March 1, 2008: Escalation

The scenario that is now unfolding was fairly inevitable, I believe.

The whole notion of "negotiating" with Abbas , who nominally represents only the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria, while Hamas is in charge in Gaza, was fairly ridiculous. Abbas can neither speak for nor control what Hamas does. But he is bound both by his own terrorist predilection and by his own weakness not to cross Hamas. Abbas really approves of Hamas goals, even though he prefers different tactics. (His rare and muted criticism of Hamas today was that "It is in the interest of the Palestinian people not to give Israel any pretext to continue its aggressions.") Abbas also knows he would be out on his ear, or worse, if he openly criticized Hamas or supported Israel’s right to self-defense. Support the "enemy" in actions against one’s brothers (who just happen to be terrorists)? Impossible. Which fact is one of the best arguments (there are so many) for NOT relying on Abbas as a moderate who can negotiate peace.

The Israeli government, however , supported by an equally out-of-touch American government, has continued to proceed as if this negotiation were the path to "peace." But Hamas, of course, is part of the equation, and cannot be discounted: Hamas is the spoiler. Just the other day, Tzipi Livni made some inane statement about how stopping the "peace process" would be a victory for Hamas. She’s correct, in the sense that Hamas doesn’t want a "peace process" to succeed. But the bottom line is that the Palestinians, as a people (if such a people even exists) has to show a readiness for peace, and at present that is not the case.


And so, this is where we are as I write tonight (with undoubtedly much to follow):

Approximately 45 rockets have hit Israel today . There are Kassams aimed at Sderot, but also Grad-type Katyushas — a much more serious weapon — being aimed at Ashkelon now. At least six people, including two children, have been injured.


In response to this, the IDF launched an operation in which 47 Palestinians have been killed and many others wounded.

As is fairly inevitable, there have been some Palestinian civilian deaths reported. Israel is clear about the fact that we are only attacking rocket-launching operations, but there is the perennial problem of the terrorists operating from civilian areas. And then we have situations such as the one in which it was claimed that we killed a baby, but, according to AP, local residents said the baby was killed when one of the rockets launched at Israel fell short and landed on the baby’s house.

Sadly, two of our boys — St.-Sgt. Maj. Doron Asulin, 20, and St.-Sgt. Maj. Eran Dan-Gur, 20, both from the Givati Brigade’s reconnaissance battalion — were killed, and five others wounded.


The Palestinian response has proceeded thus:

Earlier today, according to reports, Ahmed Qurie, head of the PA negotiating team, said, "What is happening in Gaza is a massacre of civilians, women and children, a collective killing, genocide. We can’t bear what the Israelis are doing, and what the Israelis are doing doesn’t [give] the peace process any credibility." He advanced the possibility that peace talks might be called off.

Abbas said that the Israeli action is "worse than the Holocaust."

According to a Haaretz report, Qurie tonight notified Tzipi Livni, his Israeli counterpart in negotiations, that it was halting peace talks. Whether this is serious and permanent, a temporary stance, or a ploy (a threat aimed at controlling us), I cannot say. But if we escalate our operations in Gaza — as is exceedingly likely — the Palestinians will not return to the table.


The immediate Israeli response has been appropriate.

As the threat of PA withdrawal from the talks was made, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel stated that as far as Israel was concerned, the talks were "based on the understanding that when advancing the peace process with pragmatic sources [Fatah], Israel will continue to fight terror that hurts its people."

Livni then reiterated this stance, saying : "Even if the Palestinians suspend talks, it won’t influence in any way the decisions or operations Israel carries out to defend its citizens. From the beginning this was the basis of talks with the moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority."

Of course, I don’t for a moment buy this as having been the basis of talks, because, maddeningly, our government officials for a long time have been looking over their shoulders at the negotiations as they decided how to respond to Hamas violence. They repeatedly tempered our response out of fear of "ruining negotiations" (and of fear, as well, of how the US would react). But finally Hamas has gone too far, and pressure from an infuriated populace has grown too great.

Meanwhile, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna’i has told Army Radio that Israel had "no other choice" but to launch a massive military operation in Gaza. "We will use all our strength in every way we deem appropriate, whether in air strikes or on the ground."


And so, the reality of that major ground operation looms greater each moment.

But we are going to face enormous international pressure as we proceed. Already there is condemnation by Jordan and Egypt and we are being accused of spoiling the peace. I don’t anticipate a good word from the EU. Abbas is talking about going to the Security Council.

And the US? Remember Rice was supposed to be coming here this week to help the "peace process" move ahead. What now? Won’t Rice, for all her lip service to our right to defend ourselves, be pushing with all of her strength to get us to cool it?

Dear G-d, give those making the decisions here , in the face of all of this, the courage necessary to act! We must defy the world to protect our own. Ultimately not only does this ability to act protect our own and enhance our deterrence power, it is the best way to secure international respect.

As we do act, we must be mindful, always, that this war will be fought not only militarily, but in the press and via public opinion. Strong defenses (better, offenses) must be mounted in all quarters.