Blogger call with Benjamin Netanyahu Posted by: McQ
on Monday, January 12, 2009
Today I sat in on a blogger call with former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Obviously I expected to hear Israel's side of the story on the call and wasn't disappointed. Mr. Netanyahu is a very able speaker and in the short 1/2 hour call, was able to cover a lot of ground and answer a number of questions.
I had submitted a question by email earlier and that question was asked early in the call. The question asked what Netanyahu would consider the preferred end-state of Operation Cast Lead - the operational name for the incursion into Gaza.
He said at a minimum it would succeed in "removing the threat [of rocket fire into Israel] and prevent the resupply [of rockets]".
Since it was an email question, I wasn't able to ask a follow-up, but that does seem to me to be a minimal outcome and I'd guess Israel is hoping for more than just that [i.e. the destruction of Hamas or at least Hamas's influence].
Perhaps the most interesting part of the call was when Netanyahu talked about Iran. As I noted in my post this morning, Hamas is an Iranian proxy. Netanyahu referred to Gaza as an "Iranian forward position" and "militant Islam" as the most pressing problem the democracies of the world face. He referred to Iran as "militant Islam's mother country".
He said the greatest danger the Western world faces today is "the joining of a militant Islamic regime with nuclear weapons". Today, he noted, two such opportunities exist: Pakistan where nuclear weapons could conceivably be joined with a future militant Islamic regime and Iran where a militant Islamic regime could be joined with nuclear weapons. In both cases, he said that was a scenario which the West could not afford to allow to happen. He summed up such a possibility of a militant Islamic regime with nuclear weapons as "a pivot of history. A very bad of history".
Netanyahu was asked if he believed Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Gaza had been a mistake and the rise of Hamas had doomed the 2 state solution.
He said it made the 2 state solution problematic because experience tells them that whatever territory they vacate is taken over by Hamas, which means Iran. Netanyahu also said that giving up the Philadelphi corridor (the 10 mile strip of land which borders Egypt), was also a mistake. It has become the main route for smuggling in the rockets Hamas has used to strike Israel. There are estimates that 300 or so tunnels exist in that strip of land.
The third mistake, according to Netanyahu, was agreeing to a cease fire with Hamas. It was used by Hamas to expand its control in Gaza as well as an opportunity to smuggle many more rockets into the area.
Of course he addressed one of the more obvious aspects of this conflict - the discussions of "just" or "unjust" war.
In essence he boiled it down to this - a just war has just or legitimate goals and is fought with just or legitimate means. Obviously then, an unjust war would be the opposite. Looking at the goals of Hamas as juxtaposed against the defensive goals of Israel, it isn't hard to determine who is fighting the just war there.
Addressing the subject of civilian casualties, Netanyahu said that legitimate governments fighting just wars do everything in their power to minimize civilian casualties. On the other side, you have an entity using human shields as both cover and a propaganda tool.
He said that the outcome of this battle will either see militant Islam rolled back (at least in this place) or see it legitimized and its tactics implicitly approved. While not said, the implication seemed to be that agreeing to a cease-fire before their mission is complete (as Israel did in Lebanon against Hizbollah) would have the latter result.
Finally Netanyahu addressed solutions. His plan has two parts - one, reestablish security. He didn't go into detail, but essentially the end-state would be the inability of militant Islamic forces to attack Israel and additionally not have the ability to undermine the peace process.
Secondly, Netanyahu says a major effort toward rapid economic development is both the West Bank and Gaza are critical to any final resolution of these problems. It is also critical to any eventual 2 state solution. As you may know, Netanyahu is running for the PM's office (although he has suspended his campaign during the fighting) and indicated that those would be his two priorities should he gain office.
Netanyahu is a no-nonsense guy. He's considered a hard-line defense hawk from the right wing of the Israeli polity. He is certainly not apologizing for what they're doing and, in fact, is rather adamant about the justness of the retribution they're visiting on Hamas/Iran. As he pointed out, few if any other countries would have endured the 3 years of rocket attacks they have. But I was heartened by his proposed solution. Obviously the rapid economic development for both areas would lessen the dependence of Palestinians on others, hopefully make them less susceptible to radical influences and possibly create an atmosphere conducive to real peace talks.
But as we've learned in COIN, securing the population is the key to any progress. The Palestinian population is far from secure and because of that they are very susceptible to influences which, frankly, work against their best interests. The trick to the Netanyahu plan is going to be who and how security is "reestablished".
Even Netanyahooo, sees the need for negotiations with a moderate Hamas, I believe he took my course on-line, anyhoo is that not enough for you dense righties to acknowledge that without tenure you are foolishly yapping at my heels?
We cheer for Bibi to be the next Israeli Prime Minister. Because Israel is going to need someone with balls of steel to oppose the horrific anti-Israeli policies that are about to come out of the US government, starting next Tuesday.