Monday, January 19, 2009

Operation 'Cast Lead' Cease-fire Continues

No rockets fell in the south for the first time since operation "Cast Lead" began. Schools were opened, and students returned to school. The towns and villages of the South returned to "shigra' or normal life.

Israel opened up the Karni and Kerem Shalom crossings. Reportedly over 200 trucks were allowed into the Gaza strip. The trucks carried medical supplies, food, and fresh vegetables.

Now everything in Israel is geared to the upcoming elections scheduled to take place in three weeks time. Israeli leaders, like Hamas, say they won the conflict. "An operation not a war," one retired general called it. "We achieved what we set out to do," he said. "It was either stop and pull out, or get stuck in Gaza feeding the population or a million and a half people." The goal was to seriously weaken Hamas, according to many sources, and they did. No one wanted to destroy Hamas, because they were worried about anarchy slipping into the vacuum.

There is disappointment that the kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit was not freed. Hopefully he will get out in some sort of cease-fire deal, but the hopes are slim. The local Red-Cross representative says that so far no pressure has been put on Hamas to even show 'signs of life.' The Red-Cross says it has never been allowed to even visit Gilad Shalit. The Israelis say that the Red-Cross should pressure Hamas. "We are a humanitarian orginzation. We are not here to exercise pressure," say a Red-Cross representative. "If you want someone to exercise pressure, ask your government."

Reportedly Hamas has said it was surprised at the overwhelming force the IDF used in operation 'Cast Lead.' Hamas reportedly told Arab leaders at the recent Doha conference that they expected the IDF operation to last no more than 3-says.

Israeli analysts say that the destruction that Israel caused may so shock the population that they influence Hamas to change their aggressive tactics. Time will tell. But Israel has sword to react with overwhelming force to any future Hamas rocket attack. So far no rockets fell on Israel during the first day of the cease-fire.The army says it is ready to go back into Gaza when the necessity arises. Pundits expect that that will happen sooner or later.

Diplomatic efforts are still continuing aimed at providing Israel with security along the Southern border, stop the steady flow of weapons into Gaza, and relieve the poverty in Gaza. PA leader Mohamed Abbas is the choice of the west to at least share power with Hamas in Gaza. Egypt is considered the key to any scenario, although pundits warn that Egypt will not be any more effective this time stopping the supply of arms to Gaza than they have been over the last few years.

Iran is still out there lurking like Darth Vader. Cabinet Minister Tzachi Hanegegbi, who sits on the Security and Defense Committee, said that Iran was still a serious threat that could not be ignored. Right-wing Israeli Knesset member Avigdor Leiberman said that within a year Hamas would have the more powerful Iranian supplied Fajr rockets with a range that could strike Tel Aviv. Reportedly Israel destroyed 80 percent of the smuggling tunnels from Egypt but Leiberman says Hamas will soon rebuild them, and the violence will begin again.

Iran's president Achminijad yesterday congratulated Hamas leader Mashal and Gaza Hamas chief Hanniyeh on their success in the war with Israel.

Ephraim HaLevi, former head of the Mossad, said this is the time for Hamas to be allowed to do a "chesbon nefesh" an accounting, let them absorb the damage done to them, and then think about other alternatives. HaLevi said after reflection Hamas may change their ways, not give up their ideology, but their tactics.

The inauguration of U.S. President Barak Obama is eagerly awaited in Israel. The ceremony will be broadcast live. Former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk told Israel radio's Reshet Bet that operation 'Cast Lead' has moved the issue of settling the conflict in the Middle East to a high priority. Indyk is one of Obama's many Jewish advisers on the Middle East.