Monday, December 29, 2008

Thoughts to ponder regarding the current Israel/Gaza confrontation

Israel's End Game

Does the Gaza offensive signal that the Israeli government has decided to embark on the end game? The scale of the effort—a massive aerial assault, with Israeli tanks massing along Gaza's border in evident preparation for a ground-assault—certainly suggests that. What does the "end game" mean? I quote a longtime senior Israeli defense adviser: A military effort to crush Palestinian resistance for a generation.

The great Athenian historian Thucydides, writing almost 2500 years ago, concluded that one reason a nation goes to war is a perception of waning power: act now because the future looks worse than the present. The scale of the assault on Gaza suggests that the Olmert government is validating Thucydides' analysis: embarking on the end game to crush Hamas before it gets stronger, and Israel's position gets weaker. As Thucydides also observed, though, nations taking this gamble tend to be poor judges of what the consequences will be.


Israel says Gaza assault 'war to the bitter end'

Israel obliterated symbols of Hamas power on the third day of what the defense minister described Monday as a "war to the bitter end," striking next to the Hamas premier's home, and devastating a security compound and a university building.

The three-day death toll rose to at least 315 by Monday morning, with some 1,400 wounded. Israel launched its campaign, the deadliest against Palestinians in decades, on Saturday in retaliation for rocket fire aimed at civilians in southern Israeli towns.

Since then, the number of Israeli troops on the Gaza border has doubled and the Cabinet approved the call-up of 6,500 reserve soldiers.

Ehud Barak, the Israeli defense minister, told parliament Israel was not fighting the residents of Gaza. "But we have a war to the bitter end against Hamas and its branches," he said. Barak said the goal is to deal Hamas a "severe blow" and that the operation would be "widened and deepened as needed."

Israel's intense bombings — more than 300 airstrikes since midday Saturday — reduced dozens of buildings to rubble. The military said naval vessels also bombarded targets from the sea.

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