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Politicians line up behind Israeli assault on Gaza

Israel launches a fresh operation on the Gaza Strip, killing Hamas leader Ahmed Jabari and several civilians. In the meanwhile, the opposition has never seemed so haggard.

The assassination of Ahmad Jabari, the architect of both the recent Gilad Shalit prisoner swap and, more importantly, the détente that prevailed between Israel and Hamas for the past several years, is an uncharacteristically high-risk gamble by the Netanyahu and Barak duo. It’s uncharacteristic not only because Netanyahu, in the past, has been extremely careful not to upset the apple cart and has repeatedly dialed up the violence in the Gaza Strip and dialed it down again, but also because this round was already being calmed down via an Egypt-brokered ceasefire when the assassination got the go-ahead.

My own hunch, and that of several Israeli observers, is that Barak is the prime mover behind this recent escalation. His has been a consistent voice for stronger Israeli military action in previous rounds of escalation in Gaza, and he stands more to gain from a large-scale military operation. Netanyahu is winning the elections with one hand tied behind his back; Barak and his splinter Independence Party, by contrast, have barely been scratching the electoral barrier. Appearing as a decisive, wily and sophisticated military mind next to a wallowing Netanyahu can only do Barak that much good, and Israeli Twitterati have already replaced “Pillar of Defense” the cringe-inducing, Freud-evoking codename for the operation with “Independence War.”

Be that as it may, Netanyahu has signed up for this offensive and it now bears his name as surely as Cast Lead bears those of Ehud Olmert and Tzipi Livni. In the short term, his gamble might well conclude without political damage (the damage to the lives of Israeli and Gazan residents is clearly of comparatively little consequence to either him or his defense minister, otherwise the deescalation would have been allowed to take its course, as it has throughout Netanyahu’s tenure). In the optimal scenario, Hamas will not escalate the conflagration further, and will not fire the long-range missiles in its arsenal to Tel Aviv and its suburbs, both because an Israeli strike took out much of said arsenal immediately after Jabari was slain, and because this would blow the violence dials sky-high and require an Israeli response at least as forceful as the 2008-2009 Cast Lead operation. After a few exchanges, Egyptians will oblige once again with a ceasefire and Netanyahu and Barak will have brought their electoral chances up a notch.

Politically, and of nail-biting frustration to those who wish to see the duo replaced by somebody more “moderate,” Netanyahu and Barak painted all other parties in Israel into a corner. The entire ghostly regiment of the Great White Hopes, including opposition leader Shaul Mofaz (Kadima); the self-appointed True Alternative to Netanyahu, Shelly Yachimovich (Labor); and the would-be leaders of a new centrist block, Livni and Olmert – all queued up today to lavish praise on the assassination, differing only in the scope of their calls for further violence.

To wit: Netanyahu’s “leftist” opposition, the very people on whom JStreet and company have been pinning hopes for a return to the peace process, are enthusiastically applauding a completely unnecessary escalation and are lining up behind the prime minister with hatchets drawn. Israel’s opposition has never seemed as haggard as it does tonight. Even Aryeh Deri, the relatively decent and in many ways maverick returnee to the leadership of the Shas party, voiced praise for the assault, but in his case its somewhat understandable: he is already being painted by party rivals as a leftist and needs to toe the mainstream line so he can take Shas into its traditional partnership with any coalition government. Yachimovich’s sycophancy is considerably less excusable on any scale.

But this is the optimal scenario. If Hamas does fire into Israeli cities which were previously beyond its range – even if the short-range missiles hit a school in Israel or kill any significant number of Israeli civilians – or if, in short, anything happens that would oblige Netanyahu to turn the violence up rather than down – the situation can quickly escalate beyond his control and demand a ground incursion. This, in turn, can incur significant military casualties upon the IDF and turn the public opinion back on him. What’s more, with the elimination of Jabari, Barak and Netanyahu knocked one of the central pillars of the pragmatist camp within Hamas, the camp that sustained the detente with Israel and made efforts to bolster Hamas’s political credentials at the expense of its paramilitary wing. If Jabari is replaced, or if Haniyeh clamps down on Hamas’ armed wing’s thirst for a painful retaliation, the detente may be sustained. If not, Barak and Netanyahu may have ensure themselves – and infinitely more so, the innocent civilians on either side of the Gaza border – a source of grief and bloodshed for at least another term.

Related:
Gaza operation will be declared a success, until the next war
IDF, Hamas exchange Twitter threats

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  • COMMENTS

    1. you’re right no doubt with your analysis, but I would finally like to read some real anger about these cynical tricks. You don’t have to be a military expert to understand that an operation like this was prepared long before Israel provoqued a reponse with a military jeep last saturday. A copy of the november 4th 2008 action. This same night, here in Holland, 5 Broken Cameras was shown on prime time. The horror of zionism is still not presented in the news coverage. I saw Peres acting like a nazi on the news. What does it take for the West to get angry over the slaughter of innocent children?

      Reply to Comment
    2. Ruth

      Typically good analysis, except for this inexplicable absurdity:
      “Even Aryeh Deri, the relatively decent and in many ways maverick returnee to the leadership of the Shas party, voiced praise for the assault, but in his case its somewhat understandable: he is already being painted by party rivals as a leftist and needs to toe the mainstream line so he can take Shas into its traditional partnership with any coalition government. Yachimovich’s sycophancy is considerably less excusable on any scale.”

      Reply to Comment
    3. sh

      Thanks for this analysis, Dimi Reider. Am gutted, but not surprised.

      Reply to Comment
    4. John

      is it possible that israel’s attacks are intended to divert attention from the upcoming Palestinian statehood bid at the U.N.? anyway, this is even more sign that there is no significant pro-peace movement in israel

      Reply to Comment
    5. “with the elimination of Jabari, Barak and Netanyahu knocked one of the central pillars of the pragmatist camp within Hamas, the camp that sustained the detente with Israel and made efforts to bolster Hamas’s political credentials at the expense of its paramilitary wing.” : Everyone has blood on their hands. If your view of Jabari is mostly correct, his direct assassination implies past actions cannot be forgiven through recent and present action. But the contrary is exactly what must happen if this slow dance war is ever to end. The Egyptian government, with its links to Hamas via the Muslim Brotherhood, will be harder pressed to curtail the most militant. Social coercion requires networks which retard, prevent those committed to violent reply; these networks have been damged this day.

      Israel could have targeted the long range missle sites without a targeted assassination. They must have decided Jabari would activate a reply; or that his use was over; or that, in principle, he was always to be taken out. This last will leave everyone ever fighting.

      I am not one for thinking a people “organic,” but Israel has assassinated many leaders without destroying that which causes more to emerge. I conclude that those making these decisions know this and have decided to live with the cycle of emergence and decapitation indefinately.

      Lastly, do you think Egypt will open its Gaza door when militant ideology therein abounds? Do you not see that to open Gaza to Egypt, to ultimately remove Gaza from Israel (which is the goal), Egypt must be willing to chance the influx of ideology? Only compromise with past blood can make that risk plausible.

      Reply to Comment
    6. Aaron Gross

      “עמוד ענן” evokes, from you – Freud?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Richard Witty

      What would you have recommended?

      It is a question of how one responds to cruelty (shelling of civilians).

      Reply to Comment
    8. Right now, Gaza is being bombarded in what Israel is calling ‘Operation Pillar of Defense’. JVP has issued a statement about this operation which can be found here.

      This escalation of violence by Israel, on the eve of an election there, and with the unconditional support of the US government, cannot go unchallenged. Together we must demand: Stop the Bombs. Stop the Siege. Stop Payment on the Israeli Military’s Blank Check.

      This statement was issued by JEWISH VOICES FOR PEACE.

      One million people now under lethal missile attack

      According to US law, Hamas is on official list of FOREIGN TERRORIST ORGANIZATIONS, an FTO.

      According to US law, anyone who supports an FTO can be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

      In that context, at a time when the Hamas regime in Gaza continues to launch aerial attacks against the Israeli civilian population,the Jewish Voices for Peace has issued a statement of full support for the Hamas regime in Gaza.

      The Israel Advocacy Task Force calls on all supporters of justice and peace in the middle east to demand that the US Justice Department Division of Counter Intelligence to arrest and incarcerate the members of the Jewish Voices for Peace and to prosecute JVP to the full extent of the law.

      While Israel is being bombarded by Hamas, WE DARE NOT ALLOW SUCH STATEMENTS TO VILIFY ISRAEL. RABBI DR. BERNHARD ROSENBERG, FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT , ISRAEL ADVOCACY TASK FORCE. BY COINCIDENCE I HAVE BEEN BANNED FROM FACEBOOK BECAUSE OF A ISSUED COMPLAINT.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Ed Frias

      Its funny, the article should be called appeasement now.
      Now a word about the hundreds of missles fired by Hamas terrorists at Israeli civilians.
      Its the old saying.
      If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more ‎violence. If the Jews put ‎down their weapons ‎today, there would be no ‎more Israel’‎”
      No Jewish nation can be at peace when it is surrounded by Islamofascists. The question you should be asking is there a day in history when muslims have ever been at peace with non-muslims?

      Reply to Comment

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