Eighteen days and a thousand Palestinian deaths into its massive Gaza campaign, Israel has yet to suffer a single significant geopolitical casualty.
In fact, despite the international outcry in the press and in the streets against its military offensive, Israel has scored a stunning geopolitical victory in Gaza.
The reaction of world governments (as distinct from world media and public opinion) has been surprisingly supportive (albeit mostly tacitly) of Israel and its aim of destroying Hamas, even at the cost of hundreds (or more) of innocent Palestinian lives.
To no one’s surprise, the United States Congress, the Bush administration, and the incoming Obama administration have all gone on the record in support of Israel’s war in Gaza and continue to green light its escalation.
More surprising is the position of the European states and Russia, which have endorsed a United Nations Security Council cease-fire resolution and a joint French-Egyptian mediation effort whose terms would meet Israel’s goal of disarming Hamas and crippling its ability to rule Gaza.
Venezuela, the one country that responded to Israel’s actions in Gaza by expelling the Israeli ambassador, has now told Israel that it did not intend to break off diplomatic relations with Israel and asked that Israel reopen its embassy.
Most surprising is the position of the majority of the Arab states, which have also endorsed the U.N. cease-fire resolution and the French-Egyptian mediation effort.
Even Iran and Syria – the two countries that have been Israel’s fiercest opponents and the strongest and most crucial supporters of Hamas – have toned down their rhetoric and taken actions that at least tacitly accept Israel’s Gaza campaign.
Iran has publicly announced that it will not permit suicide bombers to attack Israeli targets from Iran and less publicly, but more significantly, told Hezbollah to stop its missile attacks on Israel from Lebanon. Indeed, Lebanon’s parliament majority leader Saad Hariri publicly stated that Saeed Jalili, the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told him that Hezbollah would not attack Israel from Lebanon in response to the Israeli attack on Gaza.
Both Syria and Israel downplayed an incident involving an attack last week on Israeli troops near the Syrian border and agreed that the Syrian military was not involved.
Khaled Abu Toameh quotes a Hamas representative in Gaza City saying “We feel that our brothers in Teheran and Damascus have betrayed us, as have the rest of the Arab and Islamic governments.”
What this all means is that Israel is scoring a stunning geopolitical triumph against Hamas, which appears to have been abandoned and left to its fate at the hands of the Israeli military by every nation in the world, including its purported allies.
The short term consequence of this Israeli geopolitical victory will be the continued escalation of Israel’s military campaign against Hamas (and more Palestinian deaths), limited only by Israel’s own strategic concerns.
The long term consequences — for Hamas, for Gaza, for the Palestinians, for the Arab regimes, for Israel, and for peace in the region — are far less clear.