Sunday, January 4, 2009

End Game in the Gaza War?

Part I. (Cross-linked with From the Field)
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

22 comments:

dailysketch said...

Your link to "a recent intelligence report released by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA)" leads only to the main page where there is no link to any report than can be found easily. Can you be more precise please?

arn said...

Document has been available on main MFA page in upper-left hand corner. The URL was hidden, but with a click you download the PDF. If the PDF disappears, I will post the PDF on my webpage.

Anonymous said...

Here is the URL at the MFA

http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e017.pdf

arn said...

Thanks to anonymous for the URL

Rayyan said...

This article consists of three parts--see the Boston University blog posting--but at the end of part II you do not provide a link to the concluding section.

arn said...

Thanks Rayan

Anonymous said...

Excellent piece. Wish we could see more of this balanced analysis in the MSM.

BTW, I think Ken Silverstein somewhat misrepresents your article at Harper's

http://www.harpers.org/archive/2009/01/hbc-90004124

Cash Gifting Leads said...

Excellent piece. Wish we could see more of this balanced analysis in the MSM.

Anonymous said...

Your article failed to make comments on the fact that Israel had imposed an economic blockage on Gaza.

The Gaza residents were according to ex-President Jimmy Carter only eating one meal per day.

But they are only Arabs....

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