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Israel must not make the same mistakes America made in Iraq

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Israel must not make the same mistakes America made in Iraq

Published: 31 October 2023

Last updated: 5 March 2024

DANIEL KURTZER, US Ambassador to Israel in 2003, passed on warnings to US leaders against an extended occupation in Iraq after the fall of Saddam. He has three pieces of advice for Israel now.

Israel has entered the “second phase” of its operations against Hamas, with increased bombing and ground forces entering Gaza. Still to be decided is what Israel will do next – full scale invasion, hit-and-run raids, long-term siege, or some variation.

As Israel makes these choices, it might look to the advice that many Israelis offered to the United States in the run-up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, advice that American policy makers did not take, to the severe detriment of American policy.

Today, Israeli leaders would be wise to ponder the lessons that Israeli analysts shared with the United States back in 2002-2003. First, do not occupy Gaza militarily for an extended period, and certainly do not entertain any notion of permanently reoccupying and resettling Gaza. This did not work out well the first time and will not succeed a second time.

Second, do not assume that decapitating Hamas will lead to a flowering of democracy in Gaza, especially if the social and economic conditions there remain as dire as they are now and likely to get worse. Israel will need to allow the regional and international community to try to get Gaza back on its feet, without the kind of restrictions that Israel has imposed on Gaza for decades.

And, third, Gaza’s underlying problems are tied directly to the underlying Israel-Palestine dispute. When the war ends, Israelis will turn to a reckoning of what went wrong and will want to resume normal life as soon as possible. This is natural. However, burying one’s head in the sand and claiming that the time is not right to talk seriously about the need for separation and the creation of an independent Palestinian state is a surefire guarantee that this Gaza war will not be the last.

From the Gulf War to Gaza: Israel Must Not Make America's Mistakes (Haaretz)
DANIEL KURTZER: When US war hawks were intent on invading Iraq after 9/11, I passed on warnings by Israeli experts against an extended occupation and expectations that democracy would follow Saddam Hussein's fall. Now, Israel needs to heed that same advice regarding Hamas and Gaza

This Is the Biggest Mistake Netanyahu Has Made Since the Hamas War Began
ANSHEL PFEFFER: At a rare prime-time press conference, Benjamin Netanyahu promised to answer questions, even hard ones, but not now. Only after the war. He's calculating every word in his frantic battle for political survival but his usual dumping the blame on others has now spectacularly backfired

Shock at the October 7 catastrophe gives way to horror and fury at global immorality (Times of Israel)
DAVID HOROVITZ: Brief empathy over the Oct. 7 catastrophe is shifting to a global effort, propelled by Israel-haters and antisemites, to deprive us of the right to ensure it will not happen again

Can we trust casualty figures from the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry? (Guardian)
CHRIS McGREAL: Israel and Joe Biden have shown scepticism about accuracy of rising death toll but others point to historical reliability of data

The tragedy of the Israel-Palestine conflict is this: underneath all the horror is a clash of two just causes (Guardian)
JONATHAN FREEDLAND: This isn’t a contest of heroes and villains – but two peoples in deep pain, fated to share the same land

Photo: Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr burn Israeli flags at Baghdad's Tahrir Square during an anti-Israel demonstration after the Hamas attacks (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

The Jewish Independent acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the Traditional Owners and Custodians of Country throughout Australia. We pay our respects to Elders past and present, and strive to honour their rich history of storytelling in our work and mission.

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