Jodi Rudoren’s latest New York Times article, “A Push Into Gaza, but the Ground Has Shifted,” is chock full of claims that Benjamin Netanyahu is being tempered in his ground invasion into Gaza. The piece seems designed to lead the reader to believe there’s reluctance and caution going forward from the Israeli side. She even quotes Einat Wilf, a former center-left member of Israel’s Parliament saying that Netanyahu’s actions are “prudent”. As if the Israeli political discourse is logical.
Israel is likely in a pickle. Its stated goal for this invasion is to stop the missile fire (and dismantle Hamas’s control of the strip). To do that it must locate Hamas’ weapons arsenal and thus far, it appears it is clueless as to where they are. Israel doesn’t know the extent of weaponry Hamas has amassed, either in quality or quantity. All the blowing up of civilian infrastructure, including homes and hospitals, won’t end the rocket fire because it’s extremely unlikely any central stash of weaponry is stored in homes, schools, hospitals or mosques. The weapons are probably underground which is why it requires a ground invasion to find them. This is what “deal with the tunnels” means when Obama says “the current military ground operations are designed to deal with the tunnels”.
Rudoren claimed Netanyahu “won plaudits from Israeli leftists this week for embracing an Egyptian cease-fire proposal”. Win plaudits from media pundits he did, but this was not an Egyptian proposal, it was a proposal cobbled together by Tony Blair after Obama had previously spoken with Netanyahu and offered to help broker a truce (without any input from Hamas). A ceasefire catering to Israel represents nothing more than a surrender for Palestine, a surrender worse than retreating to the status quo of endless occupation because hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who were freed in the Gilad Shalit prisoner swap in 2011, were rearrested from the West Bank during a pogrom hyped as a response to the claim Hamas kidnapped the 3 Israeli youths, a claim that has never been backed by even a shred of evidence.
Prior to the unity deal between Hamas and Fatah, Palestinians were protesting Israel’s inhumane policy of imprisoning scores of Palestinians. Rocket fire from Hamas didn’t commence over nothing, it commenced over that weeks’ long pogrom in the West Bank and Israel’s targeting of civilians. So why would it end without some compromise by Israel regarding Palestinian prisoners? What does Israel relinquish in the current ceasefire agreement? Nothing. Reneging on negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit is not ‘compromise’. Why make agreements with an entity who steals back what was bargained away the last time. It represents a win win for Israel gaining more ground and tightening the noose around Palestine.
Israel is in a pickle, doing all it knows how to do in a bind, kill while mouthing lies of its professed proficiency at avoiding civilian deaths even as the world watches the savagery. So while Rudoren claims the ground invasion is “Setting the bar relatively low” providing Israel’s military with “achievable goals” to “build international legitimacy”, what’s likely is that Israeli intel does not know either the quantity, quality or location of Hamas’ weapons stash which means until they find them, they cannot guarantee the rocket fire will end.
And, they don’t know where to look, they are on a fishing expedition in part because Hamas had endeavored to eliminate collaborators since Israel’s 2012 offensive. What’s probable is Israel knows it is operating in the dark which is why it jumped at the opportunity for a ceasefire. Because, like their ’06 failure in Lebanon, massacring thousands of civilians does not a ‘victory’ make. One must accomplish one’s goals. In 2006, Israel’s goal was to dismantle Hezbollah and they couldn’t do that.
Israel would gladly settle for breaking the unity agreement between Fatah and Hamas, which has been Netanyahu’s intended goal from the get go. But thus far there’s no indication a division is in the cards. As reported by Nathan Thrall in the New York Times on Thursday, How the West Chose War in Gaza, “the reconciliation government could have served Israel’s interests”. Hamas had relinquished quite a bit of government control, “pledged to comply with the three conditions for Western aid long demanded by America and its European allies: nonviolence, adherence to past agreements and recognition of Israel” and was “formed without a single Hamas member”. But as Thrall points out:
Israel strongly opposed American recognition of the new government, however, and sought to isolate it internationally, seeing any small step toward Palestinian unity as a threat. Israel’s security establishment objects to the strengthening of West Bank-Gaza ties, lest Hamas raise its head in the West Bank. And Israelis who oppose a two-state solution understand that a unified Palestinian leadership is a prerequisite for any lasting peace.
That’s the last thing Israel wants, legitimacy for Hamas as Palestine pushes forward in their international quest for justice in the global arena which they cannot do as a divided people.
Rudoren ends with:
“This operation is very limited geographically,” Mr. Amidror said. “Most of the operation will not take place in crowded areas with a lot of population, but areas used for agriculture. The land operation, it’s very easy to see where it will be finished. If nothing bad will happen, we will identify the locations of the tunnels, we will blow them up, and we will retreat.”
But he added, “How to finish the whole operation in terms of stopping the rockets and the missiles, this is much more complicated.””
Yes, stopping the rockets and the missiles is more complicated. Because Israel can blow up homes, hospitals, mosques and agricultural fields til the cows come home but they can’t stop the rockets until they either find them, or Hamas’ supply becomes exhausted which could take a long long time. Israel is in a pickle, and slaughtering civilians won’t bring any sort of victory whatsoever.
The current escalation in Gaza is a direct result of the choice by Israel and the West to obstruct the implementation of the April 2014 Palestinian reconciliation agreement. The road out of the crisis is a reversal of that policy.
Hamas offered 10 conditions for a 10 year truce. Has Israel budged one iota on any of those conditions? What’s in it for Palestine agreeing to a ceasefire if the end result is endless occupation, imprisonment and suffering? UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is arriving in the region today in an attempt to mediate a deal between Israel and Hamas. John Kerry is expected to land in Cairo tonight. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius is also showing up. It’s time to set some goals that require an Israeli compromise, something beyond ending their current slaughter. Agreeing to Hamas’ conditions: Has anyone thought of that?