Monday, February 2, 2009

Israel threatens Gaza with disproportionate force (again)

Just two weeks after Israel’s military campaign wrapped up in Gaza and already the rockets are starting to fall again on Israeli towns in the south. So far only a handful (four at last count) have been launched and none have caused any real damage or injury (except maybe to the notion that Israel won the war). But that hasn’t stopped Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert from warning of dire consequences. “We've said that if there is rocket fire against the south of the country, there will be a disproportionate Israeli response to the fire on the citizens of Israel and its security forces,” Olmert said.

Will be disproportionate force? I thought that already happened…

Olmert’s bluster overshadowed an announcement from Egypt that Hamas has agreed, in principle, to a long-term truce agreement with Israel. News agencies from the region reported a major breakthrough in the talks with Hamas, though the details were sketchy. Really it’s amazing there could have been any progress at all in the negotiations considering that Israel is refusing to talk with Hamas, yet wants them to agree to a truce (this might be a good time to again quote former Israeli PM Yitzak Rabin: “you don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies…”).

And the United States’ relationship with Israel could get even tenser if, as expected, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party wins in the elections next week. Netanyahu has again raised the idea of air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities. The problem for the US with this plan is that the most logical route has the Israeli Air Force crossing over Iraq to get to Iran, and refueling in mid-air while they do it. Iraq would never agree to let Israel use their airspace, but Iraq has no air force to speak of, controlling the skies is our job. So, in theory, the USAF could be put in the position of either confronting the Israelis or ignoring their responsibility of patrolling Iraq’s skies and letting them fly through should Israel decide to strike.

Frankly I could see Netanyahu launching an attack on Iran as a way of pressuring the Obama administration to choose sides – either Israel or the Arab world. Hopefully the folks in the White House are having the same thought and are deciding what they’ll do in case that happens.
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