Dec 4 2023
Q. Israel has a war cabinet, a loyal security establishment, and clear war aims: to dismantle Hamas and rescue the hostages. So why ask this question?
A. The question ‘who’s running this war’ reflects a growing sentiment in Israel and elsewhere that a host of additional actors are dictating or at least influencing the course of the war. They are doing so in ways that the Israel Defense Forces increasingly must take into account.
One obvious candidate is the Biden administration. Hezbollah, Iran and the Houthis also seem to have a say. So do Egypt and Qatar, who together with the US are handling both hostage and humanitarian issues that clearly affect the course of the war.
Q. Hold on. Don’t we first have to ask whether Israel or Hamas is running the war?
A. It is certainly clear that Hamas has not been dismantled and is still functioning as a terrorist army, even if there are signs of growing anarchy on the Gaza street. Hamas is succeeding in winning over public opinion in the West Bank, among the Arab masses and in many places in the world, to Israel’s detriment. By using the Gazan population as human shields it has generated a huge humanitarian crisis that seriously hampers Israel’s freedom of maneuver in the Gaza Strip along with Israel’s international standing.
Hamas just manipulated the hostage issue to gain a weeklong pause in the war, during which it resupplied its terrorist army and bought time to generate more international pressure on Israel. Evening after evening last week, it looked to many Israelis like Hamas was calling the shots by delaying, manipulating and elaborately escorting the hostages on their way back to Israel...
Latest Strategic Analysis
Yossi Alpher's Death Tango: Ariel Sharon, Yasser Arafat and Three Fateful Days in March
"Anyone seeking to understand how Israelis and Palestinians traded the hopes of Oslo for something approaching hopelessness is well-advised to read this book. With penetrating analysis and elegant prose, Yossi Alpher has told the gripping story of three days nearly two decades ago that continue to haunt would-be peacemakers. Yossi’s faithful readers will not be disappointed with his latest effort."
Ambassador Frederic C. Hof, Bard College
"A riveting account of the crucial days in March 2002 when the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was profoundly changed for the worse. The peace camp has never recovered from those wrenching days, and we live now without any hope of a just settlement. Alpher is a highly respected expert who has spent decades studying this conflict from both sides."
Bruce Riedel, Director of the Brookings Intelligence Project
"A critical assessment of a key period in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict never before presented in such detail. The best and most capable players at the executive and political levels proved unable to forge any resolution, final or partial, because both parties continued to maintain an insurmountable gulf between themselves. This is a MUST read for anyone daring to tackle the future of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and of Israel-Arab relations in general."
Efraim Halevy, former Head of the Mossad (1998-2002)
Oraib Khader and Avi Bar-On are youngish Palestinian and Israeli bachelors with security experience, readiness to do business with one another, a shared fondness for women and money, and total cynicism about the lack of peace between their two peoples.
Oraib and Avi can never become true friends: the cultural and political gaps are too wide. But as they confront a failed peace process and a bleak peace future, they readily become business partners: shady business that exploits a lot of naïve international peace aspirations.
As Oraib sums up on a visit to Sarpsborg, Norway, where the ultimately-failed Oslo peace talks were held, “There is a lesson here for those who still doggedly and hopelessly pursue a two-state solution in the Middle East. Get smart. Get out of the Israeli-Palestinian peace business. Step back and let the Jews and Arabs screw one another while making money.”