(I wrote the below eight hours ago, way before the bus bombing. I will say something about that tomorrow. The only intelligent thing to say is: this is what happens when you have idiots running the show.)
I don't care who started it; the deadly escalation between Hamas and Israel has to stop right now.
It is immaterial to me that Israel has been ratcheting up the violence, or reacting disproportionately and recklessly to the Kassam and Grad missile firings. It is immaterial to me that when a rogue group from Gaza fired a missle in February, Southern Command overreacted, attacking a Hamas training camp and killing a senior commander. It is immaterial to me that Israel has a checklist of targets that it has been compiling for a long time and is seizing the opportunity of the rocket firings to go down the list, such as bombing smuggling tunnels. Reprisals? Hardly.
When you have two rightwing governments kowtowing to their respective military wings – in other words, when you have bad boys with deadly toys –you have a recipe for trouble. And while the world is watching Japan and Libya, Israel's Knesset can pass discriminatory laws under the cover of grad missles fired by the gang who can't shoot straight (thank God. I wish our only missles were grads and kassams.)
I hold Hamas mostly responsible for waking the sleeping giant. Do they really think the world cares when innocent people in Gaza die after they fire Kassam rockets? After they were criticized by Human Rights Watch for hassling the Unity Marchers, do they think that their popularity will swell?
Sometimes I think that Hamas needs Israel to reinforce its victimhood and Israel needs Hamas to reinforce its victimhoood -- and that we are all caught in the crossfire. Israel is behaving more badly than is Hamas? So what! They should both be sent to the corners while we figure out what can be done to lift the siege on Gaza, unify the Palestinian people, and forge a strong and united front that demands liberation.
Please read Amira Hass giving it to Hamas here.
And please read Alex Fishman giving it to Israel below (hat tip to D. R. )
Analysis, Alex Fishman, Yediot, March 23 2010
Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz declared yesterday that Israel did not want an escalation in the Gaza Strip, but the activity of the Southern Command projects the exact opposite message. We are conducting ourselves like an elephant in a china shop. Shooting and apologizing.
Yesterday, even the prime minister was compelled to apologize for the accidental killing of citizens in Gaza. We don't want an escalation so badly that for a week, the border has been heating up—and as of last night, the Gaza periphery communities were put on defensive alert. So what should we believe, the statements or the actions on the ground?
Yesterday, the Southern Command committed errors of judgment. Both in the decision to use an inaccurate weapon like mortars in a populated area, and in the way these mortars were used. Similar errors were made in the past when artillery fire was employed as responsive fire near civilians -- and all the lessons learned appear in the command books. Now, after we have apologized, we must prepare for the possibility that at the next stage, Hamas will not fire in response volleys of mortars at the Gaza perimeter, but rather volleys of Grad rockets deep into Israel. This in turn will require the IDF to ratchet up its response another notch. They are contemptible—and we are playing into their hands. Yes, it has been a while since we appeared in the headlines as a global problem. The eyes of the world are on other crises, they have off our back for a while -- and we are bored outside the limelight. Besides, the army has apparently decided, in advance of the festival that international organizations are preparing for us with regard to Gaza to mark the anniversary of the Mavi Marmara -- to contribute a few more unnecessary images for the delegitimization of Israel.
Both the IDF General Staff and the Southern Command knew full well that after the murder in Itamar, Hamas prepared for an aggressive Israeli action, which in its view was supposed to blow off steam for the Israeli public. And indeed, since the murder in Itamar, Israel has been doing everything possible to confirm Hamas's paranoia. Despite the fact that we understand that Hamas is waiting for a military operation, the Southern Command decides that this is the best timing to deal with Hamas's lack of control over the marginal organizations that are firing at Israel.
Yesterday evening the IDF carried out a targeted killing. A targeted killing is not just another stage in an uncontrolled deterioration. This is clear testimony to a planned escalation. Where the army insists on being right at all costs, the political echelon should play the part of the wise man.
(historical h/t to Max B)