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The Inevitable War?

Monday 5 January 2009, by Abu Yusef

Yesterday, news agencies world-wide were waiting with baited breath. ‘Will Israel invade the Gaza Strip?’ they asked, ‘or will the government consider a brief ceasefire?’

Personally, I am not sure what the difference is between an invasion or a brief ceasefire followed by an invasion. It sounded more like a matter of ‘when’, rather than ‘if’.

The clues have been quite clear to predict to ground invasion that has begun yesterday:

The calling up of 9000 reservists; The troop and artillery build-up on the border; The arrival of artillery; The clearing of the crossing points into the strip; The evacuation of foreigners; The insistent Israeli refusal for a ceasefire;

Is it all Brinksmanship?
Some would ask whether these moves are simply political brinksmanship by the Israeli leadership. They ask whether Israel might only be pushing the speculation of invasion to the brink, before pulling back under international pressure and reengaging in a ceasefire.

It is a fair question and points out a very shrewd political tactic available to Israel. It would manage, in some small way, to make Israel look merciful, and perhaps even whitewash the horrible crimes of their ongoing air strike in the minds of the international community.

While we all focus on the impending carnage of the invasion, we forget that day after day, the Strip is slammed by ton after ton of bombs.

When the invasion does not happen, rather than being horrified by the airstrike, the world will be relieved by what has been avoided’.

I certainly do hope that what is occurring is only a matter of disgusting political calculation and not the preparation for what will surely be a slaughter of epic proportions. I do not however believe that it is.

What may have begun as an act of political brinksmanship, has become an inevitable march toward war.

Here’s why:
1. Political electioneering
Though the American media and policy makers have failed to mention how the attack is timed to coincide with the Israeli elections, any keen Israeli or Palestinian observer knows that this is a fallacy.

From the outset, this was clearly an attempt by Kadima and Labor to prove their ‘toughness’ to the voters in the face of Likud’s rapid rise. The aerial attack has greatly boosted Defense Minister Barak’s numbers in the poles, and it seems unlikely that he would be willing to pull back at the expense of these gains.

2. Hamas is not undermined militarily
Besides retaining full control of the Gaza Strip, Hamas’ military strength and rocket firing capabilities do not seem to have been undermined in any real way. The objectives of Israel’s assault – as ambiguous as they are – have not been achieved.

Whether the goal is to ‘eliminate the threat of Hamas’ rockets’ or to ‘eliminate Hamas itself’, there has been no success despite the week long massacre.

3. Hamas has benefited from Israeli belligerency
If Israel was aiming to undermine Hamas’ popularity in Palestine or throughout the region, they have failed. Instead of marginalizing the movement, Israel’s assault has victimized them.

Rallies are ongoing worldwide in support of the besieged and bombed Gaza Strip. Hamas is being praised for their staunch resolution and resistance in the face of an overwhelmingly disproportionate response.

The ground invasion of the Strip will be bloody and long. More Palestinian casualties will heighten international solidarity for the people of Gaza, and thereby Hamas’ standing in the Arab world. If they are able to wear down the Israeli public’s appetite for war and destruction, then they will be credited with ‘winning the war’ in the same way that Hizbollah was in 2006. There is no more impetus amongst the Hamas leadership to end hostilities than there is amongst Israeli leaders.

4. Political ambiguity leads to military empowerment
Perhaps the scariest part of the last week has been the utter ambiguity of Israel’s aims. Israeli leaders and spokespeople have been unwilling to outline what it means to achieve success, or when they will stop the violence.

The unwillingness of the Israeli politicians comes from the electoral pressure they are facing, the growing condemnation of their actions by the international community, and the overall lack of political planning to match with the intensive military design which preceded the attack.

Each day that Israel refuses to outline their plan, and each time they refer to the ‘commanders on the ground’, these commanders are empowered. It is these commanders who will ultimately make the decision to go or not if one does not come soon from the political leadership.

The ball is rolling and the momentum for war in Israeli is high. It is my hope that it can be stopped; but hope alone will not save lives.

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