egypt, the US, and possibly Turkey, the opening of the Rafa border crossing to Egypt, in effect, the recognition of Hamas as a political actor, if not a government–perhaps international monitors on the ground–something that looks like Kissinger’s “disengagement of forces” agreement with Syria in 1974. …