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December 29, 2008
The timeliness of the Israeli actions in Gaza
One aspect of the Gaza operations Israel has undertook to protect its citizens from the Hamas terror regime that seems to have receives scant attention is the timeliness of the Israeli actions. They seem to have occurred at an ideal time for Israel.
Hamas committed a strategic mistake in letting the truce expire and again launching its missile attacks against Israel. Had Hamas waited until the Obama Administration had taken office, Israel might have felt more restrained in undertaking its targeted air strikes. No ally wants to initiate military actions in the first weeks of a new American administration when a new President is just getting his footings. This would be especially true with Barack Obama. He chose his national security and diplomatic team with the goal of keeping international relations stable while he focuses his attention on domestic affairs (primarily the economy). Israel would not want to complicate relations with the new Obama administration as it assumes power.
The Israelis waited until after Christmas -- always a good period to avoid violence. While there are very few Christians in Gaza (they are oppressed, some have been killed, some have tried to emigrate), many Christian leaders would object to violent operations during Christmas.
The West Bank is relatively stable and has begun to recover economically; the security forces -- helped by American trainers -- has begun to take on Hamas operatives in the West Bank; billions of dollars of aid are flowing to the Palestinians living in the West Bank. This provides a role model for the world (and the Arab world, in particular) to compare with the dystopia created by Hamas in the Gaza. Hamas can be compared and contrasted to the Abbas regime and can be found wanting.
While Abbas employs billions in aid, Hamas seems more intent on immersating the Gazans. Indeed, they know that creating dire conditions among the Gazans may not help their lives, it does help Hamas recruit new terrorists and helps them exercise their dictatorial rule. The image of Hamas leaders' apathy towards the conditions of their own people is illustrated by the call by Hamas leader Meshal for his own people to sacrifice themselves by stepping up violence against Israel. He, of course, lives far from the frontlines in Damascus. The concept, and shame, of hypocrisy is shared by all cultures.
The attacks against Hamas occur merely a few weeks after the attacks in Mumbai have again given a bad name to terror. How can the world condemn terror attacks against India and ignore round and round of missile attacks against Israel, especially with increasingly powerful missile able to strike into the heart of Israel? Hypocrisy is a feature of international affairs, yet is more difficult to pull off when terror attacks that are universally denounced in one area are accepted in another. All the more so when they occur so closely to one another, especially when both are targeting democracies.
Oil prices have plummeted; the chance of Iran -- already in a weakened position -- or other Arab oil-exporting nations of being able to affect the world economy by restricting the supply of oil or/and boosting its prices have diminished. Israel does not have to worry about bearing the onus of blame of skyrocketing oil prices.
There has been an effort by Ehud Olmert toward the Syrians. The operations in Gaza show the Syrians that Israel will not be constrained from defending its citizens against Hamas. In turn, the genuineness of the Syrian intentions can be tested. If Syrians are truly interested in peace (a doubtful proposition) they will not allow Israeli defense operations put an end to the negotiations. The Israelis have sent a message: it can pursue peace, and it can also defend its citizens. The option Israel chooses depends on its adversaries and neighbors.
Egypt is remaining on the sidelines as Israel attacks Hamas. This is to be expected. Hamas is an offshoot of the Muslim Bortherhood -- a group that threatens the regime of Mubarack in Egypt. The weakening, if not the toppling, of Hamas would be welcomed by Mubarack. But he is elderly; his successor -- whether it is his son, or any other leader -- may not have the goals in mind or the power to see that they are met. Israel striking while Mubarack is still in power is a good strategic move.
The operations were also timely in the sense that the Israelis have accumulated a great deal of actionable intelligence over the past months regarding targets of Hamas power. The strike against a Hamas graduation ceremony was a sign of this intelligence; as was the destruction of scores of tunnels used by Hamas to smuggle weapons into Gaza.
A message was also conveyed to Israel's most implacable and dangerous foe, Iran. As the sanctions regime and diplomatic outreach appear to have failed in their goal of derailing Iran's nuclear program, Israel appears to face perilous times ahead. One way to send a message that Israel may be forced to launch military strikes against Iran's nuclear plants is by taking on Iran's proxies closer to home: Hamas. Strategists have felt that Israel would face retaliation from Hamas should she strike Iran. By weakening Hamas first, Israel can be perceived as having more flexibility in dealing with Iran in the future.
Israel has sent a more important message. The battle against Hezbollah two summers ago tarnished Israel's deterrence reputation. The strike against the Syrian nuclear reactor helped restore this reputation but it was one target, one raid. The sustained and well-coordinated Israeli aerial attacks has further helped restore Israel's image as a nation that will protect its own people from the malevolent intentions of its adversaries.
This was a particularly important and timely message that needed to be delivered-loud and clearly.
And so it has.