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U.S Surprises Israel?

Has the US pulled rug out from under Israel's military operation in Gaza to halt Hamas rocketing?

Israeli security cabinet considers its options in light of UN security resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire leading to Israeli withdrawal from Gaza

Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser: "Egypt and international community have obligation to show Israel an operational plan to prevent future arms smuggling from Egypt to Hamas in Gaza"

Condoleezza Rice

The U.S failure to veto a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire leading to a full IDF withdrawal from Gaza has sent shock waves through Israel. The Israeli leadership must now decide whether to comply with the resolution, defy it by launching an escalation against Hamas or to try and buy time for a plan to block future arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza.

Has the US surprised Israel by abstaining in the UN Security Council resolution that calls for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and a full Israeli withdrawal? The US has indeed done precisely that, if the Israeli leadership wants to continue its current military operation and create a 'basic change in the security reality' for one-million Israelis currently under Hamas rocket fire. But what if the Israeli government, after dealing a severe blow to Hamas, prefers the ceasefire rather than launching an even more costly escalation in casualties? This is but one of the unanswered questions at this hour, while the Israeli leadership ponders what to do next.

Trucks with humanitarian aid entering the Gaza Strip

The declared goals of the 'Cast Lead' operation are twofold: to put a stop to the eight years of Hamas rocketing now, and to prevent a recurrence of the rocketing by a mechanism stemming any future arms smuggling from Egyptian territory into Gaza. But at this point, there is still no confirmation that Egypt will finally get serious about doing so although President Mubarak has declared he will do all he can. Mubarak telephoned Israel's president Shimon Peres calling on Jewish state to agree to the ceasefire. But did Mubarak also give in private his personal commitment to stem the rocket flow from Sinai into the Gaza Strip?

Israel's general Amos Gilad has returned from talks in Cairo with nothing more than Egypt's good intensions, and without a firm plan in place. Israeli cabinet minister Rafi Eitam has declared that if Egypt really wanted to it could to the extent that "not even a fly could be smuggled from Egypt into Gaza through underground tunnels". In the past, Cairo claimed that the demilitarization clauses of the peace treaty with Israel bar it from sending enough security personnel to block the smuggling. However, Israeli officials suspect that Egypt wants to use this as pretext for reopening the demilitarization of Sinai.

Ehyptian President Mubarak

The bottom line is there is still no firm mechanism, be it international or Egyptian to stop the Hamas rocket smuggling. So Israel's concern is obviously that Hamas will accept the ceasefire now only to break it again in the future under worse conditions for Israel. Before the recent lull, Hamas had rockets with a range of 20 KM but during the truce they smuggled in rockets with double the range putting one-million Israeli civilians in their rocket sites. If there is no realistic plan to block the smuggling, Hamas will be able to claim a psychological victory by holding off the IDF and preventing it from completing its mission.

If this is the case, has the US broken ranks with Israel on the issue of terrorism? The current situation harkens back to the Second Lebanon War and Security Council resolution 1701 that called for a ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah and a cessation of arms supplies to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran. The result of that resolution is that two and a half years later, Hezbollah now has tripled the rockets with an expended range. On the face of it, Israeli officials find it hard to find a good word to say about the Gaza resolution and the US abstention. Secretary of state Condoleezza Rice declared: "the US thought it important to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation effort in order to see what this resolution might have been supporting, and that is why we chose to abstain". But by abstaining and not casting its veto, the US acquiesces in the demand for Israel to halt its campaign of self-defense after eight years of Hamas provocations. The resolution makes no distinction between aggressor and victim with no mention at all of the Hamas provocation.

Tzipi Livni

Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni is also coming under verbal fire for not going to the UN, as did 15 Arab foreign ministers in order to plead Israel's case and to achieve more balanced resolution. Right-wing Opposition parties which have supported the government in launching a military operation have severely criticized Livni for what they call a diplomatic debacle. The Likud and Yisrael Beitenu now charge that nearly the whole country fully supported this justified war of self-defense but Prime Minister Olmert, Defense Minister Barak and Foreign Minister Livni appeared hesitant in following through and smashing Hamas.

David Essing

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