Did God change his mind?

Apart from the loss of life of 1000 Palestinians and 13 Israelis and the vast destruction after 19 days of aerial bombardment, the Israeli invasion of Gaza has seemingly failed to achieve its strategic objectives, chief among which was to stop rocket fire from Hamas. The Palestinian resistance still seems to be quite functional – there is still rocket fire. So, what has been gained? Hamas has withstood the ferocious Israeli assault without knuckling under or making any concessions.

For Israel, the military campaign has been a public relations disaster. Photos on the internet of bloodied and dismembered children rushed off to make-shift hospitals or wrapped in their funereal shrouds has generated unprecedented sympathy for the plight of Palestinians. Israel has come across as a bully condemned by many international bodies including Red Cross and Human Rights Council. On top of that, Jerusalem Post reported that Sephardi chief rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu had written a letter to PM Olmert informing him that “all civilians living in Gaza are collectively guilty for Kassam attacks on Sderot….Eliyahu ruled that there was absolutely no moral prohibition against the indiscriminate killing of civilians during a potential massive military offensive on Gaza aimed at stopping the rocket launchings.”

Besides, it deserves a consideration that Israel’s economy has been on a downturn and started feeling consequences of the global economic recession. It has been ordering closure of chemical and other plants, some of them producing military-related materials and equipment.

Hamas chief Meshaal knows well that Israel doesn’t want to reoccupy Gaza. He also knows that DM Ehud Barak doesn’t want to be bogged down when elections roll around in few weeks – current advance of Israeli forces to suburbs of Gaza city is mostly due to increasing pressure from the PM Ehud Olmert who wants to put an end to what he sees as military capacity of Hamas. Initially, Israel was hoping to rout Hamas quickly and install Abbas’s PA security guards at the Rafah crossing, but now they’ve hit a glitch and the battle is starting to look like a quagmire, with Israelis increasingly reluctant to go deep into the city in fear of incurring significant casualties and where artillery and air force will only be able to have very limited operations.

And let us not forget the cost of Gaza war, estimated to be around NIS 2.4 billion (620 million USD) two weeks ago, 1.3% (a huge number considering the time length) of the annual GDP estimate of NIS 186 billion in 2007. And this was before the major callup for reservists and advance into the suburbs of Gaza.

And still as of yesterday there were reportedly 25 mortars and rockets fired into into southern Israel.

What about Obama’s administration in matters related to the Middle East? A report in the IHT says that the people who are most likely to play significant roles on the Middle East in the Obama administration are “Dennis Ross (the veteran Clinton administration Mideast peace envoy who may now extend his brief to Iran); Jim Steinberg (as deputy secretary of state); Dan Kurtzer (the former U.S. ambassador to Israel); Dan Shapiro (a longtime aide to Obama); and Martin Indyk (another former ambassador to Israel who is close to the incoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton).” The only difference between this group of pro-Israel hawks and the Bush claque is that they are more adept at creating the illusion of a “peace process.” Other than that, the differences are negligible.

And there are already reports that Israel is going to receive an unusually large weapons shipment from the US. Is this a sign of a weakening military capacity of Israeli military, a strain on their budget or a resolution to proceed with military campaign until the complete eradication of Hamas?

And what about Hamas itself? In name of protection of its own people, as it loudly claims, it brought not only the wrath of Israeli air force but the entire might of Israeli artillery and ground forces deep into the Gaza city. Perhaps the Israeli allegations of Hamas fighters intentionally using innocent civilians as cover are exaggerated, but BBC’s Gaza correspondent and many other eyewitness accounts tell of Hamas fighters launching RPGs and bombs on Israelis from rooftops of densely populated buildings and from nearby hospitals, without reflection of possible Israeli retaliation and casualties entailed. Israelis claim to only fire on those who fire on them. If a grenade is thrown at them from around a corner of an inhabited building, they fire on the building…

Israel is the bully and the aggressor but no finger points at Hamas’s own “losing” tactic which brings nothing but death and havoc upon its own people, without themselves coming even close to their aspired goals, leaving for the moment aside the morality, righteousness and other aspects thereof.

And Meshaal? A coward hidding in Damascus…Afraid to come out of his safe-house (whom Mossad attempted to assassinate some 12 years ago), he is only as good as a violent but short wind, which blows and passes without any longterm consequences. He talks, only…

It is perhaps time that someone, a Palestinian in particular, pointed a finger at Hamas and questionned their goals and most importantly their means of achieving them.

Anyhow, as one Israeli settler leader recently argued during a conversation with a visiting American peace activist that ‘if it was right to commit genocide during Biblical time, why can’t it be right to commit genocide now. Has God changed his mind,’ the settler wondered sarcastically.”