Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Amid a Buildup of Its Forces, Israel Ponders a Cease-Fire.

The pressure for Israel to halt it's bloodbath in Gaza is growing as even the US have now joined the calls for a ceasefire.

In Paris, where Mr. Kouchner was meeting with his European Union colleagues over the Gaza crisis, he called publicly for a permanent cease-fire. A similar call came from the so-called quartet of powers focused on the region — the United Nations, the European Union, the United States and Russia.

The Israelis, who are putting tanks on the ground, are pretending that they are almost at the point of a ground invasion.
“The leading option right now is still a ground invasion, but the target of this operation is an improved cease-fire, and if that can come without the invasion, fine,” said a close aide to Mr. Barak, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he is not Mr. Barak’s authorized spokesman. “But, of course, Hamas has to agree, and there has to be a mechanism to make it work.”
This is simply a stance to force Hamas to accept a ceasefire which does not mean Israel have to stop their siege of Gaza. After all, one of the main reasons for this orgy of violence has been to undermine the Israeli hawk Netanyahu ahead of the elections. As I have always said it helps Livni and Olmert to be seen battering the Palestinians from the air but the minute they employ ground troops and young Israelis start coming home in body bags then the electoral advantage of attacking Gaza is reversed. It is for this reason that I think Barak is merely negotiating with Hamas when he makes statements like this regarding a ground invasion.

And there is a reason why Bush has now joined the calls for a ceasefire:

Mr. Olmert told the Israeli president, Shimon Peres, that the airstrikes were the first of several planned phases, according to spokesmen for the officials. It was also clear that the number of targets available from the air was declining, making the likelihood of a ground offensive greater.

The party who are bombing in an attempt to win an election are approaching the point where, in terms of a ground invasion, they are going to have to shit or get off the pot. So Bush is helping them by contributing to the global cries for a ceasefire.

Hamas will now have to decide whether to accept this ceasefire or push ahead with their demand that Israel halt it's inhumane siege of Gaza as a condition of ending conflict. This was the demand which Israel previously found unacceptable.

Israel's overwhelming wish is the collapse of Hamas so it will be interesting to see what Israel do should Hamas make that demand.

The world, with the usual exception of the US, have watched in horror as Israel has indulged in a "war" with a people who have no army, no air force and no navy. It doesn't look like war to most of us, it looks like an occupying army battering a defenceless people and committing the war crime of collective punishment. The vast majority of these people have nothing to do with the rockets that are aimed at Israel which is why most of us are simply appalled at what we have been witnessing.

And, of course, unspoken under all of this is the illegal Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people, which is the problem which is always excluded from coverage of this dispute.

But watching the news shows, you'd think that history began yesterday, that a bunch of bearded anti-Semitic Islamist lunatics suddenly popped up in the slums of Gaza – a rubbish dump of destitute people of no origin – and began firing missiles into peace-loving, democratic Israel, only to meet with the righteous vengeance of the Israeli air force. The fact that the five sisters killed in Jabalya camp had grandparents who came from the very land whose more recent owners have now bombed them to death simply does not appear in the story.

Both Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres said back in the 1990s that they wished Gaza would just go away, drop into the sea, and you can see why. The existence of Gaza is a permanent reminder of those hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who lost their homes to Israel, who fled or were driven out through fear or Israeli ethnic cleansing 60 years ago, when tidal waves of refugees had washed over Europe in the aftermath of the Second World War and when a bunch of Arabs kicked out of their property didn't worry the world.

Well, the world should worry now.

For a long time the Israelis got away with shoving this under the rug, but I detect a sea change, especially amongst American left wing bloggers, who are starting to criticise Israel in ways that I have previously never heard.

The American political class remains as united on this as ever but, as Glenn Greenwald points out here, the American public does not share that opinion.

Israel are, at last, losing the public relations war which they have waged since 1967. People are beginning to question just what is the real story behind this conflict which, as we all know, is very different from the version Israel has been pedalling.

And people like Joe Scarborough are now being called out openly for their ignorance on national television.

As Booman states:
When the European Union issues a call to end your campaign on its very first day, you know world opinion no longer supports your right to self-defense. And when you get to that point, you are in real danger. Israel must realize, soon, that their position is weak.
Europe simply doesn't buy the Israeli narrative anymore. It's time, for Israel's sake, that she seriously started thinking about peace talks regarding the West Bank and Gaza.


You know your case is wobbling on a shaky nail when the satirists move in.

The gap between the might of Israel's F-16 bombers and Apache helicopters, and the Palestinians' catapulty thing is so ridiculous that to try and portray the situation as between two equal sides requires the imagination of a children's story writer.

The reporter on News at Ten said the rockets "may be ineffective, but they ARE symbolic." So they might not have weapons but they have got symbolism, the canny brutes.

It's no wonder the Israeli Air Force had to demolish a few housing estates, otherwise Hamas might have tried to mock Israel through a performance of expressive dance.

The rockets may be unable to to kill on the scale of the Israeli Air Force, said one spokesman, but they are "intended to kill".

Maybe he went on: "And we have evidence that Hamas supporters have dreams, and that in these dreams bad things happen to Israeli citizens, they burst, or turn into cactus, or run through Woolworths naked, so it's not important whether it can happen, what matters is that they WANT it to happen, so we blew up their university."

Or there's the outrage that Hamas has been supported by Iran. Well that's just breaking the rules. Because say what you will about the Israelis, they get no arms supplies or funding or political support from a country that's more powerful than them, they just go their own way and make all their weapons in an arts and crafts workshop in Jerusalem.

This kite simply isn't flying.

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