Monday, January 5, 2009

We Are Not Even Close to Achieving Our Objectives Yet - Alon Ben-David

CBS News, Gaza-Israeli border, January 5, 2009 - Alon Ben-David: We are at the beginning of the second phase of this operation where the idea is to give Hamas a sense of a genuine threat on the regime inside Gaza so we have Gaza encircled by the IDF…. I am not sure that this is a point where we want them to be. I think that Israel is trying to create a more stronger effect of deterrence on the other side so we are not quite there yet, the question I think is if we are going to go to the third phase or the second will suffice to reach those objectives.

Mark Phillips: What's the third phase?

Alon Ben-David: The third phase naturally will be expanding the ground operation. You see the calling up of tens of thousands of reservists. Right now I think there is still genuine desire to avoid that third stage. However, I think if we approach the end of this week without coming close to the objectives set for this operation….

Mark Phillips:
Meaning no rockets?

Alon Ben-David:
Meaning a ceasefire, a complete ceasefire. A sustainable and long-lasting one. Some international involvement on the issue of preventing smuggling from Egypt into Gaza and not rely on the Egyptians alone in that issue. Some involvement of the Palestinian authorities in the Rafah crossing as well. I think those are the political objectives that Israel has set for this operation and we are not close yet. If you look at today's Egyptian draft for a ceasefire, it is still very far from the objectives set by the Israeli government. Militarily, I think Israel cannot avoid that phase (casualties). In the next hours or days you will see the Israeli soldiers going more and more into the populated areas....

Mark Phillips:
Do you think that Israel at this stage is looking for a way out? Would this be a good time to stop as a lot of people are calling for it?

Alon Ben-David:
I think that right now there is a gap between the public statements and the subtext of those that are putting those initiatives on the table. I think right now the undertone of the messages received from the U.S. from the EU and even from the Egyptians is go and finish the job. Now I am not sure that Israel is willing to pay the price to completely topple Hamas regime in Gaza however I think that the signal that Israel is getting today from the international community is that you still have time to do what you think is necessary, we agree that Hamas has to be restrained but you don't have all the time in the world. That's why I said that buy the end of this week Israel will have to decide whether it goes on and expand the operation or stops where it is.

Alon Ben-David is an Israeli Military Analyst. He was interviewed by CBS News on the border.

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