Sunday, August 28, 2011

Waiting game

Israel is between a rock and a hard place when it comes to Gaza. The major attack last week in which 8 Israelis were ambushed and killed on the road to Eilat was perpetrated by the Gaza Popular Resistance Committees (PRC) that are an ally of Hamas. That night the IAF hit specific targets in Gaza and killed the two main leaders of the PRC. So there is a distinct difference between Palestinian and Israeli tactics, the Palestinians kill civilians randomly while Israel targets the perpetrators very precisely. I like to point out these differences so that people know that the two sides are not morally equivalent.

But, then a barrage of 120 rockets were fired at Israel in a week, and Israel had to respond. The terrorist groups in Gaza keep firing rockets into southern Israel, while Hamas denies that it is their responsibility. Since the Islamic Jihad announced that it did not respect the informal ceasefire mediated by Egypt, the IAF then hit several IJ sites and killed at least two firing squads, including a pinpoint strike on a team on a motorbike. One of the leaders of IJ was also killed. They vowed revenge and continued firing rockets after the ceasefire was supposed to go into effect. So another ceasefire was mediated, but that too was broken. Although several rockets hit Beersheba, where our daughter and family live, and one man was killed and several people injured, the Iron Dome anti-missile system worked and took out two Grad rockets before they could hit Beersheba again (even though there are only two partial systems deployed). It is certainly better to have a defensive shield, however expensive, than go to a ground war, that would cost a lot more and take many lives. But, for how long can the Israeli Government sustain allowing its territory being targeted and its citizen's lives endangered.

The Netanyahu Government is inclined to attack Gaza and remove the firing of rockets at its source. But, its hand are tied right now because the Palestine Authority (PA) in an unstable union with Gaza is about to go to the UN and request unilateral recognition of its Statehood, that is a potential game-changer. The Israeli Government wants to wait and see how things will develop after that, rather than being caught up in a ground war, however justified, that would certainly unleash negative opinions around the world at the same time. So we are waiting.

There is no doubt that the PA will get the votes it needs in the General Assembly, but not in the Security Council. That leaves the matter unresolved and it could be interpreted both ways. No doubt the PA will interpret it to mean that their State is recognized, but the question is what will they do about it. Will they also unleash violence against Israel, will they use large crowds to try to overwhelm the IDF defences, will the terrorists in Gaza unleash another barrage of long-range rockets? If that is the case, then there will be another ground war and Israel will unilaterally annex territories that it considers its own. So we are in a waiting mode and meanwhile the Government can only make tactical responses to the current situation. That is why FM Barak is ready to apologise to Egypt for the killing of 5 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai, even though they were probably killed in a firefight with the terrorists. We must bite our tongues until the moment of clarity arrives.


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