Has Force Worked for Israel?

[Middle East Strategy at Harvard] Bruce Jentleson - Is it the case that the lessons of the last 10-15 years are that force has worked and diplomacy has not? According to the dominant Israeli argument: The Gaza war was intended to impose substantial costs on Hamas and to deter further attacks on Israel. It achieved both; e.g., attacks from Gaza are down since the war. The same regarding Hizbullah and the 2006 Lebanon war: Look at the northern front and how quiet Hizbullah has been, and how weakened the recent elections showed it to be in Lebanese politics. Oslo didn't work; unilateral withdrawals, both in Lebanon and in Gaza, gave land but didn't bring peace. The status quo is not great for Israel, but it's tolerable. Risk aversion says keep relying on military power. An alternative analysis: One can see a strategic logic for Hamas by which the price it paid had value as a diversionary war, detracting attention from problems of its governance and re-igniting the enemy on which to increase its appeal. Hizbullah came out of the 2006 Lebanon War strengthened. But it then overplayed its hand by unleashing its militias into Lebanese politics in 2007-08. As for Palestinians as a credible peace partner and viable state: This may not be the world's hardest case for state-building, but it's up there. Among the many challenges their leadership faces is better synching their maximalist positions on terms of a peace and their more limited capacities as yet to function as a viable state. The writer is professor of public policy and political science at Duke University.

2009-07-10 06:00:00

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