Well, the great Robert Spencer had the pleasure of taking on Islamism and the great Daniel Greenfield had the pleasure of taking on the U.S. government. I have less great pleasure of taking on the Israeli government. I'm a historian and I just wrote a book on this subject, actually submitted it at the end of September, which I call Israel Victory.
As I see it, the Israeli – well, let's call it the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though it wasn't called that back in the old days – the Israeli-Palestinian conflict goes back 140 years to 1880 and there are three eras. The first was the era of 1880 to 1948 until the state of Israel came into being, when the Jewish community, the Yishuv was weak but very smart. So smart that in 1948 it was able to defeat six Arab state armies with very small resources.
From 1948 to 1973, 25 years, the Israelis took on the Arab states (Palestinians didn't matter at that point), Egypt, Jordan, Syria. And it did incredibly well. It had good resources and it used them to the utmost. The 1967 war was arguably the greatest military victory in human history.
From 1973 to the present, the Arab states have receded with only a couple of minor exceptions. The Arab states have not been military engaged against Israel. Instead, the Palestinians have come back and now Israel is the party with the great resources, the F-35s, the high-tech industry, the startup nation. Israel has all the material power. The Palestinians have almost none.
And yet in this third era, the Israelis have gone from enormous cleverness and competence to all-out incompetence. In 1967, when Israelis took over the West Bank and Gaza, the so-called Dayan Policy was put into effect. It said, basically, 'as long as you Gazans and West Bankers don't attack us physically, we're okay with you. You can teach, think, preach whatever you like. We don't care. Just don't attack us. And by the way, we'll help you get richer.'
In 1993, Shimon Peres and others at the Oslo Accords built on that and said, 'we're going to give you everything you want, a state, a functioning economy. Just leave us alone.' And in 2005, Ariel Sharon took it a step further and said, 'we're going to leave Gaza. We're taking some casualties, so we're going to leave Gaza. We'll let you run it.'
This series of incompetencies in 1967, 1993 and 2005 provides the background for where we are today. The Israelis just didn't take Gaza seriously. They thought because they're now strong, they don't need to pay much attention to this clearly weak adversary. A man I respect very much, Efraim Inbar, a strategist in Israel, persistently called the Palestinians a "strategic nuisance." Strategic nuisance. They just didn't take them seriously, Peres said, "Pay attention to what they do, not what they say or think." So, an Islamic and nationalist fervor built and built, and the Israelis just didn't pay attention.
The key assumption, which has been alluded to, is the phrase: something to lose. Israeli policy was based on the hope that the administration of Gaza by Hamas and the West Bank by the Palestinian Authority, would be cautious due to having something to lose, whether fishing zones or employment in Israel or other benefits, and therefore they would get tame. The Israelis persuaded themselves of this.
I've been arguing with them for years. The security establishment just would not see this. They had what they call The Concept, and The Concept meant enriching Palestinians, placating them, so they eventually come around.
Now the question is what next? Clearly, Hamas needs to be destroyed. It's going to be difficult. Clearly after that – and I might get dissent from the panel on this – no one wants an Israeli occupation of Gaza. It's certainly not having the Palestinian Authority, which is almost as bad as Hamas and much weaker than Hamas, take over in Gaza. It's not having an international contingent come in and take over. Having the Arab states take over will not work. Egypt doesn't want to take over.
I believe that there is actually something positive that could come out of this tragedy. That is the following: since December 2008, almost exactly 15 years ago, the Gazan population has been used in a unique way. We're all familiar with the notion of cannon fodder, unprepared soldiers being sent out, for example, in Ukraine. The prison recruits were just thrown in. And how many died? It didn't matter.
That's historically quite common. What Hamas did was something unique, as far as I know, which was to use its population not to win on the battlefield, but to suffer privation, to suffer bombings, to suffer injury, to suffer hunger, to suffer death. Every time that happens, Hamas' stature rises. People globally are out on the streets and on the campuses. Hamas gains money from its supporters. It wins the approval of Iranian overlords in Tehran.
The Gazan population for 15 years has been subjected to destruction and death for Hamas' purposes. Hamas is not interested in its population except to use that population to further its goals of destroying Israel. That population, I believe, in the course of the 15 years has changed. Not so the West Bank population. The West Bank population remains quite radical, but the West Bank population by and large has pulled back, just wants to live its life.
Therefore, the Israelis have a real opportunity now, presuming they take Gaza and they control Gaza to work with Gazans to set up a police force, to set up an administration and run the place in a decent sort of way, not a great way. I'm not looking for democracy. I'm not looking for friendship to Israel, but just a decent way in the sense that Egypt and Jordan, both of which are ruled by incompetent dictators, are decent places. They're not sending over missiles to Israel, murderers to murder, but are living quietly side by side with Israel.
Israelis have the chance to build up a cadre of Gazans with whom they can work to create something decent. Then, presumably, they could do the same on the West Bank. So I think something good could come out of this.
But the Israelis are so incompetent. That's what we've seen in the last 20 days. They continue to be incompetent. They had no plan to take over Gaza. That's why it's taking so long. So let's hope they get shocked into competence. But I am not counting on it.