Sunday, January 04, 2009

End Game in the Gaza War?

Part I. (Cross-linked with Informed Comment: Global Agenda)
by Augustus Richard Norton and Sara Roy

Although diplomatic discussions about a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel have begun, the Gaza war will continue for days, maybe even weeks to come. The U.S. and Israel insist on a “durable and sustainable” ceasefire, in the words of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. This means that Hamas must not only stop the firing of rockets into Israel, but also re-subordinate itself to the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority (PA) headed by Mahmoud ‘Abbas whose silence while Gaza burns is astonishing.

Israel will stress its acceptance of a ceasefire in-principle but will continue to pummel Gaza while the U.S. stiff-arms growing calls for an end to the war. Hamas will on principle refuse any ceasefire that denies its political role or demands its surrender. Meanwhile, the toll in civilian victims escalates in densely packed Gaza, which is already suffering an immense humanitarian crisis ludicrously denied by Israel.

Hamas’ strategic miscalculation in rejecting an extension to a six-month truce with Israel was a gift on a “golden platter” to Israel, as Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit wryly noted. The Israeli security establishment has been intent since its flawed 2006 war in Lebanon to reassert Israel’s hegemony and its deterrent power. But the attack on Gaza may also have deeper causes. Lost in most of the coverage is the fact that the Israel-Hamas truce was working—a fact fully acknowledged in a recent intelligence report released by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA). According to that report, “Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire.” Furthermore, “the lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire carried out by rogue terrorist organizations in some instances in defiance of Hamas.”

Yet on November 4, when the world was focused on the U.S. presidential election, Israel effectively ended the “period of relative quiet” to which the MFA report refers by attacking Gaza, killing at least six Palestinian militiamen. Hamas responded to the killings with salvos of rockets. Israel believed that the group was planning to abduct Israeli soldiers through a tunnel it was digging near a border security fence, but whether Hamas wished to risk a successful truce and the possibility of political progress in order to abduct Israeli soldiers is debatable.

The extensive report released by the MFA acknowledges that most of the rockets and mortar shells fired at Israel during the six-month lull fell after November 4.

Why would Israel want to end the truce? The success of the Israel-Hamas truce tacitly legitimized political dialogue with the Islamists, something that Israel (as well as the U.S. and Egypt) vehemently rejects. Equally important, while the truce was holding there was greater talk internationally about possible negotiations and freezing illegal Israeli settlement expansion and moves to boycott products made in those settlements. There were also growing calls for compromises that successive Israeli governments have been unwilling to make. Despite recent comments from outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert linking Israel’s survival to withdrawal from the occupied West Bank, Israel has consistently rejected a viable two-state solution because it insists on maintaining control of the West Bank.

The periodic rain of rockets from Gaza into Israel since November 4 provoked broad public support for military action against Hamas. With President Bush soon packing his bags for Texas, there was also a strong incentive on Israel’s part to capitalize on support from a predictably pliant White House.

Go to Part II
Go to Part III


William deB. Mills said...

The departure of the Bush Administration, the intensifying radical Islamist challenge (e.g., in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia), and the recession all raise the possibility that caution may replace hubris in Washington. In light of all this, there may as well have been strong incentive on Israel's part to do what it does so well--play the victim--and try to back Obama into compliance as well. Otherwise, Americans might begin to notice the contradictions between U.S. national security requirements and the aggressively militant approach that Israel has adopted toward Palestine over the last 4-5 years (humiliating Arafat, undermining Hamas' electoral victory, stirring up Palestinian civil war, launching economic warfare against Gaza, and failing to abide by its agreement with Hamas under this summer's truce to end that economic warfare). Patron and client have been in sync, but that could end fast if the patron decides that its broader global needs now call for compromise and retrenchment.

YMedad said...

Truce was holding?

If a truce is being violated by tunnel-digging to bring in tons of weapons and armaments and ammunition, if it is being violated by workshops creating longer-range rockets, if the Hamas is trying plant bombs at the gates and fences, if the the population is being mobilized physically and mentally for a future war, if all this and much more is being done, then no matter what some idiot at Israel's Foreign Ministry wrote, this is not a ceasefire and surely not a time-period being used for peace. It is a ceasefire that is not working.

Anonymous said...

Having trouble locating the MFA report... can anyone provide a direct link? I'd really like to read the report for myself

arn said...

Try this link:

Anonymous said...

Not read the MFA report, but to go back to 'if all this and much more is being done, then no matter what some idiot at Israel's Foreign Ministry wrote, this is not a ceasefire and surely not a time-period being used for peace. It is a ceasefire that is not working.'

An Israeli Knesset member was on AlJazeera the other night (05.01.2009) stating Israel has been planning this war for over one year (mind you, it was a slip of the tongue comment), also in today's Independent newspaper, it states that Israel has been planning a 'mock' war!

Israel isn't as innocent as you or it wants us to believe.

YMedad said...

Anon 6:35

Every army in every country always plans for the possibility of war or more limited operations. What do you want them to do, play pick-up-sticks? They have to be prepared for all eventualities. In out case, since Hamas shows no intention of stopping its "resistance" and has sown none for the past few years, if you were a military officer, don't you think that sometime soon, action would need to be taken? And if you want to win, you have to plan it. Please, don't be so naive.

Anonymous said...

I think the solution to Hamas ending its resistance movement is very very easy. Israel needs to stop occupying Palestine. How naive is it to think that there is an oppressive/brutal occupier and not have a legit resistance movement (or movements!) and how naive is it to continue playing the victim's card and think that others will still buy it! As for winning such wars...I guess Israel has not learned from its past mistakes. Maybe it is time for Israel to call it quits!