Israel: January 2024 Update


January 24, 2024: Before the October 2023 Hamas attack out of Gaza, it was the best of times for Israel because now they had Arab allies against Iran. A growing number of Moslem states were establishing diplomatic and trade relations with Israel. After more than a century of increasing anti-Semitism, most of Israel’s Arab neighbors realized that Israel could be a valuable economic, diplomatic, and military ally against common enemies like Shia Iran and Islamic terrorism in general. Israel is also the only nation in the region with nuclear weapons and reliable ballistic missiles to deliver them. These missiles were also used to put Israeli spy satellites into orbit.

It is also the worst of times because Iran has armed personnel operating on Israeli borders and an increasingly effective Cyber War effort against Israel. Then there is the Palestinian problem. For thousands of years Palestine was the name of a region or province, but never an independent state. The Arabs who lived in the area were often, but not always, called Palestinians. Other groups like Jews, Druze and Bedouins lived in the area but do not consider themselves Palestinians. After World War II, there was a major influx of Jews from Europe, where the Germans had sought to exterminate all Jews and were often helped by other non-Jewish groups. Britain was administering the region temporarily, supervised the large-scale Jewish migration to the area and sought to assign some of the region to the Jews, as Israel, and the rest to Arabs as Palestine. The Jews agreed, some Palestinians did not and have been fighting ever since to drive the Jews out. Since 1948 the Palestinians have participated in several wars to eliminate the Israelis and lost all of them. The Palestinian will not compromise and insist that all of Israel belongs to Palestinians. As Israel continued to defeat the Palestinians in war after war, the Arab states supporting the Palestinians gradually made peace with Israel. Lebanon and Syria did not, mainly because these two nations are no longer able to control all their territory or their borders. Israel leaves them alone and deals with border violence as banditry to be suppressed, not as a war.

There is still no Palestinian state but there are several Palestinian factions which, after one called Hamas drove the then dominant faction of Fatah out of Gaza. The two have pretty much glared at each other since. Hamas has intermittently attacked Israel while Fatah on the West Bank has done little but talk mean.

There is growing dissatisfaction in the West and the Middle East with the Palestinian leadership failures and rampant corruption. Palestinians are convinced that Israel has no right to exist and pretend to negotiate a peace deal only to obtain foreign aid. Arabs in general are now telling the Palestinians to take whatever peace deal they can because cash and other aid from Arab nations will continue to disappear unless the Palestinians solve their own corruption problems and stop their useless fixation on destroying Israel. Many Palestinians are willing to change but their corrupt leaders are not and use their war on Israel as an excuse to violently suppress any Palestinian opposition to their current deceptive strategy. This played a role in a radical Palestinian group called Hamas launching a major attack out of Gaza into southern Israel in October 2023. Over a thousand Israelis and hundreds of foreigners died or were taken as hostages. Hamas hoped this would produce a West Bank revolution to overthrow and replace the current corrupt Fatah government. That failed because the West Bank population had already decided that Hamas was nastier and at least as corrupt as Fatah, while the Israeli military quickly mobilized and began eradicating Hamas.

Hamas is a Palestinian group that has been around since 1987, when a radical faction of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood, which had operated in Gaza since the 1950s, broke away and called itself Hamas. That name in Arabic means Islamic resistance movement. Israel took control of Gaza, a territory between Egypt and Israel, as a result of the 1967 Arab Israeli War. Israel allowed Arabs in Gaza to elect their government leaders and Hamas won those elections in 2006 and prevented any more elections from being held. Hamas wanted to eliminate its rival, Fatah, a corrupt Palestinian organization that had long controlled the West Bank, an Arab majority area east of Israel, and Gaza.

Corrupt governments can work if they manage to pay off the right people on a regular basis. Fatah eventually failed in Gaza and Hamas took advantage of that. Israel did not interfere with whoever governed the West Bank or Gaza as long as there were no attacks on Israel. Those attacks that did occur were handled individually. In October 2023 Hamas upset that arrangement with a major attack on Israel using about 3,000 gunmen. The attack was a surprise to Israel, whose intelligence services misinterpreted the military preparations of Hamas in Gaza. Hamas deceived the Israelis, and this was hailed by most Arabs. While most Arab governments have made peace with prosperous and heavily armed Israel, most Arabs want Israel destroyed. Israel has nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles to deliver the nukes. Israel also has the most competent, well-armed and effective armed forces in the region. Israel’s Arab neighbors have lost five wars with Israel since 1948 and made peace with their unpopular but powerful neighbor. The 2023 Hamas attack force was largely destroyed by the Israeli military after the October attack. Israeli troops are still hunting down and killing the remaining armed Hamas members in Gaza as well as those who reached the West Bank. Fatah is the Arab government of the West Bank and did not welcome Hamas but did not fight them either because Hamas was now famous for its momentary victory over Israel in October 2023.

The momentary Hamas success also encouraged the Iran-backed Shia Moslem Hezbollah militia on the Lebanon border to sort-of attack Israel. These attacks were minor because Hezbollah did not want to trigger a major Israeli response. The last time that happened, in 2006, Hezbollah suffered heavy losses and made itself even more unpopular with Lebanese. The Hezbollah presence has crippled but not destroyed the Lebanese government and economy. Iran did not want to lose Hezbollah but did want to cause some Israeli casualties near the Lebanon border.

Currently Hamas is hoping to survive, or at least being picked apart into several factions that are relatively too weak to do much damage to anyone because they are now more legend, rumor, and folk tale than a lethal threat.




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