First of all, it has broken the Israeli decision not to deal with Hamas: Ehud Olmert had no choice but to negotiate, indirectly, with an organization he claimed that he would never speak with. Second, Israel has been obliged to stop its murderous aggression on Gaza and its population.
Unlike what most of the Israeli newspapers are writing this morning, the recent cycle of violence didn’t start with the Qassam rockets on Sderot, but by an Israeli-US decision to put Gaza under siege, to impose an international embargo on a population of more than 1.5 million civilians and to send hundreds of tons of bombs and shells on this small and crowded territory—all in an attempt to push the Gaza population to get rid of the government it democratically elected.
As any person not contaminated with colonial arrogance would have understood, the Israeli military violence only strengthens the popularity of the elected government. One may have expected that Olmert and his generals would have drawn some lessons from the 2006 Lebanese fiasco, where, as a reaction to the massive Israeli bombardments and the destructions in Beirut, Tyre and Bint Jbeil, most of the Lebanese people united behind Hezbollah, including many women and men who were definitely not Hezbollah supporters. Pride and dignity are factors in the political game, but history has proven time and again that colonial governments are not able to take these into consideration.
The failure of the strategy of imposing changes by military violence is not only an Israeli defeat, but one more failure in the overall US neoconservative strategy of “non-ending preemptive war against terrorism.” From Afghanistan to Lebanon, from Iraq to Palestine, the US strategy has failed, as confirmed by the Baker-Hamilton report. And most of the US ruling establishment is praying that until he will definitely disappear from the political scene in a few months, President Bush will not try a last strike in an unsuccessful attempt to reverse what has failed so pathetically during the previous decade, a failure that has cost the lives of hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, mostly in the Middle East.
In 2006, Israel was forced to withdrawal from Lebanon, leaving behind a pro-American government weaker than before. Now, in 2008, Israel has to sign a truce with Hamas, resulting in a strengthening of Hamas power and popularity in the West Bank as well as in Gaza.
Benjamin Netanyahu is right when he points to the failure of the war strategy of Olmert-Bush. But his alternative to the failure of the brutal siege and bombardment of Gaza is yet more brutality, a tougher siege and more international pressures on the Palestinian population.
What didn’t work with violence may work with more violence? Very unlikely! Pride and dignity are sometimes stronger than military might.