"Winning the battle but losing the war"

proclaimed The Economist in this weeks edition. I've been reading the Economist a lot lately both out of general interest and also frantically trying to keep pace with the world's rapidly changing political situation. The Economist makes a number of valid points and is one of the least biased publications I've managed to find. As soon as it caught on that the UN was considering whether Israel's actions could be tried as war crimes, Western media has gone into overdrive, adding fuel to the flames of anti-Israel protests which have been springing up all over Europe. What many outlets have neglected to mention is the fact that U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pilla wasn't just calling out Israel for its behaviour - she equally called out both Israel and Hamas for firing from and firing into densely populated civilian areas, which violates international humanitarian law and can thus be classified as a war crime. The Economist has continued to press the fact that both sides are at fault. Hamas, while being one of the biggest charity groups and bringing relief to the lives of many Palestinians living in Gaza, it is also harsh, narrow-minded and intolerant of dissent. Its charter is highly anti-Semitic, the premise for Israel's defensive stand. It fires rockets into Israeli territory and builds tunnels under it to kill or kidnap Israeli soldiers. It plays a smart game - it knows that the Israeli attacks it provokes will kill hundreds of Palestinian civilians, which will garner sympathy around the world. Equally, while increasingly portrayed as the bad guy, Israel is the arguably the most successful state in the Middle East. It is the region’s only true democracy—a hub of invention, enterprise and creativity. Israel has overwhelming firepower in the fight in Gaza. Yet, though Israel is winning the battle, it is struggling in the war for world opinion According to The Economist, in the last week "From Antwerp to Warsaw, demonstrators’ placards have ranged from criticism of Israeli policy (“1,2,3,4, Occupation No More”) to denouncing Israel itself (“5,6,7,8, Israel is a Terror State”) to the most wounding anti-Semitism (“Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the Gas”)." Europe’s antipathy towards Israel is more than just loud protest. Many Israelis think they can no longer count on public opinion in Europe—and, to a much lesser extent, America—and that where popular sentiment leads, democratic politicians will sooner or later follow. A global poll in and about several countries, conducted for the BBC long before the latest strife in Gaza, reported that negative views of Israel’s influence in the world outweighed positive ones by more than two to one - Israel ranked only above Iran, North Korea and Pakistan. A recent Gallup poll found a majority of those under 30 thought Israel’s actions in Gaza unjustified (see chart 2). Baby-boomers whose views were shaped by Israel’s wars against Soviet-aligned Arab states in 1967 and 1973 may still see Israel as a plucky little David standing up to Goliath. But for many younger Americans, who have mainly seen a powerful Israel occupying the West Bank and battering Hamas, the picture is different. Just when it was thought progress was being made; Israel has taken major steps backwards. Having created a huge open-air prison in Gaza, Israel remains committed to a blockade that contains Hamas—but also ensures that ever more Palestinians grow up angry and the those outside the region looking in do so with pity for the Palestinians. Israel has publicly claimed that it cannot relinquish security control of the West Bank for fear of Islamist attack. That implies an intention to consolidate the occupation, thus withdrawing all hope from Palestinian moderates. For all the blood and misery in Gaza, Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu will soon have a chance to show he has heard the critics. Having won his battle, he could return to the negotiating table, this time with a genuine offer of peace. Every true friend of Israel should press him to do so.

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