Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Israel says its army is fighting war to the bitter end against Hamas.

I suppose it's hard to remain outraged - or even fully engaged - for most newspapers with a story that essentially doesn't change. And so it is with Israel's relentless pounding of the Gaza Strip. Having led on the front page of the Guardian, the story now slips inside. There's nothing less outrageous about the current barrage of a civilian population, but I suppose there's nothing new to say, so editors lose their interest. And this despite the fact that the death toll continues it's inexorable rise.

The toll of Palestinians killed in Israel's three-day bombing campaign in Gaza rose yesterday to at least 335 as Israeli jets bombed a university's science laboratories and hit the interior ministry in a widening series of air strikes. Early this morning, Israeli aircraft destroyed government buildings in Gaza City, killing 10 more Palestinians and injuring 40 others.
Ehud Barak, Israel's defence minister, has already stated that Israel is fighting a "war to the bitter end" without anyone really understanding what that end should look like. The end of Hamas? It's an Israeli dream but it's not one that's likely to come true. To stop the rockets entering Israel from Gaza? Well, if the figures from yesterday are any indication then it's having the opposite effect.
The number of rockets fired from Gaza increased to at least 60 yesterday, killing three Israelis. An Israeli soldier also die in a mortar attack.
Even some of the Israeli press are finding Israel's reaction simply jaw dropping:
Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: "Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn't be provoked into anger... Not that the bully's not right - someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!"

Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation "Cast Lead" is only in its infancy.

Once again, Israel's violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom.
What began yesterday in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country. History's bitter irony: A government that went to a futile war two months after its establishment - today nearly everyone acknowledges as much - embarks on another doomed war two months before the end of its term.
One of the reasons why most people find this war unfathomable is because it is impossible to believe the cynicism behind it. Olmert and Livni are desperate to outflank Netanyahu and to prove to the public that they are even tougher than he is in the hope of defeating him in the elections. For this noble purpose must Gaza be further reduced to rubble. For this must more Palestinians die.

And all because Israel and the US refused to accept the democratic will of the Palestinian people who tired of no progress under Fatah and chose the alternative, Hamas.

For daring to do so they have been starved for months now and, when Hamas demanded that the siege end as a condition of any new ceasefire, the Israelis ruled that this was an impossible demand as they seek to destroy Hamas and the siege is one of the main - and fatally flawed - tools at their disposal.

Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary general, called for swift and decisive action to end the "unacceptable" violence, adding that world leaders must step up the pressure for a political solution. In his third statement on Gaza in three days, Ban said he was "deeply alarmed" by the escalation of violence. While recognising Israel's right to defend itself, he condemned its "excessive use of force".

Ki-moon is wasting his breath as there is only one nation who Israel ever listen to and from the Bush administration, the same people who goaded Israel throughout their ill advised war in Lebanon, they are getting the expected green light.

The Bush administration refused to call on Israel to show restraint, instead putting total blame for the conflict on Hamas, citing rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel. "Israel is going after terrorists who are firing rockets and mortars into Israel, and they are taking the steps that they feel are necessary to deal with the terrorist threat," Gordon Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said.

"In order for the violence to stop, Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel and agree to respect a sustainable and durable ceasefire."

It's simply tiresome to listen to these same tired American talking points. Indeed, one of the most depressing things about the current onslaught of Gaza is the way in which it highlights the utter failure of Bush's policy - and I flatter it to even call it a policy - in the Middle East.

He famously told Colin Powell that he was going "to tilt US policy back towards Israel". That gave us Jenin and countless other assaults on the Palestinians but it brought us nowhere near to peace.

If violence was the answer here the Israelis would have wrapped this thing up years ago. It's not, but Israel refuses to negotiate until she can guarantee a result which allows her to keep settlements deemed illegal under international law. Bush even went as far as promising Sharon that he could have that, but still peace eluded them.

In the past eight years of Bush's presidency there have been almost no meaningful discussions between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and, as he leaves office with the Israelis pounding the civilian population of Gaza, the failure of his lack of policy couldn't be more clear.

His Road Map lies tattered on the ground and he becomes simply another president whom the Israelis have run out time on.


The Palestinian spokeswoman gets this spot on. Israel wants to talk about the symptoms, the rocket attacks, rather than the underlying problem here which remains the occupation and the theft of Palestinian land.


Booman points out the danger of Israel electing Netanyahu at this point in time:
The United States was the only major country or organization that failed to condemn Israel's attacks on Gaza. The United Nations, the European Union, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, the Arab League and others all were quick to condemn Israel's actions, even as they all called on Hamas to stop rocketing Israeli territory. Israel's isolation is almost complete, as the world now broadly rejects their right to self-defense if that self-defense involves the use of force outside of their borders.

This means that Israel is more dependent than ever before on good relations with the United States. It also means that Israel is dependent on America maintaining its dominant position in the world and its heavy presence in the Middle East. But those are exactly the conditions most at risk as America experiences economic decline and a lack of will for maintaining the strategy of being the sole hegemon. American public opinion is another factor that is at risk of turning against Israel.

For these reasons, there could be no more self-defeating act than for Israelis to respond to these crises by electing Binyamin Netanyahu as their prime minister. Electing Netanyahu would be the equivalent of the United States reacting to the manifold failures of the Bush administration by electing Paul Wolfowitz as president. If the last eight years of neo-conservative policies have been disastrous for Israel, why vote in someone even more neo-conservative than the neo-conservatives that created the mess?

If the Obama administration finds an Israeli government that is bent on preventing a two-state solution, it will inevitably rupture U.S.-Israeli relations. Israeli voters should be clear-sighted about this. Netanyahu cannot save you. But he can destroy Israel's relationship with their last, best friend.
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