Although the IDF has been careful not to leak too much, it is looking more and more like Israel has shifted into endgame mode. Last night they publicly acknowledged that reservists — possibly tens of thousands of them — have entered the Gaza Strip and joined the fight.
This cannot be good for Hamas’s morale. So far, many hundreds of Hamas fighters have been killed, compared with less than a handful of Israeli soldiers. What little information is coming out sounds like we’re heading towards a finale. Hamas has started talking about “rebuilding” Gaza, as though the thing is done, and just trying to sound like they’ll still be in charge afterwards, or else the already-massive defections will become a tsunami. Israel is allowing more reporters to see more of its tactics, and intelligence officials have now told us that the remaining Hamas leadership is holed up in the basement of Gaza’s biggest hospital. And to make matters worse for Hamas, Iran has just announced that it will cut off its funding if Hamas accepts a cease-fire.
What will happen in Gaza? The easy part is to say that most likely Hamas will be gone, its leaders either killed off or (more likely) granted an eleventh-hour exile. It is quite simply in nobody’s interest to leave them there — not Israel’s, not the Palestinian Authority’s, not Egypt’s, not the U.S. Barack Obama has already reminded us that Hamas is a client of Iran, which is the opposite of saying they have anything to contribute. And speaking of Obama: It sure would be nice from his end if the war were over by the time he takes office eight days from now.
But what then? That’s a lot trickier. The most logical answer is for the world to help the Palestinian Authority retake responsibility for Gaza, including serious investment in infrastructure and the economy. But it’s far from clear that its leader, Mahmoud Abbas, wants to. It was under his rule, after all, that Hamas took over in the first place. Israel has no desire to re-occupy the Strip. A final option may be to set up a second Palestinian Authority there, under the local tribal leaders. It is their groups, after all, who are holding the IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, and a deal might be worked out.
But maybe I’m jumping the gun. There’s still a war to finish. In the final push, much can go wrong.
Susan Estrich writes:
“Go back to the oven,” the woman in her hijab in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., yelled to the Jewish Americans demonstrating their support for Israel. “You need a big oven, that’s what you need.”
This is why I love Israel and always have. It is because Israel will never surrender to their hatred.
Israel is tiny. If you live in Massachusetts, as I did when I traveled there two decades ago, imagine Rhode Island being in the hands of those who are committed to destruction, sending rockets over your common border. If you live in Los Angeles, as I do now, imagine San Diego being not only a different state, but a committed enemy whose official government has long been listed as a terrorist organization.
Estrich, like many Americans, isn’t quite sure the Gaza invasion is going to “work”– however that is defined, but she knows “it also can’t lose.” ( I think she means it can’t afford to lose). She concludes:
No one likes seeing civilians suffer and die. No one likes seeing hospitals overrun, supplies running out, doctors near exhaustion. But terrorists who use schools and hospitals as launching pads for attacks should not complain when the bombs hit the targets they have created. No one likes to see children die, but so-called leaders who use their children as pawns and train them to kill should not expect sympathy when the lives they risk so carelessly are then lost. If I knew the answer, I would tell you. I don’t. But I know what isn’t the answer. It is not the answer to sit back and let the rockets rain down. It is not the answer to let terrorists attack you and not fight back. We will not go back to the ovens. Israel was the answer to the ovens, and if Israel is your enemy, so am I.
Last week, an overwhelming majority of both houses of Congress agreed with that sentiment. Sunday, on This Week, the President-elect didn’t go quite that far. But he departed from his self-imposed silence and made clear he understood what is at stake:
The president-elect stood by his comments last July made on a trip to Israel that “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. I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” When asked if he would say the same in Israel today, Obama said, “I think that’s a basic principle of any country is that they’ve got to protect their citizens.”
It is heartening to see so many political leaders of both parties affirm that “if Israel is your enemy, so am I.” The “international community” believes the opposite, of course, but it is good to see that President-elect Obama understands (albeit expressed quietly) that there are some things more important than international popularity.