Many observers argue that Israel lacks a strategy in Gaza. If it has a strategy, it is bankrupt because any success does not stop the attacks. A related view argues Israel’s tactical advantage cannot be turned into strategic victory. By contrast, critics argue that Israel’s strategy is genocide, ethnic cleansing, or both. They make this argument either simplistically or with a complex nuance. The simple view is that Israel settlements to push out Palestinians. In the nuanced view, Israel foments state of crisis to destroy Palestinian society.
I believe both are wrong. We need an analytical device to understand Israel’s strategy. Without it, the debate and the conflict remain sterile. The analytical device is Liberalism. Liberalism reveals that Israel’s strategy in Gaza is familiar to the Western approach to similar issues. Israel’s strategy is similar to England’s strategy in Ireland, Scotland and Wales. It is similar to the United States of America’s strategy in North America. Liberalism explains why Western protestors recoil from Israel’s activity in Gaza. They have forgotten what was required to create their peace, stability, and prosperity. The non-Western states resent Liberalism and resist it because it threatens their identity. They see it antithetical to what they want to achieve.
Israel is trying through violence and political engagement to encourage the Palestinian Government (PG) to become a moderate. If the PG becomes moderate, they become an acceptable political partner. They demonstrate that liberalism is the mechanism for change when they ask the classic liberal questions. Will you recognize our right to exist? Will you renounce violence? These questions are at the heart of liberalism. As Frances Fukuyama’s book End of History argued they are the questions that when answered in the affirmative demonstrate the end of history. However, to the extent that Hamas answers no to these questions, they remain firmly within the Concept of the Political. Carl Schmitt’s critique of this liberalism in Concept of the Political explains why the conflict continues.
Fukuyama or Schmitt: The choice that animates Gaza’s future
Israel’s strategy is immediately problematic for the Palestinians and any Palestinian government (PG). The Palestinians will see this as an attempt to dilute or destroy their identity. Their identity is bound up with being immoderate, and thus unacceptable, actor. In the Israeli strategy, they face an existential threat. Do they want to be Western and accept liberalism? The other path is to remain immoderate and reject liberalism. Yet, they cannot create a state without assimilating the liberal tendencies of the state system. If they accept liberal tendencies (renounce violence and recognize Israel) what is their identity. If they do not change, then the fighting has to continue. All truces are simply a time to reload and resupply. The fighting will continue until one of two outcomes occurs. The first is that Palestinians reject Hamas with ballots. The second is that Hamas bankrupts itself with the bodies of Palestinians. How long can the Palestinians accept a government that will fight to the last Palestinian for a goal that they could achieve without the violence and sacrifice?
Despite this extremism, the PG is slowly becoming relatively moderate. For nearly 40 years, the Palestinians had only one leader or face–Yasser Arafat. When he died, Hamas was elected to lead the Palestinians. Although they were not less moderate than Arafat, they had a crucial advantage. They were democratically elected. The election gave them some legitimacy. However, with legitimacy comes responsibility. Hamas predictably used this irresponsibly. They continued their immoderate illiberal path to destroy Israel through violence. They rejected the moderate approach to assimilate with liberalism. Hamas built tunnels and trained fighters. They did not build hospitals and train teachers. They sought war. The violence and dead Palestinians sustains Hamas’s legitimacy as a radical or illiberal group. To build hospitals and train teachers would require them to accept liberalism and display liberal tendencies. They could not do that. However, a PG after Hamas may find that they can. They may seek a moderate path if only because it allows them to live longer and to retain their legitimacy longer.
The more moderate the PG becomes, the more a two state strategy becomes viable. However, elements within Israel do not want that two state outcome. They will create situations that reduce the PG’s ability to become moderate entity. Is Israel willing to accept a moderate PG? The question cannot be ignored nor can an answer be assumed. The more Israel resists it by equating moderate liberal and immoderate illiberal Palestinians, they encourage the problem they wants to avoid. No, this does not mean that Israel has encouraged Hamas or brought the attacks on itself. Instead, it is to argue that the Israeli attacks and strategy has to be focused on a liberal democratic entity, a moderate entity. If they are not pursuing the goal of liberal democratic tendencies, then we have to consider the alternatives. Is Israel’s goal to remove Palestinians or simply to absorb them into Israel? Neither is a viable strategy. If Israel rejects a PG with liberal democratic tendencies, then it will be as illiberal as those it opposes.
The liberal democratic trajectory within Islamic states (and Israel).
At the same time, Islamic states demonstrate liberal tendencies in their intent or trajectory. For this reason, illiberals want that to stop them and any rapprochement with Israel. The liberal tendencies of the relatively moderate Islamic states suggest why they do not support Hamas as they might have previously. Even though they are marginally less illiberal the extremists, they are now vulnerable to their own extremists. Even a state like Saudi Arabia (or North Korea) has liberal democratic tendencies. It wants to be recognized as a legitimate state within the state system to that it has to show liberal tendencies. In this way, Israel and the PG share a similar trajectory.
Israel has faced the same questions of identity and assimilation with liberalism. They have answered them; to the extent, an answer is possible with an Israeli state. They have assimilated themselves into the liberal state system, even as they retained the faith of their fathers. However, they understand that their assimilation presents an existential challenge to their identity. They may delay that challenge for a long time but they cannot avoid it.
Israel was on a long journey to statehood. It took them 2000 years to get to a state and they have had it less than 70 years. If Israel’s strategy is to succeed, they have to find a way to foster liberal tendencies in the Palestinians. So far, Israel has worked hard to suppress the illiberal tendencies. Can they demonstrate the same skill, ingenuity, perseverance to generate liberal tendencies?
If this is not Israel’s strategy, what is it?
 The same process, albeit on a longer time scale, can be seen in the way that England assimilated others into its control. One could say that the UK I flirting with its own “two state solution” with Scotland. The longer historical process can be seen in the reasons why Wales has so many castles and why Berwick upon Tweed, which was one of the wealthiest towns in the world in 1295, is now a relatively sleepy town. One could call Berwick’s fate self-defence, as Scotland had made an alliance with France, which was a strategic threat to England, but that misses the deeper historical process. The same historical process that animated England’s relationship with Scotland explained the process by which the Empire was transformed into a commonwealth. The evolution of that approach can be seen in the issues around the torture files from Kenya and the way that the Scotland’s proposed independence is to be settled by ballots rather than bullets. America’s assimilation strategy through liberalism has been no less robust in its own way. These are not wars of imperialism so much as wars to extend the liberal mandate and assimilate its opponents into the system or destroy them. The rise of the state system and the way it assimilates those who aspire to statehood into it reflects that historical process.
 The strategy is the process by which liberalism assimilates the “other”, in the Schmittian sense. Carl Schmitt, the Nazi era legal scholar and philosopher proposed the idea of the concept of the political that said the basic political issue was to distinguish friend from enemy. Schmitt argued that liberalism could not overcome the tension between the two and that its attempt to do so was undesirable.
I borrowed the idea of assimilation from sociologists in the United States who sought to explain the way immigrants are encouraged to join a society. Consider the article by Peter Skerry Do we really want immigrants to assimilate? http://www.brookings.edu/research/articles/2000/03/immigration-skerry (accessed 9 August 2014)
“More than just realism, Park affords us a sense of the tragic dimensions of immigration. William James, one of Park’s teachers, once wrote that “progress is a terrible thing” In that same spirit, Park likened migration to war in its potential for simultaneously fostering individual tragedy and societal progress.
As in war, the outcome of the immigration we are now experiencing is difficult to discern. And this is precisely what is most lacking in the continuing debate over immigration—a realistic appreciation of the powerful forces with which we are dealing.” [Emphasis added]
 It took England 900 years to become a unitary state with decades of brutal wars and occupation to achieve the peace, stability, and prosperity it has today. Israel by contrast has been trying to do the same in less than 70 years in a context that constrains their actions more than anything does, including Christianity, ever placed on the ruthless actions of the English monarchs.
 Although this essay acknowledges Fukuyama’s article and his argument from Hegel via Kojeve, his argument is flawed. To put it directly, Harry Jaffa was correct in his 1991 review of End of History, because Strauss is right and Kojeve is wrong as suggested by their debate regarding On Tyranny. To understand this point, consider the belief in modern natural science that haunts Kojeve and by extension Fukuyama’s argument. See (End of History and the Last Man (Avon Books p. 85 footnote 5.) When we work through the footnote to its originating thought, we arrive at Nietzsche-Heidegger understanding of technology and the choice between Strauss and Kojeve. See the recent essay by Mark Blitz Understanding Heidegger on Technology in The New Atlantis. http://www.thenewatlantis.com/publications/understanding-heidegger-on-technology (accessed 22 July 2014) In the essay Blitz reviews the recent publication of Heidegger’s other essays around his Question Concerning Technology.
 The choice is this blunt which is why the stakes are so high. This is not simply a struggle in which civilians are killed for a tactical or strategic military goal or even a political goal. The question is an existential one that cannot be avoided or finessed.
 Hamas showed a shrewd political sense when they offered in 2006 to renounce violence and recognize Israel as they courted the Palestinian vote. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2006/jan/12/israel?utm_source=&utm_medium=&utm_campaign= (Accessed 10 August) The problem for Hamas is what is their identity once they accept those liberal tendencies? Can they justify the sacrifices and martyrdom that has fuelled their support? Unlike Nixon who famously used his conservative anti-communism as a strategic device to justify the opening to China, Hamas cannot leverage the deaths of Palestinians in the same way. The question Hamas or any radical Palestinian Government has to answer and defend is “Did Palestinians have to die so you could recognise Israel?” In this regard, the Western propaganda actually works against Hamas because it raises the stakes to a point where they cannot negotiate because it undermines the Western protests and propaganda done on their behalf. Hamas might justify the sacrifice in a way that Kojeve would understand as Hamas would have to suggest something akin to Hegel’s idea “The wounds of the Spirit heal, and leave no scars behind” (Phenomenology of the Spirit p. 407 #(669) www.scribd.com/doc/30409033/hegel-Phenomenology-of-spirit (accessed 12 August 2014)
 Hamas has to make sure that the Palestinian people suffer from the violence so that they have a sunk cost in Hamas’s legitimacy. If Hamas fought and they suffered then their suffering would not have meaning. They would only be dying for Hamas not for Palestinian state. To the extent that Hamas’s goals are shown to bankrupt, that is Palestinians want to become even slightly less radical than Hamas, then their sacrifices has been for Hamas’ benefit and not theirs. In other words, in that moment, the interests of Hamas diverge from those of the Palestinian people. Hamas has an overriding interest in linking Palestinian identity to Hamas’ identity and thus the Palestinian people become hostage to Hamas.
 The PG is not going to be a liberal democratic state overnight. Instead, the best that can be expected is a state or entity with liberal democratic tendencies. We have to accept this provisional goal. The region lacks a liberal democratic Muslim state to act as a guide. The reason, of course, is that to be liberal democratic is to reduce the role of religion to a secondary institution, which is why the UK is not a liberal democratic state, even though it makes a strong claim to that title.
 The liberal democratic tendencies also explain why the issue in Gaza (and the ISIS existence) is not a clash of civilizations. Despite Samuel Huntington’s arguments, the Middle East is not on the cusp of a Caliphate to create an Islamic civilisation to challenge the West. http://www.svt.ntnu.no/iss/Indra.de.Soysa/POL2003H05/huntington_clash%20of%20civlizations.pdf
Islam has not been a coherent civilisation for about 400 years. Moreover, the advent of the nation state system, with the benefits and constraints it brings, has fostered the liberal democratic tendencies. Although Islamic states are riven by tribal and ethnic issues, these, in themselves, do not give rise to a civilizational crisis or conflict.
 No, this is not a subtle moral equivalence between the Palestinian Government (Hamas) and Israel. The point is that as Palestinians search for statehood and create an entity with liberal democratic tendencies, they share a similarity in that process Israel followed to create a state to protect its interests. The state it created had to have, at a minimum, liberal democratic tendencies. To be sure, Israel has more than liberal democratic tendencies as it has a robust and vibrant liberal democracy.
 Baruch Spinoza is still excommunicated.