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This morning, following the murder of an abducted 18 year old Israeli settler, Eliyahu Asheri, the Israeli-Palestinian confrontation appeared to be spinning way out of control. Israel arrested about 64 Hamas legislators in the West Bank. The arrested officials include Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Nasser al-Shaer, Finance Minister Omar Abdel Razek, Minister
They were formally charged with the crime of belonging to an illegal terrorist movement. The dry announcement of the Israeli government explained that the Hamas politicians were arrested according to regular criminal proceedings and would be provided with counsel if requested. Those who were found to be held without a judicial basis would be released. Hamas of course, is outlawed in Israel and the USA. Israel radio has several times repeated the mantra that the "detained persons must not be viewed as bargaining chips in hostage negotiations." However, the implication that the arrested politicians were hostages was not lost. Minister of National Infrastructures Benjamin Ben-Eliezer was quoted as saying that it is apparent that there is no difference between the political and armed wings of the Hamas, a sentiment echoed by tourism Minister Isaac Herzog, who also reiterated that the detainees are not hostages. He notes that Palestinian President Abbas has a wide variety of options under the Palestinian constitution, but that this is not the affair of Israel. Israeli radio commentators are opining that the arrests may be the beginning of a move to topple the Hamas government.
Together with the ongoing invasion of Gaza, and the overflights of Syrian President Hafez Assad's home in Latakia (a symbolic move quietly cheered by Lebanese Christians), these actions created panic in Arab capitals as well as in the PNA and more than a buzz of war. However, until now, the reaction has been in fact rather circumspect. IDF occupied unpopulated areas and shelling empty fields. The Palestinians are complaining about "collective punishment," but so far it seems that Eliyahu Asheri is the only casualty. This "war lite" may not last. The next stage might be an invasion of northern Gaza, where Israeli troops and armor have been gathered for two days, awaiting the order to move in.
The Israeli escalation is a questionable response to a complex situation by an untried government. PM Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz do not have a background in the IDF and do not have "security credentials." As the Kassam missiles kept raining down on Israel, pressure mounted on the government to "do something." A plurality of Israelis opined that even pointless vengeance, "an eye for an eye" was a valid response. With the murder of two Israeli soldiers and the kidnapping of a third, the charade of the "peace process" may have finally come to an end.
What is most disturbing is that there doesn't seem to be any plan behind the Israeli actions beyond progressive escalation. Other than generating annoyance in Washington and Paris, and outrage in the Palestinian territories, it is not clear that these actions are accomplishing anything. Military incursions of this type, which are always carried out with hopes of making wide ranging and decisive changes, almost always complicate and exacerbate the situation unless they have definite strategic objectives.
The current mess is the result of the failure of two processes: the occupation on the one hand, and the peace process and its creation, the Palestinian Authority. Israel has the responsibility for dismantling the occupation, but that is both politically impossible and irresponsible from the security point of view until and unless the remains of the Palestinian Authority are either rehabilitated or removed. It is impossible to imagine that the Israeli government will allow the situation in Gaza to be replicated in the West Bank.
The PNA was constructed to negotiate peace and make a normal life for Palestinians. Instead it has degenerated into chaos and war mongering, creating a nightmare hell-hole of random murders of Palestinians and random terror against Israelis that is presided over by a movement still openly committed to wiping out the state of Israel. This situation will probably not be corrected either by arrests of Hamas officials or incursions into Gaza. A real solution requires international agreement and backing, and this seems to be lacking. The US has consistently reneged on its responsibilities to oversee the peace process, and the quartet have done nothing to further their roadmap.
According to one commentator, the US is not in a hurry to do anything about the Israeli-Palestinian problem. It is waiting for the Hamas government to fall apart, and thinks it sees signs of weakness in the Hamas government. The US apparently gave a yellow light for the current operation or one like it, hinting broadly that the Qassam rockets which fell near the home of Defense Minister Peretz were sufficient provocation. It is not clear however, that the US expects or will tolerate an unlimited escalation.
The Palestinians are clearly disappointed by the relative silence of the US and Europe. A Fatah source close to Mahmoud Abbas is quoted by Israel radio as saying that the Israeli reaction was brought upon the Palestinian people by the inflexible and extremist stands of the Hamas and in particular of Khaled Mashaal, who have blocked any formula that might end the international embargo of the Hamas, and have brought down the wrath of the world on the Palestinian people. Clearly, Fateh is trying to leverage the situation to its advantage. However, there is no guarantee that the silence of the world will continue. Israeli escalation, especially if it results in civilian casualties.
Don't be surprised if in a week or two, the Israeli incursion is over, the Hamas emerges unscathed and strengthened, and Israeli hawks clamor for more and bigger military actions.
In all this, the fate of Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped soldier, should not be forgotten. What will become of Gilad Shalit? What will become of all the Israelis and Palestinians who are hostages to an impossible situation?
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Replies: 9 comments
We should all hope and pray for the safety of the captive soldier. That said, we should also pray for the million Palestinans who must endure the blistery summer heat without electricity and water. The solution to this conflict is so clear and yet all sides seem so blind. Why? Why not build a regional economic powerhouse in Israel/Palestine? Why not work together to make it a paradise for all? When Palestine is safe and free, so will Israel be safe and free. Until then we will continue down the road of the hardliners who bask at the thought of another bloody conflict. It is time the sane people of this region take over and force peace down the throats of all!!!!
Posted by Moshe @ 06/30/2006 06:50 PM CST
Israel needs to understand 2 things.
1) Using military force in order to 'convince' the Palestinians to unilateraly stop terrorism is never going to work. It is not that bombing etc. does not have an effect on them that causes some to question the wisdom of their ways, but as a matter of principle they are unlikely to stop fighting in order to remove israeli pressure or because fighting is stupid for them. They wil always want to prove they are not capitulating, that fighting does make sense, or in order to pressure their own government.
2) The Palestinians are not going to dismantle the system of multiple organizations until peace is reached if at all, no matter how much harm this system is causing them. too many people are too invested in this system, and no Palestinian leader will risk challenging it with force, especially while the conflict still exists (assuming it can be resolved at all).
Therefore Israel has several ways in order to deal with the kassams etc.:
1) To get into negotiations with Abbas based on the (optimstic) assumption that negotiations will give him enough legitemacy to broker a hudna with some groups and apply limited force against others.
2) Try to directly or indirectly negotiate a hudna with the Hamas et al. that will enable them to stop fighting without loosing face or recognizing Israel or giving up on the 'sacred' principle of armed struggle. This might work since the Hamas does not seem very enthusiastic about fighting right now (thanks to the blows they got from Israel and their need to sustain their victory in the election) and this option might help them consolidate their rule.
3) Apply force in order to topple the Hamas government. I don't think this will work. It will increase anarchy and terrorism while reducing the legitimacy of Abbas, which means less chance of him acting.
4) Use an international force of some sort to stop the Palestinians (directly) and the Israelis (indirectly) from fighting. I don't think it will work even if such force could be assembled, which is unlikely. Any international force will lack legitimacy or motivation or ability to stop terrorism against Israel unless the Palestinians themselves decide to stop for their own reasons. They may stop if the presence of such a force is perceived as a diplomatic success. However, it also increases the chance of more extremist groups running them in circles, and fighting them as an occupation.
5) Use the necessary amont of direct military force in order to prevent or reduce significantly the ability of the Palestinians to fire kassams, even if it means seizing part of Gaza, and even if it means putting soldiers at risk. Ultimatly the army has to defend civilians. I don't think this option should be taken unless options 2 or 1 have benn tried and failed. This option should be used as a threat or ultimatum to push the Palestinians to options 2 or 1. But if these fail, Israel should insist it has full legitimacy to take this course of action. It has full legitimacy now, but should try first the first two options.
Posted by Micha @ 07/02/2006 06:21 PM CST
I don't like to admit it. But it seems that as far as the captive soldier is concerned, the army is doing the right thing. This has nothing to do with the opposition to the occupation or the wish for peace based on the 67 borders. If Israel agrees to negotiate over him, kidnapping or seizing of soldiers and civilans will become a common practice, and the mainmethod of the Palestinians to release their prisoners. It will not increase the chance for negotiation but actually strengthen the supporters of violence. Since Israel cannot negotiate on that, the only alternative is to wait, and try to shake Gaza, until intelligence is obtained that wil enable a rescue mission. This is not Lebanon, where the Hizbulla had only few chances to take captives, and where Israel's keeping Lebanese prisoners after the withdrawl served no purpose. allowing this tactic to gain foothold in Gaza is a dangerous threat to Israel and for any chance to deescalate.
Posted by Micha @ 07/03/2006 12:36 AM CST
The Israeli actions and the world's lack of action to stop Israel has once again proved that our world is in need of a major change. How can anyone justify what Israel is doing in the name of returning a captured SOLDIER. Everyone it seems is accepting Israel's actions. How is it that an occupation force is allowed to kill thousands of people and no one says anything. How is it that Israel captures over 10 thousand Palestinians and no says anything. How is it that Israel destroys everything that allows the Palestinians to live if you can call their situation living?
Posted by Mike Jebara @ 07/03/2006 09:50 PM CST
This hostage or detaining is purely nonsensical as peace process is underway.
Here in Africa people learn to live together even in more serious conflicts and that is the first step towards achieving territorial peace.
I can foresee a future where Israelis and Palestinians will live harmony as one people and serve the Almighty God in truth and spirit but not people's ideologies and overage conflicts.
God bless all
Posted by David Effenberg @ 07/04/2006 06:43 PM CST
Mike, you disappoint me. Seriously, this is a very complex situation that deservesa serious realistic and fair analysis.
"the world's lack of action to stop Israel"
"How can anyone justify what Israel is doing in the name of returning a captured SOLDIER."
"Everyone it seems is accepting Israel's actions."
"How is it that an occupation force"
"to kill thousands of people and no one says anything."
"How is it that Israel captures over 10 thousand Palestinians."
"How is it that Israel destroys everything that allows the Palestinians to live"
"This world is telling the Palestinians to KILL and not capture anyone. Killing the soldier would have prevented the Israeli inhumane destruction of the Palestinian infrastructure."
"The Palestinians are still dreaming in the believe that Israel has a heart."
"Time and again Israel proves that it is merciless when it come to the trearment of the arabs."
"When the Palestinians blow up a civillian they are called terrorists. When they capture a soldier, they called terrorists."
"So the Palestinians have nothing to loose from killing civillians since they are the easiest targets."
"have nothing to loose if they attack Israeli infrastructures. "
"they have lost their dignity"
"rights to defend themselves"
The arab countries found a very good way to stop the Israeli 'war machine' (please). They don't attack Israel. Israel doesn't attack them.
Neither the Palestinians nor the Israelis are victims. They have choices. They influence their reality.
It is a shame that instead of clear criticism of the Israelis and the Palestinian action, instead of understanding the situation and trying to solve it, the focus is turned to propaganda.
Posted by Micha @ 07/05/2006 11:30 PM CST
The "Israeli Infrastructure" that Palestinians attack included 3 year old and five year old children. By its nature, Qassam rocket fire is indiscriminate and is not aimed at "infrastructure."
Posted by Ami Isseroff @ 07/06/2006 01:11 PM CST
Micha, read your own reply to my last comment. You make it sound like we are dealing with two states Isarel and Palestine. Two states that have seperate borders and both are free. Well, that is not the case. You compare tanks, warplanes, missles and a huge military to the Palestinian side. Lets see what the Palestinians have? ROCKS, some light weapons, and a police force that can only defend itself. And lets not forget the rockets, that now have a range of almost 15 KM. Missles that like Ami said do not find a specific target. You are comparing apples to oranges. Killing 4 or 20 or whatever the actual number of Palestinians is justification for the soldier????? I don't think so.
Posted by Mike Jebara @ 07/06/2006 10:52 PM CST
"You know micha it is hard for you to understand this maybe, I am disgusted with Israel and Palestine as well as the arab leaders. So am I turning from a someone seeking peace to some one more radical, I truly don't know anymore. Putting over 1 million Palestinians in the dark and preventing them from many things in the hot summer is inhumane by my standards and I think it should be so by all who have any a shred of humanity."
I feel exactly the same way and agree completely. Shutting off the electricity was wrong. I am digusted with everybody. Also the Israeli left, the Americans and the Europeans. I have not become a radical but passive. However, being disgusted is right, but you have to be disgusted about the right things and to the right proportion. The day I can attend a demonstration of disgust for both what Israel does and what the Palestinians do, fairly distributing the blame between the two, withouyt any exageration or hypocracy, I would be satisfied. But I am sick of having to choose between Palestinian hypocracy (+ Israeli left) and Israeli hypocracy.
"you make it sound like we are dealing with two states Isarel and Palestine. Two states that have seperate borders and both are free. Well, that is not the case. You compare tanks, warplanes, missles and a huge military to the Palestinian side. Lets see what the Palestinians have? ROCKS, some light weapons, and a police force that can only defend itself. And lets not forget the rockets, that now have a range of almost 15 KM. Missles that like Ami said do not find a specific target."
Whatever the Palestinians have, it seems to be enough for them to do harm. And if they choose to use whatever they have, and whatever they obtained after the Israeli withdrawl, in order to attack Israel (not for self defence but to increase their prestige), than they should not complain when Israel fights back with its stronger army. Although I believe using the army without trying deplomacy is unwise. It is unacceptable that the Palestinian attack Israel and brag about how strong they are, and wave their guns and bombs around, and then complain when Israel strikes back. Also, the Palestinians are not so weak. They are armed to their teeth with guns and bombs. It is less than Israel has. But then Israel is expected to not use its force while the Palestinians use their force for no purpose whatsoever.
"Killing 4 or 20 or whatever the actual number of Palestinians is justification for the soldier?????"
Posted by Micha @ 07/07/2006 01:50 AM CST
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