Israel will decide within the next 24 to 48 hours whether to accept a cease-fire deal brokered by pro-Palestinian governments in Egypt and Turkey or launch a ground incursion into Gaza, former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Harel said on a conference call today.
“Basically we are moving with the Palestinians straight into a [juncture],” said Harel, who served as deputy chief of staff from 2007 to 2009, and also led Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005. “There are two basic alternatives. One is an agreement, which is cooked in Cairo, apparently. And the other one is escalating the situation and move forward into the Gaza strip with a land effort, which is going to be bad for both sides.”
Experts and defense analysts agree that Iran would respond to any Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities by proxy, specifically by Hamas and Hezbollah rocketry launched at Israeli towns and cities. Indeed, this is one of the reasons beyond sheer ideological spite that the Iranian leadership has gone to such great lengths to arm both Hamas and Hezbollah.
The Iranian leadership may be coming very close to forcing Israel’s hand. If Hezbollah seeks to open a second front against Israel, then Israel could find itself in a two-front war with terrorist entities. Make no mistake, Israel would achieve its objective of destroying the majority of the longest-range and most lethal missiles supplied to Hamas and Hezbollah by Iran, Syria, and perhaps even North Korea.
Jonathan Tobin is absolutely correct to warn against rewarding Hamas for its attacks on Israel by granting it any sort of diplomatic concession. After all, engrained in Hamas is an absolute refusal to abide by previous diplomacy, such as the agreements the Palestinian Authority had made with Israel as a precondition to the Authority’s 1994 formation in Gaza and the West Bank.
Israeli officials, alas, can always be counted on for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Enter on cue Dan Harel, former deputy chief of the Israeli Defense Forces General Staff and a former head of its Southern Command, who quips that Israel is running out of targets.
Today’s CNN/ORC International poll shows solid American support for Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. Fifty-seven percent say Israel’s strikes in Gaza are justified, compared with 25 percent who disagree. That support is even higher among independents and Republicans, but substantially lower among Democrats:
A majority of Americans say that Israel’s current military strikes against Gaza are justified, according to a new national survey.
A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday indicates that 57% of the public says Israel is justified in taking military action in Gaza against Hamas, with one in four saying the attacks are unjustified.
“Although most Americans think the Israeli actions are justified, there are key segments of the public who don’t necessarily feel that way,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Only four in ten Democrats think the Israeli actions in Gaza are justified, compared to 74% of Republicans and 59% of independents. Support for Israel’s military action is 13 points higher among men than among women, and 15 points higher among older Americans than among younger Americans.”
There are two great sources of frustrating irony for presidents seeking to leave their own policymaking legacy. The first is that they have far greater control over American foreign policy than domestic economic policy, yet it is the latter they are judged on when they stand for reelection after their first term. The second is that, once forced by the electorate to turn their attention to economic policy, history reverses its influence on them by often judging them predominantly on foreign policy.
That makes sense; the president is the commander in chief of the combined armed forces of the world’s lone superpower, and his first responsibility is always to keep his citizens safe. Following this trend, President Obama came under attack for his own economic stewardship, but won a second term. Now, as he turns to foreign policy with more concentration and attention than his first term, he is finding, as most presidents do, that no matter which direction he turns he will somehow still be facing the Middle East. The president is already hounded by Benghazi; he’s gone to Asia to stress the Asian “pivot”—not so much a policy as a slogan meant to convey a thoughtfulness about the 21st century world—and the Middle East followed him there. It was not Benghazi, however. Rather, it was Hamas that showed up in Thailand, and the president was decidedly unamused:
The most frustrating thing about being a liberal critic of Israel these days is the fact that the generally fractious people of the Jewish state are more or less united behind their government as it attempts to defend the country against terrorist assaults from Hamas. This consensus is rooted in the knowledge that neither the Islamist-controlled enclave in Gaza nor the supposedly more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has the faintest interest in peace. Left without any peace partners, Israelis understand their nation’s only choice is to do what it must to lessen the peril from rocket attacks while preparing for even greater threats such as that of a nuclear Iran.
The need to take a realistic approach to an intractable problem is merely common sense, but it still grates on Israel’s critics who still prefer to blame the victim rather than the aggressors. A classic example of such thinking was found in the form of an op-ed masquerading as a news analysis on the front page of the New York Times yesterday. Writing by former Times Jerusalem Bureau chief Ethan Bronner, the piece took as its premise that Israel was stuck in an outmoded mindset that refused to take into account the changing circumstances of the Middle East. Instead of realizing that the rise of a new wave of Islamist sentiment in the wake of the Arab Spring meant they should be more accommodating, Bronner wrote that the foolish Israelis are simply doubling down on their old tactics of being “tough” with the Arabs.
As Bronner writes:
What is striking in listening to the Israelis discuss their predicament is how similar the debate sounds to so many previous ones, despite the changed geopolitical circumstances. In most minds here, the changes do not demand a new strategy, simply a redoubled old one.
But what Bronner fails to comprehend is that the changes in the Arab world are exactly why Israel’s policies are correct.
I was doing a post-doc and living in Jerusalem during the 2001-2002 terror campaign that preceded Operation Defensive Shield, a military campaign best remembered for the media’s false accusations of a “Jenin Massacre.” As the campaign ramped up, many journalist friends came to Israel to report for CNN, BBC, and other major networks. Sometimes we’d meet up for drinks afterwards and talk about work. I was surprised to learn that most paid “fixers” to work in Gaza.
Producers explained—privately—that the implication for not hiring a fixer was that not only would Fatah (at the time still in control of Gaza) and more extreme factions not grant interviews, but they would also not grant “protection.” The flip side of this, of course, was that networks were effectively paying for stories and were also self-censoring based on their fixers’ affiliation.
Despite attempts by Israel’s critics to deflect responsibility for the violence of the last week, there’s no question that the conflict along the border between Israel and Gaza is exclusively the fault of Hamas. The Islamist terrorist group chose to escalate the clash from a steady but small number of rockets fired regularly from Gaza to the massive barrage that engulfed southern Israel last weekend. Since then, emboldened by its diplomatic support from Egypt and Turkey, Hamas has chosen to up the ante at every point when it could have backed down in the last seven days. It has gone from pounding the region next to Gaza to launching missiles at Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem. In doing so, Hamas has not only terrorized millions of Israelis, but it has endangered the lives of Palestinian civilians, whom they use as human shields. Hamas has sacrificed the lives and property of the people of both Israel and Gaza by firing rockets indiscriminately at civilians and hiding their weapons among their own people. But Hamas’s cowardly leaders aren’t the only ones at fault. President Obama bears some responsibility too.
It is true that the administration’s behavior during the present crisis has been exemplary. The White House and State Department have condemned Hamas and endorsed Israel’s right to self-defense against its attacks. Rather than pressure Israel to accept a premature cease-fire or to halt its efforts to take out Hamas missile caches and terrorist cadres, Washington has seemed to give Jerusalem a blank check to do what needs to be done with regard to Gaza. Yet even as these positions deserve praise, it must also be understood that an administration policy of engagement with Hamas’s diplomatic backers has directly led to the current crisis. By leading from behind in the Middle East, the United States has largely abdicated its leadership role. Washington’s passivity in the Syrian crisis, and its embrace of the Islamist regime in Turkey and the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, has materially contributed to a situation where Hamas feels it can act with relative impunity.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took to the stage at Cairo University to condemn Israel for its attacks on Hamas military leaders, weapons depots, and missile launching pads in the Gaza Strip. “Everyone must know that sooner or later there will be a holding to account for the massacre of these innocent children killed inhumanely in Gaza,” he declared. Let us put aside the massacresof unarmed Kurdishchildrenunder Erdoğan’s watch. These have no parallel in the Gaza situation, where Israel puts its own soldiers at risk to avoid This is the same man who has railed against “the Jew;” has worked tirelessly to break Israel’s lawful (according to the United Nations) blockade of Gaza, an action meant to keep weaponry out of the hands of Hamas; and has called Hamas rocket strikes on Israel a hoax. This is also the same man whom President Barack Obama identified as one of the five foreign leaders closest to him personally.
Any Israeli official who thinks that Turkey can be bought around has either replaced analysis with hope, or is delusional. After a decade in power during which he has seized the reins not only of state broadcasters but many private newspapers as well, Erdoğan has succeeded in indoctrinating a generation of Turks in anti-Israel incitement. Erdoğan isn’t going anywhere. But even if he does, the Abdullah Gül’s, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s, and Egemen Bağış’ that mark Turkey’s future are as fiercely anti-Israel.
Colin Rubenstein, the director of AIJAC based in Melbourne, Australia, appeared Friday on the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s (ABC) News 24. Australia’s ABC takes a political slant much like that of the BBC, but Rubenstein’s description of the reason for and logic of the Israeli military campaign is about as articulate as it comes. It is worth the watch.
It’s also well-worth noting that not only Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition and the head of the center-right Liberal Party, but also Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is decidedly left-of-center, have endorsed Israel’s right to self-defense and roundly condemned Hamas without any moral equivalence. It is good to see that, at least outside the United States, many liberals and progressives recognize just what is at stake.
Hamas rockets reached Jerusalem today as the terrorist barrage on Israel continued. Rather than being silenced by Israeli counter-attacks, the Islamists have apparently been emboldened by the ardent support they have received from both Egypt and Turkey and have raised the ante in the conflict. That leaves Israel’s government having to choose between a cease-fire that will give Hamas a victory or to launch a costly ground invasion of Gaza that might inflict serious damage on the terrorists and perhaps restore some measure of deterrence. But looming over all of the discussions about the country’s options is the accusation that the fighting this week has been motivated more by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s re-election campaign than Israel’s security.
That’s the theme being sounded by a chorus of leftist critics of the PM on the Haaretz op-ed page and is even being echoed by President Obama’s good friend and Hamas ally Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today according to Ynet. Leaving aside Erdoğan’s fantastic claim that the several hundred rockets that have been fired at Israel are a “fabrication,” the notion that the decision to try and stop the rocket attacks is connected to Israel’s parliamentary election scheduled for January.
Considering how unpopular Netanyahu is outside of his own country as well as with Israel’s media, it’s hardly surprising that this sort of thing would be said. But it should also be understood that it is complete nonsense. The timing of the conflict was determined by Hamas, not Israel, and far from boosting Netanyahu’s chances of winning re-election, the growing violence is much more of a liability than it is an opportunity to win votes.
Via Tablet’s Adam Chandler. At first glance the background footage in this BBC report appears to show injured Palestinians stumbling away from Israeli military strikes. But watch a little closer starting at about 2 minutes into the video, and see if you can spot the inconsistencies. Here’s one to start you off: keep an eye on the supposedly wounded guy on the ground in the tan jacket who’s carried off by a group of men around 2:10 into the clip. Watch him pop back up a few seconds later in the footage, milling around off-set with a bored look on his face:
Israel’s Defense Forces have, by all accounts, performed well during Operation Pillar of Defense. In the wake of the massive bombardment of southern Israel by Hamas, the IDF carried out a deft targeted assassination of the head of the group’s military wing and carried out a wave of pinpoint bombings of terrorist missile caches and arms factories inside Gaza. The leadership of the terrorist movement that governs Gaza with an iron fist is cowering in the bunkers. Though there have been some unfortunate civilian casualties, they have been kept to a minimum despite the fact that Hamas has tried to hide its armaments and its personnel among noncombatants.
But these achievements should not obscure the fact that although Israel’s military is doing everything it can to suppress the missile fire, the terrorists have still managed to launch hundreds in the last two days, with a few even penetrating as far as the greater Tel Aviv area. Just as troubling is the heavy-duty diplomatic support the group has received from its regional allies Egypt and Turkey in addition to Russia’s refusal to join the West in supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.
Though the group has taken a pounding from the IDF, it may well have achieved the objectives it had in mind when it decided to use the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election to escalate the conflict with Israel. Whatever else has happened in the last week, Hamas has demonstrated the irrelevance of the Palestinian Authority and made clear that it, and not PA head Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, is the face of Palestinian nationalism. By slamming hundreds of missiles in the last week into Israel it may have squandered part of the arsenal of more than 10,000 rockets it has amassed in the last four years and suffered a blow to its leadership. But it has also illustrated that the independent Palestinian state it has erected in Gaza is supported by the Arab and Muslim world and is, for all intents and purposes, invulnerable to international pressure or Israeli attacks. If that isn’t a victory for terrorism, I don’t know what else you could call it.
This video of the Israeli strike on Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari was temporarily removed from the IDF’s YouTube page this morning for supposedly violating its “terms of service.” A short time later, it was put back up. My multiple emails to YouTube’s press office have been ignored, but All Things Digital managed to get this email response from a spokesperson:
“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”
This shows just how worried anti-Israel activists are about the online response to Operation Pillar of Defense, by far Israel’s most muscular and carefully-honed social media effort yet. Enough Israel detractors “flagged” the YouTube video as “inappropriate” yesterday that YouTube put up a note warning viewers that the clip might be considered offensive.
That attempt to censor the video — as well as the IDF’s Twitter account and websites — is a sign of panic. Israel has finally found a way to circumvent the pernicious media bias that has always favored anti-Israel groups, and it has these groups terrified and scrambling.
Is this the future of warfare? While rockets continue falling across Israel, with air raid sirens being sounded in Tel Aviv for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, Israel is fighting back in more ways than one. Operation Pillar of Defense is ongoing, and now that citizens of Tel Aviv have found themselves in stairwells and basements, it is likely that the possibility of a ground invasion just increased exponentially. The second front in the offensive against Hamas’s aggression has formed on the web. This is the first time a war has been live-tweeted.
It began with an IDF tweet yesterday, soon after the targeted assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, the military commander of Hamas. The IDF’s official account tweeted:
We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.
To its credit, yesterday the State Department rightly declared that Hamas was responsible for the latest round of violence along the Gaza border and that Israel had the right to defend itself. Even the New York Timeseditorial page affirmed that Israel had that right this morning. But the Times, speaking as it does for liberal conventional wisdom, claimed that Israel’s government was wrong to exercise that right. Rather than taking out the head of the terrorist group’s military wing, it “could have responded as it usually has in recent years, avoiding high-profile assassinations while attacking rocket-launching squads, empty training sites and weapons manufacturing plants.” The Times also suggested Israel could have implored the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt to intervene on its behalf with its Hamas ally. It concluded by saying that an even better idea would have been to conduct peace negotiations with Hamas’s Fatah rivals.
This risible list of suggestions provides the background to the debate that will, no doubt, soon ensue as inevitably the discussion about what has happened begins to revolve around how zealously Israel should defend itself. Farcical stories, such as those claiming Hamas was willing to make peace or at least agree to a permanent cease-fire, and that this was only prevented by a cynical decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to launch a counter-attack, will be told and believed by those who always buy into the lies of the terrorists. It will be argued that Israel needn’t have treated the latest massive barrage of rockets on its southern region as a big deal. But all this will be merely a cover for what is really at stake: the right of the Jewish state to live in peace, irrespective of where its borders are drawn.
The problem with all of the helpful suggestions that Israel is getting this week is that these suggestions treat the basic premise of Hamas’s strategic plan as either normal or reasonable. What’s wrong with the calls for restraint or the barbed comments about better alternatives to retaliation is that they are based on the idea that Israel ought to be willing to tolerate a “normal” amount of terrorism emanating from Gaza.
In response to months of sustained Hamas rocket attacks, the IDF kicked off its Gaza military operation this morning by dropping a missile onto Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari’s car. From the Israel Defense Forces Twitter feed, a fair warning to any of the late Jabari’s comrades who may have been thinking about taking a drive later today:
We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.