Israel’s killing of two Palestinian resistance leaders last Friday, followed by the predictable response of rocket fire into Israel, following by the predictable response of more drone and air attacks by Israel on Gaza, predictably killing more than a dozen civilians and “militants,” raises the specter of another Israel/Gaza war. Today’s reports on Aljazeera discounts this, and the defense correspondent of Haaretz, Israel’s leading liberal newspaper, is also skeptical that the fighting will escalate. I’m not so sure. Israeli military sources have been saying for months that another Israeli war against Gaza was imminent. We already surmise that in the run-up to Israeli President Netanyahu’s visit to the United States last week a deal was done by which Israel would forego an attack on Iran until at least after the US election, while the United States would send advanced weapons to Israel that would put such an attack within reach of Israel’s military capabilities (“bunker-buster” bombs, tanker plans that can refuel bombers on a long-distance run, etc.) Was there anything else in the Netanyahu-Obama deal? Was Israel promised a free hand against Gaza?
The benefits for Israel of another one-sided war against Gaza would be primarily political. Hamas (running Gaza) has just detached itself from Syria, Hamas and Fatah (running the West Bank) may be finding their way to some kind of reunification/alliance, and the Palestinian Authority now promises to return to the UN to demand the recognition of a Palestinian state. Each of these steps puts pressure on Israel politically and diplomatically to be more accommodating toward Palestinian national aspirations
There has also been an extended period of calm on the Gaza/Israel border. In the past, Israel has seen periods of stabilization and military truce as threatening (Gaza 2008, Lebanon 2006), and has initiated military attacks to head off the threat of peace. And in general the wars against Lebanon and later Gaza served Israel as a distraction from the main issue it confronts, the question of Palestine and the West Bank. Once again, in the face of massive opposition from people around the world, Israel has announced another expansion of settlements/colonies in the West Bank and Jerusalem. There are also political and economic problems in Israel that would benefit from the distraction of a war; and with Iran off the table at least for now, perhaps a war against Gaza would be helpful. And the fact that Israel justified its attack on the two Palestinian resistance leaders in Gaza by the (disputed) claim that these two men had been behind an attack on Israeli civilians last August suggests that the timing of the attack was related to political needs, not military considerations.
The US promise of a “free hand” would include giving Israel protection from calls for a ceasefire from the UN Security Council. Has the United States signaled its stance toward another war by the actions of its spokespeople (including H. R. Clinton) in calling on “Hamas” to end its aggression against Israel, while not mentioning the Israel killing of the two Palestinians that started this latest round of fighting, and/or not acknowledging that the rocket attacks on Israel are not coming from Hamas fighters? All this has a very familiar pattern to it.