Rassegna Stampa Elezioni Israeliane 2009

Monitoraggio attraverso i media internazionali delle elezioni in Israele del Febbraio 2009

Backlash begins as Israel split over success of war in Gaza

Posted by claudiacampli su 22 gennaio, 2009

Times


A day after the last of their country’s soldiers pulled out of the Gaza, Israelis are increasingly asking themselves just what they were fighting for.

The offensive enjoyed massive popular support while under way, but with the guns silent, scathing criticism is emerging from both the Left and the Right about the lack of any clear achievement, other than a huge Palestinian death toll and the damage to Israel’s international reputation.

The stated goal at the start of Operation Cast Lead was to end Hamas’s constant rocket fire on southern Israel. Like Hezbollah in the Lebanon war two years ago, Hamas kept on firing rockets until the end of the fighting, and is believed still to have about 1,000 missiles stockpiled, despite Israel’s devastating air strikes on its hidden arsenals.

Smugglers say that many of their tunnels under the Egypt-Gaza border carried on working even during the hostilities. Those that were destroyed by Israeli bombing were being repaired and new ones excavated as soon as the fighting ended.

While many on the left of the political spectrum argue that the carnage and damage to Israel’s reputation has made the country no more secure, those on the right argue that the offensive – which at its height enjoyed support from 94 per cent of the population – failed to go far enough.

“We have not weakened Hamas. The vast majority of its combatants were not harmed and popular support for the organisation has in fact increased,” said Gideon Levy, a prominent commentator for the centre-Left daily Haaretz. “Their war has intensified the ethos of resistance and determined endurance.”

He also scoffed at the idea that Israel’s ferocity in Gaza would make future aggressors think twice about attacking. “Deterrence, my foot. The deterrence we supposedly achieved in the Second Lebanon War has not had the slightest effect on Hamas, and the one supposedly achieved now isn’t working any better: The sporadic firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip has continued over the past few days.”

Even Cabinet ministers who backed the attack admitted that it had not achieved anything more than yet another shaky ceasefire with an Iranian-backed group that refuses to recognise the Jewish state’s right to exist.

“Hamas has not been taken out, nor will we be able to take them out,” said Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the National Infrastructure Minister and veteran Labour Party politician. “Theirs is an ideology and not just a military organisation, and it will remain.”

On the right, criticism was even more scathing. “The soldiers succeeded, but the politicians failed,” said Avigdor Lieberman of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu Party, which has seen its support grow since the conflict. “They didn’t let the army complete the operation. What was achieved here? Zip, nada.”

Eli Yishai, the Finance Minister and head of the ultra-Orthodox religious party Shas, said that Israel should have kept fighting until Hamas was destroyed.

“Now Hamas will rebuild its infrastructure with Iranian money and then they will resume the smuggling and continue firing at Israel. We should have finished the job – pull out the ground forces and continue striking from the air.

“We should have hit thousands more houses and reached a point in which they don’t dare shoot at Israel ever again.”

Mr Levy noted: “The describing of the operation as a ‘military achievement’ by the various generals and analysts who offered their take on the operation is plain ridiculous.”

“I’d say it was unclear what was achieved,” said Gabriel Motzkin, an advocate of Israeli-Palestinian reform, noting that more than two years later, critics label the unpopular war in Lebanon a dismal failure, while advocates claim that it has kept the northern border quiet.

Many in Israel worry that the war in Gaza may have irrevocably weakened Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Authority and leader of the mainstream Fatah movement, whose forces were driven from Gaza by Hamas 18 months ago.

Mr Abbas has long been engaged in talks with Israel to create a Palestinian state. Hamas, which is enjoying a surge in grassroots popularity, is offering only a long-term truce.

Ehud Olmert, the outgoing Prime Minister, said that the war would strengthen Israel’s hand in indirect talks to secure the release of an Israel soldier captured by Hamas two and a half years ago. But a spokesman for the Popular Resistance Committees, one of the Gaza militant factions, said that their position had not softened at all.

“The Israelis are wrong if they think the war will help them pressure us on [Corporal Gilad] Shalit,” said Abu Mujahid. “Our demands have not changed: The entire list of prisoners we demanded, and in addition, launching talks on lifting the siege.”

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