Friday, 16 November 2012

ISRAEL: '' Operation Pillar of Defense'': B. Netanyahu's electoral and political agenda

Israel's "Pillar of Defense" operation is underway in Gaza amid the biggest flare-up in Israeli-Palestinian violence in four years. Israel launched the operation in response to days of rocket fire out of the Hamas-led Gaza Strip, kicking it off on Wednesday with more than 50 airstrikes and the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, Hamas' top military commander.

On Thursday, Palestinian militants responded by launching nearly 150 more rockets into Israel, killing three people and firing into the Tel Aviv area. Late in the day, ground troops were massing near the border, and the government suggested that it was considering a ground invasion. This would mark a clear escalation of the conflict, which has reportedly already left at least 22 Palestinians and three Israelis killed and nearly 200 wounded in its first three days.

The Israeli offensive is fraught with political risks. Israel could have counted on Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's former leader, not to intervene in a conflict in the neighboring country. But now Mohammad Morsi, a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, has moved into the presidential palace in Cairo. He may come out in support of Hamas, which shares roots with the Muslim Brotherhood. He will also have to take into account all the people demonstrating against the Israeli offensive on Gaza in the mosques and on the streets

On Friday, thousands across Egypt demonstrated against Israel's attacks. Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi denounced the attacks as "blatant aggression against humanity" and said Cairo "would not leave Gaza on its own,". Likewise, Egyptian Prime Minister Hesaham Kandil was in Gaza City as a sign of solidarity, where he toured a hospital and condemned Israel's actions.

The conflict poses a test of Mursi's commitment to Egypt 1979 peace treaty with Israel, which the West views as the bedrock of Middle East peace. The Muslim brotherhood, which brought him to power in an election after the downfall of pro-Western Hosni Mubarak, has called for a ''Day of Rage'' in Arab capitals.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu primarily launched the offensive in order to bolster support for his Likud party in advance of the parliamentary election scheduled for January 22. There are concerns that the fighting could threaten peace between Israel and Egypt and foster even more instability in the Middle East.

It's easy to have sympathy for the fact that no one in Israel is mourning Ahmed Jabari. The murdered de facto commander of Hamas' military wing taught his enemies the meaning of fear.
Targeted assassinations violate international law. Nonetheless, on the domestic political stage, there is much to be gained from the death of Israeli's archenemy…. But the attack on Ahmed Jabari led to an immediate escalation of the conflict and is strategically counterproductive for a government that wants to protect its people.

Israel has also paid a high price on the diplomatic level. Egypt has already recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv. The government in Cairo, which is trying to mediate between the two fronts, is angry…. But as terrible as the consequences of Jabari's assassination might prove to be for Israel, the pay-off for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will come in the elections in two months' time.

Going beyond justified Israeli security interests, the 'Pillar of Defense' operation is a targeted attack on Hamas. The question is what Israel hopes it will achieve right now…. Its current heavy-handedness has primarily one purpose: There is an election campaign underway in Israel.

The government in Jerusalem has made it clear that it will not shy away from a ground offensive if need be … but the only clear purpose of such a brutal mission would be to put a permanent end to Hamas. However, it's far too late for that. In contrast to the last war (in December 2008), Hamas now has Egypt's leadership behind it. So the attack on Gaza automatically carries a risk of regional spillover. As targeted as the launch of this military operation might have been, its continuation has already veered out of control.

War is good for a hard-liner like Benjamin Netanyahu. Even a modest military engagement can win him votes…. When it comes to taking a tough, if not brutal course of action against the Palestinians, the Israelis have more faith in Netanyahu than in any of his rivals.

In this respect, it isn't surprising that he should emphasize this quality by bombing the Gaza Strip again in the run-up to the coming election and ordering the murder of a senior Hamas leader. He sees civilian victims and international law as arguments for rather than obstacles to his re-election.

Netanyahu and his collation partners are equally indifferent to the fact that the military strikes weaken Hamas at a time when it is gradually becoming more moderate, thereby paving the way for even more radical groups affiliated with al-Qaida.

In fact, this benefits Netanyahu because any new outbreaks of terror provide him with more reasons to oppose an independent Palestinian state. However, his policy is highly dangerous for Israel, the Palestinians and, indeed, the entire region, which is regrouping in the wake of the Arab Spring. It could damage relations between the Arab and Western worlds for decades to come.

Benjamin Netanyahu has politically calculated the timing of the Israeli attacks on Gaza Strip. By attacking Gaza strip, Benjamin Netanyahu hopes also to amount pressure to the International Community to stop the Palestinians'efforts at the United Nations to obtain a General Assembly vote at the end of the month granting observer status to the Palestinian territories, including the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East Jerusalem.

This political calculation of Benjamin Netanyahu is nothing more than just '' a slap in the face of peace talkk between '' Israel and Palestine. These attacks on Gaza Strip would at the end the day do more harm than good,

Just as in late 2008, Israel's demands that Hamas and other militants stop firing rockets at southern towns appeared to be being ignored, and the fire was increasing.
The last Gaza war, involving a three-week long Israeli air blitz and ground invasion over the New Year period of 2008-2009, left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, mostly civilian, and killed 13 Israelis....but  no progress whatsoever in peace talks.

By Guylain Gustave Moke
Political Analyst/Writer
Investigative Journalist

Photos: Dead-Civilian in Gaza Strip, photo AFP
             Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister, Wikip├ędia.