Barry Rubin, in his latest piece, “On the Ground in Gaza,” observes how upside down and incomprehensible this world has become. His observations are a good way to begin today’s post:
“Often, nowadays, it seems as if all history is being rewritten when it comes to Israel. In World War Two, allied air forces carpet-bombed cities even though there were no military bases in civilian areas. In France alone, tens of thousands of civilians were killed by allied bombs that fell on their intended targets.
“Even the Nazis didn’t put ammunition dumps in houses and use human shields. And up until now the blame for doing so would fall on those who deliberately and cynically sought to create civilian casualties in order to gain support for themselves
“Up until now, a country whose neighbor fired across the border at its people and even staged cross-border raids had the right of self-defense.
“Up until now, there has been a capability of understanding which group is inciting hatred, trying to turn children into robotic terrorists, calling for the extermination of another people, and committing aggression.
“Many people, many journalists, many governments, and even many intellectuals still understand the most basic principles of right and wrong as well as of the real world. Unfortunately, too many don’t or at least don’t when Israel is the target.”
This leads us directly to a video from the IDF with regard to our current operations — and why they are necessary — that is well worth seeing and sharing broadly:
We have large numbers of troops in the north of Gaza, so that Gaza is in essence divided, as I am reading it, into three sections, which prevents movement of weapons and fighters.
There have been reports of numerous tanks cited in the area of the former Jewish community of Netzarim, which is south of Gaza City. (No, I am not suggesting we are re-taking it for Jewish settlement purposes.) Apparently we have approached the outskirts of Gaza City.
We are said to be aiming to control areas which were being used for launching of rockets, and to do damage to the military wing of Hamas, which hasn’t been heavily damaged in the air attacks.
Our very finest fighters are involved here: Paratroopers Brigade, Givati Brigade, and Golani Brigade.
It seems that there is no intention of getting bogged down in the sort of house-to-house search (such as was done in Jenin in 2002) that is so dangerous to our boys, and is just what Hamas would like — not in Gaza City and not in the huge Jabaliya UNRWA refugee camp. Much terrorist activity emanates from Jabaliya, and rockets are often fired in its vicinity.
Last night, 30 of our boys from the Golani Brigade were wounded in a mortar shell attack, two seriously, three moderately, and the rest lightly. It has now been reported that one of those seriously wounded has succumbed to his injuries: St.- Sgt. Dvir Emanuelof, 22, from Givat Ze’ev.
Today an additional three were wounded. Fighting is intense. According to Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi, fighting has been mainly carried out from close range. “I spoke to the brigade and regiment commanders on the ground, and I’m encouraged by their determination and willingness to complete the mission.”
The IDF has placed an embargo on the details of the fighting.
Along with the ground operation, we are continuing air attacks. In a strike on Khan Yunis, we took out senior Hamas terrorist Hussam Hamdan, who was in charge of Grad-rocket launches into Beersheba and Ofakim, and senior Hamas terrorist, Muhammad Hilo, who was in charge of the Hamas special forces in Khan Yunis.
The Cabinet, in its weekly meeting today, was briefed on the war.
Prime Minister Olmert offered remarks at the beginning of the meeting, and in the course of which he addressed parents and family of our soldiers and security personnel:
“I have thought about you a lot since the operation began, especially since the decision about a ground operation approached. I asked myself and my ministerial colleagues if there was some other step, outlet or effort that we had not yet tried before sending our boys into a place fraught with such risks – from which some of them may not return. This morning, I can look each one of you in the eyes and say that the Government did its utmost before deciding on the operation.
“This operation was unavoidable.”
He ended with these words:
“We will behave as a responsible and reasonable society, the way we know how to behave in times of decisions of national importance. My heart and the hearts of the people of Israel are with its fighters.
“We in the political echelon will limit our statements, and try to transmit responsible and reliable information to the public in real time, and put our rivalries and disputes aside. Now more than ever, the people of Israel are one people.”
The reports delivered at the Cabinet meeting by security heads are encouraging:
According to Shin Bet head, Yuval Diskin:
“There are first signs that Hamas is toning down its views in regards to a possible ceasefire…The Hamas leadership abroad is stressed, working to obtain a ceasefire and disappointed by the Arab countries failing to stand by its side. The situation of the leadership in Gaza is similar. A real threat exists today on the Hamas enterprise in the Gaza Strip. The leaderships in Gaza and abroad feel an existential threat.”
The message from Military Intelligence chief Major-General Amos Yadlin was even stronger:
“Hamas understands that violating the lull was a strategic mistake. It suffered a great blow. Dozens of headquarters have been damaged, the ammunition warehouses and production infrastructure were destroyed. The ability to smuggle through the tunnels was damaged.
“The organization leaders only care about themselves. There is harsh criticism against them among the Palestinians. Hamas has brought hate upon itself and found itself isolated in a lepers’ alliance with Iran and Syria.”
According to Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, we have killed about 400 in our operations, most of them Hamas. “Not much is left from the Hamas government.”
(A note here: the IDF is saying that about 40 civilians have been killed, roughly one in ten of those taken out.)
There is strong feeling here that Livni’s diplomatic efforts in making our case are paying off. In any event, the US is running interference for us at the UN, and blocked Libya’s move to call for an immediate cessation of our effort.
Rice is coming to New York to spear-head efforts to cobble together an acceptable cease-fire resolution. She and Bush both say it must be a balanced and sustainable cease-fire. Israel has made it clear that there is no point in stopping if we will have to go in again very soon. This sustainable cease-fire will not be easy to achieve.
Livni has made a further point that she doesn’t want a cease-fire that elevates Hamas and gives it legitimacy, she wants a cease-fire imposed upon Hamas.
Hamas resumed its barrage of rockets last night, after a temporary lull. Today over 30 — including both Kassams and Grads — have been launched, with four injured and a house that took a direct hit destroyed.
UN Secretary-General Ban has called Olmert to declare himself “extremely disappointed” with Israel ground incursion.” He’s not nearly as disappointed as we are, perennially, with the UN itself. He “insists” that we cease operations immediately, which carries no weight whatsoever here.
There is no further Security Council meeting scheduled until Wednesday. What is particularly notable, from my perspective, is that YNet this morning reported that according to “top diplomatic officials” we need not concern ourselves unduly even if a resolution that works against us were to be passed at that time:
“There have already been precedents, for example Operation Defense Shield [in Judea and Samaria in 2002]. A Security Council resolution will not necessarily stop Israel from proceeding with the ground operation in Gaza. It is in Israel’s sovereignty to make such decisions, since it is operating in self defense.”
If we are in a place where we are no longer running to appease those who oppose us, this alone is a much welcomed sign of increased strength.
On Friday, before our ground invasion, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Robert Serry, called for a “truce” that will “require bringing Gaza back into the fold of the Palestinian Authority through arrangements on the ground and renewed efforts to reunite Gaza and the West Bank.”
He did not clarify exactly how this state of affairs would be brought about.
I’m reading about some notion of placing the PA in charge of the Rafah crossing into the Sinai — a stipulation of Egypt for allowing the crossing to be opened. But as long as Hamas is standing, I do not imagine them tolerating this, or the PA having the strength to withstand what would ensue.
In the meanwhile, French president Sarkozy is coming tomorrow. What a disappointment he has been: there was expectation when he first assumed the presidency that he would be more amenable to understanding Israel’s situation. But, I imagine, he’s playing to the Muslim population and the anti-Israel sentiment within his nation: He has condemned what we’re doing.
Following Sarkozy, a EU delegation is expected.
Dr. Max Singer, writing for the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, today address the issue of victory for Israel that I had raised yesterday.
We must face the fact, he says, that total victory is not possible because we are not prepared to totally occupy the Palestinians, as Japan was occupied after WWII, for long enough “to change their society into one that is ready to live in peace with Israel.” And we cannot destroy the Palestinians.
“Therefore after any war, Palestinian enemies will still be there seeking ways to attack Israel, and Israel will have to live with the continued existence of the Palestinians on our borders.” But “temporary” victories are very possible — victories that can be critical:
“Our basic task is to defeat each and every kind of attack that the Palestinians devise. Each of our victories will lead, some time later, to a new Palestinian attack which must be defeated in turn…we must go from victory to victory,” until the day when the political situation changes.
Dr. Singer concludes that the current victory against Hamas is one that “Israel can win because it must win, regardless of the cost. There is no substitute for this victory.”
What will this victory do for us?
“It will demonstrate to everyone that Israel is still – or again – capable of doing whatever is required to win the battles it needs to win to protect the country. It will show what some have come to doubt, that we are prepared to take whatever casualties, and whatever international condemnation, that we have to take to achieve our military missions, and we will undertake whatever military mission is necessary to protect our country.”