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Archive for the ‘Knesset’ Category

Israel pretends to be a free country. However, it seems that when things get a little difficult, the authorities prefer to capitulate in the face of threats, rather than live up to their responsibilities.

Last week, Justice Eliezer Rivlin turned down Mazuz’s request to deny Baruch Marzel from officiating as chairman of the ballot committee in Um El-Fahem. Rivlin, head of the Central Elections Committee was exactly right when he said “it was the authorities’ job to keep the peace regardless of those present at the ballot boxes.”

In spite of this, the police decided they were not part of these authorities, those who have a responsibility to actively keep the peace, and Marzel was banned from entering a city in the State of Israel. Israel is now an independent state, but an Israeli citizen can be banned from traveling lawfully around his own country, because of views he harbors. If there is legitimate fear his appearance will cause riots – those who riot need to be arrested and brought to justice. Apparently not in Israel.

Arieh Eldad, National Union Knesset Member, went to Um El-Fahem, as Marzel’s replacement on the ballot committee. Yet, it seems that even an MK cannot be safe in Um El-Fahem, and he had to request a police escort, in order to leave the city safely.

The city’s leadership, however, responded in favor criminal activity, “they tricked us and brought in Eldad instead of Marzel,” said Apu Agbaria, a representative of Hadash. If you do not like what he has to say, or what he stands for – protest, vote, go on strike. Do not, however, try and claim that banning him from entering Um El-Fahem is, in any way, acceptable. If Ahmed Tibi were banned from entering Modi’in, for example, because of fear of rioters, what would the public’s reaction be?

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The Realist summarizes Cast Lead, and I agree with much of what he said, including his conclusions about what needs to be done next. He says that the political situation needs to be stabilized before we know what will happen, of course – but unfortunately I do not see a real routing of Hamas happening in any case, for the following reasons:

  1. Netanyahu, who at this point is still poised to take over, come February, must be examined based on his actual experience. People do not change very much – and he already is a known quantity. Though he may be the lesser of many evils, he is a politician in the full, pejorative sense of the word, who is simply on the other side of the map from other like-minded elected officials. (The one exception is his economic worldview, based on his education, which he actually carried out fairly well while serving as minister). In any case, I don’t see him carrying such an operation out – I see him selling everything wholesale – the only mitigating factor now is Benny Begin, who actually is a true ideologue.
  2. Such an operation would probably take months – complete elimination of Hamas would require a very thorough examination of every house, street, school, alley in the entire Gaza Strip – Israel does not have the luxury of such an undertaking, largely due to world opinion the modern nature of real time media reports.
  3. Another consideration is the Israeli leadership’s tendency to conform to the popular theory that only the Left can wage war and only the Right can make peace, which Bibi certainly practiced when he was in office.

He also mentions the problem of smuggling, and that it ” is going to be incredibly difficult to stop entirely.” I think the idea of building a moat along the Philadelphi corridor is a good start.

In the end, however, The Realist is correct – “There is ultimately no alternative… In the end they have to be bombed into destruction.” I just don’t see it happening anytime soon.

“At the slightest sign of a return to the status quo ante bellum, this needs to happen.  Otherwise all of this was for nothing.” True. How sad.

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Ynet reports: “Israel declares unilateral Gaza truce.” Wrong. A truce cannot be unilateral. A truce is agreed upon. This a capitulation, yet another mistake in a long line of errors, collectively known as Olmert’s policies.

Regardless of why this operation was initiated, or why now, Hamas is an enemy that doesn’t only need to be “hit hard.” It needs to go. That is not an easy undertaking, but it is necessary. Nevertheless, the Israeli government is cowering in the face of international opinion, instead of even completing the limited task they set out for the IDF: stopping the rockets. How does Hamas respond? In words – The victims of this war will be the basis for the continuation of the fighting and hostility vis-à-vis the Israeli side.” And in actions – only today, several more rockets were launched at Be’er Sheva.

Finally, a military operation was finally started, again (as in 2006), and again the IDF will cease its fire while Gilad Schalit is still held by the enemy. The reason for Cast Lead is the same as the reason for its end: politics. The troika (Olmert, Livni, Barak) do want to lose to the Likud next month, and after Hamas did not cease its murder attempts for the past few years, they thought they could gain popular support by appealing to what the public wants just before the elections. Nevertheless, their campaign failed. Labor did rise slightly in the polls, but Kadima stayed at more or less the same level, still trailing Likud.

If this is the end of Cast Lead then it is a failure. Yes, many battles were won. Yes, Hamas’ capabilities have been severely damaged, and numerous key figures have been eliminated. However, if they still refuse to surrender, if they still disparage Israel by declaring “if this is all the strength they have, they failed in defeating the Palestinian people,” then Israel cannot claim to be victorious.

This “truce” will only serve to hurt Israel in the future. It will cost more Israeli lives. There was no legitimate strategy, were no real aims, from the very beginning. Nor is there a legitimate strategy in endng now. This is all very disheartening.

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It appears my assertion regarding the government’s reasoning for Operation Cast Lead was correct. Now that Israel seems to be actually winning in Gaza, it seems like Livni and Barak are in favor of an early end to the operation.

Livni contends that continuing the offensive could harm the deterrence it has achieved so far and damage Israel diplomatically.” Has she not learned anything? Anything Israel does in self-defense will harm Israel’s diplomatic image. Furthermore, she is just throwing around the word “deterrence” for populist reasons. True deterrence will only be restored if Israel truly routs the enemy – if Israel forces a de facto surrender, if not on paper. Stopping now will grant Hamas bragging rights, which are worth a lot more in the Middle East than in kindergarten. Bragging rights practically determine who won and who lost, and Hezbollah has been bragging plenty since 2006.

One last point – Olmert is now against an early end to the operation, accurately stating that “stopping Operation Cast Lead now would be a missed opportunity.” I am really not sure what brought about this change in the outgoing PM. Is this an attempt at some sort of redemption? Can anyone shed some light on the topic?

I truly hope that Israel will not stop yet another operation halfway through. Unfortunately, history shows that the only way to truly gain respect in the Middle East is to be feared. Fear, as a result of a resounding victory. Israel has not won such a victory since 1973 (despite the initial stages of that war). Israel needs to win this war, and stopping it now is not the way to do it.

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Military and political aspects here, international opinion here, etymology of Cast Lead, and first, second, and third parts about the Arab World’s opinion.

I think an overview of the Israeli public’s reaction is necessary before contrasting it that with the rest of the Jewish world. By now, with regards to the public reaction, the two major stages of the operation should probably be looked at it differently. The first week, comprised solely of massive aerial strikes on hundreds of Hamas targets, was incredibly popular. Initial polls showed the operation was supported by 81% of the Israeli public. In fact, even before Cast Lead began, far-left Meretz called for an attack in Gaza, in a press release: “the time has come to act without compromises and without political considerations and to defend the residents of the Gaza area and Sderot.” (Hebrew)

Even the famous authors, Amos Oz and A.B. Yehoshua, bona fide members of the Israeli far-left, supported the start of this operation, though they called for “a cease-fire as quickly as possible. And finally, Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit has written a pretty good description of how Israelis feel about Cast Lead and what the sentiment is, with regards to Israelis who oppose it, calling them “Israel-hating Israelis,” saying that “[t]heir self-righteousness is not at all righteous, and their moralizing has no morality.”

Opponents of the operation, include, of course, Peace Now. But even they seem to base their calls for an immediate ceasefire on the initial results of the operation, calling on the government to take advantage of the message that has been sent to Hamas and to “cease fire now!” (Hebrew) This is similar to David Grossman’s piece in the NY Times, calling on the government to hold its fire, arguing strategy, not morals.

The part of the operation that began two days ago, on the ground, also enjoys widespread Israeli support, only a few days ago a poll showed 65% in favor, and 23% against. This poll can be miscontrued to believe that that Israelis who oppose this stage of the operation, oppose on moral grounds, and think it is wrong for Israel to harm Gazans in this way. Though there exists such a small minority, for the majority of this group, this is not the case. Most would probably say such an operation is simply not wise, because it will cost Israel too many lives, in return for very little. Even Meretz was careful in its wording. While they do not seem to fully support the operation any longer, the reasoning used is very important, “deepening the fighting endangers IDF soldiers and entangles Israel…” (Hebrew) In other words, the operation has not been deemed “unjust” by Meretz.

The opposition to fighting on the ground is, to a large extent, a result of the disaster that was the Second Lebanon War, and Shmuel Rosner does a good job of explaining these feelings. Ronen Shoval, writing in Ynet, also explains the moral quandary in which Israelis have found themselves. In addition to the over-cautiousness in dealing with Israel’s enemies at the expense of Israeli lives, over the years, IDF soldiers have become less of Israel’s army, and more “our children,” people that need to be protected, instead of those who protect us. Granted, IDF soldiers’ lives are very valuable, but “defense of soldiers’ lives, at the expense of placing Israeli civilians at risk” is a backwards rationale, and is indefensible from a moral standpoint. (from Hebrew)

Nevertheless, the ground operation is underway, and hopefully it will continure to be succesful, in the short run, as well as in the long run. With regards to Hamas, Israel’s neighbors, time and again, miscalculate the determination of Israelis to fight once a defensive operation is undertaken. The weakness perceived by the public’s reaction to kidnapping of soldiers leads them to anticipate, wrongly, that Israelis will prefer not to fight, and suffer under Hamas’ definition of “calm” or a “lull.”

NEXT: The Jewish world and its reaction.

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I’ve already commented briefly on Operation Cast Lead. Looking at the entire picture, though, there are four significant considerations. Here are the first two.

Military – The aerial campaign has been, thus far, a success, killing hundreds of Hamas members, including one very senior leader, and a relatively low number of civilian deaths. The big question now is what is the likelihood of a ground incursion, and how successful such an incursion will be – both in terms of Hamas’ condition post-incursion, and in terms of Israeli losses. Future success will be measured by the damage done to Hamas’ ability to continue to launch rockets at civilians. Such a victory is not yet imminent, and the campaign, whether aerial or on the ground, does seem to end anytime soon. Thorough military analysis of the operation is, unfortunately, beyond, my purview, and I am only able to analyze the operation in terms of reports of the degree to which Hamas has been harmed, and after the operation, reports on Hamas’ capabilities and the condition of the organization overall. Recent history has not inspired much confidence in me, as the last IDF operation that was even moderately successful in achieving its goals, was Defensive Shield in 2002.

Another military-legal consideration is the oft-used accusation that Israel is using “disproportional force.” This accusation is ridiculous. IAF has been targeting Hamas, not carpet-bombing Gaza, attacking the threat against Israel, making every effort to minimize civilian deaths. And the threat is precisely what needs to be measured when appraising the operation from a legal perspective. As Michael Walzer wrote in 2006, about the war at the time, “proportionality must be measured not only against what Hamas and Hezbollah have already done, but also against what they are (and what they say they are) trying to do.” In other words, Israel is right, insofar as it acts against the threat against it, not simply actions taken against it. As many others have pointed out already, a strict proportional response would be to “[launch] thousands of air strikes against targets in Gaza to match the thousands of Qassam rockets fired.” The problem is, that those who make this accusation do not have an issue with Israel’s proportionality – but with its success. For a more comprehensive analysis of the legality of Operation Cast Lead, read this from the JCPA.

Political – Israel has been blamed for planning such an attack for over 6 months, intending to attack at the slightest provocation when the “ceasefire” (tahadiyeh) would expire, and detractors are using this to portray Israel as anti-“ceasefire”, as an incredulous actor. I find this accusation unbelievable. Every prepared military in the world is prepared for military campaigns against its neighbors. To be unprepared would be wholly irresponsible.

Nevertheless, the question to be asked is why now? The campaign Israel is waging, while just, is confusing in its timing. Rocket attacks from Gaza are nothing new, and the Olmert administration has not done anything significant in the past, so why now? I take a view some would call cynical, and I believe the reason is that with elections in under two months, Barak and Kadima’s interests have merged. Up until recently, Likud was the clear front runner, and taking such a populist course of action would increase Kadima and Labor’s support.

This consideration is also important when examining the likelihood of the participation of  ground troops in Cast Lead. Such an operation would almost certainly cost the lives of Israeli soldiers, and would therefore present a political risk for the government. I am not suggesting the administration does not care about soldiers’ lives, only that the government’s moves over the past few years shows that their view is heavily clouded by political considerations.

NEXT: The Western, Arab and Jewish Worlds’ Opinions

UPDATE: Latest poll (Hebrew) shows Labor gains 5 seats since start of operation, Kadima hovers around the same figure, and Likud, surprisingly, gains two seats.

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The Likud’s newest star, Moshe Ya’alon, has recently made headlines for acknowledging the truth in Tzipi Livni statement regarding Gilad Schalit. Livni, largely criticized for remarking that Schalit’s release is not a certainty, received some unexpected support from the former Chief of Staff, who said, “The expression, ‘at any price’ is not appropriate.”

As much as I disagree with Livni on countless other issues, here she is right. This is not to say that the motto of “leave no man [or woman] behind” should be abandoned. Israel must do everything in its power to secure the release of its prisoners. That being said, Israel’s policy of negotiation with enemies, leading to the release of terrorists, is  foolhardy at best. As Ya’alon said, “We have brought ourselves to a point where it’s worthwhile [for the enemy] to kidnap soldiers.” Such a situation is untenable.

What should be done? First, a firm policy of not negotiating with terrorists should be adopted. If Israel refuses to negotiate, then it will not be worthwhile for Hamas, et al, to put so much time and effort into kidnapping just one person. Granted, public opinion is not in favor of such a policy, but that is precisely why such a strategy is so important. The very reason kidnapping Israelis is such a lucrative venture is the strong public pressure that ensues to liberate the kidnapped by giving in to the terrorists’ demands. This only serves to embolden them further, to attempt additional kidnappings.

Nevertheless, Israel cannot leave its soldiers behind. While all IDF soldiers do, in effect, sign away their lives upon conscription, I am in no way advocating a cavalier approach to dealing with their lives. As risky as such undertakings are, Israel must make use of its military force in order to free Gilad Schalit, and any other Israeli soldier kidnapped by its enemies. Military rescue operations are necessary in order to liberate Israeli prisoners. Yes, sometimes such operations do not achieve the intended result (see: Nachshon Waxman). However, we cannot afford the alternative – a policy that does nothing to solve the real problem. A real solution is needed, not a case-by-case approach, merely treating a symptom, allowing the disease to spread.

I am aware that none of Gilad Schalit’s loved ones would like to see Israel boycotting neogotiations for his release. I have no answer for them, for theirs is truly an emotional appeal, and I do not portend to understand (nor want to) how they feel. However, if Israel wants these kidnappings (and the endless kidnapping attempts) to end, a quick 180 is needed, and fast.

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