Rockets In Gaza

Posted by Alan Gillis | 1/02/2009 06:18:00 PM | , , , , , , , , | 0 comments »

If there was any hope for stability in the Middle East, it rested on an Israeli-Palestinian peace. After 7 days of air strikes on Gaza by Israel to knock out Hamas, the solution looks more and more like war. With no other country willing to step in forcefully and the UN still arguing about the wording of a draft resolution, the Palestinians are on their own. Israel will do what's best for Israel and the Palestinians will bleed a little more, a lot more if the Israeli Army poised for an invasion of Gaza moves in. See the interactive AP map.

The U.S. could stop the war, simply through diplomatic pressure on Israel who really owes its existence to U.S. support. Why the U.S. won't is rather a mystery, but then Bush is still President and Condoleezza Rice says she's trying, under the calm skies of Washington. Basically in her view, it's all Hamas's fault. But Rice didn't say that not even in so many words. The drift is there in what she did say on camera today plus you get something more from what she didn't say. Here's Rice unedited on AP Video. Ahh the art of diplomacy like fine wine, while war rages on. Hopefully Obama will reconsider U.S. policy and really push for a ceasefire. With the conflict escalating, he'll have fewer and fewer options by the time he's sworn in. A ground invasion of Gaza by Israel is already likely.

The burning question is why don't the Arab governments in the region do something positive for the Palestinians? If they had then the Palestinians wouldn't have been so desperate to place their faith and votes in Hamas instead of fully supporting Abbas and the Palestinian Authority. Tiny Gaza from refugee camp to a tragic ghetto of a million and a half, now is being rained on by the world's best small air force turning Gaza into a death camp. The Palestinians have nowhere to go and nothing they can do except bleed and die, completely roofed and walled in by Israel and surprisingly Egypt, which had closed its only border crossing with Gaza before the air strikes started.

Egypt doesn't support Hamas either and didn't want to encourage Hamas at the expense of the Palestinian Authority who used to police the Gaza border before Hamas ousted them. Jordan, more or less pro-U.S. like Egypt and tolerant of Israel is even less of a friend since the days of the Palestine Liberation Organization which the Jordanian Army pushed out of Jordan. That leaves Lebanon, with loads of problems of its own from the days of its civil war with the Christian Militias and the long Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, still troubled with a Hezbollah faction much like Hamas, dedicated to overthrowing Israel, Lebanon would like to pacify and integrate. That leaves Syria as the Palestinians' closest neighbor and ally, but with a nearby U.S. War in Iraq, they're not looking to intervene, lest they give the Israelis and the Americans a pretext for bombing and invasion.

The only upfront ally the Palestinians have is Iran, and nobody in the governments of the Middle East and Washington wants any meddling from Iran in anything, not the Saudis either who like most other Arab states wish the Palestinian problem would go away and Iran too. Iran supplies some weapons and martyr money to Palestinian families of suicide bombers. If it makes sense to some Iranians and Palestinians as a form of solidarity and compassion, it only lights a slow fuse of hope and despair in Palestine while infuriating Israel and the Americans, igniting massive retaliation.

Further afield there is some sympathy for the Palestinians from Turkey, but then how can they deliver on that when Turkey is in NATO and has been campaigning for years to join the European Union. So Palestine stands alone, becoming more and more desperate. If some of the Arab states like Egypt are longing for the good old days of the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, perhaps they should have supported Arafat when the Israelis were bombing him in Ramallah.

Even if it makes no sense, Hamas has been firing home-made rockets into Israel from Gaza as an act of desperation to make Israel pay for the dismemberment of Palestine. Egypt and Israel could have been more accommodating before Hamas came to power and to Hamas itself which after all was elected with a majority in the Palestinian Parliament. They knowing Arab bravura better than anyone else, should have spotted this in the face of Hamas, instead of taking Hamas at its rhetorical face value. The PLO was misread in the same way as a bunch of tough-talking terrorists who would never negociate. Hamas has a humanitarian side, providing more social welfare support to the Palestinians than they ever did. Hamas was popular with the Palestinians, more so with Hamas backing the old PLO ideals, since the Palestinian Authority failed to re-create a Palestine. Now with the Israelis counter-attacking with massive firepower, 4 Israelis dead by Qassam rockets since the last ceasefire ended, but over 400 Palestinians dead so far by Israeli rockets and bombs, who is running a war of terrorism if not both sides?

Will the avowed goal of stopping Gaza rockets by the Israeli Military be met by bombing every Hamas Police Station, Mosque and even the houses of Hamas leaders? Not a chance, as the Israelis must know too. So why are the Israelis doing it? Hamas is an easy politically correct target, according to Rice, though that's facile and misleading. Although Hamas won parliamentary elections, it staged a coup against the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, forcibly taking over Gaza after Abbas tried to shut them down. An outlaw regime only because its rights were thwarted. Israel in any case wants it crushed. But there's a better reason the Israelis aren't yet advertising, a new development in rockets from Gaza. Iranian rockets with a much longer range. Beersheba was hit recently, 46 km inside Israel, probably by a new Grad missile and the Israeli military thinks that Hamas has also acquired dozens of longer range Fajr-3 rockets that could hit Israel's nuclear reactor in Dimona. Possibly Israel keeps its nuclear warheads at Dimona as well. A Chernobyl type disaster could rock Dimona if it were hit hard and then what?

Until I found out today that Hamas had these new rockets and Dimona is 20 miles from Beersheba, I couldn't imagine why Israel would mass troops and armour for an invasion. Now I think we can count on a full scale attack. Israel has already hit some of the secret tunnels between Gaza and Egypt probably used to smuggle in the new missiles. A ceasefire? Not until after Israel gets what it wants.

It all makes sense to governments. But the people pay the price. People even in this Holy Land of constant strife and war want peace. Yet governments let things slide until war is inevitable and understandable. Here's another view of the conflict by ordinary people in Gaza and the Israeli border town of Sderot in a series of 80 short documentaries just out in English by, a group of French and German videographers.

--Alan Gillis