Sunday, January 11, 2009

War With Hamas Day 16: Who's To Blame?

Israel has reportedly expanded the operation in Gaza to Sheikh Ajleen, an area of the densely populated Gaza City. It was described as the fiercest battle yet between Palestinian and Israeli fighters. Fourteen people were reportedly killed in and around the area. Israel also struck at a mosque in the southern city of Rafah that Israel intelligence says was used as a terrorist training base and weapons storehouse.

Rockets continued to fall in Israel from Sderot to Ashkelon, even during the unilateral three-hour break in air force strikes Israel has called for the forth day in a row. A Grad rocket struck in an Ashdod schoolyard. During the pause Israel does fire, however, if they spot a target of opportunity. So far nearly thirty rockets fell in Israel. Nearly forty Israeli soldiers are still hospitalized, one seriously.

Israel’s head of Military Intelligence Maj. Gen Amos Yadlin says Hamas is working in mosques and hospitals. He also said Hamas is storing its weapons in hospital storehouses. The Shin Bet head said that Hamas has been hit hard, and will not come out of it the same Hamas. He said they are exhausted and running out of weapons, but also said that Hamas won’t give up even though the people might want to. He said there was a split in Hamas over how to proceed.

Who’s to blame for the Libyan sponsored UN resolution calling for a cease-fire that the US refused to veto? Was it a breakdown in communications between Israel’s Foreign Ministry and Israel’s new UN Ambassador? Was it U.S. Sec. Of State Condoleezza Rice showing her independence from and irritation with President George W. Bush’s Middle East policies? Or was Israel simply caught flat-footed?

The end result is the same. Hamas gained diplomatic ground, Israel lost. Hamas became the representative of the Palestinian people in Gaza, the PA under Mohammed Abbas, lost. Hamas got away with starting the war, firing at will, and Israel came out the bad guy.

“Um Shmum” was the famous 1950’a quote by Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion. But today Israeli diplomats say that without UN approval for Israel’s actions, any Israeli move is doomed to fail.

Israel’s lame-duck Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is making bellicose statements that Israel will do what needs to be done to protect its citizens in spite of what the UN says. He was referring to the UN resolution last Friday calling for an immediate cease-fire. The resolution carried no teeth, and could be ignored, but most pundits believe it shouldn’t have ever reached a vote.

What happened? Who really knows? But it seems to indicate a misjudgment by the political establishment in Israel. What other mistakes were made? Given the machinations of politicians it isn’t clear if this wasn’t an ambush aimed at Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, under whose aegis fall the UN brief.

Olmert defended Livni saying if it wasn’t for the great work she’d done then the UN resolution would have been passed weeks earlier.

Olmert is also coming under fire by analysts who say it was under his leadership that Israel agreed to let the PA supervise the Philadephi route, a decision that lead to today’s quagmire.