Saturday, January 17, 2009

Strange ceasefire.

Despite brave protests by a tiny group of leftists, polls find that 94% of the Jewish population of Israel have supported the Gaza massacres - even if grieving Palestinians are sometimes liable to cause a scene. I expect there will be a strong majority in favour of the banning of Arab political parties as well, as even the official Israeli 'left' voted for the measure on the grounds that it is "patriotic". Now, a ceasefire of some variety is imminent according to the BBC. Just so that no one gets the idea that this indicates any softening of the Sabra heart, the IDF decided to bomb yet another school today, adding a mother and her son to the 1,200 killed so far, and fourteen to the 5,300 wounded (or 1.5 million wounded, if we use Israel's method of calculation). Once again, the school was doubling as a refuge for terrified civilians, and once again, the IDF made sure to shell it several times so that none but Israel's ridiculously infatuated fan club could mistake it for an accident.

The rumoured ceasefire (it has only just been announced as I write, and no details are yet available) is most likely to be a unilateral one, rather than the result of a deal with Hamas. This would leave open the possibility for Israel to resume its attacks or launch a bombing raid at any time in the future, as there will be no binding agreement. This would mean that Olmert and the generals had lost the argument in the cabinet to Livni and Barak, who have reportedly sought this outcome for a week. In addition, the US and UK will help Israel to stop arms from getting into Gaza, thus leaving them defenseless in the event of a future attack. This is precisely the time when it is most obvious that Gaza needs all the weapons it can get, and fast. The rumoured framework isn't 'moderate' in any sense, but many of the 94% backing the attack will be furious anyway. If you look at the comments below this Ynet article, it would seem there is going to be some serious discontent with the decision: "pathetic" and "Lebanon mark 2" being among the verdicts. Under Haaretz's report, the sighs of woe are of a similar quality. You can understand why this would be. Israelis were given to understand that the gloves were off, that there would be no more of this one-hand-tied-behind-the-back bullshit. They weren't going to leave until the job was done. Some of the more excitable types called for the rebuilding of Gush Katif, and former colonists said they were ready to return. Now it is reported that they intend to withdraw, with a few Hamas leaders killed but with the party still very much the dominant political force in Gaza.

Although the war itself was supposed to be part of an electoral calculation by Kadima, it seems to have backfired. The immediate result was to widen Likud's lead over Kadima and such a ceasefire, which will surely be compared with Munich, will probably reverse any gains by Mapai and strengthen the far right. Certainly, the governing coalition will claim a 'victory' as they usually do in these circumstances. But the waves of global protest (believe it or not, there is actually a rainswept demonstration by angry youths proceeding up Edgware Road as I write, chanting "From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free!") have undoubtedly created an unprecedented fissure in the pro-Israel camp. Governments traditionally sympathetic to Israel have been obliged to utter mealy-mouthed condemnations. The protests will continue, and it is now almost certain that a global boycott campaign will take root in some form. I sense that Israel has lost a great deal of diplomatic leverage, as well as a battle for hegemony in constituencies that it values for strategic reasons. The New York Times suddenly opened up to critical perspectives. Even Murdoch's comically pro-Israel Wall Street Journal did. Israel may now be forced to allow the re-opening of the Rafah crossings, and thus end the 'diet' they have been putting the Gazans on for some years now. Mubarak has certainly been weakened at a time when he was already in critical danger. Some sort of social explosion is likely to rock the Middle East soon, and upset the precarious balance of forces favouring Israeli dominance. Any gains for Israel, which could possibly include annexed territory, have to be set against that. It may well be, despite the relative defenselessness of Gazan society, that Israel has notched up a worse loss than Lebanon.