In International, Middle East, National Security

Most of us, including yours truly, were stunned today by the speed and success of the Palestinian offensive.

Hours after launching thousands of rockets at Israeli targets, hundreds of Palestinian fighters streamed into Israel by land, sea and air. They swiftly penetrated at least three Israeli military installations and killed dozens of Israeli soldiers. They destroyed and seized armoured vehicles, including tanks. They confiscated assault rifles, grenade launchers and ammunition.

The Israeli dead included Col. Jonathan Steinberg, a senior officer who commanded the Israeli military’s Nahal Brigade, a prominent infantry unit.

Palestinian fighters then apprehended dozens of Israeli civilians and soldiers and spirited them back into Gaza as hostages.

Videos of the carnage and the hostages are circulating widely, as are images of burning infrastructure. Aljazeera reported that, across the Middle East, there were demonstrations in support of Palestinians with Israeli and U.S. flags set on fire and marchers waving Palestinian flags in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

How did it come to this? By what means did militants bearing little more than small arms and “enhanced fireworks” overwhelm a military that is purported to be one of the most powerful in the world? And what happened to Israel’s highly touted Iron Dome air defence systems?

Just when Palestinian resistance looked hopeless, fighters from various Palestinian factions have mounted what might prove to be the most audacious, destructive and humiliating military operation against Israel’s apartheid regime since the occupation began in 1967.

The fog of war remains thick, and this round of violence has a long way to go, but one thing seems clear: Palestinian resistance groups launched this offensive just when the United States government was least able to cope with it.

The Israeli regime has gotten away with so much criminality for so long that we greatly over-estimate Israel’s strength. Israel is a tiny country. Its population is miniscule. Its economy is a pipsqueak. It has few natural resources. It is surrounded on all sides by predominantly Arab states whose populations are seething with anger at decades of Israeli aggression and arrogance.

Yet Israel gets away with murder, both literally and figuratively, on an almost daily basis. How has it pulled this off?

The answer is not hard to see.

In essence, Israel is a massive United States military base masquerading as a country. Without the lavish support of the United States – including nearly $4 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Israel – Israel would have been compelled to make peace with Palestinians and its neighbours long ago.

This means that Israel is in serious trouble, because today, the U.S. government is distracted, discredited and diminished. Its proxy war in Ukraine has become a black-hole and a debacle. The U.S. military’s stocks of weaponry are depleted. The Pentagon is openly preparing for war with China while indirectly waging war against Russia. If that were not bad enough, the barely coherent U.S. President is increasingly besieged with hard questions about his son’s sordid affairs.

With the exception of the enfeebled and near-suicidal Europe, where U.S. dominance is on the rise, the authority of the United States is in rapid decline. In Africa, South America, Asia and, above all, the Middle East, the U.S. government is less potent than it has been at any time in the post-WWII period.

Arguably, the clearest sign of U.S. weakness in the Middle East is the recent rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran. This momentous development poses a major obstacle to Israel’s quest for ‘normalization‘. After all, how could Israel normalize with Saudi Arabia if Saudi Arabia was doing business with Israel’s mortal enemy?

Unsurprisingly, Iran has responded to the Palestinian offensive by expressing support for the Palestinians. Saudi Arabia took a more measured approach by calling for an “immediate cessation of violence”. Nonetheless, the Saudi government effectively blamed Israel for the violence, stating “We recall our repeated warnings of the dangers of the situation exploding as a result of the continued occupation.”

Israel’s regional dominance has always depended critically upon the hegemony of the United States. Now, the era of U.S. hegemony is over.

If Israel’s leaders had had the foresight and humility to grasp that U.S. dominance could not endure forever, they would have made peace with Palestinians long ago on favourable terms, when Israel’s existentially important benefactor dominated global affairs. But Israel’s decades-long impunity made its leaders stupid. They repeatedly squandered opportunities for peace on favourable terms, because they wanted it all. They demanded the whole of historic Palestine, every inch of it. Now they are trapped by their own hubris and greed.

Where we go from here is anyone’s guess. Of all the individuals who have served as Israel’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu is the least inclined to exercise restraint – especially with genocidal fascists as his coalition partners. Already, Netanyahu has declared that Israel is “at war” and that it will extract an “unprecedented price”. He has called up Israeli reservists. Netanyahu is likely to find the temptation for a Gaza ground invasion irresistible. If Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza is any indication, such an invasion will result in considerable Israeli casualties. More dead Israeli soldiers will surely intensify the bloodlust of Netanyahu and his extremist coalition partners.

In these explosive circumstances, the prospect of Hezbollah becoming directly embroiled in this conflict is very real. Hezbollah has issued a statement saying it was closely following the situation in Gaza and was in “direct contact with the leadership of the Palestinian resistance”. Were Hezbollah to intervene, its close ally Iran could be drawn into the war as well.

At this delicate moment, the last thing the United States government needs is another conflagration in the Middle East. Its military forces are over-extended. Its reputation its battered. Its domestic politics are in disarray. If Biden and his inner circle had any sense about them, they would privately tell Netanyahu that Israel must respond with considerable circumspection.

Tragically, there’s no reason to believe that that is what the Biden administration will do.




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Showing 29 comments
  • Sharon Danley

    Excellent summary that I fully agree with Dimitri. Sharing.

  • John-Albert Eadue

    Well written M. Lascaris, and true account of these issues AFAIK. Israel should have been circumspect long ago. It is as if the recent settler outrages have made this happen – not true of course, it’s been the long Israeli game that has brought on the eventual reaction. Being of senior years, I doubt Hezbollah or Iranian ignition is that likely, and the decline of the west, although popular fare in the pages I read, may not quite occur. So there will be more of everything unless people realize / until they are burning up from / inexorable climate change. (It is nearly here! %-) As my friend in New Zealand keeps pointing out – we don’t understand the geometric acceleration of change. Shortly to learn.

    Other hand, yes indeed it is very logically done by Hamas, timing perfect. We don’t have to go farther into rabbit holes, we don’t want to, but we shall have to. Every last one. I like to start with the Balfour Declaration, that consists of 1 (one, count them) 9.5 x 11 inches sheet of paper – that insists that such approval granted (illegitimate British ownership of the region) was only supported if all religions in all ways were being respected. So you are right. USA support is wanting, yet *very* important. My first thought also. I think a UN decision (remember them? you’d have to be my age) .. supported by Russia & China, might be necessary.

  • Stefan Klietsch

    Dimitri, why do you use the words, “the Palestinian offensive”, rather than “the Hamas offensive”? I would be interested in clarification of how you believe Canadian media are potentially misrepresenting the conflict.

    • Dimitri Lascaris

      Do your homework, Stefan. If you did minimal due diligence, you would know that Hamas was only one of the groups that participated in this offensive.

      • Stefan Klietsch

        Dimitri, your own hyperlinks, including those from Al-Jazeera, mostly though not all refer to the incursions within Israel as “the Hamas attack”.

        • Eric Peter

          Why split hairs over such a serious issue? Based on the suffering of the Palestinian people, wasn’t this conflict inevitable.

          • Stefan Klietsch

            How you define the parties to a war has everything to do with determining whether a conflict is “inevitable”. If the insurgents in question are not necessarily representative of Palestinians, then the causality between Israeli apartheid and the butchery at an Israeli rave (which Yves Engler admits happened) is not obvious. One of these moral calamities may not in fact be tied to the other.

            Determining the sources of the insurgency helps us better establish the legitimate-grievance-violence link or lack thereof here.

  • Vince Fiorito


    You need to update this post

    A top Israeli general was not kidnapped by Hamas, contrary to widespread online claims.

    He has been seen alive and well in Israel. One of POWs superficially resembles General Aloni

    • Dimitri Lascaris

      Thanks Vince. I have revised the article accordingly.

  • Bruce Becker
    Israeli music festival: 260 bodies recovered from site where people fled in hail of bullets

    How is this ok?

    • Dimitri Lascaris

      From a military perspective, the attacks by Hamas and other groups were successful. They managed to seize temporarily several military installations, which was unprecedented. Acknowledging the success of the operation from a military perspective does not amount to approval of the killing of unarmed civilians, which I condemn.

  • Bruce Becker

    Yes, I was definitely “stunned today by the speed and success of the Palestinian offensive” that killed 260 innocents at a music festival.

  • Bruce Becker

    are you really deleting comments with valid questions?

    many of us are “stunned today by the speed and success of the Palestinian offensive” which included 260 people massacred at a music festival.

    You define this as success?

    • Dimitri Lascaris

      I haven’t deleted any comments. I simply did not have time to approve comments (including yours) until today.

  • Bruce Becker

    Please justify

    At least 40 babies, some beheaded, found by Israel soldiers in Hamas-attacked village

  • Eric Peter

    I like this quote from an USA congresswoman….

    Cori Bush, a progressive congresswoman from Missouri, said that while she “condemn[ed] the targeting of civilians”, to “achieve a just and lasting peace” in the Middle East, “US government support for Israeli military occupations and apartheid should be ended.”

  • Eric Peter

    The attack by Hamas was madness and cruel. However, I draw a parallel between the insanity of the Hamas attack and the rising of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge at the time of the Vietnam war that resulted in millions of deaths and great suffering by the Cambodia people. Had the USA not bombed villages on the Cambodian border the resultant rage that victimized Cambodians would, no doubt, not have occurred. Had the US pressured Israel into a fair treatment of the Palestinians and avoid settlement and the resultant conflict in the occupied territories, the madness of the attacks by Hamas, or “the Palestinian offensive” if you will, would surely not have happened.

  • Dianne Varga

    “The vast majority of Palestinians have never resorted to violence to address their legitimate grievances. Others have restricted their acts of violence to the occupying forces of Israel’s military, which international law allows them to resist by force. Thus, most Palestinians are innocent victims of oppression. No civilized society punishes the innocent for the acts of the guilty. We would never tolerate this in our own societies. We should not tolerate it in Palestine either.”

    I think the only reason the world does is out of some conception that Palestinians really can be dismissed as “human animals” (Israel’s Defence Minister, Yoav Galant).

  • David Gutnick

    Dimitri writes that he was stunned by the « success of the Palestinian offensive. »

    The « success » of rape? Of killing in cold blood?

    Thank goodness this is saved on the internet, Dimitri Lascaris will have to justify own sick reasoning for the rest of his days.

  • Kivi Shapiro

    > Without the lavish support of the United States – including nearly $4 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Israel – Israel would have been compelled to make peace with Palestinians and its neighbours long ago.

    “Make peace” is putting it lightly. If Israel had been unable to defend itself, it would have ceased to exist. The formal Arab wars against Israel in 1948, 1967, and 1973 were started with the express purpose of destroying the Jewish state. That has also been the goal of the Palestine Liberation Organization and its descendants, and their informal wars and terrorist activity, from the start.

    Would the success of those military actions lead to peace in the region? Given the number of wars already happening in the Middle East that have nothing to do with Israel, the prospect seems unlikely.

  • Greg

    Very well thought and written piece! I applaud your choice of words and labels.

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