dinsdag 9 december 2008

Afschrikking Israel tegenover Hamas verzwakt

Een van de redenen dat Israels afschrikking niet sterker is, is het feit dat het leger gebonden is aan het internationale recht, terwijl Hamas dat niet is en daar ook nauwelijks op wordt aangesproken. Een andere reden is dat Hamas steeds meer internationale sympathie geniet en zij de blokkade van Gaza handig in haar voordeel weet te gebruiken. Al die groeperingen en politici die de blokkade als onmenselijk veroordelen en eisen dat Israel met Hamas praat en zich toegeeflijker opstelt spelen Hamas direct in de kaart. Ook de recente opschorting van een nauwere samenwerking tussen Israel en de EU vanwege deze blokkade, versterkt Hamas.


ANALYSIS / Israeli deterrence against Hamas is weakening
By Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff - Haaretz
Last update - 02:19 08/12/2008

Three numbers are at the heart of Israel's decision-making process over the Gaza Strip: 20, 40 and 70. Twenty-plus kilometers is the maximum range of Hamas' rockets in the Strip (which can hit Sderot, Ashkelon, Netivot and Kiryat Gat); 40 kilometers is the range they will be able to reach in the coming months, if missile production is not halted (Ofakim, Kiryat Malachi, Ashdod, Be'er Sheva and Yavneh will be at risk of attack); 70 kilometers is the range the Palestinians are striving to reach. At that point, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the Dan Region would be within range of Palestinian rockets.

Most Israeli decision makers assume the Gaza Strip will erupt sooner or later. The debate concerns whether the dozens of rockets that have been fired at the Negev in the last few weeks justifies immediate offensive action by the Israel Defense Forces. Those in favor are calling for a preemptive strike against Hamas.

Not surprisingly, the idea of renewed escalation has been raised in the election campaigns. Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni has called for an end to restraint; Vice Premier Haim Ramon contends that the Hamas government in Gaza must be brought down, and that this can happen even without a major military operation. Defense Minister Ehud Barak preaches "good judgment and responsibility."

As for Ramon's apparent hint at the possibility of assassinating Hamas leaders, the question is who will take over? Wouldn't anarchy result, making a difficult target for Israeli strikes?

Hamas seems to be changing its policies. Hamas claims (and Israel denies) that the cease-fire agreement, which will end on December 19, must either expand to the West Bank or be be cancelled. Hamas knows that the chances this demand will be met are nil. However, by allowing the smaller factions to fire rockets, it seeks to attain an extension on the cease-fire from a position of strength. For example, to significantly reduce the economic siege on the Gaza Strip.

Hamas therefore is considering ratcheting up hostilities ahead of December 19, possibly including massive rocket fire, and even an attempted "strategic" terror attack like the abduction of a soldier. Hamas has chosen controlled escalation to counter criticism by groups like Islamic Jihad and local Al-Qaida affiliates. But the siege has taken its toll. Two-thirds of the population live on international food aid.

The Id al-Adha holiday, which begins today, will not be particularly festive in Gaza. When comparing the situation in the West Bank to that in Gaza, Hamas does not come out looking favorable. Israel's permission for Israeli Arabs to visit the West Bank for the holiday will be good for businesses, and 230 prisoners are slated to be released from Israeli jails. Hamas needs an achievement to counter Fatah, like a cease-fire on favorable terms.

Some of the IDF brass disagree with Barak's stance that there are two possibilities - complete quiet or all-out war. Some want more freedom to take offensive action. Even those who object, as we do, to major action must concede that Israeli deterrence against Hamas is weakening.

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