Part 1 of analysis by Alex Fishman
By now it’s already too late to raid the Gaza Strip. Hamas completed the establishment of a long-range strategic arm, created a system of fortifications in the Strip, and reinforced the underground tunnels as a way to circumvent the Gaza crossings. All the “red lines” that we weren’t allowed to let the Palestinians cross in the Strip have already been crossed.
Besides, we are on the eve of elections, the political situation around here is sensitive, a new Administration is preparing to take office in America, and the winter is approaching with its mud and clouds. We missed the train. Now there’s no reason to rush. We need to wait for the next government to be formed, in the hopes that it would be able to take decisions. Until that time, Israel’s conduct vis-à-vis the Gaza Strip will continue in the format of one-time responses to developments on the ground.
What is most infuriating in this story is the fact that the Palestinians too know that Israel won’t invade the Strip in the near future, and that there is no chance that it would exact a heavy price tag for the continued attacks on Gaza-region communities. The Palestinians are so sure about Israel’s restraint policy that they allow themselves to continue the fire.
Under such state of affairs, it is indeed not surprising that on Wednesday, on the eve of the lull’s end, about 25 rockets landed in Israel. This is what we can expect Thursday, and also Friday, Dec. 19th, which is the day the lull is slated to end.
‘No reason to rush’Hamas established new rules of play vis-à-vis Israel ahead of the post-lull era, and Israel finds itself being dragged by Hamas, instead of breaking these rules. A senior defense official said Wednesday that “If we need to deliver a series of painful blows against Hamas in order to push it back on track, we will do it. Yet there’s no reason to rush into escalation. Everything will be done in a measured manner, and with a sense of judgment and thought.”
In order to sum up the six-month lull we need to be fair and admit that it entailed quite a few benefits, especially on the diplomatic front. Had the lull not been in effect and Israel had embarked on a Gaza operation, we would no longer have Mahmoud Abbas, there would be no Fayyad government, there would be no negotiations, and the Palestinian Authority would have collapsed.
Instead, what we have today is an improvement in the PA’s status, and we see it effectively operating against Hamas. The economic situation in the West Bank has improved, a million and a half tourists visited it in the past year, and there is no longer anarchy on the streets.
The national Palestinian reconciliation process collapsed in the shadow of the lull. On January 9th, 2009 when Hamas no longer recognizes Abbas’ presidency, we shall see a situation of two states for one people (in Gaza and in the West Bank.) We will see two governments, two armies, two legal systems, and two different regimes and sources of authority. Who said that’s bad for Israel?
Part 2 of analysis to be published Thursday evening