Sunday, February 1, 2009
Israel Vows Retaliation
Four more rockets have been fired into Israel from the Gaza and the current prime minister, Ehud Olmert, is promising swift and decisive reaction.
Olmert has been criticized by Benjamin Netanyahu, a former prime minister and candidate for that office this month, for ceasing operations in the Gaza after 22 days in an attempt to stop the Hamas rocket attacks. Clearly, while Israel's overwhelming attack was devastating, it didn't completely put an end to the rocket firing.
The Israeli public has moved much further to the right over the issue of Gaza as a result of the attacks. In the three years that Israel has been out of the Gaza, there have been 3,000 rocket attacks - 1,000 of them last year alone.
The world criticism of those attacks has been muted. Probably because they are largely ineffective. But effective or not, Israel has the right to defend itself against the attacks.
Israel's problem has been that if it uses its military might to stop the attacks, it gets accused of a "disproportional response" and worse.
Yet politically, and in terms of the nation's self preservation, the Israeli government can't rightly sit on its collective hands forever while people live in fear of raining rockets.
Perhaps the current tit for tat response will engender less criticism of Israel. Perhaps not. But one must wonder why the critical assessment is always focused on the victim.
Of course, there are those who will argue that the Palestinians are the true victims. That they live in squalor because of the Israelis.
There is a clamor to open up the border between Israel and the Gaza. There's less a call to open up the border between Gaza and Egypt.
Former President Jimmy Carter said on Larry King Live that he's spoken with the leaders of Hamas and they've assured him that the rocket attacks will stop if Israel opens the border. Of course, they'll likely replace those rocket attacks with the much more effective suicide bombings that ended with the border closing.
The west has been pushing for decades for a two-state solution. But Hamas vows the destruction of Israel. Very few commentators speak of this. It's much more popular to claim that Israel is expansionist and is committing genocide against the Palestinians.
If one wants a solution, one must look at this logically. So long as there's an entity in charge of the Gaza that continues to strive for the elimination of Israel, there will be a closed border. So long as the rocket attacks continue, Israel will retaliate, and likely, if Netanyahu is elected, with greater intensity than now.
Until this threat is mitigated, both the Israelis and, in larger numbers, the Palestinians, will suffer.
Billions of dollars has been pumped into the Palestinian territories for humanitarian and infrastructure purposes. Much of that largess has been seized by Hamas to fund weapons to use against Israel. Much of it has disappeared - totally unaccounted for.
Again, there's little talk of this corruption - the syphoning off of money that was intended to help the Palestinian people. It's much easier, and much more popular, to blame Israel for their plight.
One needs only to contrast the withdrawal from the Gaza with Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai. Israel and its once sworn enemy, Egypt, now live in peace. So can the Israelis and the Palestinians, if there's a political will. But that political will must come from both sides.
In the meantime, U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell, after meeting with leaders on both sides, and, perhaps more notably, after meeting with Netanyahu, returned to the United States with a pessimistic assessment of the prospects of future peace. The situation now is untenable and is likely, to the determent of those on both sides of the border, likely to get worse.
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