Sheera Frenkel reports in the Times of London that a senior IDF officer told her the army has been moved to its “highest state of readiness.” In IDF jargon, this is called P+1, which means the entire army must be ready for combat on one hour’s notice. Israel will not invade Gaza during Shabbat (too many religious-settler soldiers who are observant). That means the invasion could begin as early as Saturday night, Israel time, less than 24 hours from now. Cast Lead also started at the end of Shabbat, January 3, 2009.
Haaretz reports that the Israeli cabinet is considering calling up as many as 75,000 reservists, which is a massive mobilization many times larger than the call-up for Cast Lead. Even if you discount this report as psy-ops on the part of Israel against Hamas, it appears that Netanyahu wants a massive display of force. Though it could mean he intends to re-occupy Gaza, I strongly doubt that’s his intent. It would bring massive international opprobrium, which isn’t what he wants in the run-up to elections.
My sense (wholly personal and not based on specific knowledge) is that Bibi and Barak plan for this to be a two to three-week military exercise. I can’t believe they’d want it to fester longer than that because that would put in major dent in the feel-good atmosphere he’d like to engender in the late-January election period. That still gives plenty of time for the IDF to collect its scalps, which can be prominently displayed before the Israeli public, thus giving Bibi his own personal war on which he can proudly campaign.
The death toll has risen to 35 in Gaza. There were no Israeli deaths today.
I was gratified to see Egypt’s prime minister visiting Gaza today. It was a gutsy move by Pres. Morsi. I think Israel can expect more of this if/when it invades. Tunisia’s foreign minister is due later today there. I would love to see Turkey’s foreign minister visiting Gaza as well. Erdogan promised to visit. There couldn’t be a better time. In fact, if a different foreign minister scheduled a visit every day, it might make it considerably harder for the IDF to massacre Gazan civilians. Another visit from the emir of Qatar would be great right around now. How about one of those chubby Saudi crown princes? Get out of the Lamborghinis and put yourself on the line for your fellow Muslims for a change.
Many have taken to calling this Cast Lead II, but I think that’s wrong. A lot has changed since 2009: the Arab Spring. Egypt is governed by the Muslim Brotherhood. That is why the visit earlier today of the Egyptian prime minister to Gaza, even though symbolic, was a major piece of theater.
Turkey has become hostile to Israel since the Mavi Marmara massacre. Ironically, Turkey was in the process of mediating a possible peace agreement between Syria and Israel when Olmert chose, instead, to begin one of his two wars. Erdogan’s goverment has offered once again to mediate the current conflict. This has to be in part intended to needle Netanyahu, who the Turkish leader knows wants nothing of a ceasefire nor of anything to do with Turkey.
Another difference: Obama is now president instead of president-elect. Not that this means much. But one thing it does mean is this is Obama’s problem, not one he can slough off as he did in 2009 when he responded by saying he wasn’t president and therefore couldn’t do anything to stop the killing. Now he can. If he doesn’t, it will reflect upon him as president.
Rep. Keith Ellison, one of two Muslim members of Congress, called for “restraint” and a “reduction in hostilities.” Not sure why he couldn’t say the “C” word (ceasefire) but it’s a helluva lot better than any other U.S. politician, that’s for sure. The only Jewish Israeli politician who’s explicitly opposed the war is Hadash’s Dov Kheinin, who spoke eloquently at last night’s anti-war rally in Tel Aviv. He was joined at the rally by Meretz’s Nitzan Horowitz. As a party, Meretz is definitely about to take a strong position in favor of saying sometime in the very near future they’ll take a definite position on the war, one way or the other.
Iran also looms as another potential military threat. No doubt Netanyahu may be viewing Operation Pillar of Sand, er Smoke as a warm-up for the next really big battle, over the skies of Teheran. But I wonder how many threats Israel can balance before it picks one fight too many.
Israel no longer rules supreme in the region. It has competitors, both politically and militarily. It’s dominance is still not seriously shaken, but the IDF’s swagger has been diminished by its performance in previous engagements with Hezbollah and Hamas.
All this bodes for a shorter, more confined conflict. I could be wrong. I’ve learned never to underestimate the will to mayhem of Israeli leaders.
While I’ve taken to calling Netanyahu and the Likud the permanent right-wing majority, I’m now calling Israel the permanent war state. The Middle East’s Sparta. As I wrote yesterday, Israel’s government does not want peace. It wants chaos among its perceived enemies. The only way to achieve that is to start a war every few years. Lately, the rate of conflict has been about every three years (2006, 2009, 2012), which has picked up considerably from decades ago when war’s tended to average once a decade or so (1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, 1982).
I have just created a new Facebook group: No to Gaza War. If you belong to Facebook, please join and suggest friends and allies do as well.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.