Monday, January 5, 2009

A wholly unacceptable holy war

As the Bush regime prepares to give way to the Obama administration, there would seem little time in Washington to focus on world events. But the situation in Israel and in Gaza needs to be examined if only to decry the bloodshed going on unabated by both sides and to try to put in a U.S.-sponsored peace initiative there. It is my understanding from experts who have assessed the situation that the current ground engagement that follows the nearly several days-old Israeli air pummeling could take many weeks to complete and could ramp up the death toll considerably on both sides. That is clearly not acceptable given the whole scale numbers of dead left in the wake of Israeli bombing and shelling. The Israeli response has been planned for well over a year and has been carefully considered after constant barrages from Gaza openly sanctioned by Hamas. Ehud Olmert is acting as the most entrenched Prime Minister Israel can ever have. Despite a shaky future due to suggestions of political pandering and the threat of indictments from his political foes, Olmert is, by nature of the Israeli Constitution, incapable of being driven from office during this period while he is in charge of a caretaker government. This is hard for Americans to understand, but Canadians and members of the United Kingdom know how coalition governments work. Olmert is acting decisively and swiftly because in another month, he will be forced to relinquish his post when new elections are scheduled. It had long been the hope of American interests that the Middle East plans pushed forth by presidents and secretaries of state would materialize into democratically-elected regimes representing governments for the people and by the people. How horrible it must have been for Washington players to have seen the results of the 2006 election that legitimized Hamas as a government in place of the Palestine Authority headed up by Mahmoud Abbas. While both Palestinian groups call themselves freedom fighters, the freedom they most desire makes no contingencies for peaceful coexistence with Israel. What they want is freedom from Israel based on post 1917 and pre-1948 borders, but that will never happen as long as present day U.S. policy and the sovereign nation of Israel exist. The response to the cross border rocket attacks by Hamas seems to be out of proportion. Yet, when one considers that Israel has suffered through thousands of seemingly endless attacks over the last year and a half (most notably in Sderot) and that everyone has lived under imminent threat (including infants and schoolchildren) every day and night during that time, the response may seem more justifiable. I recall that Gaza was given to the Palestine Authority by the Israelis in the hope they would use the land to establish a peaceful government that would improve their people's lot in life. Instead, the continued use of homicide bombers and terrorist rocket attacks have resulted in a controversial security wall being erected and this multi-faceted retaliation by the Israelis. Given this small window of opportunity, I have no doubt the Israeli military will be harsh in its response to Hamas. Veteran Washington players and the President-Elect have largely been mum on what is happening in Gaza right now. The fighting is not localized to Gaza. As an American, I believe the biggest problem to shake out of this conflict has been the organized nationwide response by Palestinian interests. There have been huge rallies with horrible racist banners that advocate launching nuclear attacks against Israel, for example. One might think that these protests are taking place in areas where there are large Islamic populations. Not so. These protests are taking place in metropolitan areas, many in and around major Jewish communities. The protests will not abate until a cease-fire is put into place and that won't happen in my opinion until a military solution finds favor in Israel's eyes with the elimination of Hamas' capacity to launch unchecked rocket attacks in the future. A report in Haaretz suggests the Israelis won't stop Operation Cast Lead until they recapture and reoccupy the entire Gaza Strip. Surely, that won't make the protestors happy, but it may relieve a lot of uneasiness in Washington.

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