An already dark Israeli predicament in Gaza looks even darker by the moment. Israeli hawks are pressing for an all-out assault on Gaza to root out the last vestiges of Hamas resistance (as if this were possible). In a comment earlier today, reader American Goy links to this Scotsman article about preparations for all-out war against Hamas in Gaza. It won’t be like the Lebanon invasion they claim. This time we won’t make the mistake of relying on air power. We’ll go in with guns blazing and take out every last one of the mother-f(#*ers who stands in our way. This is of course a recipe for disaster. The only question being whether it will be a minor disaster or full-out catastrophe of Lebanon proportions.
The reason why this fatally flawed option is so attractive to so many in Israel is that the U.S., Quartet and EU are complaining ever louder that the current siege isn’t working. In addition, today’s N.Y. Times notes that the Arab states are now making rumblings of withdrawing the 2002 Saudi peace initiative from the table if Israel isn’t ready to grasp it wholeheartedly:
Arab leaders will threaten to rescind their offer of full relations with Israel in exchange for a complete Israeli withdrawal from occupied lands unless Israel gives a positive response to their initiative, indicating the Arab states’ growing disillusionment with the prospects of a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
At an Arab League meeting next month in Syria, the leaders are planning to reiterate support for their initiative, first issued in 2002…
But this time, “there will be a message to Israel emphasizing the need to respond to the initiative; otherwise, Arab states will reassess the previous stage of peace,” said Muhammad Sobeih, assistant secretary general of the Arab League in charge of the Palestinian issue. “They will withdraw the initiative and look for other options. It makes no sense to insist on something that Israel is rejecting.”
Such a development would signal throwing in the towel to the idea of a two-state solution. Some of these states may not have been overjoyed with a two-state idea in the first place, but they were willing to settle for it if it brought the region the stability that was needed to preserve their regimes and promote economic development.
I don’t know what Ehud Olmert thinks of all this bad news. But if I were him (thank God I’m not) I’d be very worried. Signs are he doesn’t share my worry because just yesterday he assured his Shas coalition partners, who threatened to bolt the coalition at the first sign of wavering on the status of Jerusalem, that the PA had agreed to put off Jerusalem till the end of the negotiations–a claim immediately denied by the Palestinian side. Olmert may be worried, but if so he’s worried about the wrong things. Instead of worrying about losing a fickle coalition partner who could easily be replaced by drawing Meretz into the coalition, he should be worrying about far more powerful external forces that are arrayed in opposition to Israeli policy.
This Haaretz story speaks vaguely about U.S. “concern” over the “humanitarian situation” in Gaza:
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will meet with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice while both are in Japan next week. The meeting was requested by Rice. It is particularly surprising because Rice is due to come to Jerusalem for a working visit the following week.
Government officials predicted that the meeting would focus on the situation in the Gaza Strip, and said that Rice probably wanted to express her concern over the humanitarian situation there.
…Haaretz has reported that the U.S. — like its fellow members of the Quartet, the EU, UN and Russia — is increasingly unhappy with Israel’s policies in Gaza. Rice’s deputy, David Welch, even told the last Quartet meeting that the U.S. “is not comfortable” with Israel’s operations in Gaza.
But I strongly suspect that the U.S. is convinced there will be a major invasion, and doesn’t believe it can end any better than the Lebanon war did. So the “concern” is likely to be a dire warning or even putting the kibosh on the entire military operation.
But where does that leave Israel and the poor souls under the rocket path in Sderot? Nowhere good. It takes you back to the place Israel refuses to go–which is a negotiated ceasefire with Hamas. Tzipi Livni is usually one of the more pragmatic, level-headed figures of this government. If there was any chance of this option being seriously considered by policymakers you’d expect her to be touting it. But even she’s lost her bearings in the current policy morass with outlandish statements like this:
“Europe must understand that Hamas is not an organization that is interested in setting up a Palestinian state,” she told her Romanian counterpart. “It is not seeking rights for the Palestinians; it wants to deprive others of their rights.”
“All indirect support for Hamas, even via discussions about opening the [border] crossings or about the humanitarian situation, only weakens those parties that are interested in reaching a [diplomatic] agreement,” she said. “The Palestinian people has no future with Hamas, and Israel will continue to fight the terror that Hamas perpetrates.”
At her meeting with [EU envoy] Otte, Livni was even blunter. “Israel wants to advance the diplomatic process, but we cannot allow ourselves to close our eyes to the difficult reality of terror in Gaza,” she said. “The international community’s desire to see a change on the ground sometimes leads it to ignore the reality and is liable to [lead it to] push for compromises that those who live here cannot permit themselves. Europe ought to understand that it is either Hamas or the moderates.”
Everything I’ve written above presumes that Condi Rice has a clear-eyed view of what lies ahead if Israel invades and wishes to avert it. That’s an awfully big presumption considering how awfully she performed during the Lebanon war. But who knows–maybe she’s learned a lesson. Dare we hope?