Gaza: Is this another pre-election war?

There does seem to be some sort of pattern here, but it is not very consistent.

There does seem to be some sort of pattern here, but it is not very consistent.

Five times in Israel since 1980 a right-wing government has called an election without launching a complementary military operation. The right lost two of those elections outright (1992, 1999), more or less tied two others (1984, 1988), and won only one decisively (2006).

On the other hand, three times since 1980 right-wing Israeli governments have combined an election campaign with a major military operation against some Arab or Palestinian target. And this combination, it has been argued, yields decisive electoral success for the right.

Menachem Begin’s government won the 1981 election three weeks after carrying out a dramatic attack on the Osirak research nuclear reactor that France had sold to Iraq. In the view of most outside observers, the reactor was not suited to the large-scale production of enriched uranium and posed no threat to Israel, but the attack was popular in Israel.

Ehud Olmert’s coalition launched the “Cast Lead” onslaught against the Gaza Strip in December 2008-January 2009. The three-week campaign left 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead. The election was held a month later and Binyamin Netanyahu emerged as the leader of a new right-wing coalition.

So here we go again, perhaps? Netanyahu is still the prime minister and the next elections are due in January. What better way to ensure success than to go and bash the Palestinians again? A week later, with 86 Palestinians and three Israelis dead, his re-election is assured: Israelis overwhelmingly support the current military operation.

That’s the case made against Israel. Does it hold water? Well, actually, no, it doesn’t.

Begin’s attack on the Osirak reactor in 1981 may well have been an electoral stunt. But Ehud Olmert was not leading a right-wing government in 2008. He was the leader of a new centrist party, Kadima, formed by defectors from both the right wing Likud Party and left wing Labour.

It is equally hard to believe that Netanyahu is seeking electoral gain by attacking Gaza this month. Every opinion poll in Israel for months past has been saying he is going to win the January election hands down.

Historians traditionally split into two camps: those who see purpose, planning and plots behind every event, and those who think most events are just the random interaction of conflicting strategies, imperfect information and human frailty. This latter approach is known in the historical trade as the “cock-up theory of history,” and it is very attractive as an explanation for the current clash.

Netanyahu, cruising home to an easy electoral victory in January, had absolutely no need for a little war with the Palestinians. Indeed, his strategy of continuously shouting “wolf” about Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program has successfully distracted international attention from the Palestinians, leaving him free to expand Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank unhindered.

Similarly, the Hamas leaders who ruled Gaza had no interest in triggering a military conflict with Israel. They had every reason to believe that the sweeping political changes in the Arab world were strengthening their position internationally, and they had no need to remind Arabs of their plight. So how did this idiocy happen? Another cock-up, of course.

But since the mini-war doesn’t really serve the purposes of any major player, it will probably be shut down again fairly soon.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries. Please let us know if you would like to see this column published regularly in the Ponoka News. Email editorial@ponokanews.com

Just Posted

Reflections: The early construction of then Ponoka mental hospital

Looking at the early development of then provincial mental hospital in Ponoka

Wolf Creek Schools superintendent receives contract extension

Jayson Lovell will continue to serve as superintendent through 2024

Ponoka fire crews deal with trailer fire on the QEII

There wasn’t much left of a 53 foot trailer after it went up in flames near Ponoka

Suspects from Ponoka charged in pawn shop theft

Ponoka RCMP say the two face several charges from Stampede Pawn incident

Ponoka provides update on recent water main breaks

Some roads continue to be closed to traffic as repairs to be completed

Defiant vigil starts healing in New Zealand after massacre

Police say the gunman in the shooting that killed 50 acted alone

Budget 2019: Five things to watch for in the Liberals’ final fiscal blueprint

Finance Minister Bill Morneau will release the Trudeau government’s final budget on Tuesday

New concussion guidelines launched for Canada’s Olympians, Paralympians

The guidelines will be in effect at this summer’s Pan American, Parapan American Games in Lima, Peru

Alphonso Davies doubtful for Canada game against French Guiana in Vancouver

Canada will be without injured captain Scott Arfield and veteran Will Johnson

Notley’s government puts priority on health care in throne speech

Lt.-Gov. Lois Mitchell kicked off the legislature session

NDP’s Jagmeet Singh steps into the House of Commons, making history

Burnaby South MP becomes first visible minority to lead a federal party in the House of Commons

Ponoka RCMP on lookout for stolen pickup

The black 2011 Ford F350 King Ranch pickup was stolen from a rural residence

B.C. argues it cannot stop Trans Mountain, but it can protect environment

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley says only Ottawa has the authority to decide what goes in trans-boundary pipelines

Privy Council clerk Michael Wernick retires in wake of SNC-Lavalin case

Jody Wilson-Raybould accused Wernick of pressuring her to head off criminal charges for the firm

Most Read