As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So Much For The Truce

Despite international pressure, Israel attacked Gaza for a fifth straight day, and the death toll rose to 390, including at least 60 civilians.

On Tuesday, France urged Israel to halt its operation for 48 hours. Calls for an immediate cease-fire have also come from the U.S., the European Union, the U.N. and Russia.

Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert discussed the idea of a two-day truce with his defense and foreign ministers overnight, but the trio decided to pursue the punishing aerial campaign.

Olmert told ministers Israel launched the operation to fundamentally change the situation in the south, and would not leave the job half done with a unilateral cease-fire.

"If conditions ripen to the point that we assess they promise a safer existence in southern Israel, we will consider it. We're not they're yet," Olmert said, according to a participant in the meeting who spoke on condition of anonymity because the meeting was closed.

The main targets today were the underground smuggling tunnels. Those aren't merely responsible for weapons; during the blockade, they've been responsible for food and medicine.

Airstrikes cannot contain an insurgency, no matter how many bombs are provided by allies (your tax dollars at work, ladies and gentlemen). If the goal truly is to eliminate Hamas, Israel will have to go in on the ground. The problem is that this is precisely what Hamas wants.

The operation's goals, as defined by the cabinet, are "creating a different long-term security situation in the south, while bolstering Israel's deterrence." The IDF does not interpret this to mean a complete end to the rocket fire, as it considers this impossible. Rather, its goal is to eliminate Hamas' desire to attack Israel. The bombing campaign has so far dealt a severe blow to Hamas.

However, ground forces are already in place for the next phase. The Gazan mud will make it harder for tanks and armored personnel carriers to maneuver, and Hamas has clearly been preparing its defense for months. Thus any ground operation will entail many casualties, which is one of the government's considerations in deciding how the operation should proceed [...]

As for the Palestinians, they plan to declare victory regardless of what happens. If the IDF withdraws rapidly, without a ground operation and without having seriously reduced the rocket fire, Hamas will boast that it survived and Israel blinked first.

But Hamas officials and analysts said Monday that the organization would actually like Israel to launch a ground operation; it hopes this would let it inflict such heavy losses on Israeli tanks and infantry that Israel would flee with its tail between its legs.

Just as the Second Lebanon War did, the current war will have far-reaching consequences for the balance of forces in the Middle East. First, it has brought the conflict between Hamas and Egypt into the open, which could influence domestic developments in Egypt. To some degree, it has also reignited the conflict between Arab moderates, led by Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and the extremists, led by non-Arab Iran. In Lebanon, it is already clear which side won. In Gaza, we will learn the answer in the coming days or weeks.

This is what is so mistaken about the attacks; they have revived Hamas, which had a negative profile in the Middle East, not weakened them. They were losing support inside Palestine as well as the situation in Gaza deteriorated because of the blockade. Hamas came to power through their attention to and aid of the people. They weren't able to carry that out so they lost popularity. They also were unable to transition from a militant entity to a political entity. So in a way, the attacks have been symbiotic.

That's why, as the six-month cease-fire with Israel came to an end, Hamas calculated -- it seems correctly -- that it had nothing to gain by continuing the truce; if it had, its credentials as a resistance movement would have been no different from those of Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah. Unable to secure an open border and an end to the Israeli siege, while refusing to share or give up power to Abbas, Hamas could have had no route to renewed public favor.

For different reasons, Hamas and Israel both gave up on the cease-fire, preferring instead to climb over corpses to reach their political goals. One side wants to resuscitate its public support by appearing to be a heroic resister, while the other, on the eve of elections, wants to show toughness to a public unhappy with the nuisance of the Qassam rockets [...]

While it is not apparent how this violent confrontation will end, it is abundantly clear that the Islamic Hamas movement has been brought back from near political defeat while moderate Arab leaders have been forced to back away from their support for any reconciliation with Israel.

Just so sad.

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