Monday, November 12, 2012

Shells in the North, Shells in the South - An Israeli Dilemna

As we have all been seeing of late, Palestinian Militants in Gaza have once again begun raining shells on Southern Israel. Additionally, now shells from the Syrian Civil War have begun to fall on the Golan. As of yesterday, Gunners from the FSA (The Free Syrian Army - an odd collection of Social revolutionaries and, and Al-Qaeda operatives funded by the reactionary Gulf States) missed their mark and dropped mortars into the Golan. After numerous warnings the IDF reacted with Tanks stationed on the border and scored a direct hit on the mortar position. From YNET:
Twenty-four hours after the IDF first retaliated against a mortar that was fired from Syria and hit Israeli territory, another shell struck the Israeli side of the Golan Heights, just north of Tel Hazeka. No injuries or damage were reported.

Shortly thereafter, the IDF returned fire, using tanks deployed along the border to target two D-3 mortar launchers belonging to the Syrian army. A direct hit was identified.
This return of fire drew criticism from the FSA, a claim of partisanship by the Israelis on the side of the Butcher Assad. 

At the same time civilian communities in the South face heavy rocket fire from Militant groups in Gaza. According to Ma'an News, A group of Israeli tanks and Bulldozers were operating on the Gaza border around the security fence when gunmen from the Popular Resistance Committees opened fire on the Israelis.
Israeli military vehicles briefly penetrated the southern Gaza Strip earlier Thursday morning, leading to clashes with Palestinian militants.

The Popular Resistance Committees said its gunmen had confronted an Israeli force of four tanks and a bulldozer involved in a short-range incursion beyond Israel's border fence with the Gaza Strip.

"Terrorists opened fire at IDF (Israeli army) soldiers while they were performing routine activity adjacent to the security fence," an Israeli military spokeswoman said in Jerusalem. She said reports of Palestinians injuries were being checked.

A military official said the soldiers responded by firing at "suspicious locations" and said an Israeli soldier was lightly injured by mortar fire.

Palestinian fighters said they detonated an explosive device by an Israeli military vehicle near Khuzaa, east of Khan Younis.
In this case the Israelis struck back and since then the shells have been falling in the South. Of course, in recent months, militants from the South have been launching rockets into Israel on a regular basis and while no one has been killed there has been damage and fear in these civilian areas. On a personal note, having a friend at a kibbutz in the area - he tells me that the fire has been incessant and has caused damage.

Of course (and rightly so), the Israeli government has vowed to take steps to defend both borders and has done so. I don't think anyone in their right mind can argue with that. SO... where do they face any dilemma's?

Well... in the South, another Cast Lead Operation style runs the risk of bringing the Egyptians into the conflict OR if not actually into the conflict brings a potential abrogation of the Peace Treaty with Israel and return to the "Cold War" days of Nasser (and in the beginning Sadat). Currently the Egyptians are working with both the Israelis and Hamas to broker a cease fire deal and to be honest it is in the Egyptian regimes interest to get that cease fire. They can ill-afford a potential conflict with Israel as they continue to deal with an economy that has been shattered by greed and abuse.

However, the Muslim Brotherhood (the Parent organization of the ruling Freedom and Justice Party) has been out in the streets whipping up opposition to the Peace treaty in order to distract the Public from the economic woes of the nation AND to push an introduction of strict Sharia into the Egyptian Legal system.

SO, Egypt of course is in a dilemma in which should the Israelis respond in "Cast Lead" Fashion - the Egyptians in order to avoid a full scale internal political crises need to respond with gestures of their own. If they don't, they will face open revolt (a revolt that they are really to blame for by stoking crowds), and if they do they respond - they will face all the problems that come from the SCAF (the armed forces) losing commercial deals not too mention a conflict with their main benefactor; the U.S. Government.

At the same time the Israelis, heading into an election face issues of their own. PM Netanyahu HAS to do something regarding the Rocket Fire in the South. Today, Amos Harel and Avi Isaacheroff in Haaretz talked about the possibility that while there would not be a Cast Lead response - there might be a retaliation based around targeted assassination.

I suggest reading Harel and Isaacherof here as there is great insight into this dilemna where right now the only political winner is looking Hamas (who simply doesn't care what happens to Gaza or the local population as long as they can remain in the vanguard of "resistance"):

Gaza, however, remains the main problem for Netanyahu. The more intensely the southern residents protest what they see as the government's abandonment of their security, the more seriously he will have to consider taking tougher measures, with a resumption of targeted killings the most likely possibility. 
Netanyahu, who is preparing for January's election, is already being attacked in the political arena for not responding more forcefully. But he knows that his range of options against Hamas is limited. Israel is at this stage trying to avoid a ground operation a la Cast Lead. One reason is that the diplomatic reality now is far different than it was when that offensive was launched in 2008: Israel fears a direct confrontation with the new regime in Egypt and it knows that neither the United States nor Europe will be as tolerant of a large-scale military operation this time around.

There was no evidence Sunday along the Gaza border that the IDF was making any special preparations for an operation. Assassinations don't require very much preparation, though. All that's needed is a decision, but that, too, is a gamble, because it's hard to know how Hamas would react to such an initiative. Right now Hamas is looking pretty sure of itself. Its leaders didn't hesitate to take responsibility for some of the attacks over this past week, in a way that Israel saw as particularly provocative
Now, as for the North... Well, getting drawn into a civil war with a country that no matter who wins, will be hostile to Israel is yet another issue. If the FSA wins and ends the cruelty and barbarism of the Assad regime towards it's own people, chances are that an Islamist government (funded by the Saudi Wahabi regime and conservative Gulf States) would take control and in the chaos that would ensue, Israelis would face a Syrian regime with ties to Al-Qaeda on it's Southern Border.

On the other hand should Assad and his Iranian allies win in Syria, Israel would then face a solid Iranian alliance in the form of the Government of Syria AND the quasi Hizbollah State (formerly known as Lebanon </snark>) on their Northern border. A situation that can lead to nothing but no good.

If the Israelis intervene here (and as Harel and Isaacheroff report that they have no desire to do), they will immediately give a boost to whomever they intervene against. If they intervene against FSA and Al-Qaeda militants they give the militants the mantle of being the folks who are resisting not only Assad but also the "hated Israelis", and that would go a long ways to keeping the money and equipment flowing to the Rebels. At the same time should they intervene against Assad and the military, they make the rebels look like "Israeli tools" and hand the Assad regime an invaluable political point to justify it's continued war against it's own population.

SO.... we are left with this: "What is the answer?". Personally, I see no good responses here but I do see some opportunities. NOW, is a time when Israel can completely deflate Hamas by dealing with the Palestinians in the West Bank and working for a comprehensive Peace deal. This is a chance to open negotiations and for the Israelis to illustrate just WHY their security concerns need to be paramount. It can be a diplomatic win for them and if progress is achieved in negotiations in the West Bank can serve to show just how ineffective violent resistance is.

As for Syria, Israel needs to simply defend it's borders but should avoid anything further the more they simply respond yet not engage unless engaged the better it is. The Syrian situation is just one that can spin completely out control and cause massive havoc for the Israelis.

Finally as for Gaza, Personally I favor the Harel and Isaacheroff response (targeted assassinations) towards a Cast Lead style incursion. It may come to that in the end but, I think once the Hamas and Militant leaders get the message that if they show their heads in public they might just lose those heads.... they will be at the table with the Egyptian Leadership (and SCAF) telling them to make a deal. Because if the Israelis can isolate Hamas and separate them from the Palestinian polity. The Rocket fire just might possibly end.

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