Yesterday a grandmother was killed on one of the kibbutzim near Gaza by a Palestinian missile. Saturday a member of another kibbutz died in the same way. Saturday's victim was a professional photographer. We saw a film of him expressing his willingness to live alongside Israel's borders.
When is enough enough?
Israel's government seems to be dithering with Hamas and other armed groups, via Egyptian intermediaries, about a cease-fire. Israel would like to link the cease fire with the release of Gilad Shalit, held prisoner in Gaza by one of the groups, for almost two years. Palestinian groups are saying that they may re-open talks about his release if Israel agrees to a cease-fire. Israel also wants an end to the flow of armaments to Gaza through Egypt. There seems little chance that another agreement on this issue will be more successful than previous agreements on the same issue.
Israel's government is risking its self-respect. It has the capacity to make the people of Gaza pay a heavy price for the continued shelling of settlements in Israel, but it refuses to use that capacity.
One member of a kibbutz subject to bombardment, when interviewed on radio, called for an artillery barrage on Gaza in response to every missile sent toward Israel. It would not be necessary to risk Israeli soldiers.
The kibbutz member termed himself a leftist. That usually means, "peace loving."
Would this kibbutz leftist remain on message when Gazans start dying in the hundreds or thousands? Israeli artillery is more deadly than the rockets of Gaza.
Another member of a kibbutz near Gaza ridiculed the proposal of adding shelters to homes and public buildings. That would legitimize the continuation of rocket attacks.
Why not a more forceful response?
It would risk the peace process. The people in nominal charge of the West Bank could not continue peace discussions if Palestinians were dying in Gaza. The White House could not accept this. President Bush continues to say that Mahmoud Abbas is a credible partner for peace.
Europeans would respond badly. They might impose economic sanctions on Israel. Jimmy Carter would say again that Israel is committing war crimes in Gaza worse than the apartheid it is practicing in the West Bank. Not a few American Jews would join some Israelis by expressing their shame about a country that uses weapons rather than agreements in order to attain peace.
Can we count on Israel's prime minister to act heroically? The police investigation may be weighing on him, and it can take a while to reach any conclusion. "A while" in the Israeli context means several months at the least.
Olmert was photographed yesterday nodding off to sleep while attending a meeting. He woke up to say that the subject of the meeting was close to his heart.
I have yet to hear an Israeli commentator indicate that Abbas is strong enough, or willing enough, to reach an agreement that Israel is likely to offer, and to impose an end to violence on his population.
A snippet from Atlantic does not encourage us to rely on Barak Obama. http://jeffreygoldberg.theatlantic.com/archives/2008/05/obama_on_zionism_and_hamas.php
Do you think that Israel is a drag on America's reputation overseas?
No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I'm not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that's the safest ground politically.
Clinton's candidacy is not promising. Moreover, her comment about destroying Iran is not something anyone can rely upon.
Can we hope that McCain does not have a senior moment in front of the cameras before November?
It is time to calculate Israel's responsibility to defend its population, against the possibilities of embarrassing whoever is the American president, opposition from European governments, and criticism from Jews and others concerned with Palestinians.
A look at the Palestinian peace process suggests a non-starter. Recent hints of peace with Syria are now overwhelmed by Syrian and Iranian aid to Hizbollah fighters who are threatening to take over Lebanon. Iran's president continues to talk about Israel as a temporary problem that must be removed from the Middle East.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Home tel: 972-2-532-2725
Cell phone: 054-683-5325