Stars and Symbols. Illustration by Nerosunero, courtesy of nerosunero/Flickr
MADRID – The approach of the 40th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War has been marked in Israel largely by the recurrent debate about the failures of Israeli intelligence in detecting and thwarting Egypt’s surprise attack. But Israel’s blunder in October 1973 was more political than military, more strategic than tactical – and thus particularly relevant today, when a robust Israeli peace policy should be a central pillar of its security doctrine.
The Yom Kippur War was, in many ways, Israel’s punishment for its post-1967 arrogance – hubris always begets nemesis. Egypt had been so resoundingly defeated in the Six-Day War of June 1967 that Israel’s leaders dismissed the need to be proactive in the search for peace. They encouraged a national mood of strategic complacency that percolated into the military as much as it was influenced by the military, paving the way for the success of Egypt’s exercise in tactical deceit.
“We are awaiting the Arabs’ phone call. We ourselves won’t make a move,” Moshe Dayan, Israel’s defense minister, said. “We are quite happy with the current situation. If anything bothers the Arabs, they know where to find us.” But when Egyptian President Anwar Sadat finally called in February 1971, and again in early 1973, with bold peace initiatives, Israel’s line was either busy, or no one on the Israeli side picked up the phone. » More
Watchtower in Rafah, Gaza, April 2009. Photo: Marius Arnesen/Wikimedia Commons.
There is a feeling of trepidation in the Gaza Strip these days, and since the Muslim Brotherhood—Hamas’ fellow journeyers—were ousted from power in Egypt in early July, living conditions have deteriorated dramatically. The new rulers of Egypt have launched a much-vaunted campaign against armed groups in the Sinai Peninsula and against the tunnels that connect that territory with Gaza. The latter has brought life in this tiny strip of land where 1.6 million Palestinians live—most of them in refugee camps—to almost a standstill.
Since Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006, the Gaza Strip has been under a strict siege. Until last month’s military intervention in Egypt, the Islamic Resistance Movement—branded a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Israel—was able to undermine this blockade by smuggling a myriad of products, including food, medicine, weapons, and even people, into the Gaza Strip. The two most important benefits of the tunnels were the flow of cheap fuel and other goods, and the taxes that Hamas raised from this. » More
Erkat, Kerry, Livni. Photo: U.S. Department of State/flickr.
“I can assure you that in these negotiations it is not our intention to argue about the past but to create solutions and make decisions for the future.”
- Chief Israeli Negotiator Tzipi Livni
Any third party mediator dealing with the Israel-Palestine conflict is burdened with a 130-year-old dilemma: insoluble disagreements between Palestinians and Israelis over the causes of the conflict continue to obstruct peace-making efforts today.
There is no easy way out of this dilemma, but a few observations may be useful in pointing the way forward for any future mediation.
Reconciling narratives is not possible
Because many third parties can see the validity of both sides’ perspectives on the causes of the conflict, they may be led to believe that the parties themselves can ‘bridge’ their conflicting narratives. Such bridging appears necessary since issues such as the Palestinian right of return and recognition of Israel as a Jewish state inevitably force history onto the negotiating table. » More
Hezbollah, Baalbek, Lebanon. Photo: yeowatzup/flickr.
Hezbollah’s narrative is shifting now that it has entered into Syria’s civil war and taken the side of one Arab party against another, said Thanassis Cambanis, author of A Privilege to Die: Inside Hezbollah’s Legions and Their Endless War Against Israel. “Here is the Lebanese Party of God, whose raison d’être is to fight Israel, suddenly turning its firepower on a group of Islamist Sunni Arabs,” he said. Last week saw a worrying example of the sectarian tensions worsening in Lebanon, when 40 people were killed in clashes between the Lebanese army—apparently aided by Hezbollah—and Sunni militants in Sidon.
“Essentially, [Hezbollah’s] Sunni counterparts—their brethren—are being put in the same enemy box as the Jewish state,” Cambanis said. » More
UNDOF Forces. Photo: MATEUS_27:24&25/flickr.
On the 6th of June, after only two hours of reflection, the Austrian government ordered the withdrawal of its peacekeepers from the Golan Heights, thus ending its 39-year engagement in the area. In an official statement, the 380 UN peacekeepers were pulled out because of the “continuing deterioration of the situation in the area.”
In the months leading up to the withdrawal, UN troops had witnessed increasing spill-over from the conflict in Syria, with mortars hitting the Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights. When Syrian rebels seized control of the strategically important Quneitra border crossing between Syria and Israeli-controlled territory – albeit only for a short period of time – the possibility of the IDF crossing over into Syrian territory to secure Israel’s border became plausible. This is reportedly what led Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann to call for the withdrawal of Austrian troops. » More