The Israelis are continuing to pound the defenseless population of Gaza and there’s little hope that will stop short of any international intervention. The reasons for the continued attacks are the operation that left one Israeli soldier dead earlier this week, when a mine or IED went off killing him and wounding others. It’s significant to point out that Hamas did NOT claim responsibility for this breach of the truce, but that wasn’t enough to stop the Israelis from keeping the borders closed and bombing southern Gaza for this latest breach. Moreover another added benefit of this return to hostilities is Israel gets to implore the mantra of being a victim and or self righteous indignation at those who question their retaliation in order to keep headlines such as these off the main pages of newspapers.
However, all that is not enough to obscure the reality of what Israel has done and is now doing. In a very well written essay by Norman Finkelstein entitled, Foiling Another Palestinian “Peace Initiative”, the reasons and motivations for the continuing violence against the Palestinians is laid out in rather stark detail with quite alot of foresight into what is driving the Israelis.
The fundamental motives behind the latest Israeli attack on Gaza lie elsewhere: (1) in the need to restore Israel’s “deterrence capacity,” and (2) in the threat posed by a new Palestinian “peace offensive.”
Israel’s “larger concern” in the current offensive, New York Times Middle East correspondent Ethan Bronner reported, quoting Israeli sources, was to “re-establish Israeli deterrence,” because “its enemies are less afraid of it than they once were, or should be.”
As Israel targeted schools, mosques, hospitals, ambulances, and U.N. sanctuaries, as it slaughtered and incinerated Gaza’s defenseless civilian population (one-third of the 1,200 reported casualties were children), Israeli commentators gloated that “Gaza is to Lebanon as the second sitting for an exam is to the first—a second chance to get it right,” and that this time around Israel had “hurled [Gaza] back,” not 20 years as it promised to do in Lebanon, but “into the 1940s.
Electricity is available only for a few hours a day”; that “Israel regained its deterrence capabilities” because “the war in Gaza has compensated for the shortcomings of the  Second Lebanon War”; and that “There is no doubt that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah is upset these days….There will no longer be anyone in the Arab world who can claim that Israel is weak.”
The justification put forth… in the pages of the Times for targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure amounted to apologetics for state terrorism. It might be recalled that although Hitler had stripped Nazi propagandist Julius Streicher of all his political power by 1940, and his newspaper Der St?rmer had a circulation of only some 15,000 during the war, the International Tribunal at Nuremberg nonetheless sentenced him to death for his murderous incitement.
Beyond restoring its deterrence capacity, Israel’s main goal in the Gaza slaughter was to fend off the latest threat posed by Palestinian moderation. For the past three decades the international community has consistently supported a settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict that calls for two states based on a full Israeli withdrawal to its June 1967 border, and a “just resolution” of the refugee question based on the right of return and compensation. The vote on the annual U.N. General Assembly resolution, “Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine,” supporting these terms for resolving the conflict in 2008 was 164 in favor, 7 against (Israel, United States, Australia, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Palau), and 3 abstentions. At the regional level the Arab League in March 2002 unanimously put forth a peace initiative on this basis, which it has subsequently reaffirmed.
Hamas was “careful to maintain the ceasefire” it entered into with Israel in June 2008, according to an official Israeli publication, despite Israel’s reneging on the crucial component of the truce that it ease the economic siege of Gaza. “The lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations,” the source continues. “At the same time, the [Hamas] movement tried to enforce the terms of the arrangement on the other terrorist organizations and to prevent them from violating it.” Moreover, Hamas was “interested in renewing the relative calm with Israel” (Shin Bet head Yuval Diskin).
The Islamic movement could thus be trusted to stand by its word, making it a credible negotiating partner, while its apparent ability to extract concessions from Israel, unlike the hapless Palestinian Authority doing Israel’s bidding but getting no returns, enhanced Hamas’s stature among Palestinians. For Israel these developments constituted a veritable disaster. It could no longer justify shunning Hamas, and it would be only a matter of time before international pressure in particular from the Europeans would be exerted on it to negotiate. The prospect of an incoming U.S. administration negotiating with Iran and Hamas, and moving closer to the international consensus for settling the Israel-Palestine conflict, which some U.S. policymakers now advocate, would have further highlighted Israel’s intransigence. In an alternative scenario, speculated on by Nasrallah, the incoming American administration plans to convene an international peace conference of “Americans, Israelis, Europeans and so-called Arab moderates” to impose a settlement. The one obstacle is “Palestinian resistance and the Hamas government in Gaza,” and “getting rid of this stumbling block is…the true goal of the war.”
In either case, Israel needed to provoke Hamas into breaking the truce, and then radicalize or destroy it, thereby eliminating it as a legitimate negotiating partner. It is not the first time Israel confronted such a diabolical threat—an Arab League peace initiative, Palestinian support for a two-state settlement and a Palestinian ceasefire—and not the first time it embarked on provocation and war to overcome it.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni stated in early December 2008 that although Israel wanted to create a temporary period of calm with Hamas, an extended truce “harms the Israeli strategic goal, empowers Hamas, and gives the impression that Israel recognizes the movement.” Translation: a protracted ceasefire that enhanced Hamas’s credibility would have undermined Israel’s strategic goal of retaining control of the West Bank. As far back as March 2007 Israel had decided on attacking Hamas, and only negotiated the June truce because “the Israeli army needed time to prepare.” Once all the pieces were in place, Israel only lacked a pretext. On 4 November, while the American media were riveted on election day, Israel broke the ceasefire by killing seven Palestinian militants, on the flimsy excuse that Hamas was digging a tunnel to abduct Israeli soldiers, and knowing full well that its operation would provoke Hamas into hitting back. “Last week’s ‘ticking tunnel,’ dug ostensibly to facilitate the abduction of Israeli soldiers,” Haaretz reported in mid-November was not a clear and present danger: Its existence was always known and its use could have been prevented on the Israeli side, or at least the soldiers stationed beside it removed from harm’s way. It is impossible to claim that those who decided to blow up the tunnel were simply being thoughtless. The military establishment was aware of the immediate implications of the measure, as well as of the fact that the policy of “controlled entry” into a narrow area of the Strip leads to the same place: an end to the lull. That is policy—not a tactical decision by a commander on the ground.
After Hamas predictably resumed its rocket attacks “[i]n retaliation” (Israeli Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center), Israel could embark on yet another murderous invasion in order to foil yet another Palestinian peace offensive.