Socialist Worker

Israel’s bloody war fails to achieve aims

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2135

Israel claimed victory over Hamas and other Palestinian resistance organisations as it announced a unilateral ceasefire last Sunday after spending three weeks pounding Gaza.

Israeli leaders hoped they could destroy the resistance by demolishing Palestinian government buildings, schools, offices and homes. They launched wave after wave of attacks, which killed over 1,300 Palestinians.

But Israel failed in its objectives. Despite the devastation visited upon them, Hamas survived and was not driven from Gaza. Many Palestinians have rallied to its support.

A second central aim of the war was to stop the Palestinian rockets, but they were still flying as the ceasefire came into effect.

Huge protests around the world have also increased the pressure on Israel, and opposition to its oppression of the Palestinians has grown.

Israel’s military has not regained its aura of invincibility, which it lost after its defeat at the hands of the Lebanese Hizbollah group in 2006.

And the huge movement that has sprung up against the slaughter in Gaza has severely weakened the pro-US Arab regimes.

You can measure the fear felt by these regimes by the size of the new fortifications that have appeared around the Egyptian embassy in west Beirut, Lebanon’s capital city.

Rolls of razor wire surround the neighbourhood near the embassy. Behind them soldiers point machine guns at groups of demonstrators who often gather to demand Egypt open its border crossing with Gaza.

Public criticism of Egypt’s dictator Hosni Mubarak, a key US ally in the region, has become common, as have street clashes between demonstrators and security forces.

From Egypt to Jordan, Turkey to Saudi Arabia, diverse and spontaneous protests have rattled the regimes. When they appeared in Arab capitals, they were met by riot police, tear gas, rubber bullets and mass arrests.

Immense

In response ordinary people have taken to the streets of villages and towns – a wave of protest made up of thousands of local actions.

These protests have put immense pressure on opposition parties such as the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt to call for major demonstrations.

I got a glimpse of these protests in Beirut on the day of Israel’s ceasefire. Health workers and emergency crews drove ambulances around the city with sirens blaring against the refusal of Israel to allow in humanitarian aid.

Organisations as diverse as the Sunni Islamists and the left held protests outside the Arab League building, the Egyptian consulate and the US embassy compound.

One indication of the depth of the mood was an unprecedented vigil last week held in the heart of Christian east Beirut, a place long under the control of right wing parties who are deeply hostile to the Palestinians.

These protests have galvanised opposition to imperialism into harsh criticism of the Arab regimes. In protesters’ sights are Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia – all of which have close links to the US.

Mubarak has become the main focus of anger. To try to defuse this, he dispatched his son to the border with Gaza as a gesture of solidarity with the Palestinians. But it did not work.

Other leaders who were seen as complicit with Israel’s actions could not escape the public humiliation. Protesters denounced Mahmoud Abbas, the head of the Palestinian Authority, along with the Jordanian king.

Israel’s strategy of mass terror relied on the Arab regimes to deflect blame for Gaza’s suffering onto the “intransigence” of the Palestinian resistance.

But this plan backfired, with pro-US regimes finding themselves isolated across the region.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia boycotted a conference for Arab heads of states organised by Qatar to push for a ceasefire. During the conference, Qatar, which has some diplomatic ties with Israel, announced these links would be suspended.

In response to the Egyptian and Saudi boycott, Qatar invited Iran – considered a pariah state by the West – and Turkey, which has longstanding military links to Israel and is a key member of the Nato military alliance.

Implement

The Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan used the meeting to demand that the United Nations expel Israel from the world body for refusing to implement its ceasefire resolutions. Iran seized the opportunity to break its international isolation.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia found themselves out in the cold.

Despite their overwhelming military superiority, the Israelis found they had run out of time and friends.

Israel and its allies are now also paying a hefty political price for the war on Gaza.

The US had been pushing Arab regimes to ease any criticism of Israel and crush those who advocated support for the resistance.

Whatever its claims to victory, Israel’s war has rebounded badly on it and pro-Western regimes in the Middle East.

The mood of anger and frustration against imperialism has grown deeper and become more widespread.


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