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December 30, 2008

Barak's "War to the Bitter End"

By: Bernard Chazelle

The military operation in Gaza is the brainchild of Israel's defense minister Ehud Barak. He is trying to become Prime Minister again but he is facing three major obstacles along the way: one is the head of Kadima, Tzipi Livni, the second is Bibi Netanyahu; the third is his transcendent political ineptitude. He's the only guy in the world who could wash your dishes, walk your dog, give you a million bucks, and still manage to leave you thoroughly pissed off.

Barak's road to the PM's office runs through Gaza. He's prepared this assault for months. The truce (the "tahdiya" or "calm") was fairly effective. It was violated unilaterally by Israel on Nov 4th, a day when, if you remember, Americans were a bit distracted. The chart below (h/t) shows how the number of rocket attacks against Israel went down but not how the siege of Gaza was tightened. What Israel negotiated with Hamas was this -- oh sorry, I forgot that Israel does not negotiate with terrorists. I meant to say what Israel got Egypt to tell Hamas it agreed to was this: No Qassams, openings of border crossings (Sufa, Karni, Rafah): that was the deal in June. The blockade of Gaza was not eased. On the contrary. On Nov 5th, Israel sealed Gaza completely. The tahdiya was dead.

Barak has a problem. He has no exit strategy. The US and its poodles are not doing their part. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the PA all hate Hamas. The idea was that after a few days Uncle Sam would force Israel to stop. Then Barak could turn to his people and say "See, just as me, your magnificent commander on my white horse was about to finish off Hamas, the cruel world made us stop!" He's got the cruel part right. The US is applauding the offensive. So are Israelis anxious to restore their precious deterrent lost in the hills of South Lebanon. For Barak to ask for a ceasefire now would be a big political gamble. Many in Israel question his resolve; hence his "Sharon" complex. Plus, Qassams would keep on crashing into Sderot and he could easily be the new Olmert. A sustained ground operation would lead to heavy Israeli casualties. In the end, there will be a ceasefire with occasional violations on both sides. But Hamas is there to stay. How Barak's War to the Bitter End does not turn into the War to the Bitter End of Barak remains to be seen. All we know is that hundreds of innocent people have already paid with their lives for his electoral ploy.

Qassam attacks per month

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at December 30, 2008 12:09 PM

"exit strategy"? they're building settlements.

Posted by: uticas at December 30, 2008 01:21 PM

This has been called "Guernica in Gaza". I am sure, no Gazan would have wished for that distinction.

"He's prepared this assault for months"

This is how they did it!
"Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about"

And this is how they like their leaders!
"How we like our leaders"

And may be reality is dawning that they have taken more than they can chew!!!!!
"Israel mulls truce offer on Day 4 of Gaza assault"

I have been waiting for GWB to go home and am counting the days but was always afraid, even if only one more day of his RULE was remaining, he could bring havoc to some place and sadly, by supporting Israel, he has brougt it on Gaza.

I have friends in Gaza and have been talking to them and all they hear is explosions all around them or school children getting killed/injured right across the street from them.
Israel claims to be targeting Hamas infrastructure. Police stations are in the communities. When they blow up the police stations, are they going to spare the communities living around them??? The whole nightmare is mind numbing. People are afraid to go out on the streets and afraid to saty indoors. Either way, they could get killed. The whole situation is heartbreaking and incomprehensible that in this day and age, such war crimes are being committed by A PEOPLE who have been victims themselves.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at December 30, 2008 01:50 PM

Unfortunately this is an old story, just retold with new players. Lebanon 1982 is Gaza 2008.

Posted by: Seth at December 30, 2008 02:05 PM

It took the U.S. a few hundred years to completely subjugate the Native Americans and Israel has only been at it for sixty years. Just give Israel a little more time, that’s all that is needed and the Palestinians will be gone from Israel. Israel’s inception began with the displacement of 700,000 Palestinians with tactics that included terrorism which is documented and that terrorism has been ongoing to this very day. This is much bigger than one politician.

Posted by: Rob Payne at December 30, 2008 02:15 PM

I have been waiting for GWB to go home and am counting the days but was always afraid, even if only one more day of his RULE was remaining, he could bring havoc to some place and sadly, by supporting Israel, he has brougt it on Gaza.

I'm no fan of Bush, but I don't see how you can blame this on him. Israel would have done exactly the same thing if Obama had been in office, and received exactly the same supportive non-response from an Obama administration. Obama's silence over the past few days is evidence of that.

Posted by: SteveB at December 30, 2008 02:21 PM

Rupa Shah-Why do you expect better behavior from victims of war crimes? Don't people respond as they have been responded to?

Posted by: Seth at December 30, 2008 02:30 PM

I'm no fan of Bush, but I don't see how you can blame this on him

When I say GWB, I mean the US administration, whoever may be the president. USA has vetoed ALL resolutions regarding Israel in the security council. We give israel $2.9 Billion in aid, UNCONDITIONAL, so israel can behave with impunity, whether it is dropping bombs, striking missiles, demolishing homes, targeted killings etc etc. IF GWB wanted to stop this, all he has to say, STOP or NO MORE AID! In 1991, Bush Sr threatened to block millions in loan guarantees ( ) if Israel continued to build settlements. SO, if our govt wants Israel to do the right thing, it is capable of doing it.
Also, if you read the first article I mentioned in my previous comment, the planning for this operation was going on while ISRAEL WAS DISCUSSING CEASEFIRE with Hamas six months ago. I strongly believe that Israeli govt informed the whitehouse of this operation before starting it and was given a green signal. USA wanted Hizbulla destroyed and so the war went on and on destroying the country and killing civilians. USA wants Hamas destroyed so this carnage will continue also. And Palestinians are being punished for electing Hamas!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at December 30, 2008 02:54 PM

I don't disagree with anything you've written, but, as you say, this is - and has been - U.S. policy before Bush came into office, and will continue to be U.S. policy after he leaves. Maybe it's a minor point, but many liberals (hopefully, not you) continue to locate the source of all evil actions by the U.S. government in the person of George W. Bush, which won't be a very useful analysis once he's gone.

Posted by: SteveB at December 30, 2008 03:08 PM

Why do you expect better behavior from victims of war crimes? Don't people respond as they have been responded to?

I am not a psychologist but my personal feeling is, if an individual has gone through oppression, repression, or had been tortured or had been denied justice, that kind of experience brings a certain kind of awareness that makes him/her more understanding of the suffering of people going through similar experiences and would work towards eliminating those conditions and certainly would not inflict it on anyone.
I have met a couple of victims of torture and political prisoners and once they were out of those horrible situations, they got involved with groups trying to eliminate torture and work on behalf of political prisoners.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at December 30, 2008 03:13 PM

SteveB@03:08 PM

I agree with you that, that has been the US govt policy for a long time BUT if GWB thought it was wrong, he could have certainly changed it. Also, "settlements" is a violation of International Law according to Geneva Covention. And though Reagan declared them "not illegal" ( and following administrations contiued the policy), On April 14, 2004, President George W. Bush, in a further retreat from past policy, told Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon that, “In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949…”

Thus, GWB has added his own contribution to this conflict. And ONLY GWB could have called Ariel Sharon "A Man of Peace". Wonder what the refugees in Sabra/Shatila camps think of that!

Posted by: Rupa Shah at December 30, 2008 03:38 PM

Rupa Shah

I think what Bernard has said about Barak is the perfect example of how national leaders are quite willing to see people die, even their own citizens, in order to stay in power. In fact I don’t dispute anything Bernard wrote. However I do believe that the cause of this ongoing slaughter runs deeper than Barak or George Bush. Yes Bush could stop the war but Bush isn’t the whole government and he is not an emperor even if he believes he is. There has been no opposition from the “opposition party” also known as democrats. Where are their voices? What have they done? They certainly have not pressured Bush one iota regarding Israel and Palestine. They don’t dare say anything against Israel because of Israel’s “special relationship” to the U.S. for more than one reason though the main one is certainly their political survival. I think as almost everyone who comments here knows that Hamas is not the reason even if that is the official line from Israeli politicians. They want to completely subjugate the Palestinians, that, or drive them out of the area, or failing that would annihilate every last Palestinian if they believed they could get away with it.

Justin Raimondo offers another reason for the constant wars Israel is embroiled in which I think is fairly compelling.

Because Israel is almost entirely dependent on international support – and especially American support – for its very survival, without U.S. public opinion behind it the Jewish state would soon wither on the vine. What this means, in practice, is that a constant stream of pro-Israel propaganda must be directed at the American people in order to justify the high levels of financial and military aid that keep Israel afloat. What's more, the Israelis must constantly generate the urgency and immediacy of the need to support their country. They have succeeded in doing this by projecting a sense of continuing crisis. The idea that Israel is in danger, that unless we ship billions more in taxpayer dollars the Israeli state will sink beneath the waves of an unrelenting Arab assault, is constantly being pushed – and we wonder why the "peace process" is perpetually stalled.

Given the need for a constant crisis, all efforts to mediate a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian question are doomed to utter failure. The Israelis simply have no interest in peace, when war suits their purposes so well. Indeed, when things get too peaceful, they have every interest in stirring things up. Once more, Israel is supposedly fighting for its life – so please keep those aid packages coming, to the tune of over $3 billion per year!

Time after time Israel has rejected offers from the Palestinians for a two state solution to this mess and whether you agree with Raimondo or not it is at least worth considering.

Posted by: Rob Payne at December 31, 2008 01:18 AM

Rob Payne
I did not mean to give an impression that only GWB is at fault for the current status of the conflict. I agree, the democrats have been totally under the thumb of Israel lobby and have passed legislations that punish Palestinians.
I also read Raimondo regularly and agree with his analysis most of the times, even about other issues. I heard Prof Tony Judt last year tell an incident where a senator told him, "I do not support what Israel does and my constituents do not expect me to but if I do not, I will lose support in the senate and will not be able to bring necessary funds and projects to my state so I have to support Israel"----kind of political blackmail!
I blame Bush for wasting eight years of presidency and not trying honestly and sincerely to resolve the conflict.
Saudi peace initiative which would have given recognition to state of Israel by all Arab countries and developed diplomatic and commercial relations was not supported forcefully ( Israel has always put conditions on ANY new initiative ).
Unilateral disengagement from Gaza should not have been allowed considering what Sharon's top aide said, "The disengagement is actually formaldehyde. It supplies the amount of formaldehyde that's necessary so that there will not be a political process with the Palestinians. ...[W]hen you freeze that process you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion about the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem."
So, Israel's claim that they do not have a partner to negotiate has always been false because they are NOT INTERETED in negotiating. GWB could have used his position to stop Israel taking this step.
And by not recognising legitimately elected Hamas just because he does not like them, trying to plot a coup to overthrow them and supporting half of divided Palestinian leadership, he has not not helped AT ALL to bring some kind of resolution to this conflict or even lay a solid foundation to bring peace.

This crisis may be a WIN for hamas but they did not wish it that way. They certainly did not want their people killed. In April of this year, "Hamas' political leader Khaled Meshal on Monday said Hamas would accept a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip along Israel's pre-1967 borders, and would grant Israel a 10-year hudna, or truce, as an implicit proof of recognition if Israel withdraws from those areas." But there were no takers.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at December 31, 2008 12:58 PM

I have just posted a long response to Rob Payne and one to SteveB but it has gone to the moderator so do not know when it will be posted.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at December 31, 2008 01:11 PM

They sure pumping good guy bad guy PROPAGANDA on NPR these dayz.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at December 31, 2008 04:45 PM

This crisis may be a WIN for hamas but they did not wish it that way. They certainly did not want their people killed.

How can we know what the leadership of Hamas wishes, and what it doesn't wish? All we can judge by is their actions. They launch rockets at Israel, knowing it's going to bring a massively disproportionate response, and that hundreds, if not thousands, of people - "their people" and others - will be killed. But they launch the rockets anyway, and the net result is that they are probably strengthened in their struggle with Fatah. So I cynically conclude that they're following a political strategy without much concern for the consequences for the Palestinian people. I don't think cynicism should be reserved only for analysis of our own government, when other governments are quite capable of acting cynically, as well.

Posted by: SteveB at January 1, 2009 03:49 PM

I am NOT an Israeli or in that government. I DO understand that MY TAX DOLLAR pays Israel to deal with The Palestinians. I'll NOT go into all that JOOOZ will do for money, but---??? If someone gave me 3 billion bucks and an F-16 I'd probably would strafe Gaza too. Other than one's conscience, no problem no personal pain, unless, of course, one gets shot down.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 1, 2009 07:22 PM

One point about the chart, no mention of ISRAELI MILITARY CASUALITIES.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at January 1, 2009 07:30 PM

StO and SteveB
There is more than one, so called radial group that wants the OCCUPATION to end. The Qassam rockets are being fired by "Islamic Jihad" from Gaza and the terms of cease-fire applied to that group also. Considering Isarel did not keep its side of the bargain ( opening all crossings, lifting economic embargo and no strikes in gaza ) the group in Gaza probably felt compelled to start firing rockets. ( Two year seige of Gaza with no food, water, electricity, fuel, books for schools, running sewage in the strets, no ability to leave Gaza even when dying of life threatening illness probably was enough to make them desperate---an understatement ).
What Hamas wants is an end to the occupation like any Palestinian. They have till now recognized Abu Mazen as their President inspite of his complicity with our govt. What happens when the next election is due is anyone's guess.
And whether rockets are fired or not ( which according to the graph had reduced to almost nothing ), Israel still kills Palestinians ( school children ) with impunity as there are watch towers all arond Gaza and if one strays by accident beyond a certain point, there are no warning shots, it is shoot to kill. And the investigation of the incident, if ever done, always labels it an accident ( like a young girl who was playing on the beach with her family and the whole family was wiped out in front of her eyes.

Also I can not take issue with the statement "They hate jews". Sadly, that is the truth because the only contact any Palestinian has is with young IDF soldiers at check points who humiliate them, harass them for the fun of it. Isareli govt DOES NOT ALLOW Israelis to go to oPTs and there are unbelievable restictions on Palestinans wanting to enter Israel ( males bet ceratin ages, married couples not allowed to live in Israel if one is from oPTs) so there is NO OPPORTUNITY for ordinary Israelis and Palestinians to interact in NORMAL circumstances.

Mike Meyer
The 9 fatalities mentioned in the post by rockets since 2005 are mostly civilians.

ps the other splinter group is "al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade" which is affiliated with Fateh.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 1, 2009 08:51 PM

The armed wing of Hamas is "Izzedin al-Qassam Brigades

Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 1, 2009 11:54 PM

Another twist to the rivalry between the three contenders...

"Gaza conflict can make or break Ehud Barak's fortunes",0,7164231.story

And this could really derail their plans to achieve stated/unstated goals!!!
"Gaza rockets put Israel’s nuclear plant in battle zone"

Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 2, 2009 10:56 AM

"And may a most reluctant military return to Gaza help deter Israel's enemies from continuing to threaten a state that seeks peace, that thinks twice and three times before going to war, but that can and will effectively protect itself when it must."

Above taken from....

If it was not so horrible what is happening in Gaza, I would be laughing at the above statement.

Posted by: Rupa Shah at January 4, 2009 10:48 AM