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17 January 2009

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Here is one commentator's summary of Israel's goals with their latest incursion into Gaza. Opinions?

"Instead Israel is planning to resort to its favourite diplomatic manoeuvre: unilateralism. It wants a solution that passes over the heads of Hamas and the Palestinians. Or as Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, put it: “There is no intention here of creating a diplomatic agreement with Hamas. We need diplomatic agreements against Hamas.” The formula currently being sought for a ceasefire will face opposition from Israel unless it helps achieve several goals.

Israel’s first is to seal off Gaza properly this time. Egypt, although profoundly uncomfortable at having an Islamic group ruling next door, is under too much domestic pressure to crack down on the tunnelling. Israel therefore wants to bring in American and European experts to do the job. They will ensure that the blockade cannot be broken and that Hamas cannot rearm with the the help of outside actors like Iran. At best, Hamas can hope to limp on as nominal ruler of Gaza, on Israeli sufferance.

The second goal has been well articulated by the Harvard scholar Sara Roy, who has been arguing for some time that Israel is, in her words, “de-developing” Gaza. The blockade has been integral to achieving that objective, and is the reason Israel wants it strengthened. In the longer term, she believes, Gazans will come to be “seen merely as a humanitarian problem, beggars who have no political identity and therefore can have no political claims.”

In addition, Gazans living close to the enclave’s northern and southern borders may be progressively “herded” into central Gaza – as envisioned in Vilnai’s plan last year. That process may already be under way, with Israeli leafletting campaigns warning inhabitants of these areas to flee. Israel wants to empty both the Rafah area, so that it can monitor more easily any attempts at tunnelling, and the northern part because this is the location of the rocket launches that are hitting major Israeli cities such as Ashkelon and Ashdod and may one day reach Tel Aviv.

The third and related goal, as Barak and Vilnai proposed more than a year ago, is to cut off all Israeli responsibility for Gaza -- though not oversight of what is allowed in. Ghassan Khatib, a Palestinian analyst, believes that in this scenario Israel will insist that humanitarian supplies into Gaza pass only through the Egyptian crossing, thereby also undercutting Hamas’ role. Already Israel is preparing to hand over responsibility for supplying Gaza’s electricity to Egypt – a special plant is under construction close by in the Sinai.

Slowly, the hope is, Gaza’s physical and political separation from the West Bank will be cemented, with the enclave effectively being seen as a province of Egypt. Its inhabitants will lose their connection to the wider Palestinian people and eventually Cairo may grow bold enough to crack down on Hamas as brutally as it does its own Islamists.

The regime of Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, meanwhile, will be further isolated and weakened, improving Israel’s chances of forcing it to sign a deal annexing East Jerusalem and large swaths of the West Bank on which the Jewish settlements sit.

The fourth goal relates to wider regional issues. The chief obstacle to the implementation of Israel’s plan is the growing power of Iran and its possible pursuit of nuclear weapons. Israel’s official concern – that Tehran wants to attack Israel – is simple mischief-making. Rather Israel is worried that, if Iran becomes a regional superpower, Israeli diktats in the Middle East and in Washington will not go unchallenged."

by Jonathon Cook
http://www.kibush.co.il/show_file.asp?num=31399

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