This morning’s headlines are full of mentions of Israel “reopening the Gaza borders to allow in humanitarian aid,” news that raises, as Ian mentions below, hopes that Israel is offering a chance of peace.
What those headlines forget to mention is that the Israeli “cabinet has given the go-ahead for an operation of a few days’ duration with clearly defined goals.” This operation, set to begin after Sunday, has been discussed for quite a while and Israel has admitted that the six month cease fire which ended on December 19th gave them a chance to prepare military assets for just such an “operation.” Both Barak and Livni have made it clear that the goal is the destruction of Hamas (so much for democratic elections).
Olmert, rather than offering an olive branch is merely moving his war plans forward. As Haaretz reported yesterday:
The meetings Olmert is expected to hold on Sunday will relate to three issues. The first is preparation of the home front: Olmert wants to know what reinforcement of buildings can be completed before military action is taken, and to urgently complete whatever can be completed in terms of reinforcement.
The second issue involves humanitarian aid shipments to Gaza which Israel is to approve during the week. Olmert wants reports on stockpiles of essential items to ensure that a humanitarian crisis does not break out in the Strip during military action.
The third issue involves diplomatic moves to garner international support for military action against Hamas.
How did we get here? Remember that Egypt mediated a cease fire back in July based on a rather simple trade off – Israel was to respect Gaza’s borders and also to open the blockade which had been in force for over a year. In return, Hamas would stop the rocket attacks on Sderot and nearby towns. Hamas stopped the attacks but Israel maintained the blockade – and then turned off access to Gaza completely after Hamas again used rockets in response to an Israeli incursion. At least one analyst has seen Israel’s actions as a deliberate provocation – designed to push Hamas to resume rocket firings and thus provide a pretext for Israel’s real goal which is to wipe out Hamas once and for all.
And while the checkpoints were opened on Friday, only 90 trucks of humanitarian aid were allowed to cross (remember Gaza is home to 1.5 million people and this is the first shipment of any kind in 10 days.) Given that Gazans have been without proper supplies for over a year and have now suffered under a total blockade for almost two months, Olmert’s “concern” is surreal. Although Israel reinstated their ban on reporters entering Gaza, reliable reports have noted that many there have already been reduced to eating grass. Suddenly, on the eve of launching a major military attack, Olmert is noticing that Gazans might actually need to eat?
Or is this just part of the “diplomatic moves” designed to distract us from Israel’s true intentions and the danger to Gazan residents from the upcoming Israeli attack?