When It Comes to the Gaza Strip, Benny Gantz and Benjamin Netanyahu Think Alike

March 5 2019

As the April 9 Israeli elections draw near, the campaigns of the two front-runners for the premiership—the incumbent Benjamin Netanyahu and the former IDF chief Benny Gantz—have been striking a similar note: each claims that the opposing candidate is soft on terror, willing to make territorial concessions to the Palestinians, and reluctant to act toughly and decisively against Hamas. Haviv Rettig Gur argues that this rhetorical posturing obscures the fact that the two candidates fundamentally agree on their approach toward Gaza:

After Arab states failed to dislodge Israel through military effort, [a] new strategy [evolved that] seeks to replace direct confrontation by military formations with, [in the words of one Israeli expert], “the methodical erosion of the enemy’s resolve” through unconventional guerrilla-like means. . . . Part of this strategy of permanent confrontation includes a redefinition of victory. Whereas Israelis, like most Westerners, are culturally primed to seek a decisive clash, Hamas and Hizballah see in mere survival a victory, since it permits the continuation of the muqawama [“resistance”]. So long as the enemy doesn’t win, it loses. . . .

Netanyahu, the prime minister in 2014, and Gantz, then the IDF chief of staff, are among the key architects of Israel’s response to [this strategy]. That response flows from a basic premise: in this waiting game, time is on Israel’s side. There is a corollary: Israel can do a great deal in the meantime to ensure this long war concludes in its favor.

And so Israel has set about degrading the capabilities of its guerrilla enemies and growing its own non-conventional capabilities, from missile defense to cyber and espionage to precision air power to the psychological arena intended to undermine the terror groups’ backing at home. Hence the Gaza blockade and the persistent, increasingly public Israeli air campaign against Hizballah’s supply chain in Syria. . . .

It is no accident, then, that neither Netanyahu nor Gantz believes it is in Israel’s interest to uproot Hamas from Gaza. . . . This is ultimately a strategy of containment, of demonstrating . . . that Israel is better positioned to win not only a conventional conflict but this new psychological game of “chicken” as well.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, Benny Gantz, Gaza Strip, Israel & Zionism, Israeli politics, Israeli Security

What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy