Monday, December 29, 2008

Israel considers ground attack as it mobilises more troops.

The talk is of an Israeli ground invasion.

Israel's cabinet yesterday approved the call-up of thousands of reservists as the military deployed tanks close to the border with Gaza while pressing on with air strikes, suggesting a major ground invasion was being considered to follow the biggest single day of conflict in Gaza since the 1967 war.

Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, reportedly told a cabinet meeting the fighting in Gaza would be "long, painful and difficult". After two days of air raids, more than 290 Palestinians have been killed, and more than 600 injured. Gaza's hospitals, already short of supplies, had corpses lying on their floors as the morgues filled up.

Considering the fact that the forthcoming election - and Netanyahu's lead in the polls - has much to do with the Kadima party's actions,I would be very surprised if Israel actually went ahead with a ground invasion. I would have thought that the memory of Lebanon would be enough to make Olmert pause before engaging ground troops. But he's behaved insanely in the past so one can't rule anything out. Although the sight of young Israeli soldiers in body bags is unlikely to aid any party's electoral prospects, which is why one would think he might be reticent to give the order.

The international reaction, with the expected exception of the US, has condemned Israel's actions.

The UN security council called for a halt to the violence in Gaza and the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said Israel's use of force was "disproportionate". But the US blamed Hamas, the Islamist movement which won Palestinian elections three years ago and then seized full control of Gaza last year, for the fighting. Israel and Palestinian militant groups in Gaza observed a ceasefire for six months which began to break down in November.

Just as the attack on Lebanon was billed as a war to destroy Hizbullah, the Israelis are claiming that the aim of this action is to destroy Hamas. It's a silly thing to say as they are never going to achieve it.

I think there may be a limited use of ground forces, but I would be very surprised if the Israelis actually employ ground forces in a full scale invasion.

UPDATE:

Some perspective on Israel's wish for a truce which we are hearing so much about:

Ehud Olmert, Israel's prime minister, pleaded that Israel wanted "quiet" - a continuation of the truce - while Hamas chose "terror", forcing him to act. But what is Israel's idea of a truce? It is very simple: Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonise their land.

As John Ging, the head of operations for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, said in November: "The people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence ... at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."

That is an Israeli truce.
UPDATE II:

Despite the fact that his moderation has so far produced zero results, Abbas is keen to prove to the US and Israel that he is still willing to play the game according to his masters script:
Hamas could have prevented the "massacre" in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday in Cairo

"We spoke to them and told them 'Please, we ask you not to end the cease-fire. Let it continue,'" Abbas said during a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit. "We want to protect the Gaza Strip. We don't want it to be destroyed."
I bet he's popular in Gaza right now.

UPDATE III:

Ezra Klein gets it:

The rocket attacks were undoubtedly "deeply disturbing" to Israelis. But so too are the checkpoints, the road closures, the restricted movement, the terrible joblessness, the unflinching oppression, the daily humiliations, the illegal settlement -- I'm sorry, "outpost" -- construction, "deeply disturbing" to the Palestinians, and far more injurious. And the 300 dead Palestinians should be disturbing to us all.

There is nothing proportionate in this response. No way to fit it into a larger strategy that leads towards eventual peace. No way to fool ourselves into believing that it will reduce bloodshed and stop terrorist attacks. It is simple vengeance. There's a saying in the Jewish community: "Israel, right or wrong." But sometimes Israel is simply wrong.

UPDATE IV:

Although the Israelis continually state that it was Hamas who broke the ceasefire, that's not what the Guardian reported on November 5th:

A four-month ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza was in jeopardy today after Israeli troops killed six Hamas gunmen in a raid into the territory.

Hamas responded by firing a wave of rockets into southern Israel, although no one was injured. The violence represented the most serious break in a ceasefire agreed in mid-June, yet both sides suggested they wanted to return to atmosphere of calm.

And it was this action which led to Hamas refusing to renew the ceasefire:
The armed branch of Hamas, the Qassam brigade, at 6 am (local time) on December 19 declared the end of the six month old truce with Israel. A statement issued via internet affirmed that “the ceasefire will not be renewed because the Zionist enemy has failed to respect the conditions”.
Hamas apparently decided that it wasn't much of a ceasefire if one side allowed itself to attack the other with impunity.

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2 comments:

Steel Phoenix said...

Maybe I'm just tired, but in some ways I hope they just find a way to end this, for better or worse. Palestine has become a prison camp. It makes me long for the days when the victors banished or killed their enemies, took their stuff, and called it done. I have no stomach for suppression and occupation.

Kel said...

SP, I don't think this is going to end quickly as Livni and Olmert are determined to appear tougher than Netanyahu.

I don't even think there is a plan as such, they simply want to avoid appearing "soft".