Most of us have viewed the pyrotechnic displays on television of Hamas rockets being destroyed by the “Iron Dome” Israeli missile defense system which has received considerable U.S. financial support. It is a spectacular show which hides the carnage on both sides but with far greater casualties and destruction in Palestine. The fundamental question is why the world is so focused on this conflict as opposed to countless deaths in other parts of the world. The answer is the U.S. is far more closely connected to Israel for strategic and religious reasons than any other country of such a small size.
We have an office in Cairo, Egypt and a presence in Israel which would have been incomprehensible some years back. Tel Aviv is a great place to party under normal circumstances. Moreover, we have close friends there whom we love to visit. One of the first things they display in their very cool condo is their bomb shelter. We asked how they were faring during the conflict. They responded that night moves occur when the air raid sirens go off, they quickly relocate from their bedroom to their bed in the adjoining shelter and resume their sleep. Cairo and Tel Aviv have developed a close relationship as Israel has prolific natural gas supplies which move to Egypt by pipeline to be converted into LNG and transported around the world in tankers. From a security standpoint, the Israeli Iron Dome defense is an integral part of the countries survival with a 90% success rate of destroying missiles rapidly fired from nearby Hamas controlled Gaza as shown below. Without such a defense mechanism, sleep would not come easily following the air raid siren.
The Israelis can be pretty heavy handed as evidenced when the President of Israel was making a speech on their Memorial Day to honor those who died fighting for Israel. The speech was at the Western Wall which is a sacred Jewish site located below the Aqsa Mosque. At the same time as the speech, a call to prayers from the mosque was blasting over loudspeakers to denote the first day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Israeli soldiers simply entered the Mosque and cut the speaker cables so the President could be heard. A bit of empathy and planning could have prevented what eventually evolved into a full-scale conflict with some 230 Palestinian and 12 Israeli deaths. The Israelis took the opportunity to destroy the Hamas headquarters office building in Gaza which the U.S. Associated Press also called home. Following 10 days of intense fighting, a cease fire was declared. Therefore, everyone has an opportunity to look back at the results and reflect on the future.
The Israelis have been masters at playing both sides of the street in U.S. politics though the Jewish faction in the Democrats side of the aisle seems to have added pressure on President Biden to end the conflict. Clearly the conflict detracted from Biden’s domestic agenda. Therefore in turn, Biden leaned on Benjamin Netanyahu, the longest serving Prime Minister in the history of Israel, to come to the ceasefire table. Accordingly, Biden was quick to announce the ceasefire. It was clear the U.S. would replenish the vast number of missiles fired by Israel to neutralize Hamas missiles in its very effective Iron Dome defense system. It is widely recognized that Iran has played a major role in suppling weapons and military training to Hamas which is classified as a terrorist organization. Moreover, the international political dynamics have changed since the last conflict as four Arab countries have recognized Israel to the chagrin of the Palestinians who are clearly controlled by Hamas. It is also obvious that Iran is the clear and present danger even to the Arab world.
However, a schism in the Democratic party is developing with younger members having great difficulty with the heavy-handed policies of some Israelis. Clearly, the older Jewish members of the party could never comprehend anything but full support for most any action taken by Israel. Nonetheless, criticism popped up within the Democratic party. Demonstrations critical of the Israeli military control of neighboring Palestine were evident on the streets of Chicago as shown below.
Perhaps the last high-profile democrat to demonstrate any act of Palestinian kindness was Hillary Clinton, shown below in a seldom-seen 1993 image with Yasser Arafat, former leader of the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO.) Our office in Tunis, at about the same time, was next to the PLO Headquarters which I found a bit unnerving. However, I was always careful to interact with the PLO crowd in the disguise of a western Canadian speaking only in French which did not have to be perfect—eh?
The master politician throughout all of these interactions is Benjamin Netanyahu who, for some time, has been one step ahead of a criminal indictment for corruption. He periodically loses votes of no confidence in the Knesset parliament which are followed by general elections with no clear majority. Magically, Netanyahu has been successful in cobbling together other party members to squeak by with a coalition government and stay out of the criminal courts. He is shown below with another master of manipulating the truth, public opinion and legal issues. Early in his presidency, Trump embarked on a campaign of solidifying a relationship with Israel in order to “make his bones” with the evangelical crowd in the Republican party. It all fell into place when Trump took the controversial step of moving the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. I was in Jerusalem not long ago and it is full of history but not the fun of Tel Aviv. The two politicians are shown below under the watchful eye of George Washington.
Well, you might have guessed it, but Netanyahu was just a couple of days away from the formation of a new opposition government that would have removed him from office. Nothing like a good successful war to burnish your leadership credentials. However, it appears that following the ceasefire, Netanyahu’s enemies have reached a coalition government agreement that will finally remove him from office. Therefore, his past will catch up with him and he will have to face the reality of his prior actions. He may not be alone in that regard. Thanks to the New York Post, the New York Magazine and the New York Times for their coverage of this conflict. There seems to be a lot of interest in Israeli news in New York.