ISRAEL'S GAZA WAR: AN UPDATE
"It is difficult to exaggerate the damage to Israel’s (and America’s) reputation among Arabs, Muslims and vast swathes of international opinion who increasingly see what is happening as more a war on Gaza than a campaign against Hamas. How could it be otherwise? After (by Israel’s count) 2,300 air strikes and daily pounding from land and sea, Gaza lies in ruins and around 1,000 Palestinians, more than 300 of them children, have been killed.
Mosques, schools and police stations, the finance, education, interior, foreign, justice, public works, labour and culture ministries, the parliament and every public building of significance, have been pulverised. Gaza is being reduced to Somalia, with no institutional basis left for anyone to be able to govern.
It is also a fantasy that Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president whose Fatah party was routed at the polls by Hamas and driven violently out of Gaza, can be restored to power there by Israeli tanks".
"Endgame in Gaza," (Leader) 15 January 2009, Financial Times.
"The Fighting in Gaza: How Does It End? (And, Will It?) January 5, 2009
One thing is certain. The fighting has already become a strategic liability for the US. There is no good answer to what level of force is “proportionate” in this kind of asymmetric warfare. There is no equation that can decide how many rocket firings and acts of terrorism justify a given level of air strikes or use of conventional ground forces. The fact that the weak suffer more than the strong in war is a grim reality, as is the fact that no power is going to accept terrorism because its best military options produce civilian casualties".
Anthony Cordesman, "The fighting in Gaza: How Does It End?" 5 January 2009 in www.csis.org
The Israeli's army operations in Gaza continue. And, contrary to a lot of commentators (myself included at first), are much more successful than anticipated. As per the stories in the dovish (traditionally Labour Party inclined) Israeli newspaper Haaretz, as a military force, Hamas is kaputt. With even an 'elite', Persian trained brigade completely destroyed by the IDF (see: "Palestinian Sources: 'Iran unit' has been destroyed", see: www.haaretz.com) . The IDF has almost complete freedom of movement in the entirety of Gaza, with many Hamas militants apparently re-thinking the 'martyrdom' concept entirely...According Haaretz the Israeli Cabinet's ruling troika: PM Olmert, Defence Minister Barak and Foreign Minister Livni, are still undecided as to whether or not to completely re-occupy the entire Strip, or to use the success of the operation to negotiate a cease-fire which secures Israel's main desiderata: a complete weapons quarantine of Gaza as well as a stoppage of missile attacks on Israel. With apparently the PM, being possibly in favor of the first alternative and the other two, who have a future in politics beyond the February elections being more inclined to the latter (see: "Israel Still Divided on Egypt Offer of Gaza Truce," in www.haaretz.com). An added complication is whether or not Tel Aviv wishes to confront head on, the new American Administration with the ultimate diplomatic headache: an Israeli-Arab War. Given the fact that most of the leading foreign policy figures in the Administration-to-be either already announced (Clinton) or expected (Richard Holbrooke, Dennis Ross, Martin Indyk) are all pronounced supporters of Israel, there does not seem to be any point at this time for Barak and Livni to present the ex-junior Senator from Illinois, with a very awkward situation on his first days in office. Hence, my surmise is that Livni, who meets with American Secretary of State Rice today, will quickly come to a modus vivendi agreement with her American counterpart, which will incorporate most of Israel's goals, which in the absence of Hamas deciding to commit collective suicide by rejecting it, will be the basis of a cease-fire. The fighting coming to an end by say Sunday-Monday.
Final Observation: what one needs to recall, here is that however much Tel Aviv endeavors to avoid overtly displeasing its American ally the fact remains that come what may, Israel will be quite willing to do so, if it feels that its interests are at stake. Which of course points up to the logical absurdity of commentators like Cordesman or the leader writers for the Financial Times who point out the diplomatic dangers and damage sustained by the West in the Arab World by the Israel's war in Gaza(the almost total absence of concern for the diplomatic carnage for the West / USA brought about by the war is most readily apparent in: "Analysis: Would a weak Hamas or no Hamas be better in Gaza", 15 January 2009 in www.haaretz.com). Which is of course absolutely true. When has it not been true? In 1948? In 1956? In 1967? In 1973? In 1982? In 2000? In 2006? Why should this time be any different?