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Is another Israel-Gaza war on the horizon?

The last few days of violence on the Gaza-Israel border are eerily reminiscent of the days leading up to Operation Cast Lead. A recent look at Israeli media points to a possible war.  

By Sol Salbe

The escalation of fighting in the Gaza strip and southern Israel since Saturday is the top news item in the Israeli media. Over 100 rockets fired from the Strip have wounded three Israelis, and Israeli military strikes have killed at least five Palestinians and wounded dozens more.

Haaretz analysts Amos Harel and Avi Issacharof foresee the next step: Gaza flare-up could lead to another pre-election escalation. “Shifts in dynamics along the Gaza-Israeli border could lead to broader clashes and eventually an IDF ground operation on the eve of the upcoming election in January.”

The clamor for another Israeli massive attack on Gaza is indeed getting louder. Roni Daniel, Israel’s Channel 2  defense reporter, who often acts as a mouthpiece for the powers to be, was quite explicit (from Hebew):

The Palestinian organizations in Gaza have accumulated more and more long-range, accurate and heavy weapons of all types. Their willingness to use them requires us to fundamentally and thoroughly evaluate whether we are indeed confronting a tiger baring its teeth…What remains in question is the issue of resolve. If the political echelon decides that it’s time for a change in this war of attrition game plan, then such action would get underway.

Daniel was far from being the most sanguine: Major General (Ret.) Yom-Tov Samia who used to be in charge of the south, suggested in Ma’ariv [not online but summed up by the Hebrew site Seventh Eye] that if the Hamas government is a terrorist government, Israel should assassinate its leaders and completely block the crossings between Gaza and Egypt.

In the same piece, Uri Elizur calls for the blocking of entry of essential supplies to the Gaza Strip. But he goes further and suggests that Israel has the ability to launch “a non-gentlemanly and non-surgical strike on the basis of an eye for an eye.” Elitzur called for such measures even at the cost of international condemnation. As Oren Persico noted in the Seventh Eye, Elitzur was advocating the deliberate intent to harm civilians, i.e. calling on Israel to commit a war crime.

What is eerie about this particular escalation is the timing. It comes virtually four years to the day when the chain of events that led to the 2008-09 Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead). Israel has been extremely successful in blurring that history. The only recent reference that I have seen came in Noam Chomsky’s recent account of his November 4th visit to Gaza:

In 2008 a truce was established between Israel and Hamas… Israel broke the truce under cover of the U.S. election on November 4 2008, invading Gaza on ludicrous grounds and killing half a dozen Hamas members.

Chomsky’s account of no Hamas rockets is only technically accurate. No rockets were fired by Hamas –there were a few rockets launched by much smaller groups. On the whole, however, Hamas maintained a tight rein over those fringe organizations and ensured that the ceasefire was being maintained.

For Israelis, that period is blurred by the many others in which rockets have been firedBut as it so happened, I was making my first return visit to Israel in 43 years and spent some of the time in the region. In those six or seven weeks prior to Israel’s election day there were no rockets, either around the kibbutz or in any of the newspapers. The other thing that struck me at the time is the way my friends spoke about the rockets in the past tense.

All that changed on November 4, 2008. Israel launched a massive raid on a tunnel that it allegedly discovered on that very day. Six Hamas operatives were killed. The Hamas leadership had no choice but to fire their own rockets. The tit-for-tat escalation was rather rapid and the clamor for a massive ground invasion was getting louder and louder.

But the Israeli calculation was correct. The world attention was diverted by the election of the United States’ first ever black President. Amos Harel and Avi Issacharof reported the raid and were quite explicit:

The unusually large incursion was approved by Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, defense officials said… The intelligence report about the tunnel led decision-makers to view it as a “ticking bomb,” army sources said, prompting them to order the raid despite the ceasefire.

Interestingly the writers noted: “Since the ceasefire, the IDF has launched frequent raids across the fence, albeit smaller in scale. The IDF is apparently interested in keeping these incursions low-profile, and they receive little attention in the Israeli media.”

However, the U.S. election eclipsed everything and no one paid any attention, so when Israel blames Hamas for breaking the ceasefire the world bought the story. Even Harel and Issacharof now talk about the ceasefire breaking down using passive speech: “In November 2008, three months before the last election, a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas broke down.”

The question is will we see a repeat performance in the next few months? If the past is any guide, even those who started a war don’t know how they’ll end up.

Sol Salbe is an Israeli-Australian journalist and translator based in Melbourne. He has spent the last 13 years as a full-time monitor of the Israeli media looking particularly at the differences between Hebrew and English-language coverage of events. His specializes in translating and disseminating articles, and segments of articles, which have not been made available in English.

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    1. Woody

      Really amazing piece of analysis. I love how people can still maintain that Israel DIDN’T break the ceasefire in ’08.

      I think if Israel tries this again, there could be some push-back all around. It would be the first post-Arab Spring large war on Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    2. daniel

      really amazing how people are still calling it an arab spring.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Just don’t call it “a war”, pleae.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Yaron

      Sorry, but I really don’t care who broke what and who started doing what to whom.

      The bottom line is simple: there is a party that prepares to attack-constantly and under an embarrassing dogma of annihilation, and there is a party that prepares to defend itself. It is ultimately clear how the goals are divided and it is also ultimately sad that this is not acknowledged widely.

      The behavior of the Gaza regime and any other terrorist group whatsoever in Gaza is simply unforgivable, whether it be by shooting rockets at civilians or by stockpiling rockets to prepare for the next war.

      There simply is no excuse.

      It is not just unforgivable towards Israel, but also to their own people, even though they may support war. The regime is ultimately responsible for the well being of its own civilians, a task it has been neglecting to enormous proportions.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Leen

      I guess people keep forgetting that Gaza is under siege and a blockade is an act of war in international law. Therefore firing rockets is a legitimate act in times of warfare, and differs from conventional terrorist tactics.

      Reply to Comment
      • Marianne

        Thanks, Leen.

        Reply to Comment
      • The Trespasser

        You are confusing facts as usual, Leen.

        Gaza is under blockade because Hamas holds the destruction of Israel as it’s primary goal, therefore bombing Gaza is a legitimate act of warfare.

        As of collateral damage – if Gazans don’t care, it’s really fine by us.

        Reply to Comment
    6. This week, at a time when one million people in Israel are targeted for hundreds of aerial attacks launched by the Gaza regime , a new Israel Advocacy Task Force has been spawned.

      The Israel Advocacy Task Force will address issues of the day that Israel has to cope with on a daily basis.

      Let’s begin with Arab education.

      Contrary to the widely publicized notion that the Palestinian Authority and UNRWA intended to incorporate Holocaust education in their schools, there has never been a plan for a Holocaust curriculum in any UNRWA or Palestinian Authority school.

      Michael Kingsley-Nyinah, director of the executive office of UNRWA said clearly: “I am writing to clarify that there is no ‘Holocaust curriculum’ as such in UNRWA schools and there are no plans to introduce one.”

      There is, however, one aspect of the new Palestinian Authority educational system in that does deal to the Holocaust.

      In all Palestinian Authority schools, students learn from Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s PHD, which he wrote 28 years ago at Moscow University entitled “The Other Side: The Secret Relations between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement.”

      Abbas’s thesis: the Zionist movement initiated murder of the Jews in Europe.

      The time has come to ask that everyone who funds the Palestinian Authority educational system – beginning with the US Congress – condition money to the PA on the immediate cancellation of their “holocaust curriculum”

      With the genesis of the new session of US Congress in January, The Israel Advocacy Task Force will escort experts on Palestinian Authority and UNRWA education to make presentations for staffers the Middle East Subcommittee of the US House Foreign Relations committee, in tandem with the Center for Near East Policy Research in Jerusalem, http://www.IsraelBehindTheNews,com, ;directed by investigative journalist and community organizer David Bedein.

      To that end, The Israel Advocacy Task Force is seeking sponsors to cover the cost to hire and escort the experts.

      Meanwhile, the time has come for everyone who reads this memo to contact people of influence to demand that the PA and UNRWA cease and desist from the greatest lie perpetrated against the survivors of the Nazi Horrors…applying the principle that a lie repeated often enough will become believable.


      Reply to Comment
    7. Moyshe

      Live from Israel

      I can’t possibly describe the situation here. But I’m gonna anyway. Miriam woke me to say we had just endured another rocket attack. Rockets? What rockets?? Gaza, she said. Those animals, I opined, attempting to cheer her up. She broke down as I raced outside to see the devastation for myself. Several of my prized marigolds had been unearthed and one of them appeared dead. To top it all off, Miriam said the karaoke machine I bought her barely a month ago (Hammecher Schlemer. Ninety-nine dollars) was on the fritz and sounded “all static-y, like that Myron Cohen LP you refused to get rid of after Shulamit used it as a scratching post.) This started she said, within an hour of the terror strike. Coincidence? I’ll let you be the judge.

      Next thing I know, Shmuel calls. I was shocked by his jubilation. “This is great” he said, evidently referring to the rocket attack. I told him if my marigolds could speak, they would vehemently disagree. “Listen” he says. “By the time we get done milking this episode, the world community will be throwing free weapons and money at us like Frisbees.” Fat chance, I told him. The terrorists in the Red Cross, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Bt’Selem, UNICEF and all the other islamofascist organizations will never permit it. Still, I was glad to speak to an old friend who never fails to lift my spirits, even in these darkest of times. We’ve seen it all, I suppose. Que sera sera, as the poets sing. One day the whole Middle East, (plus New Rochelle, Rye and Mammaroneck) will be reclaimed for the Jewish people and the anti-Semites will be destroyed once and for all, I told Miriam, (who was still hysterical). Ha! I can dream, can’t I?

      I’ll sign off for now.

      –from the besieged settlement of gefilteblatt

      Reply to Comment