In Gaza war, lions led by donkeys?

By Bernd Debusmann
January 15, 2009

Bernd Debusmann - Great Debate- Bernd Debusmann is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own -

It’s not often that a senior member of Washington’s usually staid and cautious foreign policy establishment likens Israeli political leaders to donkeys and questions their competence. But the fighting in Gaza prompted Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies to do just that.

“Will Israel end in empowering an enemy in political terms that it defeated in tactical terms? Will Israel’s action seriously damage the U.S. position in the region, and hope of peace, as well as moderate Arab regimes and voices in the process? To be blunt, the answer so far seems to be yes.

“To paraphrase a comment about the British government’s management of the British Army in World War I, lions seem to be led by donkeys…The question is not whether the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) learned the tactical lessons of fighting in 2006 (in Lebanon). It is whether Israel’s top political leadership has even minimal competence to lead them,” he writes in an analysis on Gaza.

In Cordesman’s view, the leadership lacks a grand strategic purpose. Are the tactical gains the IDF is making in its assault on Hamas to stop it from firing rockets into Israel worth the political and strategic costs to the Jewish state?

Strong words from a respected authority on the Middle East, a member of an influential network of scholars who migrate from senior government jobs (his included director of intelligence assessment for the Secretary of Defense) to think tanks and from there often move back to government in Washington’s revolving door scene.

With the prospect of fighting in Gaza dragging on past next week’s inauguration of Barack Obama as the next U.S. president, analyses and advice have flowed freely on how the new administration should deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a problem that has plagued a string of presidents and shaped Arab perceptions that the U.S. backs Israel, no matter what.

Will the U.S. shift course under Obama? In her confirmation hearing this week, his nominee for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, ruled out negotiating with Hamas, the group Israel is fighting in Gaza, unless it renounces violence and recognizes Israel. “That is just for me an absolute,” she said. No change on that front from George W. Bush.

No word either on Israeli settlements on the West Bank. They will remain standing once the guns fall silent in Gaza. Their continued growth – in violation of international law – bodes ill for the establishment of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, the so-called two state solution. In the past 15 years, the number of Israelis living on the West Bank rose from 116,000 to almost 300,000. In addition, another 190,000 Israelis live in the formerly Arab part of Jerusalem, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.


If Obama is serious about making peace between Israelis and Palestinians, says Aaron David Miller, a scholar at Washington’s Woodrow Wilson Institute, he will need to tackle the settlement question. In the past, U.S. involvement has been largely rhetorical. Miller, a former adviser on Arab-Israeli negotiations to six secretaries of state, said he could not recall one strategic meeting with an Israeli Prime Minister to discuss the damage the settlements did to peace negotiations.

“But it is a fact that settlements are incompatible with creating confidence, let alone creating an atmosphere of serious negotiations.” Why didn’t the U.S. press harder? “For one, we didn’t want a confrontation.”

If future American attempts to help negotiate peace are to be successful, Miller says, the U.S. must be equally firm in dissuading actions on either side that wreck chances of an agreement – rockets fired from Gaza, or Israelis settling on the West Bank. Agreeing to every idea proposed by an Israeli Prime Minister, as happened in the past, is not the right way to go.

The cause of even-handedness would also benefit if American politicians (and pundits) took statements from Israeli leaders with a grain of salt. Such as the analogy Defense Minister Ehud Barak provided to explain why the IDF launched the war on Hamas in Gaza, opening with a bombardment reminiscent of the shock-and-awe assault with which the U.S. tried to decapitate Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

“Contemplate what would happen if Kassem rockets were fired for years from Tijuana in Mexico to San Diego.”

There is no excuse for targeting civilians but Barak’s Tijuana-San Diego analogy is severely flawed. Tijuana has not been occupied by a foreign power, its citizens do not belong to families that were dislodged by a war in 1948, and the flow of goods into and out of Tijuana has not been subject to blockades. Unlike Gaza.

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WWI British soldiers were lions however the IDF are murderers, nothing more, nothing less.

Some WWI British commanders were donkeys however the Israeli leadership are war criminals, nothing more, nothing less.

I think your analogy has fallen down somewhat.

Posted by John | Report as abusive

How long would ANY country tolerate rockets launched by its neighbors toward populated cities? One week? Two weeks? One month?
How about EIGHT YEARS, as Israel suffers it? How about more than 3500 rockets in 2008 (the year of TAHDIYA, another version of ceasefire from the Arab culture , which means anything but ceasefire..)? Would YOU accept situation where over million of your citizens are rocketed on a daily basis, having some 15 second alert to run to a close shelter? Israel built shelters for every home, every school, every kindergarten, every store… For how long would you expect Israel to tolerate such conditions? Israel has warned time after time, that those attacks must end; Israel tried several other activities to try to stop it – for EIGHT YEARS!
In order to understand a conflict, one should go after the goals and heading of each side:
Israel wants peace, with all its neighbors . They say it. They write it. They sing it. With political, economical, cultural relations. If not acceptable – without it. But violence and genocide goals will not be tolerated.
What does the Hamas want?
Hamas goal is to destroy Israel and kill all Jews. They say it. They write it. They sing it. They pump their young children with it (so called “education system”, where even Mickey Mouse is fighting the Jews and asks to become a Shahid, where school children are promised to have 72 virgins in heaven if they kill Jews, where all songs lyrics admires the Shahids [martyr] and preaches for Jihad [holly war]..)
Why don’t you just read the Hamas Covenant?
The HAMAS Covenant holds more than 10,000 words: more than 90% of them are focused on the destruction of the state of Israel and the extermination of Jews!
Few examples are :”..our war with the Jews is pan-Islamic…the goal is JIHAD [holly war] by any Muslim in the world against the Zionists…. The war will end until Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them all, until Jews will hide behind a rocks and trees, and the rocks and trees will say “oh Muslim, the sun of God, there’s a Jew behind me, come over and kill him…… the land is holly and belongs only to Muslims, and we’ll fight until it is returned to Muslims and mosques all over it will announce the Islamic state……
Even the Nazis used “clean” terms, such as “final solution” for genocide: the Hamas does not need that-they say clearly and loudly that their goal is to destroy Israel and kill all Jews: Are you sure we should accept it as ‘internal use’? Would you?

The west bank occupation and two state solution is only in your imagination, I’m afraid: Jews has been murdered years before Israel controls the west bank (reminder: after a joint attack from all Arab countries… reminder: when attacker loss – he need to pay for it: in the Arab logic, if one succeeds to hold back a knife targeting his throat, the attacker deserve to get “back to the initial position” – meaning holding the knife next to your throat, while still declaring they want to kill you reminder: the west bank was occupied by Jordan prior to the 1967 war. Never in history there was any Palestinian State (though in their books they have invented one, since historical facts does not play any role in their education system).
Look at the big picture, for a change:
800 million Muslims.
Six million Jews.
The Muslims want to kill all Jews.
All the rest are just details. But the media always prefer to focus on the small details, and miss the big picture.
I wish you never face the threats and risks that Israel is facing, from its establishment, and those of the Jews in the last 3000 years.

Posted by Abe Ariew | Report as abusive

The Palestinians are victims of their own cultural dysfunction, exacerbated by the desire of the surrounding muslim nations to maintain the conflict due to there self described sense of “humiliation”. Of all the new nations and borders created after World War II, only in Palestine have the people been kept isolated and in refugee camps rather than being assimilated into the surrounding nations. The Palestinians who embrace terrorism are paying the price they deserve. They are wholly responsible for the isolation, and the misery of their people. Israel has a right to protect itself. The fact that the occupation arose from the on-going terror attacks against Israel is conveniently disregarded. “Side-line chatterers”, such as the author, describe the events in an aloof, academic manner. It is personal for the Israelis. Their very survival is at stake. A culture that embraces and glorifies terrorism deserves only extermination. The only hope for relief from their misery is for the Palestinians to condemn and reject terrorism.

Posted by Dan Detroit | Report as abusive

Lions led by donkeys? Ahem, it could be Lions led by “Elephant”.

Leaders cannot become Presidents or Prime Ministers unless they have a “political Brain” better than donkeys? However when advised by biased and bigoted “intellectuals”, they ultimately become “donkey” brained and make “donkey” mistakes.

Bush outsmarted Al Gore in Florida and served a second term which should have been the brainy Gore. Same with Israeli Prime Minister and so are the HAMAS leaders. What is so “donkeyish” is the World response to small conflict on a small piece of land? Both the Muslim and non Muslim world are raved up for proxy wars that we worry more about the survival of either Palestine or Israel without bothering about the of millions more in their own borders. Proxies sent in millions of dollars to feed peoples who hated each other for generations before.

We are the donkeys, I believe. UN looks like the “donkeys” as well for wasting so much time and money on “humanitarian” issues there. If HAMAS want to commit JIHAD and the population there voted for them and not PLO, doesn’t it mean that they ready to be that “human shield” so that the HAMAS leaders can shout and shoot their rockets just to provoke the Israeli attacks so that ?”DONKEYS” around the world rally to support them. Maybe if UN stop feeding them they may get tired of HAMAS? They may not be donkeys though. They may have their own Islamic agenda?

The strategic purpose that the Israeli government attempts to achieve is survival. This goal is clearly supported by the likely outcomes from the Gaza campaign. The military deterrence that was partially blunted in Lebanon 2006 is an aspect of that strategic view. A one sided removal of settlements from the West Bank would be as useful as the voluntary withdrawal from Gaza, it would merely be seen as a sign of weakness by Israel that invites more violence against it. The reality is that the Palestinians, in particular those supporting Hamas, are not ready at all for co-existence with Israel. When Hamas (or Hizbulla) calls for ‘resistance’ is not to occupation, as they not occupied by Israel or any other external power, it is resistance to the very existence of Israel. The Palestinians are being held as pawns to be sacrificed by their ‘brothers’ in the aim to ‘cleanse’ the Middle East from ‘infidels’. It is an infantile and sentimental approach based on values foreign to the West, but when coupled with money, religion and arms, it becomes a very dangerous mixture. Appeasement will not defuse this situation.

Posted by Rob Shaw | Report as abusive

I agree full to the extent of this article. The new administration will cater toward Isreal. Hillary Clinton is in relation of Jewish Descent. We are in for possible devastation in the Mid-east of higher escalation. Well written article.

To the comment regarding lack of analogy by the article author: Gaza was not occupied by Israeli troops for a significant amount of time prior to the initiation of this incursion, just like Tijuana; the border crossing of both entities are controlled, and Tijuan’s would certainly be even more so if it were firing rockets at the US; and the reason there are children of refugees in Gaza is that the Muslim countries, in order to create difficulties for Israel, using the UN as their agent, refused to re-settle them. So a pox on your house too.

Posted by Jonathan | Report as abusive

I’m with you on most of your comments, but as a Californian with a knowledge of US history, every time the Mexican state has given us problems, we have responded directly with military force, invading them (Veracruz ring any bells?) and forcing them to back off, not to mention taking land (like Texas and California). No right of return for the Mexicans displaced, either, but a complicated land-grant transfer system. This history goes back all the way to the Polk administration, a lot more history than Israel and Gaza (depending on your time frames, of course–Moses had his troubles too with the Egyptians and Caananites). What’s the conclusion? We all have a lot to learn about how to live in peace. Let’s get on with it.

Posted by Robert J. Muller | Report as abusive

Israel should just Finish It in the time-tested way similar problems were always solved in Europe: Send your army and drive all the Palestinians out into Egypt, Jordan and Syria. Then close the border.

After a few generations nobody would care to the point where they will recommend others to have their mortal disagreements decided by a UN committee.

Posted by fajensen | Report as abusive

Has anyone here bothered to ask the most important question of all? Why is Hamas firing rockets into Israel? WHY??? DO any of you truly think that these people are just psychotic Arabs who don’t want peace? Logically, if they are launching rockets into Israel, there must be a reason. Once this reason is known, most of your views will change. Do any of you know how many Palestinians have been murdered by the Israelis (IDF, Mossad, terrorist Israeli organizations that are unknown to the public, etc?) since the creation of Israel? I don’t have an exact number but I can tell you it is more than 4 times the number of Israeli deaths. Do you know how many Palestinian houses have been demolished since 1967 to the present day?? 18,147 houses have been demolished by Israeli bulldozers since 1967 (Source: Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions ). Israel is currently holding 10, 756 political prisoners while Palestine is holding 1 political prisoner (Source: The Mandela Institute for Human Rights – Palestine). Now just with these statistics I can tell you that Israel has instigated the response from organizations such as Hamas. For every action there is a reaction. If you treat people like animals they will in turn react like animals. You lock people in a cage, ration there basic necessities, and expect them to sit down and shut up?? Come on! That is simply unrealistic and sick!! What the Israelis are doing to the Palestinians is an obvious attempt to instigate the Arab world into reaction. Extremist groups like Al-Qaeda will fall for this attempt and will call for Jihad, and the Muslims who are not well informed will fall for this call of Jihad and the Israelis will be pleased since this will instill fear on the World (the best tool of war against the Arabs in general is to make sure the World is afraid of them). What the Israelis don’t realize is that the moderate Arab Muslims (which is the majority) will write and they will use there pens as the ultimate weapon and they will not allow the world to fall for this war of propaganda. While the Israelis continue this ethnic cleansing campaign (as a top Vatican official stated, Gaza resembles a concentration camp) they will continue to breed hate amongst the Arab world, Muslim and Christian Arabs alike. There is simply no justifications for the bombing of the UN headquarters, UN officials are adamantly stating that there were no Hamas fighters ever present at the UN headquarters…A mistake Mr. Olmert says? Ha, Israel is so proud of their state of the art military equipment (that was all funded by the American tax payer), yet they use the excuse of making a mistake, come one, who are you trying to fool??? This conflict will never end as long as Israel denies the Palestinians a right to live like human being and not animals in a cage. The illegal settlements must be dismantled, the blockades must be lifted, the Palestinians must be given every right that an Israeli has, and I am sure that there can be co-existence in Palestine/Israel.

Posted by Sherief | Report as abusive

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Posted by Sherief | Report as abusive

1- to the comment saying Israel was not occupying gaza for a long period before the incursion

Israel did in fact withdrew from gaza but it maintained control over borders, air ,sea and everything that comes in or out so they basically made them living in a big prison.

2- according to Israel ministry of foreign affairs the first Palestinian break of the cease fire was recorded on the 24 June 2008 , that is 5 days after the cease fire began, according to Hamas the Israelis fired at Palestinian fishermen 5 minutes after the cease fire started, on the same day they also fired on farmers and naval civil police. More over Israel closed all borders cutting gaza off the outside world on the 25th June in direct violation of the cease fire.

3- According to the same site (Israel ministry of foreign affairs) the first incidence were one part actually killed someone on the other side was when Israeli troops killed 7 Palestinian.

4- moreover Israel remains an occupying army for the entire west bank cutting it by hundreds of check points, gaza strip and the rest of the Palestinian land so anyone who is puzzled on why Hamas is shooting these missiles please use your intelligent and apply the same argument the US is using to defend Israel ; (the Palestinians also have the right to defend themselves ).

5-the Jewish propaganda that Hamas, Muslims , Iran and the entire world wants to kill every single Jew on earth is absurd, a significant percentage of the Jews who migrated to Israel came from Arabic & Muslim land, in Jerusalem and long before they stole Palestine , Jerusalem had thousands of Jews living in peace side by side with Muslim and Christians, why didn’t they kill us then ?

6- to the argument that arab states should house the refugee, daaaaaa, where did those million refugees come from then ? is it justice in the 21 century that when an invading army kicks people out of their homes and lands and send them to live in refugee camps is it justice to tell them go live somewhere else ? if Israel says it won the war and therefore Jews have the right for this land then what message does this send to the Arabs : you have to fight back to get it back ? I thought Israel is all about peace and democracy.

Posted by Shlomo bin Yatiz | Report as abusive

I have been reading the same rhetoric from the Zionist community for 50 years, & have watched while the Western Alliances, not just America, have lined up to shovel hi-tech weapons in the back door of Israel as fast as they used them on their Arab neighbors. I have witnessed them label anything & anyone who didn’t totally agree with their taking what they wanted, when they wanted like a spoiled youngest child “anit-semitic,” & watched the world take that label up as the watch-word of their support campaigns. In fact, if someone, or some country is “anit-semitic” it means that they are anit-Jew & anit-Arab, as the bloodlines are exactly the same, so enough with anti-semitic crap. The Zionists feel that they were “entitled” to Jerusalem, & that they are “entitled” to settlements on the West Bank, & that they are “entitled” to world support for their cause. They are not entitled to take someone elses land, any more that someone else is entitled to take theirs; problem is they never had any land to begin with. In 1917 the land was designated on every map of the world as Palestine. Then, after 31 years of lobbying & terrorism on their own part (i.e.the Irgun Gang, the Stern Gang, Haganah, etc), the Zionists finally got the world to agree to redraw the lines on the world map of Palestine, doing away with that country completely. Every since then, the Palestinians have had no one, not even their Arab Bretheren, in their corner. Terrrorism happens when there is no alternative. Had the Palestinians been given a voice in world affairs before & after 1949, instead of being dictated to by Britain, France, & America, the world might have seen a different situation that they are seeing now, but they weren’t & now the world, & the Palestians are still paying the price. How many Israeli’s have been killed by the pop-bottle rockets that are propelled by a lighted fuse? On the other hand, how many Palestinians have been killed by Western supplied artillery & aircraft, & the most modern weapons that money could buy? (although Israel didn’t have to buy them, as the West has been lining up to give them what they want from the beginning. The Palestinians were stupid for electing Hamas, & stupid for breaking any of the cease fires, if in fact they did break them, but when one is born & has lived their entire lives in a cess-pit of a refugee camp, being told when & if they could beg work from the Israeli’s, & watching their friends & families die from weapons that have “Made in USA, or Britain, or Germany” stamped on them, they grasp at whatever revenge they can get, & that revenge shows itself in the form of support for Hamas & suicide bombings. Wake up people. Stop the slaughter & do what is right. Give the Palestinians a homeland they can live in without having to look over their shoulders every waking & sleeping moment. Gaza is no better than the reservations we relegated the Native Americans to, & fighting them with F-18′s & Abrams Tanks is no different that the American Army slaughtering the Native Americans with Gatling guns & repeating rifles of the time. Let’s try to show our children that we have evolved, & support a homeland for the Palestinian people.

Posted by hloddjr49 | Report as abusive

I am amazed by those who cry so LOUD when someone criticzes ISRAEL….what,noone can say the truth.
All I hear is :

Germns killed the Jews,and I as an Arab sympathize greatly.

Arabs want to kill the Jews.
Muslims want to kill the Jews.
Iranians want to kill the Jews.
Al-Qaidah wants to kill the Jews.
Palestinians want to kill the Jews.
The world want to kill the Jews.

All of these are pure hallucinations,and I truly hope that Israel would rid itself of its ” donkey brained mentality” and accept the world so the world will accept it and live in peace with the Arabs.

And I advice all fellow intellectuals to try to aprt themselves from Isreals crazy and mad mentality and talk abouit real world solutions.

Posted by Abraham | Report as abusive

As we witness the destruction of terrorist strongholds in Gaza – we gaze upon the turning of the soil by those who were forced to leave Ganei Tal – Gush Katif – the Gaza. I headed a mission to Israel [Sderot and the Gaza specifically] two years ago. I lived amongst the Israeli settlers who had given up everything for Peace. We were shelled by Qassams as we spoke with Mayor Eli Moyal of Sderot. They received nothing from their own government and terror from Palestinian, Fatah, Hamas, Hezbollah [whatever] – the weak haters of Israel only hide behind the radicalism of the hard core Hamas. In short, there has never been any love lost between these biblical cousins except in Moorish – Sephardic Spain before the expulsion of 1492.

The enemies of the State of Israel will never win – if one seed will catch the wind and be watered by the morning dew – Israel will be reborn. Time and time again – this is the historical narrative that repeats itself for milenia for those who choose to persecute the Jewish People. Am Yisrael Chai! Israel lives on – forever!

Posted by Sir David montefiore | Report as abusive

Interesting to see in all the comments everyone relates to Hamas but not to Aaron David Miller’s comments: the settlements are incompatible with creating confidence, let alone creating an atmosphere of serious negotiations. Why didn’t the U.S. press harder? “For one, we didn’t want a confrontation.” If future American attempts to help negotiate peace are to be successful, Miller says, the U.S. must be equally firm in dissuading actions on either side that wreck chances of an agreement – rockets fired from Gaza, or Israelis settling on the West Bank.

In other words, the US Administration has appeased Israel, by not insisting that Israel do anything to promote peace.

And in all the talk of Hamas, if they have to recognise Israel, speaking as an Israeli peace activist I want to ask: On what borders, since we don’t have any? The PLO recognised Israel on the 67 borders, in 1988. Since then almost half a million settlers have made 67 borders history or fantasy. If peace is to stand a chance, we must go back to the 67 borders, because only then can Palestine be free, viable, contiguous and able to be at peace with us. Without water, borders, sovereignty, airspace, ability to trade, a shared Jerusalem (it equals 40% of the Palestinian economy due mostly to tourism), militant rejectionists such as Hamas will continue to grow, we will never have peace and another million (or more) Israelis will undoubtedly leave Israel – because THIS IS NOT WORKING FOR ISRAEL. The choice is ours. Olmert has shown he’s not willing or able to make peace. Frankly, shocked as I am by all the war crimes the IDF is committing (hundreds of dead children in bombing raids, not to mention those killed by Israeli snipers when emerging from buildings they were warned by IDF leaflets to leave), he’s not much good at war either. Will be very glad to see him go, probably to prison for all his corruption cases. The corruption of his policies should ALSO be addressed – the Winograd Commission severely faulted him on the 2nd Lebanon War. Maybe this time The Hague?

As long as Hamas continues to deny the Israeli people peace, justice and a land of their own, they will resist. The only way to peace is for Hamas to accept, permanently, the existence of Israel.

Israelis are not rats. The Middle East, due to world-wide anti-Jewish beliefs and behaviors, continues to pay for millenia of reaping what it has sown.

Posted by Put the Islamic terrorists on trial | Report as abusive

Every one of us is responsible for our own actions..

If you are living under occupation for 60 years and your kids and your families have no future. You will do exactly what Hamas and Palestinians are doing fighting for freedom and Survival. Israel has shown again that Israel has no value of Human life. Every one of us is responsible for our own actions.. If Hamas has killed four Israelis it does not mean Israel army go and killed over 1100 mostly women and children.

Israeli government and Army should get charged for WAR
CRIME and CRIME against humanity…… OR it should
Get labeled as Terrorist STATE OF ISRAEL…

Posted by speakamerica | Report as abusive

The Palastinians are Isreal’s little brothers and sisters that have been locked away in the closet. And when they kick at the door, crying to get out, the Isrealis drag them out of the closet and kick and beat their little siblings to the floor until the cries are silenced. Then the drag their younger kin back into the closet. And lock the door.
The Isreali’s use the Palistinians as test subjects to try out their newest weapons and tactics. They view them as toys and roleplayers for their latest sandtable and simulation exercises. And when the testing is over, they lock all their toys back in the toybox until someone comes up with some new systems to test.

Posted by jdeth | Report as abusive

reports 854 murdered by Israel in Gaza (50% of them are children & women) & 3680 injured.

You don’t know what you’re talking about! How about you look at the statistics and let that speak for itself. Isreal has been ethnically cleaning the population Gaza for 2 weeks and have been murdering woman and children without remorse. How about you put yourself in THEIR shoes and then come back to me. The IDF are the cowards for laying waste to a city while they sit in their tanks and planes far away. But at the end of the day, one mans terrorist is another man freedom fighter. Open your eyes, and don’t be bias, use your logic, i’m sure you have one!

Posted by Anonymous | Report as abusive