Ehud Barak is to be approved as Israel’s new Defense Minister June 17, following the resignation two days earlier of Amir Peretz in the wake of the routing of Fatah forces from the Gaza Strip and the seizure of control by Hamas there. Israeli and international media are reporting today that Barak’s first order of business will be an IDF invasion of Gaza to crush Hamas’ military infrastructure, and presumably remove it from power. The UK’s Sunday Times quoted senior IDF sources saying the planned Gaza assault will require 20,000 troops to destroy the bulk of Hamas’s military capability in a few days. The invasion is to be triggered by Hamas rocket attacks or a resumption of suicide bombings, said the newspaper, claiming Barak has already demanded detailed plans to deploy two armored divisions and an infantry division in Gaza, accompanied by assault drones and F-16 jets. The IDF expects to confront some 12,000 Hamas fighters with arms captured from Fatah in last week’s clashes. (Israel Hasbara Committee, Jerusalem Post, June 17)
Palestinian commentator Ali Abuminah and dissident Israeli commentator Uri Avnery have remarkably similar analyses of how we arrived at this juncture in offerings this week. First, Abunimah writes for Counterpunch June 15, in a piece entitled “Bush Doctrine Routed in Gaza” (emphasis added):
Ever since Hamas won the Palestinian legislative elections in the occupied territories in January 2006, elements of the leadership of the long-dominant Fatah movement, including Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and his advisors have conspired with Israel, the United States and the intelligence services of several Arab states to overthrow and weaken Hamas. This support has included funneling weapons and tens of millions of dollars to unaccountable militias, particularly the “Preventive Security Force” headed by Gaza warlord Mohammad Dahlan, a close ally of Israel and the United States and the Abbas-affiliated “Presidential Guard.” US Deputy National Security Advisor Elliott Abrams — who helped divert money to the Nicaraguan Contras in the 1980s and who was convicted of lying to Congress in the Iran-Contra scandal — has spearheaded the effort to set up these Palestinian Contras…
Two recent revelations underscore the extent of the conspiracy: on 7 June, Ha’aretz reported that “senior Fatah officials in the Gaza Strip have asked Israel to allow them to receive large shipments of arms and ammunition from Arab countries, including Egypt.” According to the Israeli newspaper, Fatah asked Israel for “armored cars, hundreds of armor-piercing RPG rockets, thousands of hand grenades and millions of rounds of ammunition for small caliber weapons,” all to be used against Hamas…
The core of US strategy in the Southwest and Central Asia, particularly Afghanistan, Iraq, Palestine, and Lebanon is to establish puppet regimes that will fight America’s enemies on its behalf. This strategy seems to be failing everywhere. The Taliban are resurgent in Afghanistan. Despite its “surge” the US is no closer to putting down the resistance in Iraq and cannot even trust the Iraqi army it helped set up. The Lebanese army, which the US hopes to bolster as a counterweight to Hizballah, has performed poorly against a few hundred foreign fighters holed up in Nahr al-Bared refugee camp (although it has caused death and devastation to many innocent Palestinian refugees).
Now in Gaza, the latest blow.
Israel’s policy is a local version of the US strategy — and it has also been tried and failed. For over two decades Israel relied on a proxy militia, the South Lebanon Army, to help it enforce the occupation of southern Lebanon. In 2000, as Israeli forces hastily withdrew, this militia collapsed just as quickly as Dahlan’s forces and many of its members fled to Israel. Hamas is now referring to the rout of Dahlan’s forces as a “second liberation of Gaza.”
Uri Avnery’s similar conclusions in his latest column, “Crocodile Tears” (for the suffering in Gaza), which appears June 16 on the website of Israeli anti-occupation group Gush Shalom (emphasis added):
The timing of Hamas’ decision to take over the Strip by force was not accidental. Hamas had many good reasons to avoid it. The organization is unable to feed the population. It has no interest in provoking the Egyptian regime, which is busy fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, the mother-organization of Hamas. Also, the organization has no interest in providing Israel with a pretext for tightening the blockade.
But the Hamas leaders decided that they had no alternative but to destroy the armed organizations that are tied to Fatah and take their orders from President Mahmoud Abbas. The US has ordered Israel to supply these organizations with large quantities of weapons, in order to enable them to fight Hamas. The Israeli army chiefs did not like the idea, fearing that the arms might end up in the hands of Hamas (as is actually happening now). But our government obeyed American orders, as usual.
The American aim is clear. President Bush has chosen a local leader for every Muslim country, who will rule it under American protection and follow American orders. In Iraq, in Lebanon, in Afghanistan, and also in Palestine.
Hamas believes that the man marked for this job in Gaza is Mohammed Dahlan. For years it has looked as if he was being groomed for this position. The American and Israeli media have been singing his praises, describing him as a strong, determined leader, “moderate” (i.e. obedient to American orders) and “pragmatic” (i.e. obedient to Israeli orders). And the more the Americans and Israelis lauded Dahlan, the more they undermined his standing among the Palestinians. Especially as Dahlan was away in Cairo, as if waiting for his men to receive the promised arms.
In the eyes of Hamas, the attack on the Fatah strongholds in the Gaza Strip is a preventive war.
Palestine finally has two effective governments now, since President Mahmood Abbas fired Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh as prime minister, replacing him with the officially non-afiliated Salam Fayyad, a US-educated economist and former Palestinian finance minister. He will only have real authority in the West Bank, while Hamas has de facto authority in Gaza. Haniyeh has called for calm, and expressed hopes for reconciliation talks with Fatah. (IMEMC, LAT, June 16) But Hamas gunmen reportedly looted Abbas’ presidential compound on the Gaza coast, as well as Mohammad Dahlan’s luxurious villa, “stripping away chandeliers, carpets, the bathtub”—all stark reminders of what is seen as Fatah’s “corruption and excess” in the midst of Gaza’s misery. (NYT, June 16)
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