Tensions and mutual attacks in and near Gaza have been on the rise for weeks now. Scores of rockets were launched into Israel during this organization’s Israel Symposium last month. During an all-too-short ceasefire, we visited the northern boundary of Gaza with Israel on Oct. 26, gazing into the long narrow strip of land that is the world’s most overpopulated place with a resident of a nearby kibbutz; he has helped organize “Another Voice,” Israelis and Palestinians on opposite sides of the line who have established phone and email contact to express compassion and offer mutual support. The Israelis have raised funds to help Gazans with medical needs (such as prostheses from limbs lost in the fighting). The Gazans maintain this contact in secret from the Hamas authorities.
As of this moment, a new round of violence has turned increasingly deadly, with this morning’s news of three Israelis and 11 Palestinians killed. Today’s New York Times editorial soberly asks if we are witnessing the beginning of “Another Israel-Gaza War?”
Gershon Baskin, the peace activist and Jerusalem Post columnist who helped arrange the deal with Hamas for the release of Gilad Shalit, reacted with consternation on Facebook to the news of Israel’s assassination yesterday of the Hamas military commander, Ahmed Jabari:
The Israeli decision to kill Ahmed Jaabri was total insanity. Jaabri was behind enforcing all of the recent ceasefire agreements. He sent his troops out to stop the rockets and was prepared to reach a long term ceasefire. Jaabri was also the main interlocutor of the Egyptian intelligence service in reaching ceasefire understandings. Now who are they supposed to talk to? Who can expect the Egyptians to continue to mitigate our relationship with Gaza? Now the government and people of Israel will face a massive barrage of rockets and they bought the entrance card to Cast Lead II. God help us all. …
Aluf Benn, the Haaretz editor in chief (along with Baskin, one of the many notable individuals the Partners delegation met with on its week-long Israel Symposium) also writes acidly on this in his column, “Israel killed its subcontractor in Gaza”:
Ahmed Jabari was a subcontractor, in charge of maintaining Israel’s security in Gaza. This title will no doubt sound absurd….But that was the reality for the past five and a half years. Israel demanded of Hamas that it observe the truce in the south and enforce it on the multiplicity of armed organizations in the Gaza Strip. The man responsible for carrying out this policy was Ahmed Jabari.In return for enforcing the quiet, which was never perfect, Israel funded the Hamas regime through the flow of shekels in armored trucks to banks in Gaza, and continued to supply infrastructure and medical services to the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip. Jabari was also Israel’s partner in the negotiations for the release of Gilad Shalit; it was he who ensured the captive soldier’s welfare and safety, and it was he saw to Shalit’s return home last fall.Now Israel is saying that its subcontractor did not do his part and did not maintain the promised quiet on the southern border. The repeated complaint against him was that Hamas did not succeed in controlling the other organizations, even though it is not interested in escalation. … he was executed on Wednesday in a public assassination action, for which Israel hastened to take responsibility. …The assassination of Jabari will go down in history as another showy military action initiated by an outgoing government on the eve of an election.…. The external conflict helps a government strengthen its standing domestically because the public unites behind the army, and social and economic problems are edged off the national agenda.…. whenever the ruling party feels threatened at the ballot box, it puts its finger on the trigger. The examples are common knowledge: … the bombing of the Iraqi reactor in 1981; Operation Grapes of Wrath in Lebanon in 1996, and Operation Cast Lead in Gaza on the eve of the 2009 election. In the two latter cases, the military action turned into a defeat in the election.
…. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is interested in neutralizing every possible rival, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak is fighting for enough votes to return to the Knesset. A war against Hamas will … kick off the agenda the “social and economic issue” that serves the Labor Party headed by MK Shelly Yacimovich.When the cannons roar, we see only Netanyahu and Barak on the screen, and all the other politicians have to applaud them. …
We add the following (borrowing from J Street’s News Roundup):
- Israeli peace activist: Hamas leader Jabari killed amid talks on long-term truce, Haaretz: Peace activist Gershon Baskin said hours before Jabari was assassinated, he received the draft of a permanent truce agreement with Israel, which included mechanisms for maintaining the ceasefire in the case of a flare-up between Israel and the Gaza militants.
- Ahmed Jabari is Netanyahu’s Osama bin Laden, Haaretz:
Barak Ravid argues that “the assassination of Jabari two months before the elections is a tremendous accomplishment for Netanyahu and [Defense Minister Ehud] Barak in Israeli public opinion.