Gordo writes about how Israel is already planning to sabotage the truce in Lebanon, by effectively insisting that the international peace force come from European countries rather than neutral Muslim ones such as Malaysia and Bangladesh. So far so good. But then he explains that Israel created Hamas in 1978 in order to discredit the secular PLO and is still deliberately radicalizing the region.
Of that, the only part that is true is that Israel did in fact encourage an Islamist movement in the 1970s as a way of undermining public support of the PLO. By the time Ahmed Yassin founded Hamas and started committing terrorist attacks, he was independent of Mossad.
Furthermore, it would take a particularly stupid hawk to want the Palestinians to elect Hamas as a way of delegitimizing the Palestinian government and continuing the occupation. A movement elected democratically will invariably moderate: consider FDR, Attlee, Reagan, Lula, Sharon, and arguably Gandhi/Singh. Since its election, Hamas has changed its focus from terrorism to attacks on the IDF, and many Hamas leaders have publicly called for recognition of Israel. If only Nixon could go to China, then only Hamas can recognize Israel without there being a noisy right-wing flank that allows Likudniks to keep pretending that most Palestinians want to kill all Jews.
Gordo’s classic leftist assumption, namely that nationalist governments are being deliberately provocative, is rarely true. In the case of the I/P conflict, it was only true in a few dubious cases of assassination, which Israel has never felt are covered by ceasefire or truce agreements.
Usually, it’s more a case of sheer stupidity caused by bounded rationality. If I were a right-winger trying to mastermind war, I’d do something far more provocative than raid Lebanon: I’d likely bomb civilian targets and then claim it was a mistake. It would inflame the people more than raids and let me off the hook for bombing civilians throughout the conflict when I could raid.
While Israel’s government is not an official military junta, it can’t be distinguished from one in its foreign policy. One of the characteristic pathologies of juntas is that to a hammer, everything looks like a nail. Although Olmert himself doesn’t come from within the military establishment, he was never supposed to be Prime Minister in the first place, so all he can do is imitate his ex-General predecessor.
Unfortunately, juntas only fall when they lose a military campaign spectacularly, as in Falkland Islands. Israel won’t, not because it can win – the current conflict has just shown it can’t – but because unlike the average junta, it’s so dependent on global and especially American public opinions that it needs to pretend it doesn’t indiscriminately kills civilians. While killing fewer civilians is generally good, in Israel it allows the right to advance a stab-in-the-back myth, with the UN replacing the social democrats.