Gaza Killings Divide Arab Countries Further

The killing in Gaza has underlined how divided the Arab world is. America’s allies: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO are ranged against Iran’s allies: Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas, and Qatar. The Gaza violence, meant to topple Hamas, will make the breach wider and general radicalization of the region more serious.

Bashar al-Asad, as president of the Arab League has called for an Arab summit to be held in Doha on Friday. Syria and Qatar are challanging Husni Mubarak and King Abdullah to boycott it, which will embarrass them in front of their people who are outraged by the killings in Gaza. Egyptians demonstrated in front of the Journalists Union and were exceptionally angry. Everyone is asking Egypt to cut its relations with Israel. In response, Mubarak said he would open the Rafah crossing at its border with the Palestinian territory of the Gaza Strip to receive wounded Palestinians, but Palestinians took matters into their own hands before Egypt could move to control the opening. Palestinians near the border areas broke down the Egyptian-Gaza border fence shortly after the Israeli airstrikes stormed the southern Gaza area. Clashes erupted between Egyptian border guards and the Palestinians who tried to cross into the Egyptian side. An Egyptian officer was killed.

Hamas leader Mashaal appeared on Aljazeera to say, “I want to tell President Mubarak and the custodian of the two holy mosques that they will have to answer to God about what they are doing today.”

Egyptians participate in a pro-Gaza rally in Cairo Dec. 28, 2008. I

Egyptians participate in a pro-Gaza rally in Cairo Dec. 28, 2008. I

The Bush administration issued blistering criticism of Hamas. Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman, said that Hamas, the group that controls Gaza, was responsible for the outbreak of violence and called its rocket attacks “completely unacceptable. These people are nothing but thugs,” he said. “Israel is going to defend its people against terrorists like Hamas.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice issued a statement that said: “The United States strongly condemns the repeated rocket and mortar attacks against Israel and holds Hamas responsible for breaking the cease-fire and for the renewal of violence in Gaza.

Barack Obama’s spokeswoman said that while Mr. Obama was monitoring global events, “There is one president at a time.” In the campaign, Mr. Obama made statements that sounded similar to those issued by the Bush administration on Saturday. “If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that,” Mr. Obama said in July. “And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

Saudi Arabia urges US intervention over Gaza: “Superpowers should take responsibility to stop these attacks,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported, citing a telephone conversation between Saudi King Abdallah and U.S. President George W. Bush.

President Nicolas Sarkozyof France was one of many world leaders calling for an immediate halt to the rocket attacks on Israel and to the Israeli airstrikes. He condemned “the irresponsible provocations that led to this situation, as well as the disproportionate use of force.”

Syria suspends indirect peace talks with Israel, International Herald Tribune

Disinformation, secrecy and lies: How the Gaza offensive came about
By Barak Ravid, Haaretz Correspondent

Long-term preparation, careful gathering of information, secret discussions, operational deception and the misleading of the public – all these stood behind the Israel Defense Forces “Cast Lead” operation against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip, which began Saturday morning.

The disinformation effort, according to defense officials, took Hamas by surprise and served to significantly increase the number of its casualties in the strike.

Sources in the defense establishment said Defense Minister Ehud Barak instructed the Israel Defense Forces to prepare for the operation over six months ago, even as Israel was beginning to negotiate a ceasefire agreement with Hamas….

The neighborhood bully strikes again
By Gideon Levy, HAARETZ, 28/12/2008

Israel embarked yesterday on yet another unnecessary, ill-fated war. On July 16, 2006, four days after the start of the Second Lebanon War, I wrote: “Every neighborhood has one, a loud-mouthed bully who shouldn’t be provoked into anger… Not that the bully’s not right – someone did harm him. But the reaction, what a reaction!”

Two and a half years later, these words repeat themselves, to our horror, with chilling precision. Within the span of a few hours on a Saturday afternoon, the IDF sowed death and destruction on a scale that the Qassam rockets never approached in all their years, and Operation “Cast Lead” is only in its infancy.

Once again, Israel’s violent responses, even if there is justification for them, exceed all proportion and cross every red line of humaneness, morality, international law and wisdom.

What began yesterday in Gaza is a war crime and the foolishness of a country. History’s bitter irony: A government that went to a futile war two months after its establishment – today nearly everyone acknowledges as much – embarks on another doomed war two months before the end of its term.

In the interim, the loftiness of peace was on the tip of the tongue of Ehud Olmert, a man who uttered some of the most courageous words ever said by a prime minister. The loftiness of peace on the tip of his tongue, and two fruitless wars in his sheath. Joining him is his defense minister, Ehud Barak, the leader of the so-called left-wing party, who plays the role of senior accomplice to the crime. …

Blood will now flow like water. Besieged and impoverished Gaza, the city of refugees, will pay the main price. But blood will also be unnecessarily spilled on our side. In its foolishness, Hamas brought this on itself and on its people, but this does not excuse Israel’s overreaction. ….

Jerusalem Post: Peace with Syria? Too costly
By EFRAIM INBAR, 2008-12-28

…A peace treaty with Syria does not improve the strategic situation. Nothing beats the status quo. … Generally, Israel has little to gain from economic or cultural interactions with the Arab world. Our neighbors have not opened up to globalization and have remained poor, an unappetizing market for our products. Moreover, their societies are despotic, corrupt, fanatic and in deep cultural crises. The Arab world has nothing to offer and Israel should keep its distance.

Hysteria in Gaza by Freddy Deknatel

Israel is trying to decapitate Hamas in Gaza, to use an favorite expression of military spokesmen and a docile American media, and the bodies are piling up.

What is the limit? As it stands, over 200 Palestinians are dead. One Israeli died today from a rudimentary rocket fired from the Gaza, the supposed impetus for all this.

When the “operations” subside — after how many days? — what will have changed? More Palestinians will have died because Israeli “security” is sacrosanct in the current international system but Arab lives are not. But it goes beyond American-made bombs and jets and stonewalling in the Security Council. Blame falls also on the supportive Arab regimes in America’s orbit — perhaps Egypt most of all — as Gaza is blockaded, bombed, blockaded, and bombed again, this time among the worst in its history. 

Helena Cobban’s analysis:

ANALYSIS / How did Assad manage to gain international respect?
By Aluf Benn, Haaretz, 26/12/2008

After eight and a half years at Syria’s helm, President Bashar Assad is gaining the respect and admiration that had been reserved for his father Hafez. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has been courting him enthusiastically with the help of a Turkish matchmaker, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. European leaders are standing in line to meet with him. Close associates of U.S. president-elect Barack Obama see Syria as the basis for a new balance of power in the region.

Columnist David Ignatius of The Washington Post interviewed Assad this week in Damascus. Five years ago, Ignatius met a rigid and doctrinaire Assad. Now he found him relaxed, informal and even laughing sometimes. In Israel, too, people are speaking differently about Assad, who is perceived as a responsible and serious neighbor you can do business with.

Olmert, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Military Intelligence (MI) head Amos Yadlin all believe that Syria can free Israel from its strategic problems since the Second Lebanon War in 2006. They dream of a new Middle East in which Syria disengages from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas, and links up with Israel and the United States in return for an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights and “special status” (renewed control) in Lebanon. Compared with the fragmented Palestinians, who cannot be relied on, Syria resembles an island of stability and order. Even Israeli opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes a withdrawal from the Golan, is not attacking Assad personally.

The Israeli attitude toward Bashar Assad has gone through three incarnations. During his apprenticeship, when his father was preparing him to be his heir, people here were impressed by Bashar’s “Western” background: He was an eye doctor living in London who surfed the Internet. In retrospect, it seems there was an element of Israeli provincialism here: Ehud Barak isn’t really comfortable with a computer, Shimon Peres doesn’t have one, Netanyahu prefers to read printouts, and former prime minister Ariel Sharon only learned to use the Web toward the end of his term, with the help of his family. Olmert, however, is addicted to Ynet and online sports reports. Perhaps this is why he was the first to try to connect seriously with Assad.

Sharon was the only Israeli leader since Menachem Begin to refuse to conduct negotiations with Syria. He and his associates described Assad as an overgrown child, a Hassan Nasrallah groupie cut off from reality. A senior intelligence official spread a story he claimed to have heard from colleagues in Egypt: Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak wanted to speak to Assad once, but was told he was busy with his PlayStation and couldn’t be interrupted.

The Israeli air force flew a scare sortie over Assad’s palace, and they snickered here that his aides didn’t even tell him about it.

Yossi Baidatz, who was IDF Northern Command’s intelligence officer and now heads the research division at MI, noticed that Assad was quietly working to improve the balance of power vis-a-vis Israel. After Sharon bombed a Syrian radar station in Lebanon in 2001, Assad decided to change his father’s policy and directly provide Hezbollah with Syrian weapons. Until then Syria had served as a way station for Iranian weapons and Nasrallah was kept a safe distance from Damascus. Then the army’s storehouses and arms-production lines were opened and Nasrallah became a regular visitor to Assad’s palace.

Israel paid the price: Most of the Israelis killed in the Second Lebanon War, both civilians and soldiers, were hit by weapons Syria had sent to Hezbollah, not by Iranian weapons. Then it emerged that Assad had taken a far more daring decision and had secretly bought a nuclear reactor from North Korea.

Sharon and U.S. President George W. Bush acted to isolate Assad, and were successful for some time. Negotiations over the return of the Golan, which had stopped when Barak was prime minister, were not renewed. The air force bombed an Islamic Jihad base in Syria after the suicide attack on Haifa’s Maxim Restaurant in 2003. On the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Syrians feared they were next and sent a peace proposal to Israel. Then-foreign minister Silvan Shalom suggested examining it seriously, but Sharon dismissed it.

In early 2005, when Sharon was becoming the darling of the international community because of the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the Syrian army was expelled from Lebanon. The United States and France blamed Assad for the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri; Assad later became the main suspect in the international investigation into Hariri’s killing.

Assad absorbed the humiliation and focused on strengthening his regime by making Hezbollah Syria’s strategic arm against Israel, and building the nuclear reactor. Had he succeeded, he would have achieved the “strategic balance” his father had dreamed of. The war in the summer of 2006 justified the doctrine of “resistance”: Hezbollah came out a winner and Israel was defeated. The Hamas takeover of Gaza showed that Iran and Syria were on the rise, and Israel in retreat.

According to Olmert, he began the peace probes with Syria in February 2007 during a visit to Erdogan in Turkey. If this is so, the Hezbollah victory had shaken Israel’s nonchalance and prompted him to put the Golan up for sale, for fear of a further strengthening of the “axis of evil.”

But the plot thickened with the discovery of the Syrian nuclear reactor. Olmert cut off contact and prepared to attack the reactor, recruiting international support. He was worried about how Assad would react. Would he launch a missile attack on Tel Aviv and deploy in the Golan, or show restraint and continue the quiet in the north? Olmert ordered a psychological profile of Assad from MI, which analyzed his complex relationship with his father and elder brother – the heir-apparent before his death in a car accident in 1994.

Olmert’s gamble paid off. The reactor was destroyed, Syria remained outside the nuclear club and the world supported Israel. The cold war in the north continued with assassinations of high-ranking Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh in Damascus and Syrian general Mohammed Suleiman, an Assad adviser who had been in charge of the nuclear project. Syrian sovereignty was once again harmed and Bashar decided to sit by quietly.

Olmert began to think of Assad as a responsible leader, and moved to renew the peace talks mediated by the Turks. He was prepared to revive negotiations with Syria despite America’s reservations. The isolation was broken. French President Nicolas Sarkozy invited Assad and his wife to Paris, Sarkozy visited Damascus, and European statesmen followed in his wake.

Olmert depicts revival of the Syrian track as a courageous diplomatic move. It can also be seen differently: In a combination of bullying moves, cautious diplomacy and military restraint, the cunning Assad has driven a wedge between Israel and the U.S., and is being welcomed in Europe without making even one small gesture toward Israel or the U.S. The arms are continuing to flow to Hezbollah, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad command centers in Damascus are thriving. Assad has successfully leveraged his father’s alliance: He is enjoying Iranian economic and military support, but hints that he would give it up for a better deal with Obama.

Bush views Syria as a criminal dictatorship, an incorrigible supporter of terror that’s trying to destroy “the emerging democracy in Lebanon” (which from Israel looks like a bad joke) and is helping bad guys kill Americans in Iraq. At his final meeting with Olmert, last month, Bush asked him: “Why do you want to give Assad the Golan for free?”

In a speech last week, Olmert justified the “down payment” to the Syrians. The prime minister spoke enthusiastically about the chances for peace with Syria, which he said “is not eager to be counted as part of the axis of evil and has a strong desire to emerge from its international and economic isolation and join the West.” From Israel’s perspective, “removing Syria from the axis of evil is of paramount strategic interest.”

Just before he leaves office, Olmert remembered to enlist public opinion in support of an agreement with Assad. It appears his enthusiastic speech is part of a circular deal: Olmert praised the Syrians on Thursday, Assad reciprocated with public support for direct talks on Sunday, and Erdogan hosted Olmert on Monday, in order to discuss a draft on renewing direct talks. Olmert and his diplomatic adviser Shlomo Turgeman sat with Erdogan and his people, who occasionally left the room to phone the Syrians.

Olmert knows he will not sign an agreement with the Syrians before he leaves office and hopes begin direct talks so he can leave behind active negotiations. He wants to renew the talks without having to pay an advance “deposit” of a full withdrawal from the Golan. In his view, his predecessors gave up everything in advance and he will achieve the same thing with a “down payment-minus.”

In the face of the Syrian demand to return the Golan, Israel is demanding that Syria disengage from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. Olmert is prepared for a gradated Syrian disengagement, and Israel will pay initially with a less-binding declaration about withdrawal. Assad, meanwhile, is not buying the goods and has not yet agreed to the Israeli proposal. But Olmert has another two months to try.

Olmert is not the first to try to gain something from the Syrians. Yitzhak Rabin wanted a security arrangement with demilitarization on the Syrian side. Peres wanted a comprehensive regional agreement with dozens of Arab and Muslim leaders at the signing ceremony and detailed normalization accords. Netanyahu wanted an early-warning station on Mount Hermon. Barak preferred that the payback come from America in the form of extensive military aid. And Olmert wants disengagement from Iran. None of them achieved anything, nor did they evacuate the Golan. The situation on the ground remains as it was, and Israel isn’t making efforts to develop its communities on the Golan.

In his interview with The Post, Assad said he will not wait for the Palestinians for peace talks and proposed integrating Hezbollah and Hamas into the diplomatic process. But he demands a full withdrawal from the Golan and U.S. sponsorship of direct talks with Israel.

It will be interesting to see how he deals with Olmert’s replacement: Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, each in their own way, oppose the Syrian track and prefer Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. Will they change their mind, or will Assad need to apply his methods of persuasion?

Comments (16)

Antoun said:

Hamas threatens to assassinate Israeli, Arab leaders:

Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah are exploiting Egypt and Saudi Arabia to stir Arab public opinion.

The Egyptian and Saudi complicity in Arab suffering, particularly in Palestine today, is now laid out in the open for all Arabs to see.

December 29th, 2008, 12:53 am


norman said:

How come non of the western leaders called for lifting the blockade and starvation of the Palestinians , I forgot , Arabs are just thugs , do not deserve to live.

December 29th, 2008, 1:38 am


Alex said:

An excellent opinion piece by Mamon Fandi in Asharq Alawsat (I’m impressed)

الإسرائيليون.. وحريق المنطقة

لم أر في حياتي مشهدا أسخف من ذلك المؤتمر الصحافي، الذي عقده رئيس الوزراء الإسرائيلي إيهود اولمرت وإلى يمينه وزيرة خارجيته تسيبي ليفني، وإلى يساره وزير دفاعه إيهود باراك. عندما قال أولمرت إن صواريخ حماس قتلت مواطنا إسرائيليا وجرحت آخر، في الوقت الذي كانت فيه الصواريخ الإسرائيلية قد حصدت ساعة عقد هذا المؤتمر، ما يقرب من مائتين من أرواح الفلسطينيين وخلفت أكثر من أربعمائة جريح. هذه (البجاحة) السياسية والفجور الدبلوماسي، يجب ألا يمرا مرور الكرام على الغرب إعلاما وساسة، فمن المعيب أن يكون مقتل إسرائيلي وجرح آخر نتيجة لصاروخ طائش قادم من غزة، مبررا ومسوغا لتلك الحملة الإسرائيلية المسعورة الموجهة إلى شعب أعزل محاصر. مطب المساواة الأخلاقية بين الحدثين يجب ألا تقع فيه الذهنية الغربية، وإلا فقد الغرب ما تبقى له من رصيد أخلاقي عند العرب والمسلمين، هذا الرصيد الذي يتآكل أصلا يوما بعد يوم.

المشهد في غزة خطير جدا، وما قامت به إسرائيل لا يمكن تسميته إلا التخبط الاستراتيجي الهادف إلى زعزعة الأمن الإقليمي برمته. فأي عاقل أو دارس لقضايا الأمن يدرك أن موضوع انتصار إسرائيل على حركة مقاومة هو أمر مشكوك فيه في أحسن الأحوال، وقد شهدنا ذلك بوضوح في حرب إسرائيل على حزب الله في صيف عام 2006. إسرائيل قد تستطيع هزيمة جيوش دول منظمة وفق قواعد حرب واضحة للجميع، لكنها، كمعظم الدول أيضا، لا تستطيع إنهاء حالة مقاومة، سواء كانت متمثلة في «حزب الله» أو في حركة «حماس».

إذا كان الأمر كذلك، فلماذا شنت إسرائيل هذا الهجوم الأخير على غزة؟ قد يكون الهدف من ذلك هو إقناع الرأي العام الإسرائيلي بأن حزب «كاديما» قادر على تأديب «حماس»، وعلى الإسرائيليين أن ينتخبوه مرة أخرى وألا يمنحوا أصواتهم لحزب «الليكود» ممثلا في بنيامين نتنياهو. ولكن على الأغلب سوف تكون النتائج المترتبة على هذا الهجوم على غزة كارثية أكثر مما يتصور أولمرت، بحيث تذهب به وبجماعته وتأتي بنتياهو إلى الحكم، منهية آمال كل من «كاديما» و«العمل» في الفوز معا بالانتخابات المقبلة.

العدوان الشرس على غزة في مشارف العام الجديد، سيجعل الشعب الفلسطيني برمته يقف خلف حركة «حماس»، وحتى الرئيس الفلسطيني محمود عباس نفسه لا يملك في مواجهة هذا الموت والدمار سوى أن يقف في معسكر «حماس» مدافعا عن شعبه وأهله. الوقوف على الحياد في مواجهة القتل غير المبرر هو انتحار سياسي للسلطة الفلسطينية في رام الله، ولن تلجأ بالتأكيد إليه. فإذا كانت حكومة أولمرت لا تدرك ذلك، ولا تقدر انعكاسات هذا الهجوم على الداخل الفلسطيني، فهذا غباء مطلق.. وإن كانت تعلم، فمعنى ذلك أن لديها النية المبيتة لإنهاء حكم محمود عباس وليس حكم «حماس» ووضع الشعب الفلسطيني كله تحت خانة «حماس»، استعدادا للمواجهة الأكبر، وبداية النهاية لرفض حل الدولتين الذي كانت الإدارة الأميركية تضغط باتجاهه مؤخرا. وبهذا تكون إسرائيل أثبتت للعرب، المعتدلين منهم والراديكاليين على حد سواء، بأنها لا تريد السلام.

التصعيد العسكري الإسرائيلي على غزة لا يحاصر غزة فقط، وإنما يحاصر أيضا كل العرب المعتدلين، بشرا ومفكرين وقادة، الذين ما زال لديهم أمل في أن يعم السلام على المنطقة وتطوى صفحة الحروب وينهى مسلسل إراقة دماء الأبرياء كضحايا لها. ضرب غزة يمثل، أول ما يمثل إقليميا، إرباكا وإحراجا سياسيا للدولة الجارة الكبرى مصر، التي حاولت دائما أن تلعب دور المعتدل والوسيط في هذا الصراع. فماذا لو هرب الفلسطينيون من غزة التي تدكها الطائرات الإسرائيلية ولجأوا إلى مصر؟ هل سيستطيع النظام في مصر تحت ضغط الشارع المصري الغاضب إيقافهم أو منعهم؟ وإن فعل وأوقفهم، ألا يكون هذا النظام قد أقدم على الانتحار السياسي؟ فهل هدف إسرائيل هو إحراج دولة مثل مصر وإرباك قيادتها؟ إذا كان الأمر كذلك، فنحن نتحدث عن نوايا سيئة تهدف إلى زعزعة الاستقرار الإقليمي بمجمله، وليس عن حرب تقتصر فقط على حركة «حماس» أو «الجهاد الإسلامي»، كما أعلن قادة إسرائيل. التصعيد العسكري الإسرائيلي الأخير لا يحرج مصر فقط، فأي دولة عربية وأي زعيم عربي بعد هذا الهجوم يستطيع أن يبرر لشعبه أي خطوة يقوم بها نحو السلام، في الوقت الذي تحصد فيه الصواريخ الإسرائيلية أرواح الفلسطينيين بالمئات، وعلى الهواء مباشرة؟ من سيبادر ثانية ويمد يد السلام لإسرائيل، وهي تمد أطفال ونساء ورجال غزة بنيران الصواريخ والمدافع؟

إن ما تقوم به إسرائيل من إحراج لقوى الاعتدال في المنطقة، سوف يسلم قيادة المنطقة بأكملها لقوى الراديكالية وقوى التطرف. فمن أجل أن تصفي إسرائيل القضية الفلسطينية تقوم بتمييعها في قضايا تطرف أخرى.

يجب أن تدرك إسرائيل بأن التوصل إلى معادلة أمن إقليمي، ليس بضرب غزة أو بضرب «حزب الله»، وإنما بالتفكير الجاد في تصور إقليمي ممكن للأمن ينظر للمنطقة كوحدة استراتيجية متكاملة، بما فيها إيران و«حزب الله» و«حماس». وإن بداية هذا التصور، تنطلق من محاولة جادة للتعامل مع الطرح العربي القائل بـ«الأرض مقابل السلام». حتى هذه اللحظة، لم يتعاط الإسرائيليون ولا الأمريكان مع هذه المبادرة بالجدية المطلوبة.. تحايل الجميع على العرب، من بيل كلينتون حتى جورج بوش، ومن شيمعون بيريز إلى ايهود أولمرت، وركزوا على العملية لا على السلام في «عملية السلام».

لدينا فرصة ممكنة في إدارة الرئيس الأميركي الجديد باراك أوباما، شريطة ألا يدخل فريق أوباما في الألاعيب ذاتها التي تبنتها إدارتا بيل كلينتون وجورج بوش الابن، اللتان لم تكونا جادتين في الحل، بل كانتا تركزان في العملية لا في السلام كهدف نهائي، كانتا تركزان على «إدارة الصراع» لا على «إنهاء الصراع». تلك الأفكار التي سمعتها مرارا في واشنطن من الوجوه ذاتها والمبعوثين ذاتهم الذين ينوي أوباما تعيينهم للتعامل مع قضية السلام في الشرق الأوسط. الطريق إلى الاستقرار لا تمر عبر استهداف غزة، وانما تمر عبر تصور ناضج وجاد للأمن الأقليمي يضمن أمن المنطقة بما فيها إسرائيل. الحل يكمن هنا.. أما عدوان إسرائيل على غزة في مشارف العام الجديد، فهو بكل تأكيد ينم عن نوايا غير مطمئنة، إن لم نقل بأنه يبشر بكارثة استراتيجية قادمة تجعل اللهب يلتهم المنطقة برمتها.

December 29th, 2008, 2:38 am


johnpauljustlikethepope said:

In general, extremists seem to fear moderation more than they fear opposite extremists. Hamas may cry foul about these attacks, but maybe this sort of intervention is what keeps them relevant. A secure and lawful Palestine would have little place for the antics of Hamas’s militant leadership. And the leaders who prosecuted the invasion of Lebanon to save Israel from Hizbullah are now pursuing the Hamas bogeyman with excellent zeal.

What both these sides may fear most is elections in Israel and U.S. leading to more constructive engagements that will, slowly but surely, leave them behind the way the IRA in Ireland succumbed to a reconciliation of former enemies through a political process.

December 29th, 2008, 4:16 am


offended said:

An Israeli woman says what’s happening in Gaza is fantastic:

“I definitely see this as linked, but it’s OK, better late than never. What’s been happening in Gaza is fantastic. I feel very bad about the man killed in [the Israeli town of] Netivot. “

December 29th, 2008, 4:48 am


offended said:

Dear Josh,
I don’t think the title of the post is inaccurate, because the killings didn’t divide Arab countries as much as it divided Arab regimes. I don’t think Arab people are in much disagreement about what’s happening.

December 29th, 2008, 6:33 am


Shai said:


That woman is not the only happy Israeli. There are others, also ones that you know, who are proud today…

December 29th, 2008, 6:57 am


Innocent Criminal said:


This is why the only solution is for Israel to get out of palestinan land so that extremists on both end of the spectrum fade away. unfortunately for us Israel feeds off Hamas and likes to continue occupying Palestinan land more than they feed off Israel to fight it.

December 29th, 2008, 8:06 am


offended said:

Shai, I couldn’t really read through the second line of what AIG wrote, but I understand why it must have been a field-day for the AIGs in Israel (and on our side too).

December 29th, 2008, 9:02 am


Racism and Opportunism Fuel Conflict « Middle East News and Comment said:

[…] recklessness, Homayed suggests that Hamas should pay the price for its manifold sins.” Josh Landis adds that “America’s allies: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO are ranged against […]

December 29th, 2008, 10:58 am


idaf said:

Excellent lessons from history for Israil by Rami Khouri…

Punishing Gaza in Vain

by Rami G. Khouri

BEIRUT — God punished the arrogance and hubris of the Hebrews in the Old Testament by making them wander the wilderness for 40 years before allowing a later, more humble, generation to enter Canaan. The current generation of Israeli Jews is not as proficient at learning these 40-year lessons, it seems, to judge from Israel’s current ferocious attack on Gaza.

It was exactly 40 years ago to the day — December 28, 1968 — that Israeli commandos raided Beirut airport and destroyed 13 Lebanese civilian aircraft, in retaliation for a Palestinian attack against an Israeli airliner in Athens. Israel aimed to inflict a revenge punishment so severe that it would shock the Arabs into preventing the Palestinians from fighting Israel.

Today, 40 years and countless attacks and wars later, Israel again uses massive retaliatory and punitive force to pummel the Palestinians of Gaza into submission. Hundreds of Palestinians have died in the first 24 hours of the Israeli attack, and several thousand might die by the time the operation ends. For what purpose, one wonders?

The past 40 years offer a credible guide, if anyone in Israel or Washington cares to grasp the historical record instead of merely wallowing in a cruel world of political lies and deceptions. Israel’s use of its clear military superiority against Palestinians, Lebanese and other Arabs has consistently led to five parallel, linked, and very predictable results:

1. Israeli power has momentarily shattered Palestinian and Arab military and civilian infrastructure, only to see the bludgeoned Arabs regroup and return a few years later — with much greater technical proficiency and political will to fight back. This happened when the Palestinians, who were driven out of Jordan in 1970, eventually re-established more lethal bases in Lebanon; or when Israel destroyed Fateh’s police facilities in the West Bank and Gaza a few years ago, and soon found themselves fighting Hamas’ capabilities instead.

2. Israel’s combination of military ferocity, insincerity in peace negotiations, and continued colonization has seen “moderate” groups and peace-making partners like Fateh slowly self-destruct, to be challenged or even replaced by tougher foes. Fateh has given way to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and to militant spin-offs from within Fateh like the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. Hizbullah emerged in Lebanon after Israel invaded and occupied south Lebanon in 1982.

3. Israel’s insistence on militarily dominating the entire Middle East has seen it generate new enemies in lands where it once had strategic allies — like Lebanon and Iran. Israel once worked closely with some predominantly Christian groups in Lebanon, and had deep security links with the Shah of Iran. Today — the figurative 40 years later — Israel sees its most serious, even existential, threats emanating from Hizbullah in Lebanon and the radical ruling regime in Iran.

4. The massive suffering Israel inflicts on ordinary Palestinians transforms a largely docile population into a recruiting pool for militants, resistance fighters, suicide bombers, terrorists, and other warriors. After decades of Israeli policies of mass imprisonment, starvation, strangulation, colonization, assassination, assault and terror tactics against Palestinians, the Palestinians eventually react to their own dehumanization by turning around and using the same kind of cruel methods to kill Israeli soldiers and civilians.

5. Israeli policies over decades have been a major — but not the only — reason for the transformation of the wider political environment in the Arab world into a hotbed of Islamism confronting more stringent Arab police states. The Islamists who politically dominate the Arab region — whether Shiite Hizbullah, or Sunni Hamas or anything else in between — are the only Arabs since the birth of Israel in 1948 who have proved both willing and able to fight back against Zionism.

All these trends can be seen in action during the current Israeli attack against Gaza: Palestinian and Arab radicalization, Islamist responses amidst pan-Arab lassitude, the continued discrediting of President Mahmoud Abbas’ government, and regional populist agitation against Israel, its U.S. protector, and most Arab governments. None of this is new. And that is precisely why it is so significant today, as Israel’s war on Gaza paves the way for a repetition of the five trends above that have plagued Israelis and Arabs alike.

The biblical 40-year time span between Israel’s attack on Beirut airport on December 28, 1968 and its war on Gaza on December 27, 2008 is eerily relevant. It is time enough for frightened and arrogant Israelis to learn that in all these years their weapons have promoted neither quiescence among neighboring Arabs, nor security along Israel’s borders. The exact opposite has happened, and it will happen again now.

Here’s something to ponder as the next 40-year period starts ticking down: The only thing that ever did bring Israelis and Arabs genuine peace was equitable, negotiated peace accords — with Egypt and Jordan — that treated Arabs and Israel as people who must enjoy equal rights to security and stable statehood.

Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large of The Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon.

December 29th, 2008, 11:12 am


Mike said:

All moral issues aside- and they are important, since there are many people getting killed or injured in Gaza who had nothing to do with Hamas or militancy- isn’t this really stupid on the Israeli side, strategically? Because now with what’s happening, Israel is placing huge constraints on its diplomatic ties to other countries, especially in the Arab world. The Israel-Syria dialogue that was secretly ongoing, with the mediation of Turkey, has now been scrapped. Resolving things with Syria would have meant that at least the barest precondition would have been met for Israeli-Arab relations to be resolved.

So current Israeli leaders gain a domestic advantage, proving their military power, with the consequence that peace between Israelis and Arabs becomes that much more elusive.

December 29th, 2008, 2:06 pm


trustquest said:

The Gaza stills the main event and the ongoing painful one. 3 pages with a picture show the Egyptians protest and a heart breaking photo of killed child by Israeli bombs. The second article 4 pages taken from HAARETS is for the PRESIDENT AND HIS BEAUTIFUL WIFE smiling in a picture 3.5×4.5!. What is the message here? Is this guy doing better than any other leader in the region? Or is his wife smile can override the bloody event?
I do not know, maybe I have a weird taste?
I hope you guys accept criticism.

December 29th, 2008, 3:11 pm


arthur Stock said:

Hopefully many of us can move beyond finger pointing and discuss what is happening in strategic terms. Alex made an excellent start with his 5 reasons in the previous thread. His comment is the place to start. Since his posting more information has been received and I now can offer mine:

#5: Rocket provocation: I agree, the action is in response to the rockets fired by Hamas, but it should be noted the response from Israel is disproportionate to the provocation. So, this reason in itself is not sufficent.
#4. To insure the failure of Hamas to govern the Gaza: I agree with the idea but believe it needs a different focus. Governance by Hamas is not the issue. Security is.
#3. The Israeli response helps America’s weak Arab allies: I find nothing to support this supposition and much in the contrary. The suppostion is too complex and too indirect to be a reasoned motive.
#2: To cool down Arab and international pressure on Israel: Is not the reasoning just the opposite? The engagement risks a hardening of Arab pressure and invites a repeat of international pressure on Israel as occurred in the 2006 war.
#1: Israeli & hard liners in Bush Administration wish to draw Hiz into a conflict that will become Hiz’s downfall: Curious but it did not happen. This is reasoning more properly belongs to Hiz. First, Israel’s notice to Washington was brief and perfunctory. Washington was not a party to the decision. Second, the reasoning ignores the announced policy that the outgoing administration will not engage in any postion without informing the President elect’s transition team. It will not take an action or position if the President elect does not concur. No one from Tel Aviv came to Washington to lay out Israel’s intentions. More significant is the visit to Cairo last week by Israel’s Minister of Foreign Affairs.

After reviewing reports from Tel Aviv, Gaza and Beruit, here are some additions to Alex’s list:
6. The 6 month cease fire agreement expired 2 weeks ago: Since the expiration the political situation reverted to the status quo ante and Gaza has been tense, wondering what will happen. During this time Hamas sent several missles into Israel; one city had never been attacked before. This was all the provocation Isreal needed. My opinion is Damacus, knowing the cease fire agreement was expiring, overlooked a great opportunity to be the new leader; instead it looked no farther than its own interest in the tri-lateral negotiations.
7. Hamas’ leadership did not foresee such an intense reponse by Israel. It thought things would be the way they were, an occasional rocket into Israel and one or two rocket responses. In the past Hamas used these light responses to strengthen its political position within the Gaza and with its patron countries. One report claims several Hamas leaders believed they needed some “light responses” from Israel to explain to its patron countries why Hamas needs more weapons. A confirmation is needed, but it does provide an explination why Hamas sent rocket provocations into Israel. That it misjudged Israel’s response is clear.
8. There is a growing opinion in Israel that in 2006 Israel errored in agreeing to a peace agreement with Hiz that was no more than agreeing to a stalmate. Many arabs then cited the agreement as proof that Israel could be stood up to militarily. As a result Israel began to feel more insecure. A bold statement of its military power is needed, Israelis thought, to demonstrate that Israel continues to be a country not to meddled with militarily. This discussion has been going on in Israel (and in Arab countries) for the past 2 years, as many on this site are aware. Hamas provided the opportunity.
9. A well known American Congressman, now deceased, is famous for his statement that “all politics is local.” So, what is “local” about this? There has been a turn toward the right in Israeli public opinion. The insecurity issue is firing the turn. A demonstrative step now will strengthen the hand of the center and the center-left in the upcoming February elections (this is the political group Syria needs to achieve a peace agreement). The need to show willingness to protect the citizens of Israel applies to all center and center-left parties. This military engagement was the decision of the ruling center and center-left, not the far right. Coincidentally, the current Minster of Defense is a candidate for Prime Minister in the February elections and he is running a poor third in the polls.So he has motivation.
10. Why now? This gets back to Alex’s #1, but with a different interpretation. The outgoing administration is the administratioin Tel Aviv knows. To wait until after the Presidential inaugeration in January risks all Washington sources willdesire no action be taken until the new adminstrations has agreement on its policy toward the middle east and that will take months. So the time is now. No one in Hamas is thinking strategically.

December 29th, 2008, 11:41 pm


ugarit said:

Offended said “I don’t think the title of the post is inaccurate, because the killings didn’t divide Arab countries as much as it divided Arab regimes. I don’t think Arab people are in much disagreement about what’s happening.”

How right you are. The title should be “Arab regimes”. We should all be throwing shoes at all those Arab “leaders”.

December 30th, 2008, 3:32 am


Cédric said:

In this case, it is not possible to talk about “replica”. There is no such thing as a military answer to an agression. This is just destruction, annihilation of a population. A European parlementary said on Al Jazeera yesterday that Tsahal killed more people in one single attack than Hamas did those last five years.

A site review in my blog (usually dedicated to poetry and lebanese women, but…):

A nice new year to all, though…

December 30th, 2008, 8:57 pm


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