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This is the second article I read about the current iteration of the conflict in the American press, and I want to say that Matt continues to be pretty good. Not just compared to the American competition (NYT: "Israel bombed a hospital with 500 dead civilians."), but good in general. Thank you!

I have slight disagreements, of course (my understanding is that negotiations in 2007-08 broke down at a more preliminary stage than at the 2000 Camp David Summit, so I think that the closest the two parties got to peace was 2000), but I think my main disagreement is about the practical reality of the settlements. I think that an important reason why Hamas hasn't consolidated control of the West Bank as well is that settlements break the territorial continuity between the main cities there, so continued Israeli occupation without the settlements would be difficult or impossible. I also think that without the occupation, the West Bank would turn into Gaza, as Hamas is clearly more popular in the West Bank than any other organization like Fatah or PIJ. In other words, while I think "I dislike both the settlers in the West Bank and the rocket attacks on Tel Aviv."* is a consistent moral position, I think it's not a consistent practical position.

Matt's whole argument these days is that this problem is nearly impossible to solve, and yet my main disagreement is that I think that the problem is even harder than what this article says.

PS: I'm glad I'm posting AFTER City Of Trees!

*I'm an atheist, so I have no sympathy for religious zealots.

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"PS: I'm glad I'm posting AFTER City Of Trees!"

Ha! Funny thing is, although I was able to wake up at around 6:30 (Eastern!) and make a couple posts in this one...I promptly went back to sleep for another two hours. Then we've got mailbag day tomorrow and then the weekend, so it's likely that Monday will be the only day over here that I'll be properly acclimated.

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>> *I'm an atheist, so I have no sympathy for religious zealots.

I don’t know, man. Plenty of atheists are in bed with religious zealots, from the far left to Benjamin Netanyahu!

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Hot take, but I think that the fact that Bibi, a secular former Sayeret Matkal commando, is forced to deal every day with his religiously insane draft-dodging coalition partners in order to avoid prison is very appropriate punishment for his corruption. I wish that this punishment was taking place elsewhere and not in Israeli government functions though.

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Like keeping central-bank-hating Jackson on the $20!

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Wasn't there a proposal to put Harriet Tubman on the twenty? I wish that went somewhere.

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I wanted to blame Trump for nixing the proposal, but it turns out our bureaucracy is even more sclerotic than we think:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/harriet-tubman-20-bill/2021/06/03/62443b5c-bcd1-11eb-9c90-731aff7d9a0d_story.html

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Yeah I’d opt for lock and key for him. The key is optional.

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You can add some psycho-religious hoo-has to keep him company, though. I'm sure he'd appreciate it.

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Huge dividing line to me would be people who do or do not think hamid’s third out of six steps is so ridiculous as to just be admission that they don’t have a real plan just like everyone else. Totally agree US needs more of an arm’s length in their diplomacy. In general all the israel/Palestine debates are not debates about US policy and US policy should reflect that.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

I don't believe it's inevitable that the West Bank will turn into Gaza, PHD. The West Bank has remained more moderate over the years despite the fact that Israeli settlers and the IDF are obviously far more of a presence there and despite the fact that Netanyahu and his allies have deliberately tried to undermine Palestinian moderates.

I describe what I think the solution should be here (https://gordonstrause.substack.com/p/israel-and-the-palestinians), but the quick summary is an Israeli pullback from virtually all of the West Bank with a U.S. led international peacekeeping force then tasked with keeping both the West Bank and Gaza demilitarized once Hamas been destroyed.

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"a U.S. led international peacekeeping force"

This would be profoundly unpopular. I'm certainly opposed personally.

The US doesn't need another open-ended commitment to attempt to manage a country in the Muslim world. And this in particular seems like a situation that will even further damage American standing in MENA.

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There is no doubt it would require some selling. Here's the case I would make Monkey:

This is fundamentally a different kind of intervention than in Afghanistan and Iraq. There we bombed and removed the existing political rulers. In this case, we would be peacefully replacing an unpopular occupying force (the Israeli army and the settlers). This is an intervention, especially if done in concert with Arab and other Muslim countries where we could dramatically improve our standing in the Middle East. And the international nature of the force will also help reduce both costs and risks.

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1. What triggers a US exit? (e.g. reductions in violence, time, indications that this isn't working)

2. Why don't these Arab and Muslim countries send their own militaries to lead this international peacekeeping force?

3. What's in it for the US?

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Going to answer these in 2/1/3 order.

2. Hopefully, the Arab and Muslim countries will contribute to the force. Not sure the idea works if they don't. But U.S. leadership is necessary, at least at the beginning, because we're the only country Israel will trust enough to agree to this plan (and their agreement is necessary since it's their army that will be pulling back).

1. U.S. can exit at any time. Hopefully, it will exit because it goes so well that Israel believes it can trust the remaining peacekeeper to deliver on the commitment (or it no longer believe a force ensuring demilitarization is necessary).

3. Reducing the likelihood of a shooring war in the Middle East that the U.S. gets dragged into. Chance to show the U.S. is still the indispensable country.

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You're going to need to be far more specific.

Regarding US exit conditions, define what "it goes well" looks like, what "it's going badly and not worth US involvement" looks like, and the maximum time the US will be present (in months or years).

Regarding benefit to the US, you need to explain why the US cannot just stay out of a shooting war. You also need to consider the risk of Iranian proxies pulling off something like the 1983 Beirut bombing. And the risk that the US looks even worse after basically recreating its mistakes of Iraq and Afghanistan.

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I like the idea, and have seen variations on this argued before by Tom Friedman, and possibly Peter Beinart, before he went to the single, multiethnic state camp.

I don't want to put the burden of reply strictly on you, but on everyone.

Related to the 'how to do this' questions:

-How do you convince, goad, shame the American people and Congress into accepting this as a perpetual cost and commitment in the face of objections from multiple domestic opposition vectors:

a) Republican - reflexive opposition to anything in foreign policy a Democratic President proposes; Evangelical constituent pressure on GOP pols to not do anything opposing Israel or compelling withdrawal of settlers because it might set back Biblical prophecy; Republican-aligned Jewish voter and donor pressure, which comes from the Likud and to the right Zionist or religious-right parts of the American Jewish community that wants no West Bank compromise or restriction on Israeli military and political freedom of action; Republican habitual ideological opposition to military missions couched as peacekeeping, nation-building, or operations other than war. We have a preview of Republican opposition to this sort of thing by the way, there was some vague talk in the 90s when there was hope of an Israeli Syrian peace deal that that US-led peacekeeping force might be set up on the Golan Heights after Israeli withdrawal and the land's political return to Syria. Jesse Helms, supported by the harder line elements of the pro-Israeli lobby, rallied Republicans against funding any such idea, well before the collapse of Syrian talks rendered the idea irrelevant. Now, one might say if we had a Republican President instead, the Republicans could fall in line and not sabotage. But the Republicans can't control themselves anymore like in the days of Reagan and Nixon and Ike, and all the internal constituency pressures remain.

b) Generic opposition: The broad and common-sense, non-ideological public feeling and skepticism that there is no reason to expect an American occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to go any better or be any better received locally, than the occupations of Afghanistan or Iraq. The public will expect Americans will be attacked by local groups, and when pursuing attackers, will not have good faith local cooperation in apprehending or stopping them, and in raids to catch them, will not be able to distinguish them from innocent civilians. The public will expect that West Bank and Gaza residents will complain about American led military decisions, actions and policies, no matter how necessary we regard them for keeping the peace or keeping the peacekeeping personnel safe. They will expect casualties to be inflicted by locally based groups and possibly in the worst case some captures and tortures and killings. And even if those all fail, would expect rocket attacks from the outside, like Lebanon. They will expect this to be expensive.

c) Left-leaning opposition (not typically Democratic pols): This will be the quieter, less noticed, less consequential part of the opposition, at least before an operation begins, after which, it will become *MUCH LOUDER*. It will question every US decision as being biased towards Israelis, question the propriety of peacekeeper conduct toward Palestinian civilians, raise endless concerns about collusion and information sharing with the Israelis. Much of the left and progressive side will not be so loud on this *before* a deployment starts, because they will enjoy getting something they want, Israeli withdrawal. They'll see the US as more 'problematic'. But some lefty virtue-signaling elements just won't have the patience to wait and will broadcast their concerns about the 'Israelis outsourcing their occupation and repression to the Americans' even while the arrangement is hypothetical. And the pro-hardline, right-wing pro-Israeli press will eat up and amplify any such statements.

d) Foreign anti-American voices - Iran, China, Russia, Middle East media outlets, will voice the sentiments in c) above as soon as the idea is expressed and state their opposition and characterize the US intervention as a dangerous trick. Iran will promise to wreck it. So will Sunni Jihadists The rest of the world, including Americans, will hear those sentiments, promises and threats. The Zionists cleared the way for the Crusaders, will be the line.

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Great list of challenges Rob. Not going to pretend to have all the answers, but I would make a couple of points:

1. I think it's vitally important that the mission be U.S. led (at least initially) but a truly international force including many troops from Arab and other Muslim countries. Think U.S. leadership is vital in the early days(/years) because I think we're the only country that Israel will trust to be an honest broker. Think the international presence is vital because I think it (at least helps) address a number of your concerns.

2. I think the Palestinians will be highly incentivized to treat as a true peacekeeping force (and not as an occupier) since if the force pulls out, Israeli troops are the ones who replace it.

Do think it will require a truly bipartisan partnership between Republicans and Democrats, which I get is a tall order, but I'm cautiously hopeful that politicians on both sides of the aisle have enough personal investment in the issue (and perhaps enough of a concern for their own legacies) to we willing to do this.

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Might as well propose Martians riding unicorns keeping the peace. Just as likely to happen.

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Heh. Think it's more likely than that, but I admit I wouldn't encourage anyone to bet their life savings on it in the prediction markets.

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- I would say that the situation for Palestinians in the West Bank is less bad than Gaza. Fatah does yield results compared to the alternatives (unless the desired result is killing Jews, where Hamas is better).

- "Palestinians hate Israel because Israel oppresses them.": This explains neither the Hebron massacre pre-1947, nor the Scorpions Pass massacre pre-1967.

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it's certainly less bad than Gaza in terms of human welfare, but no one likes a government whose stated policy is "we will continue to facilitate the slow-burn ethnic cleansing of our people". especially because the palestinian population is very young, they either want to see progress toward their own state (rather than a continuing destruction of any hope or ambition for statehood), or they want armed struggle so at least they go down fighting instead of meekly surrendering to the onslaught of settler violence and dehumanization

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I think this is a projection. We want the Palestinians to be reasonable human beings, so we think of rationales in our own heads as to why a reasonable person might behave the way they do. But it is obvious to me that the young Palestinians do not want to see "progress" towards their own state, and they do not want to defend themselves against "dehumanization." None of their actions drive towards those goals. What they want is to win the war and kill the Jews (or have other powers do it for them). They think this is their right and destiny, and they learned this from their parents and grandparents. The war can't end until they give this up, and I'm very much afraid that more dehumanization is in store for them as a result. They have agency in this matter.

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This is where the secular has to yield to the religious framing. It’s unpopular to discuss but it is true that many Palestinians believe they are the ones prophesied to kill all the Jews and take back the holy land, it’s part of Hamas’s charter. Now, I don’t think it’s all of them but it’s certainly a very vocal and violent group among them.

To me, this is the problem that is hardest to solve. Everything else could be remedied by land swaps and money. Religious conviction is not like this and can’t be bought off.

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I have been casting around for meaning in this, and I keep coming up with Japan: also a nation mentally in the grip of a genocidal death cult, and also the perpetrator of stomach-churning atrocities. In the end this religious-nationalist belief had to be beaten out of them. It took eight months, a million civilian deaths, mass starvation, and two atomic bombs to do it. Very hard to take from the perspective of future generations.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

"This is where the secular has to yield to the religious framing. It’s unpopular to discuss but it is true that many Palestinians believe they are the ones prophesied to kill all the Jews and take back the holy land,"

Nah, the Palestinians were like this before the turn to fundamentalism. Arafat and the PLO had messianic salvation tendencies, and they weren't religious.

I think they just have a very hard time accepting that Israel is established and their default pathway is trying to take the whole thing back.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

>None of their actions drive towards those goals.

What action would you suggest Palestinians in the West Bank take to secure statehood? They have been remarkably peaceful for a people with no hope who are victims of an active campaign of ethnic cleansing. The fact that they have not convulsed in an orgy of righteous anti-settler violence is, in my view, extremely compelling empirical evidence against your frankly unjustified painting of millions of people with a singe brush.

The Israeli right does not want the West Bank to become a coherent state, because the ultimate goal of the Israeli right is to cleanse most Arabs from the region and secure it for Jewish settlers. There is nothing the WB Palestinians can do to change that. Therefore, their only options are meek & peaceful surrender or armed struggle. That is what Israel has forced them into, it is what they are using their own agency to achieve.

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Honor is a handicap in this case. Palestinians would be best served by conforming their thinking and behavior such that Israel is run by centrists who might agree to live with them, rather than by rightists who want to expel them. If they want to stay in Palestine in the long run, they'd do better to use their agency to marginalize or expel the terrorists in their midst, rather than validating them, and support leadership who can credibly negotiate and adhere to a settlement. If they can't do that, they should be quiet or emigrate for the sake of their children.

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I think there is a lot of projecting American and European acceptable politics onto Israel because they are "Western-coded" that occurs when people act like the Israeli state is not interested in kicking out the Palestinians from both Gaza and a lot of the West Bank. One can simply look at a map of the latter from then to now to realize why treating Israel as an unambiguous good-faith actor is illogical.

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Sorry, no - Fatah’s approach is NOT yielding the crucial result that really matters, i.e., getting illegal settlements removed, stopping the construction of new ones, and putting an end to unprovoked settler violence against the native Palestinian population.

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Pre-'47 intercommunitarian killings in the Holy Land are most comparable to pre-'47 intercommunitarian killings somewhere else, which was British India. Specifically in that using either to tar people in the modern day is silly.

It's hard to believe that creating a binational state in, say, 1946 would be more difficult than doing so today.

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Funny that you blame Israel for not following the Oslo Accords while omitting the fact that Fatah under Abbas and Arafat stoked the second Intifada to scuttle the peace process started in Oslo.

But then again, you have asserted elsewhere that you view Israel as an illegitimate state.

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The idea that they unilaterally scuttled the Oslo Accords is a bit past credulity. The second intifada came after the 2000 Camp David agreement looked like it was coming to grief, and Ariel Sharon (guess what he was up to back in the early '50s) decided to visit the Temple Mount. Mind you, he was the leader of the opposition at the time. This is 5 years after Rabin was assassinated.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

oversimplistic. Palestinians hated Jews before Israel was even founded. Oppression isn’t the source of Palestinian hate, rather Palestinian hate led to their necessary repression which turned oppression. Sure, there are things israel could now do to help its situation, there are also things the Palestinians can do to help theirs. But that’s not going to end the hatred. It might help empower forces willing to rise above it. That’s not the same thing.

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Arab states have treaties with Israel because they respect Israeli power and fear Iran's. If that changes, we'll see what the "inherent" situation is.

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>Jordan and Egypt have peace treaties with Israel; there’s nothing inherent about Arabs that make them hate Israel.

Yeah but the average Jordanian and Egyptian continues to hate Israel. Sadat was assassinated because he made peace with Israel.

Additionally, when Israel pulled out of Gaza, Fatah was still in charge. It did not appear to do anything to help Fatah though - Hamas won the election and we are where we are.

It doesn't mean that Arabs inherently hate Israel (I don't know what that would mean) - it just means that a withdrawal from the West Bank, even one negotiated with Fatah, would not necessarily be the boon to Fatah that some people think.

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founding

Both are clearly true though, if by “cause” you just mean “increase” rather than meaning that it was at zero without it.

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Thanks Matt for giving your views (I know you would like to spend less time on this issue). I mostly agree with them, except that I think it underestimates the extensive antisemitism and anti-Israel hatred. Even if Israel was better on the West Bank, the International community would unfairly be treating Israel (and people would be treating Jews) to major problems with regard to Gaza.

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And when people say from the river to the sea, and also support Hamas, they are effectively asking for all the Jews in Israel to be killed, Since that is what Hamas truly advocates

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I don’t know about that. They may just be asking for all the Jews to be “transferred”. Just as the Israeli far right is asking for the WB Palestinians to be “transferred”.

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No. Their ideology explicitly calls for killing Jews. Transfers are what occurred when Pakistan was split off from India. Not a good idea, but it is not murder.

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Hamas' ideology does. The ideology of the people saying "river to the sea" may not.

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Right, that's why I wrote "and". River to sea means getting rid of a Jewish state, but not necessarily killing all the Jews (God forbid). If someone who spout River to Sea also supports Hamas, however, they are supporting an organization whose ideology calls for murder (and who did it in a very barbaric manner on Oct. 7).

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When from the "river to the sea" is founded on an idea that "they stole our land and they should admit that" it kind of begs the question. "What do they think should happen to the Israeli Jews in the land of Palestine" is a far more to the point. Do we have any pollsters asking *that* question?

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Where did he address last week? I’d like to read

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I believe it was Maya Angelou who said, “when someone says they want to murder you, believe them.”

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The thing I would wonder about is if the "From the river to the sea Palestine will be free" assumes equal rights for all Jews and Arabs in "Palestine" why is the state called Palestine? The Jews are currently a majority between the river and the sea. What happened to them that caused them to concede to change the name of their country? Why not "From the river to the sea, Israel will be free"?

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Exactly this.

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The ideology of the PA is to “kill all the Jews”? I question that - seems unlikely they would have been able to even sit down at a negotiating table with the Israeli government 15 years ago if that were the case let alone reach a tentative agreement wherein they sacrificed the right of return.

Seems to me Israel is at the point where, if it doesn’t step back from what it’s currently doing in the WB, it really has no choice but to swing to the other policy extreme and move forward with openly implementing mass “transfer”, aka ethnic cleansing, on a scale the world hasn’t seen since the end of WW2. The “in between” - continued deliberate immiseration of the Palestinian population accompanied by slow piecemeal annexation of the remaining territory - doesn’t seem viable as a long-term strategy given the escalating resources that will be required to control a predictably ever-more-restive Palestinian population.

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Not talking about PA. As I said, if someone spouts River to Sea and aslo supports Hamas, then they are talking about killing all Jews in Israel. That is Hamas' ideology, not the PA's. I agree that Israel trying to annex the West Bank would be very bad. A 2 state solution, long-term goal though it needs to be given the way the Palestinian children are taught, is the best hope.

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Problem is the Israeli electorate and government have already effectively sabotaged the two-stage solution. They clearly don’t want it and there’s really no possibility of implementing it at this point against their wishes.

Full bore ethnic cleansing of the West Bank hasn’t yet been implemented but strikes me as inevitable at this juncture. There’s no way that Israel can complete its planned takeover of the remaining land there without mass deportation of the native Palestinian population. I think it’s just a matter of time before this is “regretfully” declared. The Israelis will apologetically claim that they were “forced” in the end to resort to this “tragic” option by “circumstances” entirely “beyond their control” and at least some Westerners will believe it, although most of the rest of the world’s population won’t.

Maybe it would just be best for the international community to accept this outcome as an inevitability and begin planning how to soften the humanitarian impact rather than sticking with the chimera of the two-state solution. But people have a need to feel good about themselves and clinging to a morally appropriate solution to the conflict, no matter that it will never be implemented, seems to be a way of fulfilling that psychological need.

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Not true - Israel has shown it can half-ass it for decades. That's where Israel has been most comfortable since late 70s and 80s. That's where my Likudnik (American) college mate was in the early 90s. Unfortunately, Israeli Jews have coarsened and worsened their discourse since then with less accountability for anti-Palestinian murder and bullying, tolerance for transfer and genocidal talk, and and talk of same for Palestinian, Christian, Muslims Israelis and at a minimum putting them to inquisitorial loyalty tests. But actual mass murders, line-up and shoots, mass loading onto to vehicles for transport who knows where is still a line yet to be crossed and would be a sea change in treatment of West Bankers or non-Jewish Israelis, basically not seen since 1949.

But from the late 1970s through today, Israel's Jewish majority is and for the foreseeable future will seem to be completely fine with just enough civic inequality and discrimination in Israel to control all the heights of the state and any significant contested issue and keep Jewish dominance unchallenged in a non-academic way, and is fine enough with the apartheid regime on the West Bank and "ethnic crowding" or boa constriction of Palestinian communities, even if they are accomplishing pretty much *nothing* in terms of collective expulsions since 1949. [If anyone has evidence of mass expulsion of civilians just for living in a certain geographic sector of town size or more, rather than expulsion as a penalty for armed group membership, let me know].

So what it boils down to is Israel has been, and is likely to remain, most comfortable, keeping up apartheid and war crimes, but half-assed, non-Nazi war crimes. If they went *decisive* or chose *definitive* steps towards expulsion and to transition from ethnic crowding to ethnic cleansing to get Palestinians cleansed to *outside* their national border/perimeter [which they would do if they could Harry Potter it by wish magic, but they can't really make it happen that way] that would be a *severe* escalation of war criminal activity, and it would be extremely risky for Israel. Martin Van Creveld predicted, wrongly, during the Al-Aqsa intifadeh of 2002 that the beginning of Bush's Iraq War would be the Israeli 'pretext' to start expulsions. But people judging Israelis as cartoon villains [they are not, they just commit human villainy in context] were 'counting their atrocities before they hatch' now then, and probably are doing so lately and right now. If I'm wrong, and the Israelis do an expulsion, it would be an extremely lethal operation, even with different numbers and tactics, would be globally regarded as Holocaustic, with a shrinking number of apologists over time. Probably the situation most conducive to this scenario happening would be Netanyahu landing on his feet politically from this crisis, and Trump benefitting from this crisis and other factors to winning the election before the justice system disqualifies him to the point he can pardon hiimself of any power-limiting consequences. Trump would sell out Ukraine, Taiwan, and South Korea to their respective tormentors in a heartbeat for sphere of influence deals, but he'd be up for nuking Iran and friends off the map and inviting Israel into the firing squad. Of course, with the right financial offer from Bin Salman and other Gulf rulers for him and his heirs, he might be willing to sell out Israel completely, too.

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I guess my response here would be that the increasingly immiserated Palestinians will inevitably escalate their violence in response to the “half-assed” Israeli behaviors and policies. By doing so they’ll of course provoke a more “full-assed” Israeli response, which I suspect will eventually escalate to a systematic expulsion of most if not all of the native Palestinian WB population. Israel will apologetically declare it “regrets” this “tragic but necessary policy which has been forced upon us”. And actually, I think a lot of folks in the West will be very primed by then to accept this explanation.

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Bottom line - most likely future - Israel will continue to do cruel and criminal bullying, in a half assed way, while also defending itself from things anybody would reasonably defend itself from. Heck, the Russians and Chinese do some of that when they fight genuine terrorists.

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Matt has already addressed this last week.

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I swear the selective application of “international law” in the discourse over Israeli actions is so perverse.

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Hamas is not a state and therefore is not a subject of international law.

Yeah, seriously, that's the counterargument: Israel has to abide by international law, Hamas has to abide by the laws of the internationally-recognised state that governs their territory. Whoops, there is no such state, so they can do whatever they want.

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But if you actually look at what international has to say, it is quite likely that Israel is following it. A David French article in the New York Times made that pretty clear.

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That’s my point. The people who often reference human rights and international law as a bludgeon against Israel apply a unique scrutiny to Israel that they don’t apply elsewhere.

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That may or may not be true Micah , but regardless it doesn't absolve Israel from doing the right thing and not only stopping all the settler violence in the West Bank but pulling back from all the settlements (or at least all of those that can’t be reasonably exchanged for lands

While Hamas is obviously the real villain of October 7th (and I support Israel's campaign to eradicate Hamas in Gaza as long as they take reasonable actions to spare civilians that don't put their soldiers at undue risk), Netanyahu and the settler movement definitely share some of the responsibility for what happened that day as well. Not only because the focus on defending the settlers took resources away from defending against an attack from Gaza, but because Netanyahu definitely has over the last 20 years systematically undermined Palestinian moderates and propped us extremists as a way to continue settling the West Bank.

The essay I've read that best captures my feelings about that responsibility is still this wonderful piece by Noah Millman written back on October 9th.

https://gideons.substack.com/p/eyeless-in-gaza

Meanwhile, while I understand Matt’s Israel fatigue, and it’s probably true that one is generally far more likely to get rich betting things will get worse in the area rather than better, I think he’s being a little nihilistic here. Certainl

He’s right that the two sides were close to a solution back in 2000, and it failed because both sides had preferences they weren’t willing to change. Specifically, a significant percentage of Israelis don’t want to give up the West Bank: some for Biblically inspired “Greater Israel’ reasons, some for security reasons, and some for quality of life reasons. And without a willing Palestinian partner, they didn’t feel enough reason to come off this preference.

But preferences can change, particularly under pressure. While I think Biden has done the right thing so far in supporting Israel’s right to wage war on Hamas, that support should come at a price. I describe what I think should happen next here (https://gordonstrause.substack.com/p/israel-and-the-palestinians), but the quick summary is that Israel should threaten Israel, first the end of aid and then with strong economic sanctions, if it does not pull back from the West Bank. And then the U.S. should lead an international peacekeeping force that enforces a demilitarized West Bank and Gaza and allows a viable Palestinian state to emerge.

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I tend to think that any undertakings Israel may have made with respect to settlements came off the table once Arafat started sending teenagers over the border with suicide belts to kill Israelis in buses and other places. Any idea from outsiders about what Israel owes or should do in this area is just irrelevant. The deal was broken (by Palestinian agency) so there is no deal.

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I also think Israel would be less likely to lean towards right wing governments if less of the criticism was framed as talk about the legitimacy of the state.

No matter how valid the moral appeal, people tend to hunker down (and even commit moral atrocities) when they feel their existence or even important aspects of their life are threatened.

But trying to persuade someone doing bad things to be better by making them feel safe might be more effective (especially when they can point to worse behavior by others) but it's much less emotionally satisfying to anyone who feels strongly about the wrong.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

And if you are a third party to this (eg the progressive left in the west) and in your statements chose to ignore, excuse or even justify the most barbarous massacre imaginable of the country’s civilians it’s obvious that they won’t they listen to your criticism but would rightly question your claim to have any genuine humanitarian concerns for anyone whatsoever: If you can ignore or excuse what Hamas did you cannot convincingly claim to care about civilian lives period. Thus one is left with concluding you only pretend to care even about Palestinian lives even as your true interetsts in the whole thing is simply antisemitism. This conclusion is reinforced by the fact that the very same factions holding these ME positions *also* shows indifference and callousness to the shocking rise in pure antisemitic hate towards all Jewish students on their campuses and in their countries.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

What prevents a deoccupied West Bank from turning into what Gaza is now? Gaza-ify the West Bank and the outcomes are almost too horrible to contemplate. Lots of discussion of the Iraq War and Arab Spring these past weeks, but if there’s one lesson to be learned from them, it’s that Things Can Always Get Worse, and ending an unjust status quo can just create a much, much worse situation for all sides involved.

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It can always get worse, but I don't see how allowing continued settlements or displacement keeps extremism in check. In my view, it not only delegitimizes Israel, it delegitimizes the PA. They work somewhat with Israel, and what does it get them, in the eyes of Palestinians? What does it net non-settler Israelis, who in the lead up to Oct 7, had to invest heavily in the defense of Settlers, at the expense of defenses near Gaza? I don't think any viable two-state path should be a repeat of Gaza in 2005. There'll have to be a transition, but the continued settlements make peace more and more unviable every day.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

They entrench the status quo. That’s what they net non-settler Israelis. This is not very good because the status quo is not very good and definitely worse than a peaceful-two-state solution, but in turn, the status quo is much, much better than a Gaza-fied, two-states-at-immediate-total-war solution. And I just can’t help from worrying about how terrifyingly likely the latter is.

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The thing to do is freeze settlement growth but maintain the military occupation until steps are taken towards normalization. The settlers themselves are illegitimate big time. Security precautions are not.

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The settlements make Gazafication more likely, not less.

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Do they, though? It certainly looks like removing a presence in Gaza went a long way to where we are now. What evidence do we have otherwise?

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Pulling out of Gaza probably would have seen better results if Israel had firdt agreed to the creation of a Palestinian stste run by the PLO first.

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Do you have any evidence to support that? As read, I can as easily say that everything over there would be fine if Hamas didn't exist. Which just isn't really an actionable take. :(

More, how do you accomplish that in the other location? Do you honestly think it would be possible to remove all jewish presence in west bank and not have Hamas take over? Recall that they literally killed moderates to take over Gaza.

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The Second Intifada and Hamas have shown Israelis that an independent West Bank would likely result in a very armed and well supplied territory with porous borders dedicated to the genocide of every single Jewish person in Israel.

Even if it didn’t happen the security risk is far too high for average Israelis.

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So? What should the approach be toward the Palestinians living in the WB? What should Israel do, and if they do it, should the US support them?

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The best case scenario is removing settlements, letting Palestinians have freedom of movement, but denying the PA a monopoly on violence until enough people give up Arab irredentist ambitions that occupation is no longer needed.

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Unfortunately I’m not seeing that Israel will ever voluntarily give up any significant number of settlements. That train seems to have left the station, and with it any chance of a two-state solution. Wonder if Matt agrees - I think that may be why he doesn’t enjoy expending mental energy anymore on this conundrum.

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Maybe, although I think the past month has shown that the status quo isn't exactly sustainable either.

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I mean, it’s not the West Bank part of the status quo that is currently being unsustainable.

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Wasn’t it the West Bank part that kept the security forces distracted guarding settlements that allowed Hamas to make their raids?

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We don't know yet (so far everything I've seen on this sounds like intra-Israeli score settling) but it will be interesting to see.

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The choice isn't Gaza-ify the West Bank or keep the status quo. You could maintain the occupation--the physical armed presence of the IDF in the West Bank for security purposes--while dismantling every last settlement. The logistics would be harder for the IDF, but it would be doable. The PA might protest a bit, but the removal of the settlements would be enough of a win to keep them quiet.

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I feel kind of wierd about the extent to which 10/7 has made Israel's bad act in the West Bank a prominent part of the discourse. It isn't like Israel is doing much different there before 10/7 but the amount of criticism it has been getting for it has gone up significantly.

The thing is, Israel deserves a lot of criticism for the West Bank, but the timing is wierd. If you look at terrorism as a way to bring attention to a cause, it is almost an example of Hamas' attack "working," but you don't want to encourage such things. It also seems like a way to both-sides the attack.

I'm not sure I really have a point here, it just doesn't sit right with me.

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It's not at all equivalent in scale to the 10/7 attacks , but settler violence against West Bank Palestinians has ramped up since the 10/7 attacks, so that's a legitimate factor in making it part of the discourse, IMO: https://www.jpost.com/israel-news/article-771247

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True, but I don't think this is what is driving the discussion.

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A pretty obvious result of this conflict being all over the news is that one of the most common statements about the conflict in general is also going to show up more.

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I think the attacks on 10/7 have brought this to the forefront, and when discussing solutions there is a need to address the various causes. Settlements are a major impediment to the preferred solution.

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Yes, I’ve had trouble articulating this but I feel the same way.

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I think most neutral observers can agree that the October attack definitely succeeded in moving the needle.

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I think the Israeli public believe that even if they found a Palestinian partner to take a two state deal, that partner would never be able to deliver the peace that was supposed to be the dividend, either because of lack of desire or the partner would not survive as leader of the Palestinians. I'm not sure reinstalling Fatah in Gaza will go any better the second time unless there's an outside force keeping them in power.

I think the two state window has probably closed, barring the rise of some amazingly charismatic moderate Palestinian leader who could unite most Palestinians. I think the Israeli plan will be to withdraw from Gaza, but this time with more ability to intervene and better border buffering, and to continue status quo in the West Bank

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I think that, much more likely than a charismatic moderate, is an exhausted old soldier who is tired of sending young men and women out to die. You'd need someone with the military reputation of a Caesar or an Alexander to say "We can't win this war. Not now, not ever. All we achieve by fighting is dying. Our only choice is either to live alongside Israel, or die. I choose to live."

It was Martin McGuinness - a convicted terrorist, head of the Army Council of the Provisional Irish Republican Army, and someone that was respected by just about all of the senior figures in the IRA (and held in no little awe by many of the junior ones) who did that in Northern Ireland. The words I put in quotes are not adapted from an actual quote of his, to be clear: they're my characterisation of his position.

One Israeli policy that I fully understand but oppose is the targetted killing of Hamas leaders. They need to give them the chance to get old and tired of blood. Only someone who has blood on their hands will have the authority to end this war.

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The Israel/Palestine equivalents are Arafat/Rabin, of course, and also Sharon. Begin/Sadat as well. I fully agree that the only people with the moral authority to sign such a deal are people on both sides that today are viewed as extremists.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

>> One Israeli policy that I fully understand but oppose is the targetted killing of Hamas leaders. They need to give them the chance to get old and tired of blood. Only someone who has blood on their hands will have the authority to end this war.

There is something to that, but you don’t need *all* of them to get old. If you kill some you show they pay a price and increase deterrence and help those left rethink their choices… seriously, though, you need to both demonstrate to them that their genocidal aims won’t work and give them a viable alternative. Though a different and in some ways easier situations, that’s basically how it worked with the Arab countries normalizing ties with Israel. The first step is to convince them they can’t win by war/terror and will pay a steep price for every additional attempt. Then you offer them some carrot for doing the right thing.

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Yeah, there's something to your point as well, though I'd concentrate on the political rather than the military leaders (I appreciate that in the real world the distinction is more blurry than that)

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To my understanding, the political leaders of Hamas are mostly in Qatar, and never in Gaza. This makes it quite difficult for Israel to kill them. Not impossible -- Israeli agents have assassinated people far from their borders in the past -- but much harder than if they were in a small strip of land within range of artillery. I don't often see people talking about Qatar's role in supporting Hamas, but I suspect it is important.

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Nov 4, 2023·edited Nov 4, 2023

Qatar has been surprisingly successful at pitching for both teams. I believe it hosts *both* the biggest American military presence and the hams leadership. It’s also now a ridiculously major donor to American academia, which might in part explain many universities deprave reluctance to call out Hamas.

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In Matt’s previous post on Israel I commented on how Palestinians lack any credible leader that can deliver peace. Even “moderates” are led by Holocaust deniers and who found their legitimacy on irredentism.

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I think your first paragraphy is 100% right Seneca. At this point, even though Netanyahu and his settler allies bear significant responsibility for undermining more moderate Palestinian leaders and propping up Hamas, it is what it is and I don't think Israelis have any faith that a moderate Palestinian can deliver the good. You're right that an outside force needs to enforce a demilitarized Palestinian state for the Israelis to be willing to allow such a state to come into being. And I think the only outside force the Israelis trust is the United States.

That's why I think the path to a viable two state solution is through a U.S. led international peacekeeping force enforcing border security and a demilitarized Palestinian state. A bit more detail here:

https://gordonstrause.substack.com/p/israel-and-the-palestinians

Would be curious what you think Seneca?

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Are you just a guy who shows up to spread this 1 absolutely terrible idea? I don't think I've ever seen you comment anywhere else on SB, other than to spread literally the single worst foreign policy idea I've ever heard, that America should get *more* involved in the Middle East/inflame the situation more by putting American troops on the ground. (Are you a bot?) Give the entire Muslim world a whole new reason to hate us, and get even more entangled in the single worst region in the world. This has to be a joke, right?

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Definitely not my first post here, but it's also true that I'm a very(!!) irregular poster in Slow Boring comments (I would guess I have only commented on about 5-7 Matt pieces, and I have been a subscriber since Day 1). Generally don't have the bandwidth to engage in the comment communities of the Substacks where I'm subscribed.

But this is an issue that I've actually felt strongly about for many years, and given the events of the last month, I've been spending too much time online anyway and this felt like a way to make it a little more productive (if only in my own mind).

As for the idea itself LF, while I wouldn't say it comes without risks, I think the idea that this gives the Muslim world a whole new reason to hate us means you don't understand the proposal. The fundamental idea here is to pressure Israel out of the West Bank (with some Taba like exceptions) and to ensure the Palestinians have a viable state. I believe that a U.S. led peacekeeping force is the only way to make that idea acceptable to most Israelis. And while there are doubtless some in the Muslim world who probably will object to this because they don't want to take any steps toward accepting Israel as a permanent presence, I believe most of the Muslim world will be on board with Palestinians having their own state on the West Bank and Gaza and will be supportive of an initiative that makes that a reality.

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Curiosity about world events is admirable to a degree, but you can live a long and happy life without doing any crash studies of this endless conflict.

Given its repetitive nature, there are far more interesting issues to study and develop opinions on, like why did the Clippers make that disastrous trade for James Harden?

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if you are trying to lean out of dull, attritional, and repetitive conflicts it's probably for the best to avoid learning about James Harden as well.

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jokes on you then i guess

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Just like there will never be peace between Israelis and Palestinians, so too the Clippers will always screw the pooch and never ever win an NBA championship.

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Yep

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I don't think so, because the Palestinian population in the West Bank is also growing fast. The two groups are locked in a fertility rate race.

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Nov 4, 2023·edited Nov 4, 2023

Israel can already annex the West Bank. The problem is that it would mean votes for the Palestinians, which would at that point become dangerously close to a majority (since they’ll be added to Israel’s significant existing Arab (palestinian) citizen minority)

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

That’s a common concern on the Israeli left for a while. I’m actually not at all sure the process is so obviously linear. Europe seems to become more pro Israel. As is India. As , I hear a lot of South America (though I’m less informed about it). Us perhaps heading in the other direction but form a very pro Israel baseline. Ultimately I think israel should keep (or rediscover) its moral compass both for its own sake and because it might help to an extent, but whether it’s isolated or not is dependent far more on other countries self-interest. Countries behaving far worse than Israel (or South Africa for that matter) are getting away with all the time. Others that did nothing wrong are suffering terribly often with global indifference.

The facts often matter less than interest. The ability of the left to be so callous to massive hate crimes against Jews despite being steeped in a discourse ostensibly derived from the lessons of the Holocaust is the best demonstration of this.

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The best phrase to describe what Hamas did October 7 is irredentist pogrom.

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The facts often matter less than interest. The ability of the left to be so callous to massive hate crimes against Jews despite being steeped in a discourse ostensibly derived from the lessons of the Holocaust is the best demonstration of this.

Wonderful quote.

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Why would such pressure be inevitable? There are plenty of much more horrible states in the region which people are happy to trade with (like major US ally Saudi Arabia), and it’s not like China is going to care what happens to Palestinians when they treat their own Muslim minority worse.

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deletedNov 4, 2023·edited Nov 4, 2023
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>> I’m not sure China treats its Muslim minority worse.

My first instinct was “lol” but honestly this is just sad.

For the substance though, the point of our disagreement is that you work under the assumption that countries’ response to Israel has anything to do with what Israel is doing (which as of yet is in fact rather unclear under fog of war). Mine is that it has almost nothing to do with and almost everything with those countries interest. China is a case in point. It’s simply that tension with us are on the rise and China decided to forge closer ties with Russia and Iran. Russia in turn is at its most anti Israel since the Cold War ended, simply because its tensions with us (due to Ukraine) are at their worse since that time. Surely you don’t believe either of these regimes actually care about Palestinian civilians ?

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Nov 4, 2023·edited Nov 4, 2023

No, they are just stirring up shit to make life harder for USA at low cost. They don’t really care it’s just new Cold War stuff.

Re treating their Muslim minority worse, I was referring to the millions of them (Uyghurs) currently being put into actual concentration camps and used as slave labor and being subject to forced marriages etc.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

There have been two states since Israel exited Gaza in 2005.

What you’re proposing is the installment of a pro-western autocratic puppet regime, aka Fatah. Because free elections would favor Hamas.

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This is a really good point. The discourse around the West Bank usually assumes it is somehow different than Gaza. That might be true, but I'd like to hear why that would be the case.

If it turned into Gaza, it would be much, much worse. Closer to all population centers with a much longer and less defensible border

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There is another reason why the West Bank would be much worse. The fact that Jerusalem and the Al-Aqsa Mosque will be geographically at the center of the conflict will cause immense anger from a billion Muslims, even if the real reason for the outbreak of the future conflict will be like now the perpetration of genocide on Jewish babies and children.

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Is Gaza really a state? It is smaller than Andorra (140 vs. 181 square miles). Andorra is sort of a state, but is really a condominium between the President of France and the Bishop of Urgell.

Andorra can have a first world economy as a banking haven and place to buy lightly taxed gas, booze and cigarettes. The catch is Andorra has 82k people and is located between two countries that have opened their borders and economies to one another. Gaza has 25 times the population, 2.2 million, and is sandwiched between two countries with chilly relations and limited commercial ties.

Gaza’s population has so outstripped its resource base that emigration is the most humane answer. Acquiescing to ethnic cleansing sucks, but living a stunted and impoverished life sucks worse.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

Gaza has the density of greater London and is twice the size of DC.

Nothing stopped Gaza from normalizing relations with Israel and benefiting from free trade and investment. It could have been a model of what a Palestinian state could be, and the Israeli left would have been proven right.

So here we are. Two states, with the Palestinian one being exactly the nightmare that the Israeli right wing extremists predicted.

Good luck selling that bill of goods again.

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irredentist rage made your proposed solution impossible. were plains indians in the 1890s seeking out commercial opportunities or were they doubling down on their ancient culture through ghost dancing and similar movements?

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if Palestinian rage made it impossible for Gaza to function as the liberal Palestinian democracy that westerners fantasize about, what’s different about the West Bank?

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for one it’s quite a bit richer and less crowded.

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I would not expect London to survive if it declared war on the UK and periodically kidnapped and murdered UK citizens. And I would expect the UK to be far less considerate of the London civilian population than Israel has been of Gazans. Doubly so for DC.

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Given that the vast majority of the British economy is concentrated in London financial services, I should think it could survive alone. I'm not sure the rest of the country could survive without it!

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I think your second statement is too confident of a prediction. We don’t know the effect that events since 10/7 have had on Gazans’ overall feelings about Hamas, and we know even less about how the potential future events Matt laid out in the post would affect Gazans’ preferences for a government. And that’s to say nothing of how the preferences of neighboring heads of state in this scenario might shift in a deal making process.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

That’s fair. My comment was based on my recollection of reports that the 2021 elections were scuttled because Hamas was in the lead.

But even if true, does not necessarily predict elections today.

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>There have been two states since Israel exited Gaza in 2005.<

Not according to international law.

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it had complete autonomy. It could have been a Malta. Instead it was a, well, Gaza.

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There are absolutely millions of reasons why it could not have become Malta, but not being in control of its own imports exports and infrastructure is a pretty massive one.

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Except it could have controlled its own trade if it normalized relations with Israel.

Gaza wasn’t restricted before Hamas took over.

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Gaza could have been part of the larger economic zone of Israel and Egypt and the rest of MENA. Stop making excuses for Hamas.

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At one time there were a lot of Palestinians working in Israel and that might have grown into something more. The Israelis need the labor. But that ended when the Palestinians started sending over teenaged girls with suicide belts to detonate in Israeli buses, thus proving that they could not restrain the terrorists in their midst. That was when the wall was built.

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Nothing stopped Gaza from recognizing Israel and being a functioning liberal democracy that invests in infrastructure and its people instead of tunnels and rockets.

And it does have control over its own borders. It doesn’t have control over Egypt’s or Israel’s. You can’t force neighbors to cooperate or trade with you. And neighbors aren’t required to supply you with resources. If you need resources then you negotiate and barter.

But as Hamas admitted, they just pretended to run the government as they secretly prepared for war.

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I don't want to absolve Palestinians of their own agency, but the fly in the ointment of your argument is that Netanyahu deliberated propped up Hamas for years, precisely because it wasn't interested or capable of setting up a functioning Palestinian state.

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I really think this "Netanyahu propped up Hamas" argument is overstated and that people are throwing around this idea without thinking what it means. For this argument to have any force, implicitly what we're saying is that "but for Netanyahu, Hamas would not control Gaza today" but that's obviously not true. It's not like Hamas was on the verge of dissolving and Netanyahu started running them guns.

Rather, when people say "Netanyahu propped up Hamas" they mean he took actions that the international community would have wanted him to take vis a vis Hamas - i.e. an already existing terrorist group that already controlled Gaza when he became PM. Those actions include "negotiating with Hamas for ceasefires and prisoner exchanges," "letting the Qataris send aid to Gaza," "allowing Gazans to work in Israel" and "reducing targeted killings of Hamas leaders."

People making this argument are usually relying on something Netanyahu reportedly said (no actual recording exists) to the effect of "people who oppose a two state solution should support dealing with Hamas because it weakens the PA." But, even if he said it, we don't know the context of it. Plausibly he's just saying it to appease his right wing flank for questioning his giving in to international pressure.

But even if he said it, and even if he meant it, you're still left with the problem that Netanyahu's "propping up of Hamas" would have been done by a more congenial left wing government too.

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The argument, Rewenzo, is that Netanyahu undermined Palestinian moderates and propped up Hamas so that he could claim there was no viable partner for peace and to continue to settle the West Bank. And I think it's fully accurate. Hamas is ultimately the real villain (and I'm supportive of Israel commitment to finally destroy them), but Netanyahu and the settler movement also bear significant responsibility for October 7th.

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My argument is that:

(a) you don't actually know that Netanyahu undermined Palestinian moderates and propped up Hamas so that he could claim there was no viable partner for peace. It's not implausible, but you don't actually know that. The whole thing rests on (i) the assumption that everything Netanyahu does is to undermine the peace process and (ii) hearsay that somebody says Netanyahu said to his right wing coalitions partners.

(b) even if it were true that this was Netanyahu's intention, it doesn't address the fact that virtually any attempt to productively engage with Hamas on any issue, can be interpreted as undermining Palestinian moderates, but Palestinian moderates don't govern Gaza. Hamas does. You either deal with them or you deal with nobody. Nobody has yet suggested to me what Netanyahu should have done with Hamas that (would not (i) have strengthened Hamas or (ii) undermined Palestinian moderates and also (iii) not resulted in Israel being accused of war crimes for refusing to deal with Hamas at all. And (iii) is important. Because if Netanyahu forbids any aid to go into Gaza or refuses to negotiate ceasefires with Hamas - all acts that purportedly strengthen Hamas at the expense of Palestinian moderates - he would be strongly criticized for this by the same people accusing him of propping Hamas up.

(iii) The other thing this argument fails to do is attempt to account for exactly how much of Hamas's existence or its attack on October 7 could be explained by Netanyahu's support? Does anybody seriously think Hamas would have withered away without it?

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You overstate the motivation.

Yes, supporting Hamas makes Fatah look bad. And that’s exactly the argument you make to right wing extremists when you’re trying to convince Hamas to pacify and succeed as a ruling party.

By your logic, Israel should have clamped down on Gaza instead of trying to open it up.

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Remember, Israel is wrong and to blame regardless the actions they take. That is the selective standard. It’s like “America bad” but much more bigoted.

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"And it does have control over its own borders. It doesn’t have control over Egypt’s or Israel’s. You can’t force neighbors to cooperate or trade with you. And neighbors aren’t required to supply you with resources. If you need resources then you negotiate and barter. "

If Gaza wanted free trade with another country, you're saying that they can do that? Because my understanding is that Israel has consistently restricted their trade and movement to and from Gaza.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

No. If Gaza wants to trade then it needs to not be a security threat to Israel or Egypt.

If the Vatican was a death cult, no one would expect it to be allowed to import/export arms through Italy.

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Nov 4, 2023·edited Nov 4, 2023

A blockade is never “allowed.” It’s done with military power. The Arab nations would have loved to if they could, just as they boycotted and sanctioned and invaded Israel when they could.

The Arab nations weren’t “allowed” to declare war in 48, 67, or 73.

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The blockade started after Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization, that bombed buses in Israel in order to scuttle the peace process in the 80s, took control of Gaza.

If Hamas wanted trade access that wasn’t interfered with, then it probably shouldn’t have traded for weapons and materials to attack Israel with.

You can’t pretend Hamas was an unknown quantity for all of these years when they’ve repeatedly demonstrated and declared their intentions.

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Hamas insists that it does not want trade or prosperity, but only the destruction of Israel. Most Palestinians support Hamas, but you insist that the struggle is about economic strangulation. It's ridiculous. You strive to put false words in the mouths of people who tell their own truth.

And regarding Gaza, the comparison with South Africa is ridiculous. The Strip is territorially separate according to the internationally recognized 1949 ceasefire agreement. It's not like Israel unilaterally invented its borders. Small countries like Singapore, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Bermuda are often among the richest and most prosperous in the world.

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In this case, I think both things are true. The blockade is a function of the attacks on Israel from Gaza. But Israel left Gaza knowing that Hamas was going to take power there, and it has deliberated propped up Hamas and undermined more moderate Palestinian leaders as a strategy to further settle the West Bank.

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I lived in Israel in 2005. No one hoped that Hamas would take over. Most thought there was a chance that it would be possible to travel to Gaza to eat hummus and buy furniture.

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Almost every word you say is so wrong that I wonder if there's any point in writing corrections. The claim that Gaza's border is not internationally recognized is ridiculous. Of course, it is internationally recognized. Even Hamas itself does not dispute this. The claim that Israel is responsible for the density in the Strip is ridiculous. After 1948, about 200,000 people lived there. The fact that it has grown tenfold is because of fertility rates of nine children per woman, which were made possible due to low child mortality and the good standard of living under the Israeli occupation.

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"Would you have accepted the Nazis declaring the Warsaw ghetto an independent country, walling it off, and letting the Jews there fend for themselves?"

I think even that would have been preferable to what the Nazis did. So yes, I would accept it, given the alternative.

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A temporary measure would have been better than a permanent one. But either would have been better than the camps.

(The point in my previous post was that you should stop trivializing the Holocaust. It's useful as an extreme case, but not as a metaphor.)

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Nov 3, 2023·edited Nov 3, 2023

"Israel blockades Gaza by sea and air, preventing Gaza from trading with other countries even if those countries might want to trade with Gaza, and bombed the border crossing with Egypt."

The crossing was bombed less than a month ago. Hamas has had decades to mend fences with Egypt, or to ask the UN or some other trusted intermediary to carefully inspect all seaborne trade for weapons in exchange for Israel lifting the blockade. It has done neither.

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Viability complaints are nothing more than a warrant for aggression. Gaza is bigger than Lichtenstein, San Marino, Monaco. West Bank would be bigger than Luxemburg. Most small nations would be unviable without a degree of civil and open trade relations with neighbors and there are over a dozen living landlocked nations who could be considered 'unviable' by some measures.

You are simply providing a warrant to 'surrender to territorial diktat x', or anything my side does, goes.

If Peace comes through means other than total destruction of a side, it will be through negotiated compromise, not through a diktat or an imposed victory like you are describing.

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Nov 3, 2023·edited Nov 3, 2023

"A state cannot unilaterally create non-viable enclaves and declare them independent to disclaim responsibility for them. That’s what Apartheid South Africa tried to do with creating 'independent' Bantustans so that the blacks could be given citizenship there instead of main South Africa."

The problem with the Bantustans was never their viability. People have no right to a viable state (just ask the poor Somalians). The problem with the Bantustans was that their people had previously been citizens of South Africa; wanted to remain citizens of South Africa, with all the rights and privileges thereto; and that the South African government had unilaterally stripped them of that citizenship and those rights against their will. You *shouldn't* (although of course you *can*) strip people of citizenship en masse without generally accepted signs of treason.

But the Palestinians have never wanted to be citizens of *Israel*.

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"The Palestinians were previously resident in the territory of the British Mandate that become Israel and would have become citizens of Israel had they been allowed to stay in their homes."

It is true: most voluntarily fled, worried over a few massacres committed by Jewish partisans. But many returned to their homes after the war, and did eventually become citizens, no later than 1980.

"At that point the Indians had never been considered US citizens."

First, Wikipedia claims "Individual Indians who could prove U.S. citizenship were nevertheless displaced from newly annexed areas," although a quick search in their cited material (ISBN 978-0-517-14677-4) doesn't seem to support the claim.

Second, I purposefully phrased my previous post to avoid your objection. While the Indians may not *have been considered* US citizens, they certainly *wanted to be* US citizens (the ISBN above mentions some running for Congress). And whether or not Palestinians would have become citizens had they withstood the news of massacres, they clearly do not *want* to be citizens of Israel *now*.

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Hamas does not recognize Israel and claims all of its land. So Gaza was/is as autonomous as one could expect given their relationship with their neighbors. It is extensively reliant on the country it seeks to destroy, which is just lousy diplomacy and not a good way to look after your citizens.

With the billions of dollars it received, it could have invested in infrastructure. Or at least it could have built its populace bomb shelters, like the Israelis do.

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So what’s your solution? What should happen to Gaza and the WB over the long term if the ordinary people living there can’t be entrusted to govern themselves responsibly?

Whenever I listen to people who justify Israel’s ongoing policy decisions with regard to these two territories, all I can think is that the inevitable conclusion if one follows their train of thought must in the end come down to a choice between three options:

1) continued oppression / immiseration of the Palestinian population which - Psychology 101 - seems guaranteed to circularly induce exactly the sort of political radicalization they deplore;

2) mass deportation of the Palestinian population elsewhere so it doesn’t matter anymore how they vote or what they think or do;

3) physical liquidation, which no one except perhaps a tiny fringe of crazies (?!?) is proposing now that we’ve entered the 21st century.

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I don’t know what the possible solutions are. But it sounds like you’re dismissing an assessment of what is going on because you don’t like where that leads. That’s not a good way to analyze problems.

First, identify the problem, irrespective of the solutions.

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The “problem” has always struck me as being a combination of bad behavior on both sides feeding itself in a circular and escalating pattern, without any useful information to be ultimately gleaned from debating which party allegedly “started it” or bears “primary” blame.

As long as Israel continues ethnically cleansing the West Bank in an effort to eventually take it over completely, there can be no solution to this problem and it seems useless in my view to keep trying to “define” it more precisely. Similarly, as long as some Palestinians agitate for and elect governments that aim for the complete destruction of Israel as a state, there can be no solution to the problem either. Seems to me both parties need to stop their problematic behaviors simultaneously - not just one, nor in some sort of measured sequence, if we’re to break out of this cycle.

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What do you identify the problem as being in the West Bank?

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

There’s no democratically elected Palestinian representative that has the legitimacy necessary to negotiate the continuation of the Oslo process.

So settlers run amok and Palestinians become a legitimate security threat.

If the claim is that a Palestinian state would be a liberal democracy, then the West Bank can demonstrate that it can be one, to the extent that it has autonomy. Conflating Area C and Area A are not helpful. The PA has autonomy in Area A and it needs to do better.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

It has full autonomy within its borders. Every country needs to manage relationships with its neighbors if it wants access to its maritime or air space. Gaza is no different.

Does North Korea have autonomy?

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I think North Korea does conduct a lot of trade, mostly but not exclusively with China, controls its waters, and is not subject to blockade (just western sanctions).

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True. But this would not be the case if NK shared the Chesapeake Bay.

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That’s a valid comparison in one notable way: Neither North Korea nor Hamas has expressed a desire to negotiate a peace treaty.

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North Korea wants a peace treaty with the US, it's asked for one for a long time. But there might be a catch. It might be only with the USA. It might require as part of the treaty a US withdrawal from South Korea, and an end to the US-South Korea alliance, and it might not include any parallel peace treaty with South Korea.

I think the US hardly engages on this peace treaty line of dialogue, because it anticipates this is where North Korea's road on this leads.

I think it would have been good to go through the motions a bit more publicly, just to weaken the eff out of the Sunshine Policy sentimentalists in South Korea a bit more, and encourage their Israelization and development of their own self-reliant deterrent years ago, so the US would not be statically tied down on that peninsula.

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Sounds much worse. First they need to stop being a security threat. Then anything is possible.

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This is completely correct as an analysis of what should be done.

But as the very comments here demonstrate, that's just not what people are interested in discussing. As humans we naturally want to blame and punish so we have lots of trouble dealing with a situation where we have some leverage and moral influence over one actor who could massively reduce suffering by changing policies but where it's bad behavior is less bad than that of the other actors.

Unfortunately the net result of all this is to push Israel further down it's right wing course because instead of treating Israel's bad behavior the way we treat bad behavior by the Turks or Egyptians (sad and unfortunate) we instead can't seem to resist somehow placing it into some kind of judgement about the state's legitimacy.

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I think Matt is going too easy on the Gaza airstrikes.

It's true that causing civilian deaths in pursuit of a military objective isn't always wrong. But the problem here is that there is no military objective, much less a political one.

Hamas has always been committed to the destruction of the Jewish state. That was true for the 16 years that Gaza's borders were successfully sealed, and it isn't any more true now than it was then. The only thing that's changed is that Israel has suffered an enormous intelligence and security failure which allowed the border to be breached for a couple of days.

There's not much chance now of another unexpected direct attack, although the rocket launches will continue (and mostly be intercepted by Iron Dome). So what exactly are the airstrikes supposed to accomplish--apart from revenge against the civilian population, which the Israelis don't bother denying is their primary purpose?

The fact that many Palestinians support violence against Israeli civilians makes the problem harder, not easier. Nobody can seriously think that bombing Gaza will improve their attitudes on that point.

The only reasonable thing for Israel to do now is reinforce the border, start taking out individual Hamas perpetrators (to the extent that's possible... America did it with al-Zawahiri in Kabul, after all) and then start to think about why so many Palestinians want to exterminate them and what kind of policies might make them change their minds. But Netanyahu's government has no intention of doing any of those things.

I absolutely agree that the US needs to deprioritize Israel and give it a smaller share of Washington's foreign policy attention. But that's exactly why calling for a ceasefire and condemning the airstrikes more forcefully--even if it had had no effect at all on Israel's behavior--would have been the right approach. America's credibility in the Muslim world is completely shot now, and that's going to have disastrous effects in places that matter much more than Palestine.

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"Start to think about why so many Palestinians want to exterminate them and what kind of policies might make them change their minds"

I am shaken by the moral depravity of this comment and truly hope you don't mean it. You believe that a desire to *exterminate* (!) human beings is the natural and defensible response to policy? That people targeted for *extermination* are themselves to blame? That they're the ones who need to look at themselves, and not the people extolling and attempting extermination?

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While I disagree with basically everything Jeff said in his original post, I think there's a leap between what he said (which I take more or less as "Israel needs to consider how their policy towards the Palestinians creates fertile ground for the extreme anti-Israel ideology that fuels terrorist attacks") and what you say he believes (that this response is natural and/or defensible).

The response could be indispensable _and_ the response could be reinforced by Israeli policy.

I think one of the big questions that has come up in the comments is to what extent whether violent anti-Israel ideology among the Palestinian population is fertilized by how Israel treats the occupied territories or is intrinsic/anti-semitic/permanent. I don't see this as an either-or.

I see Israel's treatment of the occupied territories in pragmatic terms - Israel has a terrorism problem and an insurgency problem and in the long term needs a strategy for this. I fear that (like the US after 9/11) Israel will be less likely to consider their long term relationship with the occupied territories because what Hamas has done is so clearly completely depraved. In the case of the US and 9/11, I think our foreign policy got significantly stupider after 9/11 and in hindsight the results speak for themselves.

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Respectfully, the leap is between what Jeff actually said and how you've chosen to interpret it. I took him at his word. You (very generously) rewrote his words into something much more humane and sensible.

I don't disagree with any of your other comments. But I think it's a mistake to brush off people's actual words just cause their literal meaning seems extreme. There is a lot of extreme rhetoric out there these days, and I fervently hope people don't really mean it. But it's their job to make that clear. If they don't, I'm going to take them at their word. We learned that one the hard way.

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This makes zero sense. By your logic, the US was not permitted to counterattack after Pearl Harbor, because American security failures allowed the Japanese bombers to get through. We should have simply beefed up our security so it couldn't happen again. I'm sorry, but WTF? No. That's completely absurd.

Of course there's a military objective: the destruction of Hamas control over Gaza. Whether it's achievable, wise, or will ultimately lead to a better outcome is a question one can debate, but it's absolutely a military objective.

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My questions are: what does that destruction of Hamas look like? How will Israel know when it's accomplished that? And, secondarily, how likely are their actions to result in the rise of Hamas 2?

None of those seem well-defined or maybe even answerable. This seems pretty different than the US fighting Japan where we can have a understandable military campaign and at some point a formal sit-down surrender.

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We could have a formal sit down surrender only because Japan was willing to do so. This was controversial among the Japanese leaders, many of whom wanted to fight to the last Japanese child with bamboo sticks. The emperor broke the deadlock and did the honorable thing. But it was not a foregone conclusion. And it only happened after we firebombed Tokyo (killing 100k people), embargoed the islands, and nuked two cities. It was beyond hideous, but we had learned from WWI that an armistice without surrender gets you more war.

I don’t know what destroying Hamas looks like. Perhaps like destroying ISIS in Mosul. I do know that the mission is a legitimate military aim, just like “destruction of the German war machine” was a legitimate military aim in WWII. How it ultimately goes down is up to Hamas and the Palestinian public as much as Israel. They also have agency here.

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You and I might not have answers to your questions, but I imagine Israeli intelligence does.

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I guess that's where we differ, because I do not imagine they do.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

This is very insightful, and similar to what I suggested a couple weeks ago (https://www.slowboring.com/p/thursday-thread-961/comment/42415301).

"If I were the IDF commander, I would make the point to Netanyahu that the only durable solution for Gaza is either primarily a political one or else ethnic cleansing (i.e. offer the population a carrot, not just a stick) and tell him that I would loudly and publicly resign if his coalition of racists and draft dodgers chooses the latter. In the meantime, I would substantially reinforce the security perimeter zone around Gaza, and also conduct a long-term campaign of carefully targeted strikes against Hamas leadership (in concert with Shin Bet) to try and actually separate the Gazan population from Hamas, rather than pursue a deliberate policy of collective punishment. I would also probably destroy the open air training camps and infrastructure (e.g. the paraglider training field) that was presumably known to the IDF but ignored (and which could be struck with minimal civilian casualties).

From the open source reporting I've read, it seems hard to overstate how militarily avoidable this attack was; Hamas's main innovation was to play off Netanyahu's biases, as well as to realize that the IDF's defenses were undermanned and overly reliant on technology. Maintaining a handful of mechanized infantry company sized QRFs (Quick Reaction Forces) around the border of Gaza, along with enhanced UAV surveillance, would seem to have been sufficient to stop this attack cold, and I think it's basically what any military professional would recommend (or more likely assume that said resources should have already been in place, ever since the 2005 withdrawal)."

FWIW, the Israeli concept of deterrence is basically inseparable from collective punishment, which they clearly articulate with the policy of home demolitions:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israeli_demolition_of_Palestinian_property#Punitive_demolition

https://www.btselem.org/topic/punitive_demolitions

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The home demolitions are repugnant

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It's interesting that home demolitions were borrowed directlly from the British.

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

I think it accurately reflects a shared colonial mindset that is incompatible with the laws of war and human rights in the modern era (post WW2); it is arguably effective (at least in the short term), if the occupying power doesn't accord any moral weight to the suffering of innocent civilians. Which, obviously, is not something that the US should support.

ETA: I'm not saying that Jewish Israelis are colonists in the same way that the Brits were, but as an occupying power that aims to subdue any resistance, their tactics have many similarities, and they literally adopted most of the Mandatory Palestine Defence (Emergency) Regulations to govern the territories because it was obviously and specifically useful for their (similar) needs, whereas the Israeli settlers live under "normal" Israeli law and, even when they commit terrorism, rarely if ever face similar consequences to Palestinians.

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Do you really think the Israelis noticed a *paraglider training field* and ignored it?

Big if true

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

Here's an Israeli media report from 2014 that the IDF knew about Hamas exploring paragliding attacks: https://www.timesofisrael.com/captured-hamas-operative-reveals-paragliding-attack-plan/

Also a roundup (post 07 October, from a pro-Israel news source) here: https://www.calcalistech.com/ctechnews/article/hyt3y3ona

A CNN report (12 Oct 2023) with lots of background information and videos of multiple Hamas training sites that would have been easily visible from the air: https://www.cnn.com/2023/10/12/middleeast/hamas-training-site-gaza-israel-intl/index.html

More background: https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/hamas-practiced-in-plain-sight-posting-video-of-mock-attack-weeks-before-b/

FYI, I've seen satellite imagery of the paraglider training field, and I'm still trying to find the exact reference.

BLUF, I think a lot of the IDF leadership's motivation here to is avenge the humiliation of their colossal fuck-up, which is not exactly a legitimate justification for killing thousands of civilians (compared to sustained campaign of surgical strikes against those responsible); see, for example, the reporting that Defense Minister Gallant immediately wanted to launch pre-emptive strikes against Lebanon: https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/20/us/politics/biden-israel-hezbollah-war.html

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I don't think anyone in Israel or the US expected that paragliders and powered parachutes would be used en masse to land pathfinders/commandos ahead of a ground invasion. It's the sort of thing that just sounds like crazy talk until it happens.

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So, yeah, all this seems to confirm what I thought already. Netanyahu's first response to the Hamas raids should have been to resign and let someone else deal with the mess he created

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He'd go to jail.

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While I agree, that’s approx the opposite of Bibi’s character He won’t resign. He will need to be removed or defeated.

If he had the capacity for it, he would have exited more gracefully years ago.

Seems to me he has continued to pursue political power at all costs for years now to escape facing prosecution

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The paraglider thing is nothing new, the PFLP was doing these sorts of attacks in the 80's, it was a big national scandal: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Night_of_the_Gliders

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Maybe Bibi wanted Hamas to attack so he could do some ethnic cleansing and this attack succeeded beyond his expectations.

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Oh, you had answered to me! I should be paying more attention to notifications, I guess. I usually don't go back to a thread to check if someone has replied to me after a day or two.

My first thought is that we are talking about different things here. My question was more like "The US left Afghanistan defeated and with the Taliban in charge. The US could do that relatively easily because Afghanistan is very far from the US and you can't really attack New York with missiles, rockets and mortars from there. The IDF can't do that because Gaza is very close to Israel. What should the IDF be doing differently from the US to guarantee victory?". I understand that this is a very long question and probably less clearly stated in my previous post.

So, a few points.

I get your point about payments, but did they really accomplish things? Locals seemed to not want to fight for the pro-American government (which supposedly they themselves had elected) against literally the Taliban. My view on this is similar to my view on punitive demolitions. "We must do something. This is something. Therefore, we must do it." I'm not convinced that either of these things work but I'm open to persuasion. Also, a few more points on this. The IDF does invest considerable resources in calling people to evacuate and also in roof knocking. It probably reserves payments for actual information on Hamas though (I think that the Gazans should give info on Hamas to the IDF given how Hamas runs Gaza). Moreover, the Palestinian Authority offers financial rewards for terrorist attacks. The funds for this partly come from the US government (my understanding is that Trump had stopped these payments but Biden reversed that). It seems to me that a conflict between people in the Middle East (rather than a Western country like the US and the Taliban) is pretty different from what we are used to, and I think that makes sense if you see what other state actors in the area (mainly the Syrian government in Syria and the Saudi and UAE governments in Yemen) do during war. Therefore, I don't blame the US for indirectly funding attacks on Jewish civilians through the PA. Maybe that's necessary for the PA to maintain some credibility and avoid a Hamas takeover of the West Bank as well.

Gaza is at best the third most important front for the IDF (clearly demoted to fourth in the days before October 7). My understanding is that the first focus of the IDF is preparing for a potential war with Iran over nukes and the second focus of the IDF is preparing for a war with Lebanon and Syria in the north. Hezbollah is far more formidable than Hamas. The US enjoyed clear economic superiority compared to Afghanistan/Iraq, but the same is not true for Israel (even with the money the US sends every year) compared to Qatar/Iran/Syria/Lebanon. The US is the third most populous country in the world and has the strongest economy, so the US military can afford many things that no other military can.

I get that your overall plan would be "Maintain a constant siege of Gaza for years with a lot of patience and strike every Hamas person that shows their face outside the tunnels (either in their apartment or in above ground training camps)."? That is clearly different from what the IDF does (relatively short periods with a lot of air strikes between longer periods of "peace"), and it may work. However, I need to think harder about whether being at a constant state of lower intensity conflict is better for civilians rather than higher intensity conflict for limited periods of time.

PS: I still haven't read your Exum article, but I promise to do so!

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"The only thing that's changed is that Israel has suffered an enormous intelligence and security failure which allowed the border to be breached for a couple of days."

I think you're missing an important thing that is true as a corrolary of this: Israelis believed the status quo was sustainable before, and now they think the status quo cannot guarantee them security. They're right to infer that. Now the question of what alternative situation *could* guarantee security, and how to possibly get there, is the money question. Good case to be made, as you note, that what they're doing right now will only make things worse. But I think it's unfair to say that nothing has changed since Oct 7th: people now realize how untenable the previous equilibrium was. You might strictly be correct in saying that this was always true, but i don't think strict truth in that sense is a useful explanatory variable here. The military objective is changing the status quo by weakening Hamas - they just *also* don't care if civilians are killed as a side effect. That's morally bad, but it's a different kind of bad then just killing civilians for revenge.

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There is a clear military objective Jeff. The capture or killing of Hamas leader and soldiers and the destruction of their tunnel network and other infrastructure. One can argue about whether the benefits of that are worth the cost (in both Israeli military and Palestinian civilian lives), but the military objectives are clear and limited.

What is unclear is what comes next politically. Here is what I believe should be the answer:

https://gordonstrause.substack.com/p/israel-and-the-palestinians

(to preview: essentially an Israeli pullback from the West Bank leading to a demilitarized Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza along the lines of Taba, with a U.S. led internatioal peacekeeping force enforcing the demilitarization)

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Do they know where this tunnel network is with enough accuracy to know when they've destroyed it? Given their other intelligence failures I'm pretty skeptical; this feels to me more like "bomb the shit out of everything and everyone and we'll probably get some tunnels in the mix".

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Is the international peacekeeping force preventing Israeli settlers from annexing Palestinian land also? Because if it isn't it's not going to be a viable state.

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Yes. In fact the argument is to send a peacekeeping force in only once Israel has pulled the settlers out of the West Bank (or at least the vast majority of it along the lines of Taba):

https://gordonstrause.substack.com/p/israel-and-the-palestinians

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That's what the unguided Vietnam-era aerial ordnance (M117s on F-16s, seriously) is for?

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Nov 2, 2023·edited Nov 2, 2023

They do have to do something fairly impressive with their military as a deterrent now, though. I think the overall way you're thinking about this is correct, but there needs to be a proportional retaliation against Hamas in Gaza just for game-theoretic reasons. One can't just sit back, take a purely defensive stance and wait for the enemy to come at you when they wish. It creates too much incentive to attack you.

But you're right that they can't ultimately win this on the battlefield, and the ground war is likely to be a quagmire.

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“It's true that causing civilian deaths in pursuit of a military objective isn't always wrong. But the problem here is that there is no military objective, much less a political one.”

Tell us more about your time at War College. Your grasp of strategy and tactics seems impressive. Or did you just stay at a Holiday Inn Express? I can’t tell.

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