Israel’s quite unchallenged (and US-supplied) Air Force has killed more than 200 people in waves of attacks against Gaza today. Most of the locations targeted were reportedly linked to the main security force in Gaza, that provided by the elected Hamas movement. Many of those killed were police officers, including 40 cadets just completing their training.
In his well-regarded ‘Talking Points memo’ blog, Josh Marshal shamefully titles his short post on this massacre “Cycle”. He also describes the attack as “retaliatory”, though he does not say for what.
There have been numerous, highly asymmetrical exchanges of fire between the security forces of Gaza and those of Israel in the past days– as in the past three years.
In addition, ever since Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006, Israel has maintained an extremely tight siege around Gaza that has blighted the lives of the Strip’s 1.5 million people quite unjustifiably, including causing numerous deaths.
Gaza maintains no siege around Israel.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph may be a rightwing newspaper. But it has a far more sober attitude to the truth of the Gaza-Israel dynamic than Josh Marshall does.
The DT’s Tim Butcher reports from Jerusalem today :
- Nine Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza since it withdrew all settlers and soldiers from the territory in September 2005.
Over the same period, at least 1,400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in Gaza, according to figures compiled by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group.
Israel’s decision to act came after a six-month truce with Hamas, which ran out on Dec 19.
Josh Marshall’s type of “cycle of violence” and “Israeli retaliation” language is, however, the way the vast majority of people in the US political elite (mis-)portray and (mis-)understand the situation in Gaza.
The Israeli cabinet’s decision to unleash the present tsunami of violence has no discernible strategic relevance. There can be no serious strategic thinker in Israel who imagines that this kind of massacre will suddenly “persuade” Hamas to cry “uncle” and accede to Israel’s longstanding demands that it perform what is, in effect, an unconditional surrender to Israel.
Ha’aretz’s Amos Harel describes the assault as Israel’s version of “Shock and Awe,” explicitly comparing it to the US assault on Iraq and Halutz’s original July 2006 assault on Lebanon. (He fails to note that both of those attacks ended up with their overall strategic “achievements” for the assaulting government being deep in the negative column.
- The major x-factor, of course, is not related to the operational capabilities of the air force, but whether or not to launch a ground invasion. Will the government resolve to do so and is the IDF capable of successfully carrying out a mission which it failed to accomplish against Hezbollah? It is reasonable to assume that the picture will become more clearer within three to four days. Until then, the IAF is expected to continue its assault which will be complimented by limited activity from relatively small ground units.
As the situation appears now, Israel has assigned modest goals for itself: weakening Hamas rule in Gaza and restoring a prolonged lull along the border under terms that are more convenient for us following an internationally imposed compromise.
Under that scenario, the Israeli leadership is expecting that after some period of time the US will step in and help it negotiate the kind of political outcome it wants with (or without?) Hamas.
This seems unlikely to unfold as planned. The US has no effective president right now. Who will the Americans deal with, in the Arab world, to try to get Hamas to accede to its and Israel’s demands?
Egypt acted as intermediary in the June tahdi’eh between Israel and Hamas. But this time round, Hamas has already signaled its strong discontent with Egypt’s position. Meantime, Hamas’s co-believers from the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood seem more ready than ever to intervene in public inside Egypt in support of Hamas.
Actually, what seems to be shaping up is a major, possibly regionwide confrontation between, on the one side, the many pro-Hamas forces in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere in the region, and on the other, the US and Israel and the Arab regimes that have until now been dependent on the US.
Olmert, Livni, and Ehud Barak may well not have factored this into account. It may well be the case that the considerations uppermost in their minds were the very provincial considerations of two governing parties that had been badly tainted by the outcome of the 33-day war of 2006 that are now going into a big general election fight in early February.
The Olmert government would certainly not be the first Israeli government that decided it wanted to launch its election campaign with a “salutary” military attack against some Arab neighbors! (Shimon Peres in 1996 comes immediately to mind.)
Deep condolences to all the families, on both sides of the line, who have lost loved ones in the present round of fighting. One Israeli has been reported dead from Hamas’s retaliatory fire.
Pray for all those terrorized by the attacks.
Note, too, that one other casualty of this assault is very likely to be Abu Mazen’s role in the Palestinian movement.