Strategery

This post from Marc Lynch has caused quite the stir today.

I spent the morning at a lecture organized by GWU’s outstanding Homeland Security Policy Institute’s Ambassador’s Roundtable Series featuring Israel’s Ambassador to the United States Sallai Meridor. It was a profoundly dismaying experience. Because if Ambassador Meridor is taken at his word, then Israel has no strategy in Gaza.

Asked three times by audience members, Meridor simply could not offer any plausible explanation as to how its military campaign in Gaza would achieve its stated goals. Indeed, he at times seemed to offer this absence of strategy as a virtue, as evidence that the war had been forced upon Israel rather than chosen: “we have no grand political scheme… we were forced to defend ourselves to provide better security, period.” With current estimates of 550 Palestinians dead and 2500 wounded, and the region in turmoil, the absence of strategy is not a virtue.

Now, this is obviously worrisome and speaks quite poorly to Israel’s strategic apparatus if, as Lynch notes, you take Meridor at his word. But Meridor is a diplomat, and ambassador for the Israeli government, so he’s inevitable going to employ diplomatic speak, and you’re very likely to get anything out of him worth taking at face value. Instead, it’s more likely that Meridor simply can’t say what Israel’s strategy in Gaza is, which to me seems pretty clearly two-fold:

1. Increase the standing of Kadima relative to Likud in Israeli domestic politics. Obviously you wouldn’t want to admit that a lot of people were being killed to get you votes if you were looking for Western approval.

2. To increase the position of Hamas in Gaza. Yes it sounds counterintuitive, but for as many commentators have pointed out that Israel’s attacks are only going to help Gaza, or the even more extreme Salafists, by further radicalizing the people of Gaza, does anyone really think the entire Israeli state is oblvious to that? The more obvious fact is that Hamas had been weakening in Gaza as they had been unable to both improve the lives of  the people there and had proved wholly ineffective at fighting Israel’s blockade. But Israel needs Hamas, or at least some radical faction, to stay in power in the Palestinian territories so as to justify the ongoing conflict that lets them maintain control over the territories, particularly the West Bank. But again, that’s not something you can actually say, lest people start taking your positions a little less seriously.