Tuesday 28 May 2024

Israel is in zugswang. American Evangelical Protestants would support genocide but Jewish liberal voters in the US and Israel will prevent it.

This is a very interesting and persuasive lecture by John Mearsheimer, who argues that Israel is the big loser in Gaza. 

He is right that Israel cannot defeat Hamas, at least without driving the Arabs out of Gaza and, I'd add, out of the West Bank too.

This is my objection to what Israel is doing. It is not possible for the Israelis to defeat Hamas except by genocide. 

Hamas will continue to rule Gaza unless the Israelis try to do so or unless there is a two state solution, something which seems impossible.

Professor Mearsheimer:

'First of all, they have not defeated Hamas, and they’re not going to defeat Hamas. Kurt Campbell, who is the deputy secretary of state, basically said that yesterday. There are all sorts of stories in the Israeli press that they’re not going to defeat Hamas. They haven’t gotten the hostages back, and they have not been able to cleanse Gaza. Furthermore, they’re stuck in Gaza. They’re there—they got out in 2005, and they’re back there. This is not good. So, what you see here is that Israel is in real trouble in Gaza.'

Meanwhile, from Northern Israel between 60,000 and 100,000 Israelis have fled south to avoid being shelled by Hezbollah. 

The Iron Dome has proved not to be very useful as a deterrent.  

Nor has Israel's bomb against non-state actors. 

The Arab countries are no longer the threat to Israel, though Iran could become one, so the bomb does not deter. 

Iran has got away with sending missiles into Israel.

We do not know what Israel's exit strategy is or what Netanyahu's plan is, but I doubt if he has one, beyond continuing the war in order to remain in power and out of prison. 

I said this to an Israeli-Romanian at a party recently who replied, 'I don't want him to go to prison. I want him shot.' 

Just as all nice Romanians are monarchists so all nice Israelis loathe Netanyahu. 

October 7 gave them a slew of new, very strong reasons. 

October 7 was the culmination of his policy of building up Hamas and he is responsible for the utter failure of the army to forestall the attack.

Professor Mearsheimer thinks the Israeli cabinet wants to clear the Gaza Strip of Arabs, but I do not see that it is possible because (wisely) no other county will take them. [Since I wrote this, Canada has said she will take some.]

I don't believe Israeli or world opinion would tolerate the IDF killing all the Arabs in the Gaza strip. John Mearsheimer says he thinks so too 'but I am not entirely sure'. 

I think even Biden would not permit that. American evangelical Protestants would not object but liberal Jewish Democrat voters would do so and would prevent it. 

But this is why the young are protesting and are accused of antisemitism for their pains.

Professor Mearsheimer admits

If anybody asks me in the Q&A period what would I do to fix this problem, I can tell you the answer now—I have no idea.

Nor have I. 

Every move Israel can take is bad. 

Zugswang, it's called in chess. 

History teaches us that history teaches us nothing about what will happen. This tedious story that began with Jewish terrorists in the 1940s or Arab terrorists in the 1920s only became interesting to me on October 7 last year, but it will continue on and on and on.

I commend the words of Walter Lippmann, quoted (defensively) at the end of the question and answer session by Tom Switzer, who organised the talk. 

“When we all think alike, no one thinks very much.” 

That is the problem in the mainstream British and American media (but not in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz to which I subscribe).

(Pedantic footnote. It irks that people who sympathise with the Arabs, who are Semites, are accused of antisemitism. That battle alas is lost. It irks me even more when people accuse Israel of being an apartheid state because Arabs in the occupied territories do not have the vote. That ain't what apartheid means. Before apartheid South African black people did not have the vote, except if they owned property in Cape Province. Apartheid meant not letting people of different races mix, get married, etc. Nothing like that applies in Israel or the occupied territories. By not letting Arabs vote in the occupied territories Israel does, however, resemble Rhodesia, but Israel's differences from Rhodesia are vast. White Rhodesians were Christians and paternalists who thought, rightly, that they were governing in the best interests of black people. In the end they gave up power when they saw that they could not defeat their rebels.)


  1. Why keep repeating the "two state solution" nonsense? There is zero interest in a "two state solution" from the Arab side, and there never was. Rushdie is right and the truth is even further in that direction - Gaza is a state, ruled by Hamas. Hamas represents Gaza more than Thatcher and the Queen together ever represented the UK. Gaza attacked Israel and now there's a war between these two countries.

    This is still the 1948 war. I know there were different participants involved at different times and the different flares that were part of this war are called by different names, but it is still one and the same war with still the same objectives on the two sides (wiping out vs. securing Israel).

    The Arab side is saying that as long as they don't accept that they lost the war (in spite of losing every single engagement since 1948), they have not. They are also saying that as long as they are willing to die and to sacrifice their families to win this war, they have a chance. They may be right in both.

  2. On the 7th of October Bibi failed all the men and women, brilliant individuals who committed their life and its work to the State of Israel, its security and the security of its citizens since its establishment, all in a few moments. In 2015, Bibi, calling himself “Bibi-sitter” won the elections, promising to protect Israeli lives and especially protect and look after Israel’s children.

    “Bibi-sitter” is a colossal disaster . Prior to Hamas’s brutal terrorist attack, Bibi managed to divide the country and destroy its unity, in an effort to protect himself. He also managed to destroy its infallibility leaving it vulnerable to bazaar thrash from Gaza.Terrorists who plundered Israel’s homes, destroying, killing, maiming, looting and kidnapping its citizens on a Shabbat.

    Today, Israel is crying for revenge, but the fear is that Bibi does not have a real plan. There are more that 200 lives at stake, over 200 hundred hostages and not one more life can be lost. An asymmetrical land invasion of Gaza, home to a highly trained Hamas, may become Israel’s Ukraine. More young lives of soldiers lost to an unending conflict. I’m surprised at the lack of chutzpah, no special mission to capture a Khalid Mashal or a Ismail Haniyeh from Doha or something crazy to create more leverage to recover hostages.

    Bibi is out of options, he has lost the public’s trust. He has lost face internationally. An invasion of Gaza will mean more loss of life, of hostages and soldiers as well as Palestinian civilians. This is not the time for revenge, blood will have blood. If a Gaza invasion is long drawn out, the deaths, Palestinian and Israeli, will cost Israel friends. It is apparent that just the bombings have turned global public opinion against Israel and it has lost the moral high ground it had due to Hamas’s barbarities. But if Bibi were to choose the path of peace, leaving revenge to another day, he may be able to gain allies in the Arab world willing to help. For this he will have to get rid of Smotrich and Ben Gvir from the government and risk losing the Prime Ministership himself. https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/zugzwang-what-ever-happened-to-the-bibi-sitter/ I promise I thought of the zukswang analogy before googling and find that interesting analysis with which I agree.

  3. If he does succeed in destroying Hamas and recovering the hostages with minimal loss of life of Israeli soldiers, hostages and Palestinian civilians without starting a regional or world war, he is left with creating a plan for the governance of Gaza after Israel’s withdrawal. A plan obviously which doesn’t exist. Israel cannot have a festering non-state next to it as a breeding ground for more extremists and terrorists hell bent on avenging this round of killings and violence. Building higher walls and stronger fences will not stop the next wave of attacks, it will only delay them.

    So what should Bibi do?

    Bibi is in zugzwang. No matter what he does, he has to make the next move and that move will worsen his position.

  4. I promise I wrote what I did about zugswang before I googled and found this excellent article from a Times of Israel blogger.


    Israeli journalists, not only in Ha'aretz but in centrist papers, lambast the killing in Gaza, whereas British ones and British politicians think criticism of Netanyahu's actions is borderline hate speech.

  5. This focus on Netanyahu is misplaced. This is the war from 48. There has not been peace since then just some breaks. Netanyahu's not specifically responsible for this any more than other previous leaders were responsible for other wars.

    There is no "plan" Israel can have. That's parroted from the US pandits talk. This is not the US invading Iraq without a plan or with naive plans.

    Israel's plan is just to survive. Faced with an enemy that made killing Jews into a religious ritual and the wiping out of Israel into a religion, Israel cannot have any "plan" other than survive for 200 years or 500 years or 1000 years or however long it takes for the Arabs to decide they want to live their lives, rather than die in a holy war.

    Netanyahu will eventually go and not much will change.

  6. Speaking at the NATO Youth Summit in Miami, Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell said the U.S. has been “struggling over what the theory of victory is” in Gaza.
    “Sometimes when we listen closely to Israeli leaders, they talked about mostly the idea of some sort of sweeping victory on the battlefield, total victory,” Campbell said. “I don’t think we believe that that is likely or possible.”

    1. Israel's "theory of victory" is to show that decapitating Jews with shovels does not come free.

  7. American Communists are not liberals - and from their chant "from the river to the sea" it is clear that they support genocide - not oppose it. American evangelical Christians are against genocide - not in support of it. It is, of course, the Jews who the genocide is planned for. As for Israel - it is finally in control of the border between the Gaza Salient and Egypt, a border it should never have given up. The incredibly slow approach (almost eight months to achieve what should have been done on the first day) was to try and keep Islamic civilian casualties down.


  8. utterly defeatist quisling
    bollox. 300 has unearthed on refugee territory this day. Israel says will go on another three months plus...on the until all Hamas killers are routed out. Bon Voyage, Israel