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GAZA, CAMERON, ISRAEL & CRIMEA

photo credit: Britannica Online for Kids

 Rain of rockets...

 “We will not let them launch rockets at our children!” the warning came from Sderot's Mayor Elon Davidi to the Palestinian terrorists in Gaza who were launching over 100 rockets and mortars at his town. Israeli aircrafts went into action, and despite the thick fog and heavy rain, they targeted over thirty terrorist targets on the other side of the border. But it was the greatest deluge of rockets from Gaza since Israel conducted the Pillar of Defense operation to suppress similar rocketing in November, 2012. Since being hit hard at that time, the Hamas regime has abided by the ‘tahadiya’ cease-fire, except for the occasional rocket.

Israel's Code Red sirens were blaring throughout the border area, civilians were racing for their bomb shelters...

 However, the Islamic Jihad, Hamas’s main rival in Gaza, is a proxy of Iran and the address for the rockets that the Israeli Navy interdicted in the Red Sea earlier this month. In retaliation, a three-man rocket squad, including a top Jihad commander, planned to rocket Israel. They were detected, caught in the act, and killed by a pinpoint Israeli airstrike. The Islamic Jihad then went berserk. They launched the barrage of rockets within a couple of hours, some at Sderot, which is less than two miles over the border. Israel's Code Red sirens were blaring throughout the border area, civilians were racing for their bomb shelters; Israel's Iron Dome missile defense system knocked out any incoming rockets that were headed for populated areas, and Israeli aircrafts roared in to hit terror targets

 Purim under fire...

 It was yet another round in the ongoing conflict, but this time it came on the eve of the costume festival of Purim, the happiest time of the year for Israeli kids. Throughout Israel, children decked out in their favorite costumes go merrily to parties at school and kindergarten. Would they be cancelled in Sderot and the other communities along the Gaza border in light of the situation? It was the call of IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz who had just flown back from an official visit to the U.S. After touching down, Gantz flew immediately to Southern Command for a briefing. After hearing the latest intelligence assessment, the Chief of Staff decided, with the full agreement of Mayor Davidi, that the kids of Sderot would also have their Purim, but under some safety restrictions. They were to celebrate in their school bomb shelters and special precautions were taken for school buses. In the end, a good time was had by all. Surprisingly, the latest Palestinian rocketing from Gaza caused no serious Israeli casualties; as usual some children and adults had to be treated for anxiety attacks.

Iron Dome battery (photo: IDF)

 This is not because the terrorists are such bad shots. Their Qassam rockets are home-made, and many of them land in open fields, while those on target are intercepted by Iron Dome, which has a success rate of over ninety-percent. Moreover, civilians in Sderot know they have some fifteen seconds to rush to their bomb shelters, at home, school, place of work or in the street before the rocket will hit. It is quite a sight to see an entire school of pupils evacuated within fifteen seconds. There is no panic - they have trained exactly what they must do. Every kid files out swiftly knowing precisely where he or she is to go. Some of the smaller pupils may cry while others may crack jokes. However, the more sophisticated rockets such as the Syrian made M-302, which were intercepted in the Red Sea, are a far different story.

In effect, Hamas has drawn Israel into a war of attrition and holds millions of Israelis as hostages whenever it decides to allow rocketing from Gaza.

 Conclusions: Prime Minister Netanyahu: 'Zero tolerance for terrorism!' Defense Minister Yaalon: 'Quiet will be met with quiet" Foreign Minister Lieberman: 'Enough is enough, now is the time to invade Gaza!' However this is highly unlikely to happen. Aside from the casualties and international fallout, Israel would have to take responsibility for providing essential commodities and services to the estimated 1.7 million Palestinian civilians living in Gaza. Former IDF Chief of Staff & Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz: "Hamas is in control of everything that happens in Gaza including the rocketing by Islamic Jihad. In effect, Hamas has drawn Israel into a war of attrition and holds millions of Israelis as hostages whenever it decides to allow rocketing from Gaza. The IDF should not launch another ground invasion of Gaza but concentrate on the targeted killing of the Hamas leaders who bear direct responsibility for the rocket attacks.

 By week's end, the tension in the south was abating, but in the north it was again rising. In the Mount Dov vicinity on the Lebanese border, Hezbollah terrorists detonated a roadside bomb when an IDF patrol was passing by. None of the soldiers were wounded seriously but three were taken to hospital to be examined. IDF tanks and artillery in the area responded swiftly by shelling Hezbollah positions in the adjacent area.

 British Prime Minister in Knesset...

British PM Cameron speaks to Knesset
"I share your deep skepticism and great concern about Iran. I am not starry-eyed about the new regime. A nuclear Iran is a threat to the whole world - not just to Israel..."

 David Cameron took the Knesset by surprise when he referred to his Jewish family connection: "Now my Jewish ancestry is relatively limited, but I do feel some sense of connection. From the lexicon of my great, great grandfather Emile Levita, a Jewish man who came from Germany to Britain 150 years ago, to my forefather Elijah Levita, who wrote what is thought to have been the first ever Yiddish novel." At the very same time that the Palestinians were launching their rockets from Gaza, Cameron declared: "I will always stand up for the right of Israel to defend its citizens. A right enshrined in international law, in mutual justice and fundamental morality, and in decades of common endeavor between Israel and her allies." The British Prime Minister also lashed out at those in his country who are trying to boycott the Jewish state: "I have a clear message. Britain opposes boycotts. Whether it’s trade unions campaigning for the exclusion of Israelis, or universities trying to stifle academic exchange; Israel's place as a homeland for the Jewish people will never rest on hollow resolutions passed by amateur politicians." Cameron praised what he called the 'great work' by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry that includes the need for 'mutual recognition of the nation state of the Palestinian people and the nation state of the Jewish people." Cameron stated regarding Iran: "I share your deep skepticism and great concern about Iran. I am not starry-eyed about the new regime. A nuclear Iran is a threat to the whole world - not just to Israel. And with Israel and all our allies, Britain will ensure that is never allowed to happen."

So in answer to the question of whether Western Europe is turning against Israel, David Cameron sounded a resounding ‘no’

 Without doubt, Israel has a true friend in 10 Downing Street, although the British PM did not let Israel off the hook on the volatile issue of West Bank settlements, stating, "We back the compromises needed - including the halt to settlement activity and an end to Palestinian incitement too." So in answer to the question of whether Western Europe is turning against Israel, David Cameron sounded a resounding ‘no’, as did German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande on their recent visits. 

 But the settlement building is a vexing problem, whether we Israelis like it or not. An analogy can be drawn from Russia's current crisis over Ukraine that is now in the international limelight. Writing in the Washington Post on March 6, Henry Kissinger posited: "It is incompatible with the rules of existing world order for Russia to annex Crimea." Israel's leaders should take this to heart when it comes to continued settlement building on West Bank land where Prime Minister Netanyahu has agreed to the founding of a Palestinian state.

The Palestinian leader would prefer, if Israel lets him, to have the Kerry contacts fall through and then renew his diplomatic intifada at the UN.

 Take Kissinger's word for it - there are rules of existing world order. It follows that Israel's leaders must reconsider whether current settlement building on the West Bank is also incompatible with the rules of existing world order. Israel's friends are all telling the Jewish state that it is not! At the same time, they back Jerusalem on the right to receive Palestinian recognition of the Jewish state, secure and recognized borders, solid security arrangements as well as rejecting the Palestinian demand to literally swamp Israel with millions of refugees. Unless Israel recognizes that 'the rules of existing world order' are also bound to apply to the settlement issue, if the current negotiations fall through, it could face a diplomatic debacle. This is the ace that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will have has up his sleeve when he meets shortly with President Barack Obama in the White House. The Palestinian leader would prefer, if Israel lets him, to have the Kerry contacts fall through and then renew his diplomatic intifada at the UN.


David Essing

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