Shimon Peres loses his marbles

Shimon Peres, current occupant of the largely ceremonial role as Israel’s president, father of Israel’s atomic bomb, author of its disastrous and very damaging mini-war against Lebanon in 1996, and Nobel Peace Laureate (go figure), has finally lost his marbles.
He told reporters today that the goal of Israel’s current assault against Gaza is ” not just to stop the continuing rocket fire from Gaza, but to put a halt to terror worldwide.”
Sadly, no-one in the media event he was speaking at (alongside IDF chief of staff Gabi Ashkenazi) seems to have asked Peres just how, precisely, Israel’s current paroxysm of violence against Gaza might be expected to have the stated effect.
The tragic experience of the US’s 2003 “shock and awe” assault against Iraq was that it fomented and incubated considerable additional levels of terrorism worldwide. Israel’s current assault on Gaza can be expected to have an exactly similar effect.
But Israel’s politicians and their many supporters in the US political elite all seem to live in their own little bubble-world of unreality, where the mere invocation of the word “terrorism” is enough to justify anything.
Luckily, the residents of that bubble-world are becoming less influential in world affairs with each day that passes.

Kudos to Jackson Diehl

Jackson Diehl, the deputy editor of the WaPo’s editorial page, had a pretty good signed op-ed piece on Israel’s Gaza war in today’s paper.
It starts off thus:

    Israel’s new battle with Hamas in Gaza means that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will be remembered for fighting two bloody and wasteful mini-wars in less than three years in power. The first one, in Lebanon during the summer of 2006, punished but failed to defeat or even permanently injure Hezbollah, which is politically and militarily stronger today than it was before Olmert took office. This one will probably have about the same effect on Hamas, which almost certainly will still control Gaza, and retain the capacity to strike Israel, when Olmert leaves office in a few months.

Diehl goes on, too, bemoan the fact that though Olmert’s time in office has been marked by him making a noticeable move away from Likud-style territorial maximalism and towards a much more robust awareness of the need to conclude a realistic final peace with the Palestinians and the Syrians, yet, his final weeks in office will be remembered much more for this disastrous war effort than for the relatively visionary things he has said about the Palestinians in recent weeks.
I think it’s significant that Jackson has written this piece. (He was also, I’m assuming, the main brain at work behind the relatively good and realistic editorial on the Gaza war that the WaPo published yesterday.) That’s because he is precisely the kind of influential, American liberal hawk whom the Israeli government needs to keep on its side if it wants to minimize the rift this war will cause between Tel Aviv and the broader US political establishment.
Thank God for Jackson’s understanding of many of the regional (Mideast) dynamics at work in the present era! Even if he does base some of his argument on the fact that Israel’s war against Gaza is a “distraction” from the need to keep up the pressure against Iran– the argument as a whole about the tragic folly and counter-productive nature of the present war is still one that needs to be made as effectively as possible in Washington DC; and Jackson Diehl is a good and credible person to make it.

Ehud Barak expands war aims

Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has significantly escalated the level of the political goals that he publicly says his government is seeking with its assault on Gaza. Today, he told the Knesset that “We have an all-out war against Hamas and its kind.”
He also vowed that the Israeli military actions in Gaza would be “widened and deepened as is necessary.”
On Saturday, the first day of the current Israeli assault, Israeli government officials were careful to say in public that their aim was merely to hurt Hamas badly enough that the organization– which won Palestine’s legislative elections in 2006– would bow to Israel’s demands regarding renewal of the six-month-long ceasefire the two sides had observed, largely though not perfectly, until it expired last week.
I’m assuming that that earlier goal of “hurt Hamas in order to win a better ceasefire” was the one that Israeli leaders had described, in broad terms, to allies like the US, Egypt, the Europeans, and so on prior to the assault. It would have made Israel’s leaders look tough but realistic and diplomatically “flexible.”
But it seems that once the bombs started flying into Gaza, Ehud Barak’s bloodlust (or hubris) kicked in, and he escalated Israel’s war goals. Whether he had won the full backing of Israel’s whole cabinet for the expanded goal-set is still unknown. But with PM Olmert very much a political dead duck at this point, it seems that Barak is increasingly in the driving seat. I wrote something about the high personal stakes he has in this war, here, yesterday.
Escalating the goal-set in this way is not trivial. If the political-strategic goal had been to bloody Hamas but bring it back into another negotiation, you would not aim to decapitate it, since you’d need to have a leadership body to negotiate with that would subsequently be strong enough to enforce the terms of the ceasefire. But once you have an “all-out war against Hamas” you raise the stakes of the conflict considerably.
For the Hamas leadership and their many followers– who are becoming more numerous with every day the assault continues– the conflict becomes literally existential.
(Also, the Palestinians of Gaza have very little stake in any restoration of the status-quo-ante, anyway, since it provided nothing like an acceptable way of life for them. The same is also true for most Palestinians in the West Bank.)
If Ehud Barak is correct in stating that Israel is now engaged in an “all-out war against Hamas and its kind”, then that almost literally mandates that Israeli ground forces will have to go in and seek to exercise their control over the whole of the Gaza Strip. There is no other way they could even hope to “eradicate” Hamas. But the occupation mission that would be required after this ground incursion would be– as most Israelis know very well– quite devastating for Israel from many points of view.
So now, we need to watch carefully to see whether Barak will (a) back down from his bellicose rhetoric and take up one of the many offers that are being held out to him– by Turkey, Egypt, and others– for de-escalation. Or whether (b) he will continue the preparations already underway for a ground incursion and follow through and launch that operation.
It is quite notable in Israel’s present war of choice– as in 2006– that Washington, which in earlier bouts of Israeli-Arab fighting would have intervened early on to try to limit the human and political damage from Israel’s actions, is currently doing nothing of the sort. President Bush seems to have completely checked out of any desire to assert “US leadership” of any kind during the current crisis.
Thus, if Ehud Barak is trying, with his bellicosity, to send a message to Washington with the sub-text “Stop me before I bomb again!”, then he should understand that no-one there is in a mood to listen to that sub-text.
Notable, too, that in his speech to the Knesset, Ehud Barak explicitly quoted the words of President-elect Barack Obama last July, when Obama in effect gave Israel carte blanche to act against Hamas in any way it chose.
Ehud Barak is evidently trying to hold Barack Obama to that promise.
(Of course, once Obama is president, he does not have to keep all the many promises he made in the heat of his election campaign, as anyone who’s watched the performance of newly elected presidents regarding all the campaign-era promises they’d made on moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem should well understand. But still, that little “daughters” quote from the July-era Obama is being well manipulated by Ehud Barak right now…)
There are no adults around, anywhere in the top echelons of the international system, who can rein in Ehud Barak at this time. In the second echelon, Britain’s Miliband and France’s Sarkozy, have both said generally helpful things about the need for proportionality and restraint. And I suppose we could say that Ban Ki-Moon’s calls for an immediate ceasefire– as mandated by the latest Security Council resolution– have been helpful.
But now, those calls for a ceasefire need to get some real muscle behind them. And soon. It’s time for the Security Council to re-convene and pass a new, much stiffer resolution. And for all the world’s governments to cease all shipments of military goods to both the warring parties and start to hold them to account in other ways, immediately.
Memo to Ehud Barak and the leaders of major world governments: There is no purely “military” victory attainable in this possibly expanded war that Israel has now chosen to launch. The least-bad outcome now foreseeable for Israel and the rest of the region is one that involves a comprehensive, politically-enhanced ceasefire and peace negotiation between Israel and all its Palestinian neighbors. And yes, that certainly includes Hamas.

What does Hamas want?

Most people in the west have been wilfully mis- or dis-informed about Hamas and believe either that it is made up of wild-eyed men of violence who perpetrate violence for its own sake, or that its main goal is the violent expulsion of all Jewish people from Israel/Palestine.
These impressions are quite misleading.Yes, Hamas has used significant amounts of violence against Israelis since it was founded in 1987. But so too has Israel, against Hamas. Indeed, Israel has killed many times more Hamas supporters and leaders than Hamas has ever killed Israelis. Does that mean we understand Israelis to be only “mindless, wild-eyed men of violence”? No. For both sides, we need to try to understand what they seek to achieve with the violence they use; as well as the conditions under which they can be expected to moderate or end it.
Earlier today, I tried to untangle the intentions/hopes of Israel’s leaders when they unleashed the present wave of violence, here.
Now it’s time to try to do the same for Hamas. It is worth noting upfront that the large-scale escalation was the one that was launched by Israel, yesterday. What Hamas had done, prior to that, was not launch any particularly new surges of violence; mainly, it announced it would not be renewing the six-month-long ceasefire (tahdi’eh) it had maintained, by mutual agreement, with Israel since last June. That, after numerous significant Israeli infractions of the ceasefire, especially since November.
So Question 1 here might be: Why, precisely, did Hamas decide it would not renew the ceasefire? That question probably needs more studying. Israel’s violations in the ceasefire’s last weeks are presumably one factor. But if Hamas really wanted the ceasefire renewed, was there more it could have done to try to negotiate that? I don’t know. One thing I do recall, though, is some angry accusations by Hamas spokesmen in recent weeks that the Egyptian government officials who in the first half of the year had worked long and hard to broker the June ceasefire had ceased (in Hamas’s view) to play an “honest broker” role, and were putting pressure on Hamas to continue the ceasefire on terms much more favorable to Israel than during the first ceasefire.
Egypt, we can note, is deeply entangled in the whole Hamas-Israel dynamic in numerous inescapable ways.
At a broader level than Question 1, Question 2 would be, “What broader strategy has the Hamas leadership been pursuing in recent years, anyway, and how might the present war be expected to impact on that?”
I think I have some answers to that, gleaned over the course of many years of watching the organization, and from interviews I conducted with the elected Hamas leaders in Gaza in March 2006 and with overall Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal, in Damascus last January. You can see a portal to these interviews and most of my other writings on Hamas over the past three years, here. Most of that material was summarized and analyzed in this piece published in the May/June 2008 edition of Boston Review. Few other westerners have had the opportunity to talk with with these Hamas leaders as deeply as I have; and almost none of them have ever done so, as I have, on the record.
Bottom line:

Continue reading “What does Hamas want?”

That Obama quote from Sderot

I see that Obama adviser David Axelrod today repeated on national television the little saying Obama said when he visited the southern Israeli town of Sderot back in July:

    “If somebody was sending rockets into my house, where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that… And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.”

So how about Palestinians, Barack Obama? Do you think they are equally as human as Israelis, and that they have equally strong needs for the security of their families?
If so, what kind of a “response” would it be justifiable for them to make after everything their families have gone through in the past three days and the past three years?
Just wondering….

Laila’s good posting about Gaza

Expert Gazawi journo Laila al-Haddad, living temporarily out of her country, had a great post on her blog today describing her latest phone conversations with her parents, two retired physicians who are currently in Gaza. The post also includes two informative Youtube videos posted by ISM-ers doing witness work inside Gaza.
Thanks for the immediacy, intelligence, and humanity of what you write, Laila.

Israel’s war in Gaza: Stakes and Prospects

Israel’s continuing assault against Gaza is in many ways linked to the (extremely counter-productive) 33-day war that it maintained against Lebanon and Hizbullah in 2006. There are similarities and differences. In both cases, one of the over-arching war aims has been an attempt to “restore the credibility” of an Israeli military “deterrent” that had been badly eroded– in the minds of many Israeli leaders– since 2000, or before.
That, in a nutshell, is the meaning of the “shock and awe” phrase that’s been widely used to describe the completely disproportionate scale of Saturday’s opening salvo, which left more than 280 Gazans dead.
The 33-day war notably did not succeed in “restoring the credibility of Israel’s deterrent.” (Analysis, here.) In 2006, Ehud Barak, who is currently Israel’s Defence Minister and the head of the rapidly weakening Labour Party, had to sit on the sidelines, as he’d been replaced in both those positions by Amir Peretz (remember him?)
This time around, Barak is in the catbird seat as Defence Minister and must feel a very strong compulsion that this Israeli “war of choice” must succeed where its predecessor failed, for at least two reasons:

    1. It was Barak’s decision, when he was prime minister back in 2000, to execute a “unilateral” (that is, un-negotiated) withdrawal of all Israeli troops from areas of South Lebanon they had occupied since 1978 that in the years that followed was widely blamed by Israeli hardliners for the continuing erosion (or even, collapse) of the “credibility” of Israeli deterrence. So he has a strong personal reason to want to see it “restored.”
    2. He wrested the position of leadership of the Labour Party back from Peretz after Peretz’s inexperience in military affairs was widely blamed for the failure of the 2006 war. But Labour has continued to slide in the Israeli opinion polls. When I heard the experienced Israeli political analyst Naomi Chazan talking in Washington earlier this month, she said the then-current polling would give Labour only six seats in the 120-member Knesset, down from a current holding of 19 and considerably down from Labour’s longheld position as the decades-long ruling party in Israel. Haaretz’s Yossi Verter has an excellent piece in today’s paper, detailing the degree to which the current war effort is really “about” Ehud Barak’s electoral ambitions.

My analysis of Ehud Barak is that, while he may have considerable technical and operational smarts in the military realm, his political skills are next to zero. That applies both domestically and in diplomatic affairs. After he was elected premier in 1999, he alienated the coalition partners which are a sine qua non of governmental survival in Israel at a faster clip than, I think, any preceding Israeli prime minister. He also succeeded in organizing not one but two complete diplomatic debacles– one with the late Syrian president Hafez al-Asad, in Geneva, in May 2000, and the other with longtime PLO chief Yasser Arafat at Camp David later that year.
Today, more than ever before, strategy is about politics, rather than simply military-technical smarts. That has been amply demonstrated in recent years by the failures of the US and Israel to translate their unquestioned military-technical superiority over their respective foes into strategic gains of any lasting value. I see no reason to believe that Ehud Barak has learned this lesson– far less, that he has “suddenly”, overnight, acquired the kind of political-strategic smarts the current international environment requires.
He certainly did not have them during his previous term as prime minister. And it is extremely hard to discern, regarding the present assault against Gaza, what a successful path to an Israeli strategic ‘victory’ of any lasting value would look like.
Of course, we should not ignore the purely petulant/vengeful “expressive” function of Israel’s current outburst of anti-Palestinian violence. That alone might– were the country to be holding its elections, say, next week rather than six weeks from now– have been enough to give Barak and Labour the electoral boost he seeks… (Which is not, of course, the same as “winning” something of lasting strategic value to the Israeli people as a whole. But it could be seen as “winning” something valuable to Ehud Barak’s political ambitions, which are not small.)
* * *
Two important principles of the laws of war are that any belligerent attack be both discriminate and proportional. That is, commanders are under an obligation to discriminate between “legitimate” military targets and those that serve mainly civilian functions, and when in doubt to err on the side of assuming that targets whose real purpose is unclear are civilian, rather than military. Secondly, commanders are under an equally weighty obligation to make their attacks “proportional” to the task at hand.
Violating either of these principles is considered a “grave breach” of the laws of war, that is, a war crime.
In yesterday’s attacks, many of the targets were offices and operations bases for a civilian police force associated with the Hamas-dominated governing authority in Gaza, but not part of the Hamas-affiliated “Qassam Brigades” paramilitary force. Targeting them completely failed the test of “discrimination.” The test of “proportionality” was similarly grossly violated.
But what was Israel’s political- strategic aimin these attacks? To me, it looks very similar to the targets in Ariel Sharon’s attacks against the PA police and associated forces in Gaza and the West Bank in spring of 2002. That is, the forcible dismantling of the governing authority with which the police forces were affiliated. The rhetoric of Israel’s leaders around the attacks certainly seems to indicate that.
In 2006, the Israeli military attacked many facilities associated with the government in Lebanon, including vital roads, power plants, bridges, etc. But I don’t think it actively targeted any Lebanese police stations. At the time, it was trying to prop up Lebanon’s “official” government. This time, it most certainly looks as though it is trying to dismantle the extensive apparatus through which Hamas has tried to govern Gaza. I note that that police apparatus has also been used in the past six months to try to rein in the Palestinian hotheads who were reluctant to go along with the Hamas tahdi’eh.
Ehud Barak is trying with his attacks to make the whole of Gaza ungoverned, a completely and massively failed administration. To this extent, his assault looks very similar to Ethiopia’s 2006 assault against the somewhat moderate Islamist administration that had been slowly consolidating its grip in Somalia, or indeed to the Bush/Bremer dismantling of the entire central state system in Iraq.
Some in Israel have claimed that the goal in Gaza is not to “break” Hamas completely, but simply to “tame” it some more so it becomes ready to accede to Israel’s political demands. Given the scale of yesterday’s assault, I don’t see that.
Is part of the goal, too, to try to prepare the ground for a Fatah restoration in Gaza? Sort of similar to the stated goal in 2006, of strengthening the hand of Lebanon’s Prime Minister, Fouad Siniora, against Hizbullah?
Well, it didn’t work out at all back in 2006, in Lebanon (where earlier this year, Hizbullah engaged in some “cognitive capture” of its own, with respect to Siniora, who effectively rebranded himself as a loyal Hizbullah cat’s-paw ally.)
And it is highly unlikely to work out as a winning strategy in Palestine, where Fatah has already been in considerably more internal disarray than Siniora’s “March 14” coalition ever suffered.
Here are two reasons why “dismantling the Hamas administration in Gaza” will be an unsuccessful– indeed, highly counter-productive– strategy for the Israeli people as a whole:

    1. Having a completely ungoverned chunk of land containing 1.5 million people with zero stake in a continuation of the status quo, that is tucked right into your own country’s heartland, is a recipe for longrunning disaster, not any kind of “stability.” Remember, too, the 2.8 million Palestinians in the West Bank, the 1.2 million Palestinians who are citizens of Israel, and the four-plus million Palestinians in Jordan. All these constituencies have already become considerably inlflamed by the scale and tragedy of Israel’s attacks on Gaza. The level of their mobilization will continue to rise so long as Israel’s attacks continue. This would happen with or without Khaled Meshaal’s call, yesterday, for the launching of a :”third intifada” and the resumption of suicide/”martyrdom” operations against Israel.
    2. With this assault, the fallout has already started to spread considerably beyond the constituency of people who are Palestinians… As I noted yesterday, the fallout in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere in the Arab and Islamic worlds will be enormous. It has already started, and we can confidently expect that the longer Israel’s assault is maintained the higher the regional stakes will rise.

For these reasons, it is in the interest of Israel and of all the US-backed and pro-US regimes in the region that Israel stop its military attacks as soon as possible.
But how can it climb back down the ladder of the escalation that it itself so recklessly started?
Not easy. And especially, not easy for this small band of people running this Israeli war effort, who seem to be stubborn, politically ignorant, politically ambitious, and vindictive in equal measure.
But not easy for anyone, to suddenly stop this orgy of violence dead in its tracks– more especially so, given that they have now destroyed the very policy instruments through which Hamas has been able to exert a considerable degree of control over the very restless and deprived population of Gaza.
If Olmert, Barak, and Livni want to stop the war, who will they negotiate with, to achieve this?
Has an Olmert-led government once again, as in 2006, painted itself into a completely unescapeable corner?
Remember, too, that the regional dynamics this time are far more favorable to Hamas than they were to Hizbullah in 2006. Back then, many of the pro-US regimes were (a) very scared of Hizbullah, because it was Shiite and seen mainly (if wrongly) as only an arm of Iran’s foreign policy; and (b) able to stir up some anti-Hizbullah propaganda amongst their own predominantly Sunni populations on these ground.
Well, as it happened in 2006, those sectarian “sensibilities” didn’t work nearly as well for Israel and the Bushites as they had hoped. Indeed, the longer the war and the killing dragged on, the weaker those “sectarian” arguments became.
This time, they don’t exist at all.
Also, the US’s actual power in the region is noticeably reduced from what it was in 2006.
Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, and Tzipi Livni have launched the whole of the Middle East on a wild ride. Neither they nor their backers in Washington will be able to shape this outcome. The best we can hope for now is some kind of forceful political intervention from other, more neutral powers.
The Security Council’s passage, this morning, of a resolution calling for an immediate halt of all military activities is a start. But a lot more hard diplomatic work– by the four non-US permanent members and all other responsible parties– needs urgently to be done.
In particular, the Security Council needs to spell out explicitly the terms, based completely in international law and international legitimacy, for a permanent peace between Israel and the Palestinians and a speedy but realistic timetable of actions to bring this about.
Washington alone, under Bush or under Obama, no longer has any credibility to be the “sole” or even the “main” broker for the final-status peace that Israelis, Palestinians, and all the other peoples of the Middle East so desperately need.

Olmert/Livni launch assault on Gaza: Where will it end?

Israel’s quite unchallenged (and US-supplied) Air Force has killed more than 200 people in waves of attacks against Gaza today. Most of the locations targeted were reportedly linked to the main security force in Gaza, that provided by the elected Hamas movement. Many of those killed were police officers, including 40 cadets just completing their training.
In his well-regarded ‘Talking Points memo’ blog, Josh Marshal shamefully titles his short post on this massacre “Cycle”. He also describes the attack as “retaliatory”, though he does not say for what.
There have been numerous, highly asymmetrical exchanges of fire between the security forces of Gaza and those of Israel in the past days– as in the past three years.
In addition, ever since Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections in January 2006, Israel has maintained an extremely tight siege around Gaza that has blighted the lives of the Strip’s 1.5 million people quite unjustifiably, including causing numerous deaths.
Gaza maintains no siege around Israel.
Britain’s Daily Telegraph may be a rightwing newspaper. But it has a far more sober attitude to the truth of the Gaza-Israel dynamic than Josh Marshall does.
The DT’s Tim Butcher reports from Jerusalem today :

    Nine Israeli civilians have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza since it withdrew all settlers and soldiers from the territory in September 2005.
    Over the same period, at least 1,400 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces in Gaza, according to figures compiled by B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights group.
    Israel’s decision to act came after a six-month truce with Hamas, which ran out on Dec 19.

Josh Marshall’s type of “cycle of violence” and “Israeli retaliation” language is, however, the way the vast majority of people in the US political elite (mis-)portray and (mis-)understand the situation in Gaza.
The Israeli cabinet’s decision to unleash the present tsunami of violence has no discernible strategic relevance. There can be no serious strategic thinker in Israel who imagines that this kind of massacre will suddenly “persuade” Hamas to cry “uncle” and accede to Israel’s longstanding demands that it perform what is, in effect, an unconditional surrender to Israel.
Ha’aretz’s Amos Harel describes the assault as Israel’s version of “Shock and Awe,” explicitly comparing it to the US assault on Iraq and Halutz’s original July 2006 assault on Lebanon. (He fails to note that both of those attacks ended up with their overall strategic “achievements” for the assaulting government being deep in the negative column.
He writes:

    The major x-factor, of course, is not related to the operational capabilities of the air force, but whether or not to launch a ground invasion. Will the government resolve to do so and is the IDF capable of successfully carrying out a mission which it failed to accomplish against Hezbollah? It is reasonable to assume that the picture will become more clearer within three to four days. Until then, the IAF is expected to continue its assault which will be complimented by limited activity from relatively small ground units.
    As the situation appears now, Israel has assigned modest goals for itself: weakening Hamas rule in Gaza and restoring a prolonged lull along the border under terms that are more convenient for us following an internationally imposed compromise.

Under that scenario, the Israeli leadership is expecting that after some period of time the US will step in and help it negotiate the kind of political outcome it wants with (or without?) Hamas.
This seems unlikely to unfold as planned. The US has no effective president right now. Who will the Americans deal with, in the Arab world, to try to get Hamas to accede to its and Israel’s demands?
Egypt acted as intermediary in the June tahdi’eh between Israel and Hamas. But this time round, Hamas has already signaled its strong discontent with Egypt’s position. Meantime, Hamas’s co-believers from the Egyptian Muslim brotherhood seem more ready than ever to intervene in public inside Egypt in support of Hamas.
Actually, what seems to be shaping up is a major, possibly regionwide confrontation between, on the one side, the many pro-Hamas forces in Egypt, Jordan, and elsewhere in the region, and on the other, the US and Israel and the Arab regimes that have until now been dependent on the US.
Olmert, Livni, and Ehud Barak may well not have factored this into account. It may well be the case that the considerations uppermost in their minds were the very provincial considerations of two governing parties that had been badly tainted by the outcome of the 33-day war of 2006 that are now going into a big general election fight in early February.
The Olmert government would certainly not be the first Israeli government that decided it wanted to launch its election campaign with a “salutary” military attack against some Arab neighbors! (Shimon Peres in 1996 comes immediately to mind.)
Deep condolences to all the families, on both sides of the line, who have lost loved ones in the present round of fighting. One Israeli has been reported dead from Hamas’s retaliatory fire.
Pray for all those terrorized by the attacks.
Note, too, that one other casualty of this assault is very likely to be Abu Mazen’s role in the Palestinian movement.

Israel’s revolving door for Palestinian prisoners

The respected Palestinian politician and humanitarian activist Mustapha Barghouthi notes that since Annapolis (remember Annapolis, folks?), Israel has released 990 Palestinian political prisoners– but it has arrested and detained (usually without trial) a further 4,950 Palestinians.
Israel, he said, now holds around 11,000 Palestinians, including 47 elected members of parliament.
A Palestinian non-state group holds one Israeli who at the time of capture was a combatant in the IDF.
So much for all the rosy promises and scenarios described at Annapolis, eh?
The promises regarding cutbacks in Israeli settlement building have proven equally content-free.
“Accountability”, anyone?