Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: A Different Look at Gaza

Sunday, January 04, 2009

A Different Look at Gaza

Faithful reader RT sent along a link to an essay in this morning's Globe and Mail out of Toronto on the new developments in Gaza. Written by a former Canadian ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and Jordan, it's an intriguing examination of the situation that doesn't look through the prism of American politics. Unfortunately, it's not chock-full of optimism, either.

The imbalance of casualties in the tragic confrontation between Hamas and Israel is stark. Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed or injured, from toddlers to the aged. Television footage suggests almost all are innocents.
. . .

The Israeli government was placed in an impossible situation when Hamas refused to renew its six-month-old ceasefire on Dec. 19. From that day on, Hamas has laid down an array of rockets and increasingly sophisticated missiles, with a range reaching Ashdod and Beersheva, some 46 kilometres away from the Gaza border. This raises the question whether Tel Aviv itself could be vulnerable. Even the most placid of governments would have to react in order to survive. And the Israelis have done so, massively.


Israel will hold a general election on Feb. 10. Most polls show that the right-wing Likud opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is likely to come to power. A weak-willed reaction to Hamas's rocket attacks would have exposed the present government to sharp criticism from Mr. Netanyahu, against the background of a frustrated and angry populace. It would have opened the governing coalition's departing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, the Kadima Party's new leader, and, most of all, Ehud Barak, the Defence Minister and Leader of the formerly dominant Labour Party, to devastating criticism and their portrayal as leaders unable to safeguard their country's most basic interests. Inaction would have meant humiliation for Mr. Olmert, electoral defeat for Ms. Livni and the end of Mr. Barak's political career.
. . .

Many politicians and military commanders have limited objectives. They want to weaken Hamas as a guerrilla organization and force it to give up the missile threat, but leave its domestic rule in Gaza intact. Mr. Barak's chief of staff, Brigadier-General Mike Herzog, has been explicit. He says the aim of Operation Cast Lead is strictly confined to creating deterrence and forcing a sustainable ceasefire. His candour has been ill received in some military circles.

These officers worry that leaving Hamas intact, even if seriously weakened, would be only a temporary palliative. They believe Hamas would spring back with newfound support from the Palestinian and Arab grassroots, much as Hezbollah did in Lebanon.
. . .

But what is the Israeli exit strategy? One would have expected this to have been decided far in advance, but cracks are beginning to show in the Israeli leadership. Ehud Barak wants to consider the 48-hour ceasefire proposed by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, to test Hamas's intentions. Such a ceasefire would go some way toward meeting international and humanitarian concerns. This could then be stretched into a renewal of the six-month cessation of hostilities, should Hamas be willing. It would reduce the possibility of ground troops being caught in a quagmire. The Prime Minister's office, however, has denied that any consideration has been given to winding down. Several on the general staff agree.

I've quoted from it fairly extensively, but trust me, this is only a taste. Check out the full piece. And if you're interested, you can contribute to a Globe and Mail Q&A with the author, Michael Bell, Monday afternoon at 1:30 Eastern (12:30 Central). I won't have a chance to participate, but I suspect that I will take a look later when I get a chance.


At 8:49 AM, January 05, 2009, Blogger Mike Chary said...

I hate to bring this up, becauseI asume these people are familiar with the history ivolved and the basic beliefs of Islam and the like, but it's terribly optimistic to asume that Hamas wants peace. What Hamas wants is for Israel to cease to exist. The notion that they care how many women and children die is ludicrous. It's like trying to win an argument with a five year old. It make the adult look bad, but you cannot back down either.

Moses led the Israelites through desert for forty years to the only place in the Middle East without any oil, and people have been fighting over that land ever since.

At 10:41 AM, January 05, 2009, Anonymous Doug said...

I wasn't sure where you got optimism from reading the piece, but then I noticed that my selective quoting may have made this seem sunnier than it is. In the full essay, Bell calls reconciling Hamas with Fatah and the Palestinian Authority "wishful thinking" and notes that Hamas, which, as you point out, desires an end to Israel itself, isn't to be trusted in negotiation.


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