Herb Keinon, the diplomatic correspondent at The Jerusalem Post, moved to Israel from Denver some 30 years ago. He has been at the Post since 1985, and has covered a wide range of beats since then. He took over the diplomatic beat in August 2000. Keinon has a BA in political science from the University of Colorado, Boulder, and an MA in Journalism from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. He is the author of one book: Lone Soldiers: Israel's Defenders from Around the World.
Herb recently took the time to answer questions submitted by Jpost readers on Israeli diplomacy in the face of the current operation in Gaza.
Q. Why is it so difficult for Israel to win the media war? We know Gaza has been independent for over 9 years, we know that Hamas is a recognized terrorist organization that uses children as human shields and hence the causalities. Why are we still not being able to get the world outraged at the Hamas?
A. The old platitude one picture is worth a thousand words holds very true here. Even with the most reasoned, cogent, sound arguments by the most eloquent Israeli spokesperson, it is difficult to compete with pictures of dead civilians. Television is not built for context.
Q. Can Israel go into Gaza, conquer it, and than call for the UN to control it until Palestinians are ready to rule. That was done in Kosovo, it can be done here.
A. Israel has the ability to conquer Gaza. The question is whether it wants to pay the price to do so, and – if so – then what?
Israel would be very wary of a UN administration of the Strip. Would the UN be willing and able to prevent Hamas from re-taking Gaza, or keep it from re-arming in Gaza?
The UN was supposed to ensure that southern Lebanon would be demilitarized, except for the Lebanese army, after the Second Lebanon War in 2006. The result: Hezbollah's missile arsenal went from 6,000 missiles before the war, to more than 60,000 now. Israel is likely to look at other alternatives beyond the UN for the 'day after” the guns fall silent in Gaza.
Q. Is there a connection between Israel's war strategy and the ongoing nuclear power negotiations between the USA and Iran, Hamas' sponsor?
A. Israel is keen on degrading Hamas' capabilities irrespective of the negotiations with Iran.
However, Iran is a strong backer of the terror groups in Gaza – Hamas and Islamic Jihad – and Jerusalem will argue that if this is the way they act without an Iranian nuclear umbrella, imagine what they could do – or try to do – if their main backer had nuclear capabilities.
Iran sows instability and violence everywhere throughout the Mideast. Israel has tried to get the US to put it's behavior throughout the region on the table in the nuclear negotiations, and that the issues should not be divorced. The US has opposed this approach up until now. The current situation will strengthen Israel's argument.
Q. Can a permanent DMZ be instituted in northern Gaza to help protect against incoming Hamas missiles?
A. A DMZ in northern Gaza would not necessarily solve the problems of the rockets, since they could be moved further south and still easily reach Israel. The DMZ, however, could help deal with the tunnel problems, since the further Hamas is from the border, the more difficult it would be to burrow into Israel.
Q. What will be Israel's response, should the EU take at least the political arm of Hamas off its list of terrorist organizations?
Robert M. Soran
A. There is no indication that this is in the offing.
Q. How will Israel handle a strong condemnation of its general policy in regard to occupation, settlements, peace-process, which is expected to come out next week from the meeting of the EU foreign ministers?
Robert M. Soran
A. Israel is working on the diplomatic channel to fend off just such a condemnation.
It is clear that much of the world will, after the fighting stops, say that it illustrates the need for a comprehensive agreement.
On the other hand, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has said over the last couple of weeks – and will argue after the campaign is over – that the tunnels coming from Gaza show precisely why Israel cannot cede security control over territory, because when it it does, the terrorist organizations can use that territory to build terrorist tunnels into Israel.
The well-worn disagreements with the EU over the diplomatic process and the settlements will continue, and likely intensify, after the Gaza campaign.