Yossi Sarid, despite his political longevity has lost none of his political acuity as demonstrated by this column in today’s Haaretz. He echoes a number of my own criticisms of the Gaza invasion in this caustic cry of outrage:
By the time operation Summer Rains ends, the reason for it will have been completely forgotten. The longer the operation goes on, the more removed it becomes from its original purpose – to rescue Corporal Gilad Shalit. Now they are already talking about “a new order” or about “changing the strategic situation” or about “rehabilitating our deterrent power,” and it is impossible not to recall with horror the “new order” in Lebanon 24 years ago: Ariel Sharon, may sleep be lifted from your eyelids – you have successors worthy of your name.
And as in the Lebanon War, so in the Gaza war, the aims change on a daily basis. That is what happens when the war has no clear political aim in the first place, and at the moment it is designed to save Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Defense Minister Amir Peretz and Chief of Staff Dan Halutz. The “new order” in the territories will look like the new order in Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia, and “rehabilitated deterrent power” will look like it does in North Korea and Iran.
Not only do the aims change constantly according to the mood at breakfast time, so do the “red lines”: another red line is erased and already the new line becomes apparent, and immediately the old one is replaced by the new. Perhaps the defense minister has not noticed that the line was recently crossed on the threshold of his home: Qassam rockets on Sderot and Ashkelon are terror; shells on Beit Hanun and Beit Lahiya are terror; leaflets from heaven, which are meant to scare entire families and make them flee, are also terror. The attack on an IDF outpost is not terror, it is war.
The U.S. government continues its powder-puff diplomacy regarding this crisis. Statements emanating from State Department spokespeople aren’t even full of sound and fury–they’re merely mealy-mouthed. But they do indeed signify almost nothing:
The State Department expressed concern Friday with the loss of life in the operation and urged the Israeli government to make sure innocent civilians were not hurt and the Palestinians’ day-to-day lives were not impaired.
At the same time, the department called for the immediate and unconditional release of Shalit, and said the hostage-taking by Hamas “continues to place innocent Palestinians in harm’s way.”
“There is no question that Israel has a right to defend itself and the lives of its citizens,” said spokeswoman Julie Reside. “But we also urge the Israeli government to ensure that innocent civilians are not harmed, to exercise restraint and to refrain from adversely affecting the Palestinian humanitarian situation.”
“We are concerned about the reports of violence and the loss of innocent life,” Reside said.
They’re asking Israel to “refrain from adversely affecting the Palestinian humanitarian situation???” Where have they been since the Hamas election victory last January, after which Israel initiated a full-on blockade of Gaza causing immense human suffering? And what do they think this invasion is doing to the “humanitarian situation” in Gaza? Does terrifying 20,000 northern Gazans into fleeing their homes through statements implying that their lives will be in danger if they remain constitute “refraining from adversely affecting the humanitarian situation?”
If this wasn’t so deadly serious our rhetoric would be comic. It’s just so vacuous, so banal, and so completely unconvincing. It’s like we’re just going through the paces. Compare this to Eisenhower’s ultimatum to Israel after the 1956 war; or Richard Nixon’s airlift to resupply Israel during the 1973 War; or Jimmy Carter’s efforts to negotiate peace between Egypt and Israel; or Clinton’s vigorous, but unsuccessful efforts to negotiate peace between Israel and the Palestinians. That was leadership. That was something to be proud of. What we are getting from this Administration is pathetic.