A Stronger Israel?
Elite opinion believes Israel will lose “long-term” whatever happens in the next weeks. Not necessarily.
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In terms of domestic politics, Israel has rarely been more united — akin to the United States right after 9/11. The Israeli Left and Right agree that no modern Western state can exist under periodic clouds of rockets and missiles. Similarly, the attrition of Hamas only plays into the hands of the Palestinian Authority, which understandably stayed out of the war and did not incite the West Bank to stage simultaneous attacks. Like it or not, after the Gaza war, Israel will be dealing in the near future with Palestinians who do not always think preemptive rocket and tunnel attacks work to their own strategic advantage.

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In terms of economics, Israel is no longer subject to carbon-fuel blackmail. It will soon become a major exporter of natural gas, and political realities will reflect that commercial importance. If one cynically believes that much of the global tilt to the Palestinians began as an aftershock from the 1973 oil embargoes, then Israeli exports may soon be reflected in more favorable politics.

Is Israel politically isolated? It certainly seems that way, if one looks at the response to the Gaza war among Western journalists, academics, politicians, and popular culture. But public opinion in the United States remains staunchly pro-Israel in spite of the American elite culture’s romance with Hamas and the Palestinians. Moreover, the Democratic party is facing its own increasing existential crisis, as its establishment pro-Israel donors and politicians are appalled by the increasingly anti-Israel tones of its ever more radical base. After the Gaza war, some major Democratic supporters of Israel will quietly make the necessary adjustments, in recognition that both their party and the Obama administration seem to prefer Hamas to democratic Israel. The upcoming 2014 midterm election does not favor candidates who are anti-Israel, but rather pro-Israeli conservatives. After 2016 there is unlikely to be a president who shares the incoherent views of Barack Obama on the Middle East. Fairly or not, it appears that the administration is trying to hide its pro-Hamas sympathies and is doing so unprofessionally and ineptly.

Europe, of course, remains mostly hostile to Israel, a hatred that predates the Gaza war. But the current demonstrations of virulent anti-Semitic hatred do not reflect well on the European Union. At present, it appears that European nations either cannot or will not confront their own fascistic Islamic radicals, which leaves open the question of whether the Islamist message of the streets resonates with Europeans.The European hostility to Israel does not stem just from events on the ground in Gaza, but is more a reflection of Europe’s inability to deal with its 20th-century past. Demonization, the more virulent the better, of Israelis seems to ease guilt over the Holocaust — as if to imply that, while the genocide was regrettable, there was something innately savage in Jewish culture, now manifested in Gaza, that might understandably have incited past generations of more radical Europeans. Otherwise, Europeans simply mask with trendy ideology the more materialistic assessment that demography, oil, and the fear of terrorism weigh in favor of allying with the Palestinians. Either way, European anti-Semitism is a bankrupt ideology, one that manifests itself in sympathy for an undemocratic, misogynistic, homophobic, and religiously intolerant Hamas, along with selective unconcern with the many occupations, refugees, divided cities, and walled borders that exist in the wide world outside the Middle East.

The U.N. will emerge after the war in an even sorrier state. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has offered mostly platitudes and buffooneries. Certainly, he would never take his own advice if North Korea were to move in the manner of Hamas. Hamas’s use of U.N. facilities to hide arsenals could not have occurred without U.N. complicity. What little credibility the U.N. had in the Middle East before the war is mostly shredded.

Iran is watching the war, and its surrogate is not doing well. There is no particular reason why an Israeli anti-missile system could not knock down an Iranian missile. Nor is Hezbollah as fiery in deed as in word these days. The message to Iran is that Israel will fight back in whatever way it finds appropriate against its enemy of the moment.

Gaza is a military and political minefield. But if Israel continues on its present course, it will emerge far better off than Hamas and better off than it was before Hamas began its missile barrage. And in the Middle East, that is about as close to victory as one gets. The future for Israel is not bleak, just as it is not bleak for any nation that chooses to defend itself from savage enemies that seek its destruction.

NRO contributor Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author, most recently, of The Savior Generals.