January 9, 2009

What if the UN called a ceasefire...

...and no one listened? That is exactly what happened.

by Rick Francona

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution Thurdsay night calling for an immediate ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Both sides ignored the resolution - Hamas fired 40 rockets into Israel on Friday, while Israeli fighter aircraft and attack helicopters concentrated on Hamas laedership and logistics targets.

Neither side has shown any willingness to stop the hostilities. Israel believes it has a mandate from its population to achieve the two major aims of this campaign: stop Hamas from firing rockets into southern Israel and prevent Hamas from acquiring even more effective arms via sumggling tunnels under the border with Egypt.

Hamas, for its part, believes - rightfully so - that it is winning the propaganda war. There are demonstrations not only in Arab and Muslim countries, but in many European countries as well. In most media outlets, Israel is portrayed as the aggressor, the military behemoth devastating an innocent civilian population that has no complicity in the attacks on Israel. The longer Hamas can survive the Israeli onslaught - and they are paying a high human price - the greater the public relations blow they are landing on Israel.

The Israeli effort to minimize civilian casualties, often referred to as "collateral damage," has caused them some military difficulties. If they were to conduct their attacks with no concern for civilians, they may well have already achieved their objectives.

It is this concern that has caused some media pundits to declare Hamas the victors, much like Hizballah was perceived to have fought the Israelis to a draw in Lebanon 2006. For example, Jackson Diehl, the deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, opened his recent analysis, "Israel's military campaign in the Gaza Strip is failing, but there may be a silver lining. The war against Hamas is proving -- once again -- that the Middle East's extremist movements cannot be eliminated by military means."

Perhaps Mr. Diehl should stick to whatever his area of expertise might be; it certainly is not military analysis. You don't attack "movements" - you attack groups that espouse a movement, you attack targets. So, what of attacking Middle East extremist groups by military means. Has he heard of the Syrian charpter of the Muslim Brotherhood? How about al-Qai'dah in Iraq? Or the PKK in Turkey? In any case, the military operation is not over yet. Of course, the Washington Post wrote Iraq off as an Americna defeat in 2006.

The United Nations resolution failed because it offered neither side anything it wanted or needed. A ceasefire in place would give Hamas time to regroup and rearm, while Israel would still control the flow of goods and fuel into the Gaza Strip.

Bottom line: the Israeli campaign will end when Hamas agrees to stop firing rockets. At that point the United Nations can become relevant when it can provide an effective means of preventing Hamas from rearming. Until then, resolutions passed in New York without addressing the concerns of the combatants are only, as the Arabic colloquialism states, hibr 'ala waraq - ink on paper.