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calendar   Sunday - December 28, 2008

Analysis: Israeli politics lies behind Gaza attacks .  Interesting and worth the read.

My final post for the night and will leave you with this. With no comments from me.

The people of Sderot, a small town in southern Israel a few miles from the Gaza Strip, have 15 seconds to take cover whenever the wail of sirens gives warning of another rocket attack.

By David Blair,
Diplomatic Editor
Last Updated: 5:08PM GMT 28 Dec 2008

For almost five years, this has been their daily ordeal and Sderot’s bus stops have been specially reinforced to serve as armoured shelters from the regular salvoes fired out of Gaza.

With a general election due on Feb 10, no Israeli government could afford to appear indifferent to this threat, especially as Palestinian fighters are deploying rockets with longer ranges and heavier warheads, with some weapons capable of hitting the port of Ashdod 20 miles from Gaza. In all, some 500,000 Israelis live within range of Gaza’s rockets.

The political imperative to act undoubtedly lay behind Israel’s decision to launch the attack. It will have weighed most heavily on the minds of Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister and leader of the centrist Kadima party, and Ehud Barak, the defence minister and leader of the Labour party.

Both will be fighting the election against Benjamin Netanyahu, the former prime minister from the right-wing Likud party. As they enter this contest, neither can afford to appear anything but hawkish.

Yet the scale of the response exposes Israel to international criticism. Almost 300 Palestinians have been killed in the last two days alone. By contrast, rockets fired from Gaza have killed 17 Israeli civilians in the last seven years.

Since Israel completed its withdrawal from Gaza in September 2005, about 150 Palestinians have been killed by its security forces in the territory for every dead Israeli civilian. Faced with this astonishing ratio, Israel’s government will find it extremely hard to argue that its response has been proportionate.

Moreover, the subtext to the operation in Gaza is a failure of policy on both sides. Since Hamas seized control of the territory in June 2007, its only tactic has been to fire rockets at southern Israel, thereby provoking a draconian – and predictable – response.

Meanwhile, Israel has blockaded Gaza of all but essential humanitarian supplies and launched regular military raids. On the rare occasions when the territory’s border posts have been open, Palestinian fighters have occasionally attacked them, forcing their closure and maximising Gaza’s isolation and the ordeal of its people.

Its 1.5 million inhabitants are effectively prisoners. This cycle of attack, retaliation and more attack has achieved nothing save inflict suffering on both sides.

Last year, a truce arranged by neighbouring Egypt brought a measure of calm. That has now collapsed amid recriminations over who was to blame.

Israeli forces killed three Palestinian fighters and destroyed a tunnel linking Gaza with Egypt during an operation in November. A barrage of rockets fired at Israeli towns was the response, with 70 being launched last Wednesday alone.

The only hope lies in restoring the ceasefire. But any political progress will have to await the outcome of Israel’s election. In the meantime, the military campaign goes on.

ANALYSIS


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Posted by peiper   United Kingdom  on 12/28/2008 at 02:45 PM   
Filed Under: • Miscellaneous •  
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