Archive for January, 2009

Here comes the cease-fire

Saturday, January 17th, 2009

Israel has decided to implement a unilateral cease-fire, starting at 2 AM Sunday, Israel time (that’s a few minutes from now). However, troops will stay in Gaza until Palestinian rocket firing stops. And Hamas says that it will not stop until all Israelis are out of Gaza (and other conditions).

Hmm, let’s see: the IDF will stay until the rockets stop, but the rockets won’t stop as long as the IDF is there. Why do I see a problem here?

The problem is that Hamas will not admit that it’s beaten, so it will continue to insist on conditions that it knows Israel can’t meet, such as withdrawal while rockets continue, opening the crossings, trading thousands of prisoners for Gilad Schalit, and so on. Hamas does not yet lack the capability to fight: since the announcement of the cease-fire Saturday night, 8 rockets have fallen in Israel.

I think that what this shows is that the cease-fire is premature. Now international pressure will focus on getting the IDF out of Gaza. It will be “all occupation, all the time” again.

Although Israel has said that it will respond if Hamas violates the cease-fire (that it didn’t agree to), it is much harder politically to restart operations than to continue them. And the restarting will have to happen with the new administration in place in the US.

If Israel thinks the Obama administration will force an end to the fighting, then why not wait until that happens (unless it has already happened)?

If the worry is that wrecking Hamas will produce chaos, maybe Somalia-type warlords, I am not sure this is worse than Hamas.

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The end game

Friday, January 16th, 2009

The Gaza war will be coming to an end in the next few days, probably as a result of a unilateral Israeli cease-fire. As it appears today, Hamas will be allowed to remain in control of the Gaza strip.

Unless the IDF performs a last-minute miracle — it wouldn’t be the first time — the top leaders of Hamas, who should face punishment for war crimes or even plain old homicide, will not be hit or captured in Gaza and Damascus. And Gilad Schalit will still be in Hamas captivity.

I would like to see Haniyeh and Meshaal in Israeli hands, and given the choice to facilitate Schalit’s release or to become martyrs themselves, as they have so often urged others to do. If Schalit is released, then they can take their chances at trial. I know, I’m dreaming.

Israel and the US have agreed to work together to stop the smuggling of weapons and explosives to Hamas. I really want to be optimistic about this, but all the technology in the world can’t substitute for motivation.

The deal includes measures meant to fight arms smuggling from Iran to Gaza, with the policing to take place throughout the route by which the arms reach Gaza, including patrols of the Persian Gulf, Sudan and neighboring states.

The two-and-a-half page document outlines a framework under which the United States will provide military and intelligence assets, including detection and surveillance equipment, as well as logistical help and training to Israel, Egypt and other nations in the region. The equipment and training would be used for monitoring Gaza’s land and sea borders.

The document also calls for the U.S. to expand work with its NATO partners in the effort, particularly in the Red Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Gulf of Aden, Indian Ocean and eastern Africa, according to a text.

It also commits Washington to use relevant components of the U.S. military to assist Mideast governments in preventing weapons and explosives flows to Gaza that originate in or transit their territories.

I would prefer to see Israel in control of the Philadelphi corridor, at least for a time.

I think Israel’s enemies have a learned that they drew the wrong lessons from the 2006 Lebanon war. Israel can and will fight if necessary.

I just think a bit more of an unequivocal victory, which the IDF really has earned on the battlefield, would leave Israel much better off politically. When the Obama administration comes on stage, there will be immediate pressure to unite the Palestinians in some way. The more that Hamas can be marginalized before that happens, the better.

My guess is that there will not be a total end to rocket fire, unless things change dramatically in the next few days. What’s left of Hamas will claim victory, of course.

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UN and rights groups support Hamas

Thursday, January 15th, 2009

During the Gaza war, the UN has been doing its best to provide political cover and support for Hamas. Apparently some UN personnel — either because of sympathy for or fear of Hamas — have provided more than political support:

Gunshots and an anti-tank missile were fired at IDF troops near the UN compound that was attacked by the IDF on Thursday, senior defense officials told The Jerusalem Post.

According to the officials, the IDF responded by firing artillery shells at the location of the gunmen, causing damage to the UN installations. At least three people were wounded in the attack and the building was set on fire…

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who was in Israel on Thursday to promote a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, expressed “strong protest and outrage” at the reported shelling of the UN compound.

Ban also demanded an investigation into the shelling, and said Defense Minister Ehud Barak had told him it was a “grave mistake.” — Jerusalem Post

Either the “senior defense officials” were wrong, or Barak was. If IDF troops were fired on from the UN compound, the IDF is justified in returning fire. I’ll put my money on the “senior defense officials”.

The hypocrisy of the UN, which has consistently favored Hamas and repeated its propaganda, knows no bounds. But after all, the UN is dominated by Arab and third-world nations which have always opposed Israel. For example, the UN Human Rights Commission Monday passed a resolution called “The Grave Violations of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including the recent aggression in the occupied Gaza Strip” which does not even mention Hamas! (courtesy Eye on the UN)

It’s harder to understand Israeli organizations such as B’Tselem. Yesterday, several Israeli ‘human rights’ groups said that  “heavy suspicion has arisen of grave violations of international humanitarian law by military forces”, and accused Israel of “making wanton use of lethal force”. These charges are untrue and constitute support for Hamas’ PR offensive to cause international pressure to shut down the operation on terms favorable to it.

The IDF has gone to great lengths to refute charges of deliberately targeting civilians, and has also presented convincing demonstrations of techniques, unprecedented in warfare, to reduce civilian casualties (for more, see the IDF Spokesperson Blog). And see Martin Sherman’s illuminating — I should say shocking — comparison of the IDF’s practices with those of NATO in Yugoslavia.

Israel is fighting a war that — unlike the conflict in Yugoslavia — could literally be characterized as a struggle of civilization against barbarism. A Western nation has not confronted such stark evil as Hamas since the Nazis. And as is always the case in all-out war, populations suffer. Israelis have certainly suffered from Hamas’ actions, which killed hundreds of civilians in suicide bombings as well as rocket attacks.

I guarantee that if NATO, the US, Britain, or Russia (!) were fighting Hamas, the strip would long since have been turned into a wasteland, with thousands upon thousands of dead civilians. Israel is judged by another standard.

But that’s OK — the IDF can handle the job of  eradicating this cancer with the minimum possible damage to uninvolved people and infrastructure — which, by the way, is what is meant by ‘proportionality’ in war.

Just give them time to finish the job.

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For the sake of peace, finish the job

Wednesday, January 14th, 2009

News item:

 Hamas has accepted the Egyptian proposal for a cease-fire with Israel, the group said Wednesday evening, after talks in Cairo. The Hamas delegation, who said it made the decision with reservations, was making its way back to Damascus to brief the group’s leaders…

It has been widely reported that a potential truce would initially consist of a slowing down of IDF activities followed by a temporary ceasefire and a halt to troop movement into the Gaza Strip. Agreements with Egypt regarding smuggling into the Strip would then be finalized, including the introduction of US monitors, and, after calm has been reached, a full cease-fire would be established and IDF forces would withdraw from Gaza. Only then would discussions over opening the Gaza crossings begin.

If this is a correct description, it makes no sense for Israel to agree.

Hamas is highly motivated to bring in weapons and transfer personnel through the border. Will the American “monitors” directly confront them? What will happen if Americans are killed? Will the Egyptians have motivation equal to that of Hamas?

If it acts as it has in the past, Hamas will ‘accept’ the cease-fire with reservations unacceptable to Israel, and then act as though these were part of the agreement (for example, the previous cease-fire as agreed to by Israel applied to Gaza only, while Hamas used Israel’s counter-terrorism activities in the West Bank as a pretext for firing rockets). Since it will have an excuse and the means to break the cease-fire, it will do so at its convenience.

If a cease-fire is implemented now, and the Hamas leadership in Gaza (Haniyeh) and Syria (Meshaal) remains in place, then its status as representative of Gaza Palestinians will be enhanced. In the Arab world, it will be seen as having defeated Israel by ‘armed struggle’; in the West, it will be treated as the de facto ruler of almost half the Palestinian people.

This will be the case even though the Hamas regime has not met any of the international criteria for participation in the Palestinian Authority (recognition of Israel’s right to exist, acceptance of prior agreements between Israel and the PA, renunciation of terrorism), and although it took Gaza in an illegal, bloody coup.

Hamas is guilty of war crimes such as deliberately attacking civilian populations, fighting in civilian clothes and even in stolen IDF uniforms, using the population as human shields, stealing humanitarian aid, and — today — firing white phosphorus munitions at human (in this case, civilian) targets.  Despite Hamas claims, Israel has done none of these things.

Hamas is opposed to any peaceful solution between Israel and the Palestinians, and as long as it continues in power, there can be no solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict that leaves the Jewish state in existence (see Jeffrey Goldberg, ” Why Israel Can’t Make Peace With Hamas“, which includes interviews with Hamas leaders).

Anyone — the US, the UN, whoever — who truly desires peace in the region should understand that it will not be obtained as long as Hamas controls Gaza.

Israel has the ability to seal off the border between Gaza and Egypt and prevent the rebuilding of Hamas’ military infrastructure, and the ability to find and eliminate the murderous Hamas leadership, both in Gaza and Syria.

It’s in the interest of every peace-loving being — nations as well as individuals — to allow Israel to finish the job and put an end to the hateful, racist war-mongering Hamas regime.

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How Israel could lose — or win

Tuesday, January 13th, 2009

How Israel could lose:

Just do nothing differently for a few days, while the pressure builds for a cease-fire. No imaginable cease-fire agreement can close off the smuggling routes — no international force could, nor could Egypt. Even if Hamas agrees to stop rocket attacks, what can prevent it from starting them up again as soon as supplies are replenished?

An agreement would probably include some ‘humanitarian’ concessions to Hamas. Hamas will exploit them for military purposes, as well as claim that they were obtained by force of arms.

Hamas will have lost perhaps 5% of its manpower and much material. So the cease-fire that will follow — like the one that it broke to cause this war — will give it time to replace what has been lost. Any international presence will protect it in the interim.

How Israel could win:

Cut off the Philadelphi corridor along the Egyptian border and maintain a presence there. It’s the only way to stop the weapons smuggling (if only it were so easy in Lebanon). Some Palestinian civilians will have to move. Worse things have happened.

Send special forces units to al-Shifa hospital or wherever the Hamas leadership has set up its headquarters.They can come in by helicopter. All that’s needed is adequate intelligence about the layout of bunkers, etc. and after all, Israel built the hospital. Eliminate the leaders and destroy the command and control system.

Spend a few more days mopping up weapons depots and lower-level leadership. Then announce that the war is over, and invite Fatah, the UN, the US, NATO, or whoever wants to govern the strip to do so. But maintain full control over the borders and crossings.

In the long term:

Getting rid of UNRWA must be a priority.  UNRWA is no more or less than a branch of the Palestinian movement, funded by the rest of the world, whose function is to produce soldiers to confront Israel (see Gunnar Heinsohn’s perceptive comments here).

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