Ceasefire in Gaza
Israel called off its three-week offensive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, saying Hamas was “badly beaten,” but the Islamist group vowed to fight on in a war that has killed 1,200 Palestinians in the coastal enclave.
Within minutes of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert announcing that a unilateral ceasefire would start three hours later at 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Sunday, several missiles struck southern Israel.
“Conditions have been created whereby the goals set at the launch of the operation have been more than fully achieved,” Olmert said in a televised address from army headquarters.
He said Hamas’s ability to fire rockets at southern Israeli towns also had been severely limited.
Hamas is responding to the announcement with fresh barrages of rocket fire. Israel has recently been under immense international pressure to stop the offensive, including substantial pressure from the U.S. The unilateral nature of the cease-fire should be read in the context of Israel’s (and Egypt’s) desire to avoid direct Israeli negotiations with, and thereby the legitimization of, Hamas. By acting unilaterally, Israel affirms this policy of diplomatic isolation.
The timing of the ceasefire — two days before Obama’s inauguration — tends to confirm my original gut-hunch feeling that the Gaza war was Israel deciding to give Hamas a good ass-whupping before the beginning of a U.S. administration that Israeli leaders view as pro-Palestinian.
Which is not quite the same as “I question the timing,” however. I’m not suggesting anything conspiratorial, just summarizing the most obvious geopolitical considerations involved. And, yes, “ass-whupping” is a phrase you don’t see often enough in discussions of geopolitical strategy.
UPDATE: Ehud Olmert:
“Hamas did not foresee Israel’s determination and its seriousness in bringing about a change of the reality in the region,” he said. “Hamas’s leaders did not believe that Israel would launch an operation of this scope on the eve of the elections. Hamas did not foresee the strength of the military attack, and more than anything else, it did not foresee the results,” he said.
The results? An ass-whupping for Hamas.
UPDATE II: Hugh Hewitt: You know who this ceasefire is good for?
Mitt Romney Benjamin Netanhayu.
(Cross-posted at The Other McCain.)
Robert Stacy McCain