Wednesday, January 21, 2009

THE GAZA OFFENSIVE


Map image source: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs
January 15, 2009
Day 20 of Israel’s “Operation Cast Lead”. On the ground, the fighting continues, and so do the rocket attacks into Southern Israel.


The bombing today of the UN facility was a terrible and tragic mistake, and will do nothing to help move the peace process forward. The entire situation: the deaths of Palestinians civilians, the international outrage, all the negative results of the Gaza offensive, are sad and unfortunate.


Ultimately though, this is the bottom-line question: What would you have Israel do? Hamas simply will never be a reasonable player in the move toward a two-state solution. Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of the State of Israel and its stated attitudes are: there is no need for a long-term truce, because it won’t be long before Israel is no more.
No other country on earth would be asked to stand still while its neighbor, bent on its destruction, continuously fires rockets and terrorizes one sixth of its population on a daily basis.


Removing Hamas from power is going to be ugly, and will cause tremendous damage, but it’s an absolute pre-requisite for any hope of a lasting peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians.


The aftershock of Israel’s war against Hamas will be deep and lasting and will have an enormous impact. A whole new Palestinian intifada is being created—sacrifice, struggle and resistance. You can’t kill 1000 people and not have an enormous backlash, even if most of them are Hamas’ fighters.


How will President Obama handle this situation? The question is: Does the President believe the Arab-Israeli conflict is a national priority? If the answer is “yes,” then a lot will have to change, starting with the US, being an “honest broker”. Obama will have to push for a truce or cease-fire that will benefit both sides.


For Israel: an end to Hamas’ rocket attacks, a system of dismantling, monitoring and halting the tunnels that smuggle weapons.


For Gaza: an end to the economic blockade, opening of the crossing points, namely Erez (pedestrians and vehicular traffic), Nahal Oz (fuel depot), Karni (conveyor belt) and Kerem Shalom (humanitarian goods). It will take months, but the pattern of killings has got to come to an end.


On February 10, 2009 Israelis will go to the polls to elect the next prime minister. All indications are that Benyamin Netanyahu will be the next prime minister. Obama should demand from the next Israeli Prime Minister a transparent account of what they are doing. If nothing changes, then Obama should ask Israel about its commitment to peace and the goals that they have set in order to achieve a lasting land for peace agreement.


Eight years of strong support from President Clinton and eight years from President Bush has not brought Israel any closer to peace. One cannot help from wondering if a tougher approach would not have been better.


The fear in Israel is the demographic threat from the forty one years of occupation. The Arab population is fast approaching the Jewish population and it is widely seen as a danger for the existence of Israel to remain a Jewish state.

Israel claims that America is its true friend and one of the best things a true friend can do for you are to criticize you when you must be criticized.

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