Israel paste welbewust disproportioneel geweld toe in Libanon en Gaza om Hamas te ontwapenen en en te onttronen, volgens een Israelische bevelhebber. De – door Israel zoveel als mogelijk te belemmeren – wederopbouw in Gaza, zal alleen via de Palestijnse Autoritet mogen plaats vinden.
In the last days before Israel imposed a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza to avoid embarrassing the incoming Obama administration, it upped its assault, driving troops deeper into Gaza City, intensifying its artillery bombardment and creating thousands more displaced people.
Israels military strategy in Gaza, even in what its officials were calling the final act, followed a blueprint laid down during the Lebanon war more than two years ago.
Then, Israel destroyed much of Lebanons infrastructure in a month of intensive air strikes. Even in the wars last few hours, as a ceasefire was being finalised, Israel fired more than a million cluster bombs over south Lebanon, apparently in the hope that the area could be made as uninhabitable as possible.
Similarly, Israels destruction of Gaza continued with unrelenting vigour to the very last moment, even though according to reports in the Israeli media the air force exhausted what it called its bank of Hamas targets in the first few days of fighting.
The military sidestepped the problem by widening its definition of Hamas-affiliated buildings. Or as one senior official explained: There are many aspects of Hamas, and we are trying to hit the whole spectrum because everything is connected and everything supports terrorism against Israel.
That included mosques, universities, most government buildings, the courts, 25 schools, 20 ambulances and several hospitals, as well as bridges, roads, 10 electricity generating stations, sewage lines, and 1,500 factories, workshops and shops.
Palestinian Authority officials in Ramallah estimate the damage so far at $1.9 billion, pointing out that at least 21,000 residential apartment buildings need repairing or rebuilding, forcing 100,000 Palestinians into refugeedom once again. In addition, 80 per cent of all agricultural infrastructure and crops were destroyed. The PA has described its estimate as conservative.
None of this will be regretted by Israel. In fact the general devastation, far from being unfortunate collateral damage, has been the offensives unstated goal. Israel has sought the political, as well as military, emasculation of Hamas through the widespread destruction of Gazas infrastructure and economy.
This is known as the Dahiya Doctrine, named after a suburb of Beirut that was almost levelled during Israels attack on Lebanon in summer 2006. The doctrine was encapsulated in a phrase used by Dan Halutz, Israels chief of staff, at the time. He said Lebanons bombardment would turn back the clock 20 years.
The commanding officer in Israels south, Yoav Galant, echoed those sentiments on the Gaza offensives first day: the aim, he said, was to send Gaza decades into the past.
Beyond these soundbites, Gadi Eisenkot, the head of Israels northern command, clarified in October the practical aspects of the strategy: What happened in the Dahiya quarter of Beirut in 2006 will happen in every village from which Israel is fired on. We will apply disproportionate force on it and cause great damage and destruction there. From our standpoint, these are not civilian villages, they are military bases. This is not a recommendation. This is a plan.
In the interview, Gen Eisenkot was discussing the next round of hostilities with Hizbollah. However, the doctrine was intended for use in Gaza, too.
Gabriel Siboni, a colonel in the reserves, set out the new security concept in an article published by Tel Aviv Universitys Institute of National Security Studies two months before the assault on Gaza. Conventional military strategies for waging war against states and armies, he wrote, could not defeat sub-national resistance movements, such as Hizbollah and Hamas, that have deep roots in the local population.
The goal instead was to use disproportionate force, thereby inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes.
Col Siboni identified the chief target of Israels rampages as decision makers and the power elite, including economic interests and the centres of civilian power that support the [enemy] organisation.
The best Israel could hope for against Hamas and Hizbollah, Col Siboni conceded, was a ceasefire on improved terms for Israel and delaying the next confrontation by leaving the enemy floundering in expensive, long-term processes of reconstruction.
In the case of Gazas lengthy reconstruction, however, Israel says it hopes not to repeat the mistakes of Lebanon. Then, Hizbollah, aided by Iranian funds, further bolstered its reputation among the local population by quickly moving to finance the rebuilding of Lebanese homes destroyed by Israel.
According to the Israeli media, the foreign ministry has already assembled a task force for the day after to ensure neither Hamas nor Iran take the credit for Gazas reconstruction.
Israel wants all aid to be be channelled either through the Palestinian Authority or international bodies. Sealing off Gaza, by preventing smuggling through tunnels under the border with Egypt, is an integral part of this strategy.
Much to Israels satisfaction, the rebuilding of Gaza is likely to be even slower than might have been expected.
Diplomats point out that, even if western aid flows to the Palestinian Authority, it will make little effect if Israel maintains the blockade, curbing imports of steel, cement and money.
And international donors are already reported to be tired of funding building projects in Gaza only to see them destroyed by Israel a short time later.
With more than a hint of exasperation, Norways foreign minister, Jonas Gahr Stoere, summed up the general view of donors last week: Shall we give once more for the construction of something which is being destroyed, re-constructed and destroyed?
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest book is Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is http://www.jcook.net.
..Olmert wants to "break the will" of Hamas, i.e. the Palestinians, since the Hamas government was elected and backed by the majority of the Palestinian people.
Isn’t 60 years of suffering and survival enough to convince Olmert that the will of the Palestinians cannot be broken? How many heaps of wreckage and mutilated bodies will be enough to convince the prime minister that those who fight for their freedom will either be free or will die trying?
Far-right politician Avigdor Lieberman, a rising star in Israel, is not yet convinced. He thinks that more can be done to "secure" his country, which was established in 1948 on the ruins of destroyed Palestinian towns and villages. He has a plan.
"We must continue to fight Hamas just like the United States did with the Japanese in World War II," said the head of ultra-nationalist opposition party Yisrael Beitenu.
A selective reader of history, Lieberman could only think of the 1945 atomic bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But something else happened during those years that Lieberman carefully omitted. It’s called the Holocaust, a term that many are increasingly using to describe the Israeli massacres in the Gaza Strip.
It is strange that conventional Israeli wisdom still dictates that "the Arabs understand only the language of force." If that were true, then they would have conceded their rights after the first massacre in 1948. But, following more than 60 years filled with massacres new and old, they continue to resist.
"Freedom or death," is the popular Palestinian mantra. These are not simply words, but a rule by which Palestinians live and die. Gaza is the proof and Israeli leaders are yet to understand…
..Israeli unilateralism is a blind alley. Its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 has resolved nothing. The existence of organisations such as Hamas and Hizbollah which both arose as responses to Israeli occupation cannot simply be wished away.
These Islamist amalgams of politics and paramilitarism enjoy power and prestige well beyond their natural constituencies because of a catalogue of failure in the Middle East that has, at its heart, the failure honestly to seek a comprehensive settlement based on land-for-peace.
Israels (and the Bush administrations) pretence that Iran is behind every leaf that stirs in the Middle East is also deliberately misleading.
Hamas would exist if Iran did not. The failure of the Oslo peace process to produce a Palestinian state on the lands occupied by Israel in 1967, the corruption of the ruling Fatah party, and Israels physical destruction of the Palestinian Authority in 2002, finally issued in Hamass electoral triumph in 2006.
But if Israel needs to reflect on how its militarist tactics and continuing occupation strengthen its most militant enemies, Hamas should recognise how its attacks on Israeli civilians have enabled Israel to change the subject: from the occupation to threats to its existence.
The deadly paradox is that while Hamas has nothing but failure to show for its tactics, the conciliatory strategy of President Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah has failed too, allowing Israel to expand its occupation of the West Bank and presenting the Islamists with an alibi.
The only way to end this infernal dynamic is through final status talks to create a Palestinian state on nearly all the land occupied in 1967. For that to happen, the Palestinians need a unified leadership dedicated solely to that aim, the Israelis need to want peace more than settlements, and President Obama needs to come out forcefully for probably the last chance at a resolution based on two states, living side by side in security.