Monday, January 5, 2009

Why Israel Went to War in Gaza - Chris McGreal

Reporting from Jerusalem for The Observer, January 4, 2009 - "This was something that was planned long ahead," he said. "I was recruited by the foreign minister to coordinate Israel's efforts and I have never seen all parts of a very complex machinery - whether it is the Foreign Ministry, the Defence Ministry, the prime minister's office, the police or the army - work in such co-ordination, being effective in sending out the message."....

It was a message pumped home with receptive Arab governments, such as Egypt and Jordan, which view Hamas with hostility...."We've seen the effect of that in numerous responses, in the public statements made by [Egypt's] President Mubarak and even by [Palestinian president] Mahmoud Abbas and other Arabs. This is totally unprecedented."

Indeed, the Egyptian Foreign Minister, Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said his government knew exactly what was coming...

Also crucial was what was not said. Just a few months ago Livni was talking of wiping out Hamas, but that would be unpalatable to much of the outside world as a justification for the assault. So now the talk is of pressing Gaza's government to agree to a new ceasefire. Occasionally someone has got off-message. A couple of days into the assault on Gaza, Israel's ambassador to the UN, Gabriela Shalev, said it would continue for "as long as it takes to dismantle Hamas completely". Infuriated Israeli officials in Jerusalem warned her that such statements could set back the diplomatic offensive.

Perhaps crucial to the ceasefire's collapse were the differing views of what it was supposed to achieve. Israel regarded the truce as calm in return for calm. Hamas expected Israel to lift the blockade of Gaza that the latter said was a security response to the firing of Qassam rockets.

But Israel did not end the siege that was wrecking the economy and causing desperate shortages of food, fuel and medicine. Gazans concluded that the blockade was not so much about rocket attacks as punishment for voting for Hamas.

Central to the Israeli message has been that, when it pulled out its military and Jewish settlers three years ago, Gaza was offered the opportunity to prosper.... Israeli officials argue that Hamas, and by extension the people who elected it, was more interested in hating and killing Jews than building a country.

Palestinians see it differently. Buttu says that from the day the Israelis withdrew from Gaza, they set about ensuring that it would fail economically....

Chris McGreal is the Jerusalem correspondent for
The Guardian.

No comments: