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Archive for Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Israel finds itself at crossroads in Gaza invasion

January 13, 2009

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— Israel is fast approaching the moment when it needs to decide between escalating its Gaza offensive, putting its soldiers at greater risk, or quieting its guns perhaps without achieving its top aim of ending Hamas’ weapons smuggling across the Gaza-Egypt border.

Hamas, too, is at a crossroads. A quick cease-fire would spare Gaza further devastation. But it could also keep the militants from reaching their key objective of opening Gaza’s borders.

Israeli officials on Monday were weighing whether to take their 17-day offensive to a new, more violent phase — invading Gaza’s heavily populated areas to try to go after Hamas leaders and weapons stores and pressure the group to enter a truce on Israel’s terms. This could be very costly in terms of human life on both sides and yield uncertain results.

A second option is to halt the offensive as part of a truce deal that gives Hamas what it wants: an end to the blockade of Gaza imposed after the militants violently overran the coastal territory 18 months ago. While this would stop the war, it would also likely cement Hamas’ hold on power in Gaza — an unwelcome outcome for Israel.

Deterrent effect?

Israel could simply declare victory and get out, content with the deterrent effect that’s already been achieved. Hamas would almost certainly think twice before firing rockets on Israel again. This option, unless accompanied by an internationally backed arrangement for the Gaza-Egypt border, could leave Hamas free to keep smuggling in the weapons that threaten hundreds of thousands of Israelis.

Under another scenario, Israel could also declare victory and remain in key parts of Gaza, effectively reoccupying territory it left in 2005’s withdrawal.

International mediators expressed hope Monday that a cease-fire could be achieved. Tony Blair, the former British prime minister who now serves as an international Mideast envoy, said in Cairo that the “elements of an agreement ... are there” and that he hoped to see a truce “in the coming days.”

Hossam Zaki, spokesman for the Egyptian foreign ministry, told the BBC that cease-fire talks in Cairo were “progressing.” He suggested the sides might agree to stop fighting even while details of a truce deal were being worked out.

However, when asked about what is probably the main requirement for any truce to work — guaranteeing Israel that Hamas’ rockets and arms smuggling will stop — he said, “Egypt is not in the business of giving guarantees of such a nature.”

Possibilities of truce

Despite the truce talk, Israel appears to be in no great hurry to halt its fire. The fighting has killed 870 Palestinians, but only 13 Israelis. Israel believes it has the upper hand, and may see a military escalation as an opportunity to pin Hamas to the wall, maintaining the Gaza blockade while at the same time safeguarding the border with Egypt.

Yet so far no amount of Israeli firepower has made Hamas budge, at least not publicly.

In Syria, Hamas’ exiled leader Khaled Mashaal said Palestinian fighters in Gaza are doing well.

“Rest assured about the resistance. It is steadfast in the battlefield and politically. It will not be broken despite the massacres, destruction, sanctions and executions that are taking place,” Mashaal told visiting Arab guests.

Israeli intelligence has concluded, however, that Hamas has taken huge hits and may well be ready for a cease-fire. This is in line with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s statement over the weekend that Israel is “close” to achieving its goals in Gaza, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s comment that “we have proved to Hamas that we have changed the equation.”

New leaders

Two other elements work against dragging out the fighting in Gaza: Israeli elections on Feb. 10 and the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20.

Both Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak are running in the elections. A military escalation that results in high Israeli casualties could reverse an upward trend now being seen in their poll numbers, especially if Israelis’ current overwhelming support for the war begins to wane.

Many Mideast watchers are expecting Obama to be more willing to take Israel to task than President George W. Bush ever was. That expectation was bolstered when Obama told ABC on Sunday that he wanted to adopt “a new emphasis on respect and a new willingness on being willing to talk” to Iran, Israel’s archenemy.

In the same interview, Obama expressed unequivocal support for Israel’s right to defend itself. However, with hundreds of civilians being killed in Gaza and international pressure growing for Israel to stop, it is unlikely Israel’s leaders would put Obama to the test.

Comments

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"Two other elements work against dragging out the fighting in Gaza: Israeli elections on Feb. 10 and the inauguration of President-elect Barack Obama on Jan. 20."That this was mentioned almost as an afterthought in this piece shows just how little understanding the writer has of the situation.The Israeli elections are the main reason Israel chose to break the ceasefire, knowing full well that it would trigger renewed rocket fire from Hamas-- obviously because the governing coalition believes that it will help it win the elections. But there will be a ceasefire soon because the Israeli government knows dragging the war out will work against it in the elections, as would dragging their criminal action beyond the inauguration of Obama.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 11 months ago

The ceasefire was broken by Hamas firing rockets & mortars into Israel.Nice attempt to re-write history, bozo.

oldvet 5 years, 11 months ago

"Hamas would almost certainly think twice before firing rockets on Israel again."Sure they would... that think-twice conversation would probably go something like:"Are you sure the rocket is aimed at Israel?Yes, of course!Are you sure!!!???"I said yes, can't you hear...Good, fire the rocket!"

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"The ceasefire was broken by Hamas firing rockets & mortars into Israel.Nice attempt to re-write history, bozo."So are you saying that Israel's attacks on Gaza on Nov 4th didn't really happen, and the 6 Palestinians who were killed aren't really dead?

jaywalker 5 years, 11 months ago

Oldvet - you made me laugh.ese - I'm gonna try that recipe, sounds great.bozo - That's EXACTLY what snap was saying! You have to be able to read something that's not actually between the lines, spin it a convoluted way, and have your head up your keester, but unsurprisingly you were the right moron for the job. Well done!It would be nice if the Arab world could come to a consensus that extremists need to be relegated to the shadows and that Israel is here to stay; Egypt and everyone else agree to choke off arms smuggling and rid their homelands of terrorist training camps. Everyone gets pissed when Israel gets aggressive but they sit on their thumbs when Israel is threatened and/or attacked. And they get angrier because Israel is damn good and strong militarily. Many on these sites blame the U.S. for arming Israel, ignoring the fact that if we hadn't stood behind them there would be no Israel today. In the long run it probably doesn't matter much which way Israel decides to go on this. When the dust clears it'll be more of the same, 'cuz noone outside of Israel that has any say in the matter is interested in peace.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"That's exactly what snap was saying!"Really, the attacks didn't happen? Can you point me to an article that shows that they didn't? Were the Palestinians who were killed risen from the dead?Or are you just talking out of your a$$, as usual?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

What's your point, mike? Did the Israeli attack on Gaza on Nov 4th happen or not? Are the Palestinians that were killed still dead, or not?

jaywalker 5 years, 11 months ago

Um, yeah. That was sarcasm, Forrest. Thought that was fairly evident, forgot who I was addressing.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"That was sarcasm,"Being a jerk is not the same as being sarcastic.

jaywalker 5 years, 11 months ago

Oops. Didn't mean to step on your toes, bozo.

jj024 5 years, 11 months ago

I highly doubt they are at a crossroads. They have a plan. They will follow through with it. And good for them. It should have been taken care of last time. But no, they have to listen to whiny Americans and the babies in the UN cry about how this isn't right. What do you people know? I think they are being to nice and that America needs to keep its big fat Roman nose out of it. Do you people really think that our government isn't happy this is happening? What would you do if missiles were being shot into Larrytown? And not smart ones. They point and fire. How many children and schools need to be blown up? Republican, Democrats, whatever. Both parties are liars and cheats and both parties have their own agenda when it comes to this event.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 11 months ago

"I highly doubt they are at a crossroads. They have a plan. They will follow through with it."Yep, and that plan started with an attack on Gaza that broke a four-month long ceasefire, knowing full well that it would trigger Hamas missile attacks on their own civilians."And good for them.'No, it's pure insanity, and apparently you share the affliction.

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