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Hamas And The One-State Solution
Be careful what you wish for
Avoiding hot takes on hot wars, I have let a week pass without commenting on the horrific scenes from Israel. Analysts and reporters have largely focused on questions of how Hamas achieved surprise, the level of Iranian responsibility, and the level of Wagner involvement. Cold takes from a cold war kid: of course the Revolutionary Guards supplied and equipped Hamas, but this plan was not hatched in Tehran. Of course Wagner trained some of those monsters, too, but Hamas clearly did the planning themselves. They gave potential allies Hezbollah and Bashar Al-Assad minimal warning to gain their minimal participation without risking operational security. Rapid Israeli responses have stifled threats from both directions because they were not as prepared as Hamas. Vladimir Putin also likely lacked detailed foreknowledge of what Hamas was planning, but he sure moved fast to exploit what they did, and he has yet to condemn it. Tehran and Moscow likely knew the date, and the scope, but not the details.
All these actors had their own power objectives. Hamas wanted to destroy Israel, sure, but also to diminish its rival Al-Fatah in the West Bank, where trouble was expected. Iran wanted to stop the peace negotiations between their two main regional enemies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Putin wanted chaos that would divert western resources away from Ukraine. None of these actors will get what they want, though. This does not end the way they imagined it would. This is the beginning of the end of Hamas as a military organization in Gaza. It likely ends sometime this century with the One State solution in place — and no Palestine at all. Western democracies will not force Ukraine to sue for peace. On the contrary, my read of the ‘enlargement’ strategy as history is that it typically backfires on the enlarger, particularly when the United States is involved. Rather than reduce support for Ukraine in Congress, for example, Operation Al-Aqsa Flood is already galvanizing the Senate to double or quadruple American support. Rightly or wrongly, the two conflicts are quickly fusing into one in public perception.
Another scene of political analysis has focused on the ‘Palestinian liberation’ movement in the west and its grotesque displays of ideological sympathy with Hamas terrorists, often from the same campus left that cancels professors for alleged microaggressions. Holy bloodthirst being incompatible with pacifism, a contradiction was exposed. Rear-guard rhetorical strategies backfired over a 72-hour news cycle. ‘But the slaughtered babies weren’t all actually ALL decapitated’ is not a fact-checking own of the Zionists, it is a self-own for supporters of Palestinian well-being. Even for this non-Jew it has been a sickening, if illuminating, ordeal. Most absurd of all to this writer, however, are prayers for peace. Hamas militants targeted and massacred an all-night peace hippies dance party. The message for all lovers of peace everywhere is that Hamas wants to rape and kill you, along with everyone you love, and call it peace.
Anyone praying for generic ‘peace’ should ask God to remove Hamas from Gaza, because that is the only path to peace Israel is interested in taking. “We are going to destroy Hamas,” says Amos Yadlin, a retired major general from Israeli military intelligence. Deterring future aggression is not enough: “We are in denying Hamas the capabilities to attack Israel.” This is total war: “We cannot change the ideology of 21st-century Nazis. That's how we treat them now, the way the Allies treat(ed) the Nazis — not to convince them to be liberals and democrats, but to destroy their capability to inflict harm on Israel and the Jewish people.” However, Yadlin makes it clear that Israeli policy makers are not contemplating annexation. Emphasis added:
My recommendation, as a strategic expert, is not to re-occupy Gaza for long term. If you remember in 2002, after the Second Intifada and the killing at Passover in Netanya, we had an operation called Defensive Shield. The operation took over the West Bank for months. And for about two years we went from home to home to take the terrorists away. And we gave back the cities to the PA [Palestinian Authority] only after our [Yassir] Arafat passed away and Abu Mazen [Mahmoud Abbas] took over and denounced terrorism as the method Palestinians should use to achieve a state. And so we can take over Gaza, do the cleaning, the destroying of Hamas, and then hand it over to the PA after Hamas is destroyed, or to Egypt or to any Arab country that wants to control this piece of land.
During March, the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research had noted “a rise in the percentage of those who support a return to armed confrontation and intifada. In fact, 70% of West Bankers expect the eruption of a third armed intifada.” Altogether, “two thirds of the [Palestinian] public expect an increase in these attacks.” Hamas is expressing the general mood while Mahmoud Abbas, putative President of the supposed State of Palestine, abides within the protection of his palace. Palestine is not really a ‘state’ so much as an idea of a state, one that never quite coheres as a nation, with a restive population resenting its wealthy elites and their strongman almost as much as Israelis. Abbas can barely count on Palestinians in the West Bank for support, and only because he has the force to quash Hamas there. Imposing his authority in Gaza would be a severe challenge. Succession after Abbas is liable to be bloody anyway. Egypt clearly does not want responsibility for Gaza, either.
Yadlin’s advice therefore points Israel at two political goals, one being difficult and the other improbable. Gaza can be ‘demilitarized’ — that is, Hamas can be reduced to negligible levels as a coherent force — though at some cost to Israel. This will be a tough row to hoe. Handing over Gaza to a competent Arab partner is an order of magnitude harder. Furthermore, any such partner will have to rule with an iron fist, because the Palestinians will destroy themselves if he does not.
Israel tried giving Gazans more work visas and letting more aid into the territory. They tried the peacemaking approach and look what it got them. Eight days ago, Israeli nation was said to be on the brink of civil war over its internal contradictions. A nation built by westernized rational enlightenment Jews, but populated with traditional and religious radical Jews, seemed ready to tear itself apart, but no more. Israelis are galvanized quite suddenly.
“Opinion polls consistently show that Israelis would like to resolve the conflict, but are concerned that a withdrawal from Palestinian territories would compromise their country’s security,” write Gilad Hirschberger and Baillie Shuster, professors of psychology at Reichman University. In “Burying the Hatchet: Tribalism is Essential to Peacemaking,” a recent symposium paper focused on “intractable conflicts,” Hirschberger and Shuster say that for Israelis, “the conflict constitutes the tension between physical threat that may be dealt with by controlling more territory, and symbolic-identity threat that requires territorial concessions to maintain the Jewish and democratic character of the country.” But now Israelis have stopped wringing their hands about the contradictions of Israel. A deeper heuristic has taken over.
Israeli public opinion had also soured on peace ‘processes’ with Palestinian factions well before this war. “During the last round of talks between Israelis and Palestinians in Annapolis in 2007, support for a two-state solution among Israeli Jews was 71%,” the authors note. “The 16 years that have since elapsed have eroded support for this solution that in June 2022 showed a 33% all-time low.” Hirschberger and Shuster use Israeli-Palestinian violence as an example to suggest that “conflicts will be resolved only insofar as the resolution of conflict is compatible with group survival needs,” which are not the same as individual needs.
This conflation of individual and group psychology, the authors argue, is a major failing of conflict resolution approaches propounded by social psychologists. “The obstinate nature of intergroup conflict can be explained by the possibility that other goals may be more important to groups than living in peace,” they write. Hirschberger has proposed ‘group survival theory’ as an explanation for why “intergroup conflict resolution is a possible, albeit not always necessary or even relevant, means of promoting group survival.” Indeed, the very ethic of jihadi martyrdom is self-sacrifice for the umma. Approximately 1,500 Hamas fighters have already been killed. They were sent forth without so much as a water bottle or first aid kit because they were expected to die glorious deaths for Palestine.
Because of this disconnect between theory and reality, “more often than not, conflicts between nations are resolved for reasons vastly different than those posited by social psychologists,” the authors write.
We contend that throughout much of human history, four main patterns of conflict resolution may be observed: 1. The complete defeat of an adversary. 2. Frustration from conflict and its' price. 3. International intervention; 4. The principle of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” These four patterns of conflict resolution have little to do with the processes of peacemaking offered by social psychology.
Israel quit its occupation of Gaza in 2005, an example of Number 2. Israel is now determined to defeat Hamas in Gaza, an example of Number 1. Of the all the conflicts since World War II studied by the authors, the highest percentage — 55%. more than half — resolved as total military defeat of one side by the other. Amos Yadlin is hardly being unrealistic, even if his aims cannot be realized.
Finger-wagging liberal westerners exhibit a utopian “belief that intergroup conflict is the manifestation of individual psychological processes that are shared by many people in a society, and that these processes provide the fuel that initiates and perpetuates violent intergroup conflict.” According to the naive, individualistic view, “conflict is the product of closed-mindedness and cognitive freezing whereas peace requires cognitive unfreezing and openness.” Put simply, psychology has failed to understand war by assuming it is the product of hatred when the hatred is actually a product of the war.
Moreover, efforts to build empathy between groups by creating contacts between individuals “improved attitudes at the interpersonal level, but had no discernable effects even on attitudes at the group level.” Reconciliation is conceived as “an emotion regulation process involving positive affective change,” but “the impressive efforts to regulate emotions for the cause of peace may have overlooked the potential costs of emotion regulation to group survival and the possibility that an overzealous desire to resolve conflict may sometimes ironically increase the potential for violence.” In other words, the very effort to push Hamas towards a lasting peace with the acceptance of Israel as a neighboring state has caused this war. They don’t want that kind of peace.
It is therefore worth revisiting just who is running the show in Gaza. Mohammed Deif, “one-time bombmaker and the architect of a decade-long programme to dig a network of tunnels under Gaza, was born Mohammed Diab Ibrahim al-Masri in the Khan Younis refugee camp during the 1960s,” the Financial Times reports. “Deif was an opponent of the complicated dance whereby Hamas would agree to halt fighting that sporadically flared in exchange for Israel allowing additional funds into the blockaded strip or more work permits for Gazans.”
While this arrangement helped to manage cycles of violence, it has also led to four wars in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2021 and then this one, all of which the militants portrayed as a victory.
“This terrorist action has finished this practice forever,” said the Israeli official of Saturday’s assault. “Now there will be no truce, only retaliation.”
Deif commands the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas. He wants to “sweep away the occupier” and has survived at least seven reported assassination attempts, losing a leg and an arm aand a wife and a son to them, staying at so many different homes that he became known as ‘the guest’. Last Saturday, Deif called on Palestinians to “bring out their guns today, and whoever does not have a gun, let him bring out a knife, a cleaver, or an ax” to attack Israelis. That it has not happened, that the grand pogrom of Islamist fever-dreams has not materialized, is testament to the protective power of the Israeli state.
Rapid mobilization has prevented either Hezbollah or Syria from taking military advantage or crossing the border. A cross-border strike from Lebanon using an anti-tank missile was answered by white phosphorous artillery in the action-response cycle known to military experts as ‘fuck around and find out.’ Rather than support Hamas by sending fighters over the border, Egypt and Jordan reinforced their own borders to keep any would-be terrorists in. Deif did not get his ‘clash of civilizations,’ at least not the way he wanted.
If the IDF has been paying attention to Ukraine, they will not give Hamas the house-to-house fight they desire. Instead, a swarm of drones will buzz over northern Gaza. Troops will use night vision and infrared sensors. Jamming stations will deny Hamas the radio frequencies that control their own drones. Israel has plenty of air power, but total supremacy in the quadcopter airspace will enable observation of Hamas fighters and immediate response with loitering munitions. Apologists for Hamas point out the military power imbalance with Israel as if it was unsporting, and somehow justifies rapine and slaughter. People who fall for this argument make the same mistake as the social psychologists, conflating our innate heuristic for individual fairness with intergroup conflict. Avoiding a ‘fair fight’ is the entire point in war. Hamas was not looking for a ‘fair fight’ last Saturday and the IDF will not try to give them one in return.
“The hostages are a humanitarian issue,” Amos Yadlin says. Hamas “have to immediately bring back the girls, the women, the elderly, the babies. If they have prisoners of war, fine, we'll deal with it. But the humanitarian crisis in Gaza will be solved only when our prisoners will come back, our hostages.” Until then, the Gazans are held hostage in return. “Not a single electricity switch will be flipped on, not a single faucet will be turned on and not a single fuel truck will enter until the Israeli hostages are returned home,” Israeli Energy Minister Israel Katz declares. The mother of Shani Louk, the German woman last seen stripped naked and apparently brutalized, thinks that she is still alive, but there is no proof of life. Cold take from a cold heart: that is just Hamas stringing her mother along, and everyone taken into Gaza should be considered dead already. Survival can be pronounced miraculous.
Western governments that had helped Hamas with governance and humanitarian relief for Gaza, such as Finland and Germany, have now seen the passive-aggressive wolf hiding under the sheepskin. Further aid will not be forthcoming. Hamas is now isolated. They do have friends in the world, but all of them are too far away to relieve Gaza. Israel simply has more friendly states, including more friendly Arab states, in the world than Hamas does. What we saw this week on university campuses in the United States was a reflection of this isolation of Hamas from the fraternity of states and the concomitant need to rally political support abroad. Isolation is the price Hamas chooses to pay for opposing the very existence of the Israeli state.
No other conflict is exactly like this one, or as intractable. Whereas every conflict is different, “the processes proposed by social psychologists to resolve intergroup conflicts are ostensibly universal processes,” Hirschberger and Shuster write. They “suggest that the focus of social psychological theory and research need to change from utopic models to realistic ones.” In other words, they have to fight it out. We have to let them. When they are tired of fighting, or one of them has vanquished the other, we can talk of peace. Until then: no peace.
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