The Middle East Strategy at Harvard (MESH) provides some useful insights into current events, with a worthy website. A recent analysis entitled Has force worked for Israel was penned by Bruce Jentleson, professor of public policy and political science at Duke University, following a recent trip to Israel.
In discussing his post-visit impressions, Jentleson paraphrased an Israeli argument that the Gaza war was intended to impose substantial costs on Hamas and to deter further attacks on Israel. It achieved both; e.g., attacks from Gaza are down since the war. The same regarding Hizbullah and the 2006 Lebanon war with the northern front being quite and Hizbullah weakened in the recent elections. In contrast, diplomacy a la Oslo didn’t work, where unilateral withdrawals, both in Lebanon and in Gaza, gave land but didn’t bring peace. The status quo is not great for Israel, but it’s tolerable. Risk aversion says keep relying on military power. Alternative analyses are also provided by Jentleson, and letter writers. As for whether the Palestinians are a credible peace partner with a viable state, Jentleson felt that the Palestinian leadership faced a major challenge in synching their maximalist positions on terms of a peace and their more limited current capacities to function as a viable state.
Jentlelson’s visit was part of an Israel US Academic Exchange – an important way to foster knowledge and understanding among academics.
In Australia, it will also be useful to hear more of the insights gained by Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard and colleagues, after their recent visit to Israel and the West Bank.1, 2. At the very least the visit imparts the first hand experience – Israel isreal – that those who haven’t actually visited can not appreciate.