Contrary To The Received Wisdom…

Mark Helprin, writing in the New York Times, says that recent events in Gaza potentially are good for Israeli and American interests.

An excerpt:

The United States has fought the war in Iraq as if history, strategy, maneuver, preparation, foresight, fact, integrity and common sense did not exist. Nonetheless, the effect of the war has been to shatter the politics of the region and create opportunities, one of which is the potential for a settlement between Israel and the Palestinians.

Some quarters of government, burnt by the predictable failure of the current administration to transform the political culture of the Middle East into that of the Vermont town meeting, deny this potential, as if by analogy. But the analogy is invalid. The conditions are not the same, the task is entirely different and, unlike the United States, Israel has no timetable (implicit or otherwise) for withdrawal from the region — as its enemies well know.

As America blunts its sword in Iraq, it has relieved Iran of much anxiety in regard to its own vulnerabilities, set up a predominantly Shiite government in Baghdad, and made the Arab world more receptive to Iranian views. This Shiite ascendancy is comprised of a resurgent though weak Iran, Hezbollah’s Shiite rump state in Lebanon chastened by the war it “won” a year ago (with such a victory, defeat is unnecessary), and the alignment with Iran of Syria and Sunni radicals like Hamas.

Contrary to the received wisdom, last summer Hezbollah overplayed its hand. Israel emerged shaken but with few casualties and an economy that actually grew during the hostilities. It took 4,000 of the vaunted Katyusha rockets to kill 39 Israelis, they did little material damage, and not one has been launched in the year since the war. Israel showed that upon provocation it could and would destroy anything in its path, thus creating a Lebanese awakening that has split the country and kept Hezbollah fully occupied. Though Hezbollah is rearming, it remains shy of Israel.

Hamas, too, has overplayed its hand, which has provided the opening from which a Palestinian-Israeli peace may emerge. For the first time since 1948, a fundamental division among the Palestinians presents a condition in which the less absolutist view may find shelter and take hold.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Fatah leader and Palestinian president, is weak in many ways, but he has decisively isolated the radicals. Hamas loyalists in the West Bank (according to the latest polling, less than 25 percent of the population) face a different demographic than they did in Gaza, and a different economy that can be richly watered if Israel is wise enough to do so. Surrounded and penetrated by the Israeli Army and Palestinian Authority forces, they are not what they once were.

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