Mission Accomplished?

January 22, 2009

It was really only a matter of time.

Within days of the end of Israel’s offensive in Gaza – which included the dropping of massive ‘bunker-buster’ bombs to destroy the vast network of tunnels that run under Gaza’s border with Egypt – the tunnels are up and running again.

The tunnelers say they are not interested in smuggling weapons – the food and fuel that Gazans so desperately need are far more profitable contraband anyway.

To see the tunnels open again – so soon after the end of 22 days of military operations – has riled Israel and led to warnings that further military force could be used against the tunnels.

The warnings are of little concern to those doing the digging and the smuggling – if Israel wants to stop the smuggling, they say, open Gaza’s borders.

Stopping the smuggling was one of the stated aims of Israel’s offensive. Although Israel has been bolstered by US and European support in its bid to cut off the smuggling of rockets – the facts on, and under, the ground suggest the aim was not achieved.

Stopping militants firing rockets at Israel was another stated aim. That has been achieved by a ceasefire – but Israeli intelligence estimates Hamas and other militant factions still have plenty of rockets in stock which could be unleashed if this ceasefire crumbles like so many before it.

Dealing Hamas a ‘crushing blow’ was another stated aim. That one is hard to gauge – Hamas, despite losing some of its top leaders in the campaign, has claimed ‘victory’ and still seems to be standing in Gaza.

‘Changing the reality in the south’ was another stated aim.  Again hard to gauge although much of the pre-war reality has not changed – Israelis are still living under the threat of a rain of rockets, Palestinians are still living in destitution behind a crippling blockade.

All of which, inevitably, has led to questions about what exactly has been achieved by the devastating offensive – apart from massive damage to Gaza’s infrastructure, a shocking casualty toll, a battering of Israel’s international reputation in some quarters and an impoverished and embattled population in Gaza which – on the face of it – is not blaming its Hamas leaders for the onslaught but is pointing the finger squarely at Israel.

Some commentators have said Israel achieved one important goal by reestablishing its ‘deterrence’ – its ability to make its enemies think twice before attacking – that was badly dented by an inconclusive outcome to the 2006 war against Hezbollah guerrillas in south Lebanon.

Other commentators are questioning whether the means justify that end.

‘Ah – the usual suspects,’ an Israeli colleague told me when I pointed out this commentary from left-wing columnist Gideon Levy in Haaretz which raises questions about what was achieved.

Its worth noting that even the ‘usual suspects’ were far more circumspect in their criticism in the early stages of the war – indeed some were even supportive in line with the vast majority of Israeli public opinion and the mainstream media.

Reading the comments on Levy’s essay- or on this one by Gadi Baltiansky on the website of Israel’s leading newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth – still gives a fair, if non-scientific, reflection on popular opinion in Israel which is still firmly behind the war.

More scientific is the poll published today by Israel Hayom/New Wave – which shows hawkish former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gaining steadily in popularity ahead of elections in just under three weeks.

Netanyahu – according to his adviser Ron Dermer – would have added another aim to the Gaza offensive: “Ultimately Hamas must be toppled because it is a threat to Israel,” he told Reuters here.

With the election fast turning in to a referendum on the war and its outcome – one last aim could still be achieved.

As my colleague Dan Williams reported here the fate of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit held by Palestinian militants in Gaza could be in play again – with Israel appearing more flexible on Hamas demands for the release of 1,400 inmates held in Israeli jails in return for the release of Shalit.

If that happens before election day the polls could still have some surprises in store.


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Posted by Mission Accomplished? | Shimshon 9 | Report as abusive

If the tunnels become operational, then the UN should send a peacekeeping force to shut them down.

Or Israel should simply occupy the Gaza border. I suspect this will happen sooner or later.

Israel should just refuse to open the border for anything aside from humanitarian supplies. If Hamas fires more rockets, Israel should bomb them for another 20 days.

If Hamas does not fire the rockets, Israel should flood Gaza TV with messages of Israeli victory.

As for Gilad? Nobody really believes he is still alive. The last negotiation was hundreads of prisoners for two israli “POWs” who turned out to be already dead.

Posted by Tag | Report as abusive

So if ”Israel should simply occupy the Gaza border” it is like concentration camps is not enought…you will sure have peace!!
Why not open the crossing and start negotiate ….I do not really know for how long Israelis are willing to ignore the international law..But sure soon the world have to take actions against them.

Posted by KENT | Report as abusive

A sea change in Americal policy looks underway so far as Gaza conflict is concerned. A word of caution for President Obama. If Bush looked like all on the side of Isreal; Obama should be cautious as not to look like too much on the side of Palestine. Gradually Gaza is becoming central point for asserting Islamic fyndamentalism on the globe beginning with America, routing through England to other countries aligned with the two in world politics.

Posted by Keshav Prasad | Report as abusive

hmm, let’s see, so israel wants the tunnels shut down. the reason why the tunnels exist because the israelis have closed all the borders and crossing into gaza and they refuse to open them except for “humanitarian” purposes, which by the way they are not doing that either. so the tunnels gets shutdown and the borders stay closed?? concentration camp anyone?? except this one doesn’t have gas chambers, instead this one camp offers a slow death from hunger, sickness, and disease. i love the rationality behind all of this.its no wonder why this issue still hauns the world today, 60 years later and we are still dealing with this.i guess if you want to advertise that you “won” against a civilian population armed with rocks and stones and want that to be something to brag about,that’s your preogative, its just too bad that wasn’t the case back in 2006 when a bad of street thugs embarassed the so called “middle east’s military superpower”. the fact that we have people out there down playing the deaths of 1300 people and then trying to find a way of claiming victory while trying to hide war crimes is pretty sickening and disgusting. I guess that must be a new way to cover for cowardness, ignorance, and murder.

Posted by sid | Report as abusive

The only gain made was by the politicians who want to show the Israeli poeple that they are doing something to stop Hamas. In reality they strenthened Hamas and created thousands of extremists in Gaza with the their mass murder campaign. The only way Israel will be able to live free of threats is by complying with the many UN resolutions which make the construction of settlements illegal and also establish the pre 1967 border as the internationally recognized one. Also they need to stop opressing and humiliating Palestinians. I tell you if some one Bombed my home it my whole family in it and there was no police or any one to help me hold the people who bombed me accountable I would proably pick up a gun and go looking for them too…. that happened to tens of thousands of Palestinains. I dont think Israel is interested in peace since the “war” gives them excuses to continue their land grabs and their inhumane treatment of civilians.

Posted by Jacob | Report as abusive

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