Israel’s war of vengeance — apartheid to ethnic cleansing

Israel’s war of vengeance — apartheid to ethnic cleansing

Inam Ul Haque June 06, 2024
The writer is a retired major general and has an interest in International Relations and Political Sociology. He can be reached at and tweets @20_Inam


On 29 September 2023, Jake Sullivan, the US NSA, optimistically declared: “The Middle East region is quieter today than it has been in two decades.” And within a week, Hamas attacked Israel, breaking this calm.

Without achieving its stated war aims, despite overwhelming military superiority, Israel and IDF appear to be losing the war in Gaza. A resurgent Hezbollah is shelling its northern borders and sending drones; Houthis are blocking sea access; Iran is willing and capable of tit-for-tat escalation; the US-Israel ‘special’ relationship is strained; the ICJ has ruled against Tel Aviv; Israel is diplomatically and politically isolated worldwide, especially at the UN; and a hostile international street is forcing Israel into a ‘pariah state’. Abraham Accords are frozen before a hostile Arab sentiment, and normalisation of ties with Riyadh, are a pipedream for now.

Professor John Mearsheimer, the author of the classic, The Tragedy of Great Power Politics (2001), and former political science professor at University of Chicago, sees this as a three-way conflict. Between Israel and Hamas/Palestinians, between Israel and Hezbollah, and between Israel-Iran and the US. The defining milestones are April 1, 2024 (Israeli attack on Iranian Embassy building in Damascus), April 14th (Iran’s drone-missile retaliation) and April 19th (the Israeli counterstrike).

The ‘Greater’ Israel and its around 7 million Jews today control 7.3 million Palestinians. Having converted Gaza and West Bank into the World’s largest open prisons, the Professor claims that Israel, under its lop-sided demographic compulsion, has four options – a) a democratic Greater Israel…not feasible, as Israel is an avowed Jewish ideological state, in fear of Palestinian demography, b) a two-state solution…not acceptable to Israeli Right, Netanyahu and Israeli elite, c) apartheid state…that is what contemporary Israel has become, and d) ethnic cleansing of most if not all Palestinians, to retain Jewish dominance.

Despite ‘settler-activism’ in West Bank, Israel was managing the overall security situation well till October 7, hence Sullivan’s optimism. Hamas’ no inclination for a ‘two-state’ solution, as opposed to West Bank’s Palestinian Authority, endeared Hamas to Israel. Israel happily funded Hamas and sent IDF every now and then to “mow the lawn,” through limited punitive incursions in the occupied territories.

The 7th of October surprised both Israel and Hamas – Hamas for the scale of its success. To enhance its perimeter of security, to get out of the existing apartheid status, and to defeat/eliminate Hamas, Israel now would ethnically cleanse Gaza. And so, the IDF’s murderous attack on Rafah against all pleadings, rulings and advice. Israel would be repeating the massive ethnic cleansing drives of 1948 and 1967.

Israeli media is never shy of Palestinians’ ethnic cleansing. And that is one reason why there is no post-conflict political plan for Gaza, amidst continued killing of innocent civilians, and the ensuing starvation to make Gaza unlivable. Israel feels no need for final political settlement in the bombed wasteland of Gaza. Will Israel be able to persist with this genocidal ethnic cleansing? If today is any guide, it might, if the military situation with Egypt especially does not change.

Hezbollah shelling in support of Hamas has driven around 60,000 and 100,000 Israelis from the northern Israel down south. Hezbollah’s growing arsenal of around 50,000 rockets, drones and missiles will keep IDF indecisively embroiled. And Houthis recently landed their first missile inside Israel. Iran after using proxies for sometime attacked Israel proper. But Tehran has no interest in escalation, neither the US nor the West Plus. Tehran, reportedly, kept its April 14 retaliation limited after coordinating with Washington, allowing it to be intercepted by Jordanians, Saudis, the French, the British and Americans, all augmenting Israel’s Iron Dome air defence.

However, the Iran attack did reveal gaps in Israeli geo-strategy (escalation-ladder dominance), and its operational strategy of defending itself by itself, as roughly half of Iranian air armada was taken off by West Plus. Likewise, Israel was coaxed to keep its counterstrike limited, as it targeted just one S-300 missile system’s radar in Isfahan.

Israel faces political, geo-strategic and operational impossibility. First, given the relative military incapability of its nemesis, Israel will continue to push into Rafah, continuing with the war of attrition. Second, having entered Gaza against its stated policy since 2005, Israel finds no way out except Gaza’s utter devastation and Palestinians’ ethnic cleansing. But that has steep and recurring costs for Tel Aviv, the World Jewry and the US. Paradoxically, if Israeli leaders do not persist with the present operational strategy, they risk failing in their war aims (Hamas destruction, hostage release and security around Israel proper). So, either way Israel is in trouble.

Third, ‘escalation-dominance’ and ‘mowing the lawn’…as central planks of Israeli military strategy have failed Israeli deterrence, vis-à-vis Hamas and Iran. Israel also remains unable to defend itself without Western, especially the American help. Therefore, IDF needs to find another strategic construct in the changed environment.

Fourth, with changing military situation making technologies like drones inexpensively available and proliferation of missiles, non-state actors like Hamas, Houthis, Hezbollah and Iran proper can swarm the skies and saturate AD response. This makes many Israelis nervous for being exposed to formidable adversaries, hence the specter of many Jews emigrating out of their troubled promised land.

Fifth, Israeli political, diplomatic, socio-psychological and likely economic isolation is a given, and a big loss to Israel and the World Jewry. Even the mood within the US is changing. About 56% Americans think that Israel is committing genocide; 57% Biden voters think alike with 27% not sure, and a mere 15% believing Israel is not committing genocide. Israel and Jews’ reputation has taken a hit, rearing antisemitism.

Sixth, the US has its plate full…with war in Ukraine stalemated to Russia’s advantage; another Cold War with China and strategic competition with Russo-Sino-Iranian behemoth in the offing; conflict in the Middle East complicating the US pivot to Asia; American public in no mood for another conflict spilling into Iran; and the US geostrategic ‘compulsion’ to keep ME friendly, preventing China and Russia to fill the vacuum.

Iran is reportedly six months away from developing nuclear weapons, enabled by the US withdrawal from the JCPOA – the Obama-era nuclear agreement. From the present 60% uranium enrichment to weapons grade (+/-90%), it is notches away. And that will be a game changer, setting sun on Israeli military dominance.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2024.

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