Writing in the current American Conservative magazine, which one must always point out is neither American nor conservative, John Mearsheimer weaves a fable about Israeli aggression that is premised on a lie: that Israel wishes to re-occupy Gaza. Says Sheikh Hassan Mearsheimer:
The actual purpose [of Cast Lead] is connected to Israel’s long-term vision of how it intends to live with millions of Palestinians in its midst. It is part of a broader strategic goal: the creation of a “Greater Israel.” Specifically, Israel’s leaders remain determined to control all of what used to be known as Mandate Palestine, which includes Gaza and the West Bank.
Those tricky Jews. It’s almost as if they wanted Hamas’ rocket war, so they’d have a pretext for re-occupying Gaza.
Except that after the cease-fire the IDF promptly withdrew its forces. If Israel wanted to re-occupy Gaza, why didn’t it use the recent operation as an excuse to do so? And if the long-term Israeli goal is occupation, how come there was such an expansive political consensus for disengagement in 2005, one that continues to dominate despite the rise of Hamas and the escalation of its rocket war? And exactly which Israeli leaders are secretly pursuing re-occupation? Israel is in the midst of a national election, and not a single one of the three contenders for prime minister is running on a Gaza-reoccupation platform. Is Mearsheimer suggesting that Netanyahu, Livni, and Barak — and Likud, Kadima, and Labor — are engaged in an elaborate deception of the Israeli electorate?
I’ll stop right there, because this is a silly exercise. It assumes that Hassan Mearsheimer cares about the truth. After the war, Bret Stephens did something that Mearsheimer will never do — he asked Israeli officials what their strategy was:
In a wide-ranging interview, a senior military official offers perhaps the most authoritative explanation of his government’s war aims and his interpretation of its effects. “We have no desire to go back into Gaza,” he says. “We decided we’re not going to spend five years [in Gaza] like the five years Americans spent in Iraq.”
One gets the sense that if Mearsheimer had to do interviews, his career would be over.