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Phyllis Bennis: Why Israel Escalates Gaza Attack

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  • Ed Pearl
    http://www.thenation.com/blog/171265/israel-escalates-gaza-attack-assassinat ion Israel
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 16, 2012

      tion> Escalates Gaza Attack With Assassination

      Phyllis Bennis <http://www.thenation.com/authors/phyllis-bennis> ,
      The Nation: November 14, 2012

      Yesterday's Egyptian-brokered cease-fire between Gaza and Israel collapsed
      today when Israel launched a major escalation. In airstrikes almost
      certainly involving US-made F-16 warplanes and/or US-made Apache
      helicopters, Israel's air force assassinated Ahmad Jaabari, the longtime
      military leader of Hamas. As the Israeli airstrikes continued today, seven
      more Palestinians were killed and at least thirty were injured, ten of them

      Jaabari had been chief negotiator with Israel in the deal that led to the
      release of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit in exchange for the release
      of more than 1,000 Palestinian political prisoners held illegally in Israeli
      jails. He had negotiated the cease-fire that had mostly held over much of
      the last year or more. The attack, code-named "Operation Pillar of Defense"
      [sic], also killed someone else in Jaabari's car, and quickly expanded with
      additional airstrikes against Palestinian security and police stations in
      Gaza, making it impossible for Palestinian police to try to control the

      So why the escalation? Israeli military and political leaders have long made
      clear that regular military attacks to "cleanse" Palestinian territories
      (the term was used by Israeli soldiers to describe their role in the 2008-09
      Israeli assault on Gaza) is part of their long-term strategic plan. Earlier
      this year, on the third anniversary of the Gaza assault, Israeli army Chief
      of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz told Army Radio that Israel will need to
      attack Gaza again soon, to restore what he called its power of "deterrence."
      He said the assault must be "swift and painful," concluding, "we will act
      when the conditions are right." Perhaps this was his chosen moment.

      It is an interesting historical parallel that this escalation-which almost
      certainly portends a longer-term and even more lethal Israeli assault-takes
      place almost exactly four years after Operation Cast Lead, the last major
      Israeli war on Gaza, which left 1,400 Gazans dead in 2008-09. Then, as now,
      the attack came shortly after the US presidential elections, ending just
      before President Obama's January 2009 inauguration.

      But the timing for this escalation is almost certainly shaped more by
      Israel's domestic politics than by the US election cycle. The most likely
      timeline is grounded in Netanyahu's political calendar-he faces re-election
      in January, and having thoroughly antagonized many Israelis by his
      deliberate dissing of President Obama, needs to shore up the far-right
      contingent of his base. With regional pressures escalating, particularly
      regarding the expanding Syrian crisis, Netanyahu needs to reassure his
      far-right supporters (an increasing cohort) that even if he doesn't send
      bombers to attack Damascus, he still can attack, bomb, assassinate Arabs
      with impunity.

      There is a US connection, of course-however much domestic politics motivated
      Tel Aviv's attack, Israel's backers in Congress (lame-duck and newly
      elected) will still demand public US support for the Israeli offensive.
      Netanyahu will get that backing-there is no reason to think the Obama White
      House is prepared yet to challenge that assumption. But it's unlikely that
      even Netanyanu believes it will somehow recalibrate his tense relationship
      with US by forcing Washington's hand to defend Israel's so-called "right of
      self-defense." They will do that-but Obama will still be pretty pissed off
      at Netanyahu.

      As is always the case, history is shaped by when you start the clock. In the
      last several days, US media accounts have reported increasing violence on
      the Gaza-Israel border, most of them beginning with a Palestinian attack on
      Israeli soldiers on Thursday, November 8. What happened before that
      Palestinian attack?

      For starters, the soldiers, part of an Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) squad
      that included four tanks and a bulldozer, were inside the Gaza Strip.
      According to the IDF spokeswoman, Palestinians fired at "soldiers while they
      were performing routine activity adjacent to the security fence." Really.
      What kind of activities inside the supposedly not-occupied Gaza Strip, by a
      group of armed soldiers, tanks and a bulldozer (almost certainly an armored
      Caterpillar D-9 bulldozer manufactured in the United States and paid for
      with US taxpayer military aid to Israel), could possibly be defined as
      anything close to "routine"? Unlike the illegal Palestinian rockets fired
      against civilian targets inside Israel, using force to resist an illegal
      military force in the context of a belligerent military occupation is lawful
      under international law.

      Later that day, an 11-year-old child was killed. Israel was "investigating
      the boy's death." Not many US media outlets reported that within the next
      seventy-two hours the Gaza-based Palestinian Center for Human Rights
      documented five more Palestinians killed, including three children, and
      fifty-two other civilians, including six women and twelve children, wounded
      in Israeli airstrikes. Four of the deaths and thirty-eight injuries resulted
      from a single Israeli attack on a football playground in a neighborhood east
      of Gaza city. Twelve Israelis, four of them soldiers, were injured by
      Palestinian rockets fired into Israel.

      The cross-border clashes continued, until Egypt was able to negotiate a
      ceasefire on Wednesday. Today, that fragile ceasefire was violently breached
      as Israel sent warplanes to assassinate a Hamas leader and destroy key parts
      of Gaza's barely functional infrastructure.

      This is primarily about Netanyanu shoring up the right wing of his base. And
      once again it is Palestinians, this time Gazans, who will pay the price. The
      question that remains is whether the US-assured impunity that Israel's
      leadership has so long counted on will continue, or whether there will be
      enough pressure on the Obama administration and Congress so that this time,
      the United States will finally be forced to allow the international
      community to hold Israel accountable for this latest round of violations of
      international law.


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