Articles - Addostour - Date: 2018-11-21
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

The two terms 'tahdi'a' and 'deterrence' may be those most widely-used in the debate over Gaza.

In this regard, the Lebanese case is invoked as an arena for comparison and drawing conclusions. The Lebanese Hezbollah concluded successive tahdi'a agreements with the Israeli occupation [of Lebanon between 1982-2000] via various mediators. And this same party has largely succeeded in developing a deterrent regime that the Israelis take very seriously.

Before the liberation of the Lebanese South [in 2000], the party accepted a number of tahdi'a agreements that basically aimed at 'neutralizing' the civilians on both sides of the borders. Perhaps the most important were the 'April 1996 understandings' after [Israel's] Operation Grapes of Wrath and the Qana massacre. After liberation, the guns went silent on the Lebanese Southern front for more than six years, during which the party managed to build up a strong military base.

Moreover, since July 2006, the Lebanese/Israeli borders have been enjoying continuous calm marred only by limited instances of action and reaction. But during these 12 years of tahdi'a, the party has succeeded in multiplying its firepower in terms of its size, precision and destructive ability many times over. It has acquired a missile capability of various ranges and kinds, which has been of serious concern for Israel's security doctrine.

Israel sought a tahdi'a with the party because of the latter's ability to harm Israel's domestic front. And it has proven possible to uphold the 'calm-for-calm' equation via unofficial agreements and understandings, and later via a UN Security Council resolution. For Lebanon wants nothing from Israel other than to end its aggressions; and Israel has not planted a single settlement on Lebanese soil. And it is precisely here that we can best understand the positive effect of the attempt to regain calm and tahdi'a. Here, time is in favor of the various parties, provided that it is spent in preparing and building up the elements of power and capability. And it is this that Israel and the party have been doing and continue to do.

The situation and the context seem different in the Palestinian case, and in Gaza in particular. Hamas tried calm and tahdi'a. It has tried to neutralize the civilian element and has been trying to uphold a 'calm-for-calm' equation. But what Gaza needs is more than just calm. It needs food, water, medicine, electricity, job opportunities, and decent living standards. And, thanks to the blockade, these are all in Israel's hands.

Here, the equation does not seem to be to ensure parity, as in the Lebanese case. Here, Israel possesses an element of superiority that it did not enjoy when it was occupying Lebanon. Moreover, the passage of time in the Palestinian case does not serve both sides equally. For Israel, Gaza does not resemble South Lebanon. It wages war on it, but its eyes are focused on the West Bank. The passage of time for the Palestinians means more settlements and thousands of settlers weighing down on the Palestinians' chest. And Israel is trying to gain more time to consolidate more facts on the ground.

In Gaza's case, the tahdi'a is very costly, even though extremely important in humanitarian terms. But if it is not linked to a deeper and more comprehensive Palestinian national strategy for a persistent resistance that raises the cost of occupation, then tahdi'a without a strategy in the Palestinian case may only pour more grist into the Israeli settlement project's mill.

Similarly, just as in the case of tahdi'a, unless deterrence is linked to a comprehensive resistance strategy, it will contribute to granting Israel the time it needs to swallow up more Palestinian lands and rights. Deterrence may prevent Israel from invading Gaza or resuming attacks on it; but it will not save the West Bank and Jerusalem from the sharp fangs of the settlements' bulldozers. It will not prevent Israel from continuing to chew off Palestinian rights one at a time.

The Palestinians do not have the 'luxury' of wasting time or allowing it to pass either under the slogan of tahdi'a or on the pretext of 'deterrence' – even though many argue that it is impossible for the Palestinians to achieve the deterrence equation anyway.

The situation is different from Lebanon, and any comparison between the two cases must bear this difference in mind.