THE POLITICAL PAGE
March / April 2009
The War on Gaza
Its Periphery and Consequences (part 2)
1. The larger context
1.1. The USA
Shortly after Barak Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the United States the Gaza intervention was stopped due to Israel's announcement of a unilateral ceasefire. Of course, both events are linked together since the USA is Israel's protecting power. It was known that Bush would approve Israel's military action against the Hamas. But it was uncertain whether the new president would also approve the military action because Obama contained himself very consciously from any statements in the weeks before his assumption of office.
Nevertheless, every US-President is expected to have a clear policy regarding the Middle East. By the Camp David Treaty in 1978 Jimmy Carter as well as Bill Clinton with his efforts regarding Arafat and Barak and George W. Bush who organised a huge conference in Annapolis in 2008 all presidents tried to find a solution for the Middle East problem, an approach or even reconciliation between the Israelis and the Palestinians. But everything was futile. And the chances haven't improved.
Especially the two Intifadas from 1987-93 and from 2000-05, the suicide bombings as a new weapon and Israel's controls and closing of borders as counter measures, the erection of a wall up to the Gaza war in order to stop the thousandfold missile shower - all of these actions have marked the population on both sides and produced wounds which will bleed continuously.
What is the task of the USA in this conflict? They are the only ones in the position of exerting real political pressure on Israel. But due to a very high portion of "very important persons" (VIPs) of Jewish belief the USA have always adopted a friendly course towards Israel.
The anxiety regarding the course of the new Obama/Clinton administration was great. "Change" was the keyword with which Obama moved into the White House. And from the very beginning the new president made this "change" obvious compared to his predecessor. Although the last president called several states such as North Korea, Iran, Iraq, and Syria "the axis of evil", Obama immediately showed his readiness to talk even with Iran. Immediately after his assumption of office Obama appointed George Mitchell a very experienced diplomat as a special emissary for the Middle East and showed thus that the Middle East conflict was very important to him. George Mitchell set out for the Middle East immediately.
What is the mainstream of the new US-diplomacy? Hillary Clinton the Foreign Secretary made clear during her first visit in Jerusalem on 3rd March: The USA is for the two states solution! There is no other alternative! There is no change at this point compared to Bush, his predecessor. The next Prime Minister Netanyahu has always pronounced himself publicly against this solution. Will Israel and the USA be alienated through Netanyahu?
1.2. The European Union
Benita Ferrero-Waldner the Foreign Inspector of the EU said already in January that the EU will continue to distribute humanitarian aid for the population in Gaza but very clearly not through the Hamas. Europe will not support the Hamas. Since Arafat some things have changed in the EU. The indescribable naivety by which Palestine were granted money without asking where the money goes has come to an end. Also the Pro-Palestinian monocular vision was replaced by a sharper awareness of the Palestine situation. By the sharper awareness the difference between the suffering population and the corrupt (Fattah) and the terrorist (Hamas) government has become clearer. This process seems to be well underway in the UN as well. It is remarkable that Turkey has established itself as geopolitical hinge between Europe and the Middle East at this point. It recommends itself as the place for regular dialogues. Israel needs Turkey as partner and as counterbalance for the Iran. The relations between both countries are good. These facts will be important as a factor in the treaties for Turkey's acceptance to the EU.
1.3. The Arab States
It was remarkable how the Arab states refrained from involvement in the Gaza war. Of course, they protested and held a conference of the Arab League - but nothing more. The people revolted, protests took place, the street required action from the government not simply words. The North African Muslim states said nothing and not even the Hezbollah helped the strained brethren by opening a northern front which the Israelis feared. Egypt also sealed its borders to Gaza hermetically just as Israel did but the difference is that nobody complained about this. On 6th January 45 Egyptian doctors who wanted to go to the war zone to help were repelled at the Egyptian border. A Palestine woman cried out of desperation and angriness into the cameras: "The Arabs are in cahoots together with Israel!" And what about the other Palestinians in Westjordania? Of course, demonstrations and protests of the autonomy authority took place. But President Abbas was reproached by the Arab brothers and Palestinians fought against each others. Thus the Secretary of Social Service Habbash from the Fattah reproached the Hamas that they killed 19 political opposers (Fattah) and shot 60 others in their knees during the Israeli offensive. The desperate Palestine woman was right somehow. The Gaza war revealed the gap between the Arab world clearer than ever before: the gap is between the "Shiite Half-Moon" - Iran, Syrian, Lebanon, Hezbollah - and the pro-western states Egypt, Saudi-Arabian, Jordanian. Within domestic policies these states fear the radical-religious activists of the Muslim brotherhood, who are pursued unrelentingly; and on the outside they defend themselves against the hegemonic claim of Iran, which claims hegemony in that region. These states prefer to be "under" the West/USA instead of being under the Mullah regime of Iran. Gerloff the Middle East expert writes: "In personal discussions there is a certain satisfaction over the fact that the "Zionists" are restricting the thirst for power of the Shiite president of Teheran." Because it was unambiguous that the Lebanon war as well as the Gaza war were substitute wars between the Iran and Israel which also targeted the West/USA at the same time.
2. Election in Israel
On 10th February Israel elected the 120 deputies for the 18th term of the parliament
("Knesset"). The whole world was anxious regarding its outcome since
the further development of the peace treaties depended on it. Internationally
the two state solution is considered to be the only way towards peace between
Israeli and Palestinians. This solution is currently being adopted by the present
coalition under the Kadima-party. The leader of the Likud, the strongest opposition
party, Benjamin Netanyahu has pronounced himself publicly against this solution.
The election outcome was the mirror of the Israeli society: split and disrupted
in the question regarding the right way towards lasting peace. Instead of deciding,
Israel has paralyzed itself through this election.
This misery however is linked together with the electoral law in Israel. Instead of a 5% hurdle there is only a 2% hurdle. This means that alongside the 2-3 large parties there are a variety of splinter parties with thousands of private interests which are holding more than 20% of the votes. In order to win a majority of at least 61 seats the large parties have to make religious, financial, political or social concessions to attract one or more of these splinter parties. A hard-hitting government which is capable of making decisions can never be established in Israel in this way. The established coalitions are friable. Out of 17 terms only 6 have managed to get through the whole legislative period. A reformation of the electoral law in Israel would be much-needed. However, only a large coalition consisting of parties of the "left" and "right" could implement this.
Before the Gaza war the Likud party with Netanyahu seemed to be ranked first. The "Moulded Lead" campaign resulted in a change of direction so that the Kadima-party with Zip Livni as the head of the party with 28 seats was 1 seat ahead of Netanyahu's Likud with 27 seats. The party which is part of the Labour party of Ehud Barak (as a minor coalition partner) who is the minister of defence and head of the army, slipped back from 19 to 13 seats. The religious-orthodox Shas-party lost a seat and had 11 seats and the fourth coalition party the Pensionary Party disappeared with its 7 seats from the Knesset. Thus Livni won the election but she lost the coalition partners. Anyhow Barak wanted to form an opposition after suffering a set back with his Labour Party. Thus Perez the President of the State assigned Netanyahu to form a new government because his party has made a leap from 15 to 27 seats. In the same way the hulking populist Avigdor Liebermann with his Beitenu Party made a leap from 11 to 15 seats and committed himself already during the election campaign to Netanyahu. Thus Netanyahu will probably form a coalition government especially as the Shas (11) and the three religious splinter groups (12) would also accept him. Thus, however, he would depend again on the religious party. Not only for this reason is Netanyahu striving for a larger coalition with Livni's Kadima, which would mean a total of 55 seats. In this way he could offer a cabinet of national reconciliation concerning home affairs and considerably moderate the international pressure with Livni as Foreign Secretary. However Livni refused to do so because they have different opinions regarding the two-state solution. Netanyahu tries to make clear that the Iranian threat and the menacing economy crises are far more menacing for Israel than the Palestine question. But Livni is of another opinion. As a foreign secretary she knows the kind of tensions this would cause between Israel and the USA, if Clinton the Foreign Secretary says very clearly that there is no alternative for the two-state solution. The international pressure against Israel will increase through the Netanyahu government and so will do the anti-Semitism worldwide which considers Israel to be the guilty party and the "mother of all crisis" and the Middle East conflict.
3. After the War
3.1. Reconstruction of Gaza
"44,000 houses in Gaza are uninhabitable and completely destroyed after the Israeli military offensive." said the Palestine minister Habbash after the war. The Palestine Autonomy Authority (PA) forwarded a report by which they received support from the UN, EU and the World bank - and all of a sudden there were only 15,000 left plus three hospitals, five nursery schools, ten schools, six university buildings, 58 (!) police stations and the water supply. According to the PA the damage to property amounted to 2.8 billion dollars.
On 1st and 2nd March President Mubarak of Egypt held a "Donor Conference" at Sharm al Sheik on the Red Sea for the reconstruction of Gaza. Representatives of 70 nations including 40 Foreign Secretaries like Federal Minister Steinmeier, President Sarkozy and PM Berlusconi and even the General Secretary of the UN Ban Ki-Mun came to the conference. Everybody was anxious regarding Hillary Clinton's first appearance. Of course, the representatives of the Hamas were not invited, and not even those of Israel. Already in the run-up many forwarded their offers and the others made their concessions at the conference: the six Gulf States promised 1.25 billion, the USA and the EU promised 900 million dollar whereas Steinmeier from Germany promised 150 million dollars including many other small amounts. In the end the amount reached a total of 4.1 billion dollars which is one billion more then the amount required. The states exceeded themselves in generosity. The donors have been assured that the Hamas will not benefit from that money. But who shall receive the amount then? Nobody really knows. Some transfer the money to the PA in Ramallah and hope to lift President Abbas' reputation in Gaza. The others are trying to help the suffering population through aid organisations.
But there is also another unsolved problem. Since the end of the war 100 missiles hit Israel and the Israeli air force has carried out retaliatory strikes. "All these plans and concessions have been clouded by the fear that everything which has been established in a makeshift manner, will be destroyed at the next worse opportunity." (F.A.Z. 3rd March 2009). "We are aware of the risk and therefore call this action only a "first step on the way to a comprehensive peace between Israel and the Arabs!" said Hillary Clinton taking aim at the two-state solution in this context.
3.2. The (non-) involvement of the Hamas
In part I of this article we explained that the Hamas has a three faces:
it is a social aid organisation,
it is an elected party by the majority of votes,
it is a military terror organisation.
This is what makes dealing with it so hard. No party can afford to cooperate with a terror group. On the other hand it is the legally elected peacekeeping power with legal power.
Thus it is no wonder after this war especially when there are 4.1 billion dollars waiting to be used for reconstruction the question is raised whether it is worthwhile to strive for cooperation with Hamas. More and more voices are raised to acknowledge the facts and start discussions with Hamas: such as Jürgen Trittin and Tony Blair. Although some request the three "old" requirements as preconditions: Hamas is to renounce violence; to accept the Oslo Treaties and Israel's right of existence without question. However, the Hamas will surely not agree to this and therefore the present boycott will be continued if they don't agree or the boycott will be softened even though they don't agree. And this is what it looks like at the moment. Is the Hamas exerting pressure through suicide bombers? Then it has to be regarded as Al-Quaida despite different facets. And the question is who of the above mentioned top-politicians such as Prime Minister Maliki in Iraq for example is pushing to start discussions with Al-Quaida finally? This is a legitimate question of Netanyahu.
3.3. Proposal for solutions
Internationally the two-states solution seems to be the only alternative. Israel under Olmert got involved with it. The change in the Israeli policy has already been initiated by Ariel Sharon when he agreed to evacuate the Gaza Strip and all the settlers of Gaza violently. "Land for Peace" is the basic consideration behind the two-state solution at international level and the solution which many in Israel trust. There was no pacification as a result of the withdrawal from Gaza but rather an intensification of the attacks against Israel with approx. 10,000 missiles landing within the Israeli fringe area. Nowadays, in Israel nobody any longer believes in the "Land for Peace" solution, therefore the two-state solution is the only option under the above conditions. This is the position Zipi Livni and the Kadima-party holds. During the election campaign she professed to live as good neighbours one day with a Palestine state and to return Golan to Syria for peace.
Benjamin Netanyahu, however, refuses the two-states solution due to his own experiences. His intention is to advance Palestine economically and to grant them their own government and their own state and to keep them thus under his control in order to make sure this state will never attack Israel. Netanyahu demands: "The future Palestine state has to be demilitarized. Although Palestinians may be able to govern themselves, they will never have the possibility to menace Israel's existence." We need to wait and see whether the USA and Israel will come together in one accord with their expectation regarding the peace solution. It seems that they have already made some attempts. Because from a human point of view Israel can only survive with the support of the USA.
It is interesting to see certain paralells to Netanyahu's concepts on the Palestine side. In this context the F. A. Z. (17.2.09) pointed out: "Quite a few Palestinians flirt with the idea of Israel re-occupying their territories and of becoming citizens of Israel. In that way they would live a better life and wouldn't be so poor as they are now in Gaza or on the West coast." They can see that their Arab relatives who have Israeli citizenship are better off despite the many disadvantages they are exposed to. But from Israel's point of view this solution can't be carried out because the Israelis fear that the Palestinians will form the majority of the population in their own state someday. Therefore, Netanyahu is also interested in granting Palestinians a state someday.
The progress of negotiations in certain points between Israel and the PLO regarding their own state cannot be denied. The PLO, the representative of the Palestinians, which is acknowledged by Israel and led by President Abbas has basically acknowledged Israel's right of existence. The problem is that Hamas is firmly rejecting this decision. However, this Palestinian fraternal strife is hindering the peace discussions on the Palestine side by the Hamas challenging Israel's right of existence.
From Israel's point of view negotiations always fail with the question of the Israeli settlements in Westjordania which the two-state solution promises to the Palestinians. 200,000 Israelis are living there presently. And the settlements are being expanded at the expense of the Palestine land owner. The question regarding splitting Jerusalem is also unsettled. In this context Joschka Fischer summarizes: "Presently the two-state solution is being blocked by both sides". (DIE ZEIT 08.01.2009).
1. The Donor Conference
There is something irrational with this conference in Sharm al Sheik. Undoubtedly it is absolutely necessary to help the population in Gaza swiftly, effectively and extensively in order to lead a normal life again after the destruction of the war. But why are 70 nations so eager to do so? Why are they blowing 1.3 billion dollars or even more to the Palestinians in the middle of a worldwide economic and financial crisis? Everybody wants to participate, everybody wants to donate. It seems like they have to compensate something. It all looks like an inward kneel down - but in front of whom? It seems like the nations want to apologize in front of the Palestinians for Israel the "bad boy" who has destroyed everything. And therefore we don't hear any chastisement against Hamas but against Israel which cannot defend itself because it has not been invited. Cause and effects have been confused. Who's the addressee when Ms Clinton says: "We can no longer afford further delays?" What does Steinmeier mean when he says that the money can only be spent effectively if another political process is being initiated with the result of direct talks between Israelis and Palestinians? Doesn't he know anything about the talks with Abbas despite the missile shower a long time ago which were discontinued due to the war, because 10,000 missiles were simply too many - despite ongoing talks? In the end there is no appreciation left when Mubarak vents his anger because of Olmert refusing to open the borders as long as the soldier Schalit has been kidnapped whereas the Hamas already wanted a ceasefire a long time ago but without considering Schalit. As the head of state Mubarak knows exactly that the Hamas only wanted a ceasefire in order to stock their arsenals again. And Egypt is in the position to hinder this because the weapons are being smuggled via Sinai. A ceasefire does not require anything of Hamas, on the contrary the Hamas has many advantages. There is no injustice in requiring Hamas to sacrifice for the opening of the borders for which Israel is already bearing a great risk.
2. The solution for the conflict in the Middle East
If somebody is holding his hand in the sun the shade falls on the table. He
now can describe the shade very precisely but he can not change nor move it
as long as the producer of the shade will not move his hand. This simple understanding
comes to someone's mind if we track the year long effort of politicians regarding
a solution of the Middle East conflict. Of course nationalisms play an important
role: on this side the Israelis and on the other side the Arabs. Not only the
war in Gaza but also the previous hostilities hardly explain the reason of the
war. Different then in the period between 1948 and up to 1967 the Arab armies
are no longer setting forth when Israel vents to its anger against the Hamas
or the Hezbollah. The Hezbollah and the Hamas are actively being supported only
by Iran against Israel and this isn't an Arab country.
No, the "mother of all conflicts" is the religion!
Although the Torah talks about Hagar's and Ishmael's banishment through Abraham their father, the Hebraic Bible does not speak about murdering at this point. In the recent wars of Israel against its neighbours the above has never been considered by Israel to be the foundation for war. And none of these wars was an annihilation war. And after the Gaza war the Israeli army is analysing its own actions against possible war crimes i.e. unfair murdering of civilians.
This is very different from the Koran which is the foundation for the Muslims. The Koran is clearly calling the Jews monkeys and pigs which have to be killed. And it is commendable to do so. Dying for Allah in the war against unbelievers bears the promise of Paradise. This is what little children are verifiably being taught in Palestinian schools. The suicide bombers stand in line for a very wilful murdering of civilians.
Thus the hate of the Israelis by the Palestinians is not the same as the hate Palestinians have against Jews. The Jewish "hate" is rooted in the present agony; the hate of the Palestinians is mainly based on religion and in the experience of humiliation and agony.
Israel is a secular state. Religion is playing a main role within its society but not regarding political decision and as far as the "Left wing" party is concerned religion is only a side issue. Since the Koran represents the religious and political foundation of the state activity, Allah is much more present in the decisions of the Hamas and the Hezbollah ("God's Party") than Yahweh is in Israel's decisions. Due to the question whether Israel should give away land for peace Israeli society is split because it is mainly about Israel giving away a land which was promised and given as a present from God. This is what motivates the settlers to establish their kibbutz in order to keep the biblical land. This was the actual tragedy of the evacuation from Gaza: the settlers didn't understand God who did not intervene. The Jewish society is being clearly but religiously nationalistic when it comes to splitting Jerusalem. Therefore the Wailing Wall has become the religious centre of the Jews because it was the place of the old temple on Mount Zion once and now it has become the place of the el-Aksa-Mosque and the Dome of the Rock of the gentiles, the Gojim. But this is what the Muslims consider to be their third most important sanctuary and therefore they responded with a new Intifada when the Jewish leader Ariel Sharon stepped on the holy mountain under the cover of his army.
The core of the religious conflict in the Middle East has always been an irreconcilable religious conflict. Policy can only channel the religious disputes by searching for methods for peace at the most but it can not solve them at all. In this context, the simplest solution would mean: separating the fronts, a geographical separation of systems. This is the simplest reason for the two-state solution and this is why the whole world clings to it. Reasonable! But we shouldn't be disappointed by continuous failures. However, the western politicians should ask where the money actually goes. If they are condemning the suicide bombings as being "cowardly" and "inhuman" then they should also keep an eye on the school books which are printed with their money. But not even the Muslim donors of the Gulf States are interested in using the money in this way since terrorism can also target their states at any time - the "pro-western" regimes. From a biblical point of view the two-state solution is a catastrophe for Israel. From a human point of view however both societies, the Israeli and the Palestinian societies are so badly hurt, that they can not find any other political way in this situation. But wasn't the reconciliation between Germans and Jews even more unimaginable?
3. Germany and Israel
Since the end of the Nazi-regime in 1945 and finally since the foundation of
the state of Israel in 1948 Israel and Germany are entertaining a "special
relationship" for the Holocaust or even better for the Shoa's sake through
which 6 million people were killed. People of Jewish belief. At its core this
so called "special relationship" consists of the role allocation between
victim and culprit with the consequence of the continuous attempt of compensation.
Billions of D-marks and euros were flowing silently and without making a lot
fuss into the re-establishment of the young state of Israel. Rightly! The establishment
of the Jewish state has already been the compensation of the global community
for the failure of many people against the Jews during the NS-regime especially
during the war. Not only the politicians from Adenauer to Merkel accepted their
responsibility for the Shoa but also numerous NGO's beginning with the Action
Reconciliation Service for Peace up to many Christian groups and organisations.
They approached Israel, confessed their guilt before God and the people and
tried to do good to Israel: Whether this happened through prayer networks, through
planting trees or carring for the Shoa victims - it has been more and more accepted
in Israel. But everything was still based upon the victim-culprit imagination
due to which the slightest anti-Semitic infamous action of radical right-wing
scatterbrains has immediately been registered in Israel and was the reason to
question the relation between Germany and Israel again. This is also the reason
why the forgiveness has not been expressed yet: fear against forgetting. Therefore
Israel maintained its role of the victim and chained Germany as culprit in the
tower of guilt, in the prison of reproaches.
But many in people in Germany no longer accept the role of the culprit and are developing thus a spontaneous resistance in a "secondary anti-Semitism" up to the stupid denial of history.
Therefore the relationship between both peoples has to be brought as soon as possible to a new foundation of a mature and reliable friendship. This is God's will for Germany and Israel from people to people not only on political level. This was the theme of our prayer at the Prayer Conference in 2007 and this is what we saw as consequence: both governments decided in Spring 2008 to entertain regular and annual visits of the governments. And we can also see forgiveness in the cooperation between young people, who visited Auschwitz together and through the sacrifice of Jesus in the Lord's Supper. The 4th generation is on the way in both countries and with is a new era will be started.
Angela Merkel and Ehud Olmert said that a new chapter has been opened in the relationship between both peoples. That's the way it is. And God will confirm this way for both peoples.
4. Israel - God's secret
Present and past quotes of famous men regarding Israel:
"Israel has revealed the secret of the only one God to us... Therefore, Israel's destiny has deeply touched my heart." Richard von Weizäcker, former Federal President of Germany
"Israel exists because God has chosen this people for the well-being of all human beings. He is the prerequisite for the coming of the Messiah." Jean-Marie Aron Lustiger, Kardinal-Erzbischof von Paris
"The foundation of the Jewish State is of a godly nature and a deeply religious phenomenon." Peter Scholl-Latour, TV-journalist and author
"The modern Israel can only be understood through the awareness of the biblical as well as the historical backgrounds." Chaim Herzog (1919-97), former President of Israel
"Israel is God's people, it is the expression of God's community with human beings, it is the chosen people. This is not a natural nor cultural fact it is supernatural." Pope John Paul II.
"For me the survival of the Jewish people and the re-establishment of the state of Israel is a proof that God's promises in the Bible will be fulfilled." Axel Cäsar Springer (1912-85), German "Zeitungskönig" (Newspaper King)
"After my visit in Israel I have to admit that Israel is not comparable with any other country. It must have something to do with God." Michail Gorbatschow, former Soviet President of State and Party
"The state of Israel is a visible sign of election for the whole world, of God's grace and faithfulness towards Israel which can not be overlooked The re-establishment of Israel as a people and state has to be acknowledged as a real wonder." Prof. Karl Barth (1886-1968), significant contemporary theologian
"I believe that the state of Israel is the fullfilment of biblical prophecies. Because otherwise it would not have been re-established." David Ben Gurion (1886-1973)
"Israel is elected to be God's child and see the glory of God; God's covenant, God's law, God's worship and promise." (Romans 9:4) Apostle Paul
"The Jews are the most tenacious people of the world. They were, they are and they will be in order to glorify the name of the Lord." Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832), most significant German poet
1. Thanks for Israel and its high calling for the nations; for God's faithfulness; for God who has been faithful on Israel's side.
2. Thanks for the growing willingness of the Arabs to accept Israel's right of existence.
3. Prayer for the Arabs in Israel to be treated with the same rights and no longer as second class citizens.
4. Prayer for the Palestinians to be released from the scourge of hate which does not allow Israel the right of existence. And to be able to receive help.
5. Prayer for the forming of a government with a clear majority as soon as possible.
6. Prayer for favour for Israel among the peoples especially in front of Obama, USA.
7. Prayer for a reliable friendship between Israel and Germany at a political level as well as among the peoples.
F.A.Z. Jan 30th./Febr. 188.8.131.52.16.17.25 26.27./March 2.3.
Der Spiegel 21.2.09
Flyer "Prominente über Israel und die Juden" von Christen für Israel
www.israelnetz.com from 2.3.09
Fischers Weltalmanach 2007,2008