Wednesday, 18 February 2009

How to recycle arms and alienate everybody

This is an oddly fascinating story, so I'll provide a broader selection of backlinks for readers to peruse.

The BBC broke the story and it appears they quickly passed it around the semi-official chain of anglophone diplomatic links to Voice of America and the Australian state broadcaster.

The UN then provided confirmation to international news agencies JTA and AP after they picked up on the reports.

Taiwan has an obvious interest in seeking official UN approval, so was quick off the mark in providing a write-up, beating the typically responsive and vociferous Italian press by a short nose.

Ha'aretz and YNet followed up with a short delay after presumably consulting political advisors.


On first glance it seems a fairly straightforward case of a poor and embattled people taking advantage of any edge to tip the balance in their favour.

However it should be blatantly obvious that a militant sect within a highly politicised society would seek to obtain any arms or munitions which they could turn to their purposes. In any attritional combat situation scavenging unexploded bombs for their detonators, casings and payload is military logistics 101.

The varied response from all the different sides to the news that Israeli incompetence is supplying the munitions which go into creating the missiles they wish to prevent flying over the border is more than informative - even within that small selection of reports the tonnage of reclaimed material varies between 5 and 7.5 according to the level of threat that is wished to be conveyed. a whole warehouse full of unexploded munitions has apparently gone missing from under the guard of Hamas in Gaza. The stockpile was awaiting UN specialists to arrive before it could be neutralised and made inoperable.

This means that Hamas were either lax in maintaining supervision of the cache while it was in the warehouse and/or complicit in the removal. Therefore the conventions of the ceasefire have been broken and Hamas is delegitimised by either being out of control or by breaking the terms of their agreement.

Yet this is to forget Israel justified dropping these self-same bombs as a preventative measure. And now Security Minister Avi Dichter has repeated the case that Hamas is being supplied with weaponry from smuggling through cross-border tunnels in what appears to be a move to support more preventative measures against further attacks which have been enabled by the first round.

Maybe this is what you call chutzpah!


From my point of view this conflict remains principally about the power relationships between people and the states they are represented by.

Israel is the dominant Middle-eastern power and still has the strongest economy and military forces, so any failure to achieve peace is Israel's failure, whatever policy course is decided upon.

Israel does face an existential dilemma about it's role in the region and it's relations with neighbouring states, but this will not be resolved by any amount of violence. The longer the conflict retains its ability to cause bloodshed the greater the diplomatic cost to Israel will be, for although they may win each battle the war is not over until hostilities are concluded.

Israel simply cannot afford to expend any additional resources of goodwill by committing further mistakes: a more mature and responsible foreign policy is becoming more urgent by the day.

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