Saturday, January 17, 2009

Israel Announces Unilateral Ceasefire in Gaza

Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announced the IDF will put a halt to its operations in Gaza although the ground force will remain for now.

Hamas has not agreed to the ceasefire and says it will only agree to it if the IDF pulls out from Gaza. Not that an Israeli withdrawal has ever prevented Hamas from launching rockets indiscriminately into Israel.

Over the past 22 days, the offensive resulted in the deaths of over 1,100 Palestinians, mostly Hamas terrorists. For having the temerity to defend itself, Israel finds itself accused of committing genocide and compared to Nazis. If anyone other the Israeli forces (and possibly American forces) had killed hundreds of Hamas terrorists no one would have uttered such words.

So why have a ceasefire now? Two words. Barack Obama. He will take office in less than 72 hours. Gaza was said to have been high on his list and will still be, ceasefire or no ceasefire. Bush has given Israel considerable latitude and it is not clear that Obama would be similarly forthcoming. Of course, Obama will not be Olmert's concern for very long. Israel will elect a new Prime Minister on February 10th. The Israeli offensive does atone somewhat for the debacle in Lebanon in 2006 and will probably benefit Tzipi Livni. But if Benjamin Netanyahu is elected things will really get interesting between Washington and Jerusalem.

I do think Obama will bring considerable pressure to bear on Israel even if it is not reflected in his public comments. Hamas might be weakened for now but the rocket attacks will resume and eventually escalate to a point where Israel must respond again. But Obama might veto Israel's right to defend itself and sacrifice it in the pursuit of restoring America's reputation in the world specifically in Europe and the Muslim world although it is increasingly difficult to tell the two apart.

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