An article in the Independent by International Correspondent Borzou Daragahi (“As US reels over disputed election, a world in turmoil could spin further out of control”, Nov. 5) peddled a bizarre theory on the cause of the 2008-09 war between Israel and Hamas.
The piece focused on what the writer claimed was the typically “messy period after the US general election” when the current president is a lame duck, and a new president isn’t sworn in yet. During this time, Daragahi avers, foreign leaders often “exploit a rare window” of uncertainty “to settle scores, redraw maps and create new facts on the ground”.
Daragahi focused on the current situation in the US, where Joe Biden has won the election, but Donald Trump will be president until Jan. 20, and provided a few historical examples to buttress his case that we should be worried about foreign leaders taking advantage of this two-and-a-half month political window.
Though Daragahi claims his focus is on “autocrats, revanchists, repressors and aggressors” across the globe, such as the leaders of Russia, Turkey, Belarus, North Korea and China, the Indy correspondent managed to include Israel as an example of bad political actors who have previously made mischief between US administrations:
US interregnums [a period between successive governments] have been volatile even when there is a decisive victor. In the days before Obama took over from George W Bush in 2009, Israel launched a war in the Gaza Strip in what was then seen as an attempt to tie the hands of a future administration seen as less friendly to Israeli interests than his predecessor.
First, he fails to provide a source for the wild claim that the 2008 war “was then seen” as “an an attempt to tie the hands of a future administration…”. Who saw it that way? We certainly have no recollection of any serious commentator asserting that at the time, and our research was unable to find so much as one serious analyst making that argument.
Moreover, this framing of the cause of the war ignores a few simple facts which necessarily contradict the narrative.
First, as anyone even remotely familiar with the war (Operation Cast Lead) would recall, the cause was hundreds of Hamas rockets fired by Gaza terrorists into Israeli territory – including 223 rockets and 139 mortar shells during the six month “truce” from June to December of 2008. But, as we’ve demonsrated repeatedly, the habit of assigning agency only to Israel, whilst obfuscating Palestinian actions that incite conflict and are inimical to peace, is one of the hallmarks of media coverage of the region.
Further, recall that Israel’s prime minister at the time, Ehud Olmert, had already announced he was going to resign (owing to the two criminal investigations targeting him) and was, at that point, only a caretaker prime minister. So, though Barack Obama was the president-elect at that time, Olmert wasn’t going to be in power when he was sworn in as president in January of 2009.
Finally, only a couple months prior to the war, Olmert had offered the Palestinians a peace deal – which Mahmoud Abbas rejected – that would have created a Palestinian state in east Jerusalem, most of the West Bank and all of Gaza. So, for what possible reason would Olmert have wanted to tie Obama’s hands? Olmert was a strong proponent of the two-state solution – as was his successor as leader of Kadima, Tzipi Livni, who had won the party primaries in September.
Though President Bush’s administration had encouraged the peace process with the Palestinians, Olmert would have known that Obama was going to be at least equally supportive of peace efforts.
Even if you were to ignore the Hamas rockets attacks on Israel which precipitated the war, the Indy correspondent’s claim that Olmert launched the war to “tie the hands” of Barack Obama makes literally zero political sense.
We’ve complained to Indy editors about Daragahi’s ahistorical explanation for the 2008 war.