Israel On The Brink


Simon Tisdall sees few barriers to a full war:

Past constraints on Netanyahu’s behaviour are absent this time. There is no discernible peace process, and no active US engagement (after Barack Obama’s first-term efforts were ignominiously rebuffed). The west’s favourite “moderate Arabs” are missing in action, or on the other side of the fence. Egypt’s government has condemned Israeli actions; Jordan, destabilised by the Syria chaos, is in the throes of what could be the next Arab spring uprising. Meanwhile, the imminent bid by Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, for non-member UN observer status for Palestine, staunchly opposed by Israel and the US, threatens further polarisation inside and outside Palestine.

Elsewhere, about that long-range rocket that was fired at Tel Aviv yesterday:

[T]he Fajr-5 rocket [was built] by Iran — possibly with Russian and Chinese help — the rockets were first shipped through Syria to the Hezbollah militant group in 2002. Today, an unknown number are now in the hands of Hamas. (Presumably, that’s thanks in part to a porous border between southern Gaza and the Sinai, now controlled by the new Islamist regime in Egypt.) The rocket is liquid-fueled, has an estimated 45 mile range, and is fired from a mobile launcher. And while it’s more powerful than anything Hamas had before, it’s still unguided and not particularly accurate — the rocket could land anywhere within a one-kilometer radius of its target. But where the Fajr-5 is short on accuracy, it’s a significant boost in destructive power: the rocket can lob up to 200 pounds of high explosives.

The Israeli military claims to have destroyed dozens of the rockets. But as this video uploaded to the Twitter account of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades shows, the stockpile hasn’t been exhausted entirely.

Here’s an infographic made by Al Arabiya showing the range of Hamas’ rockets:


As I wrote yesterday, it is impossible and wrong to blame Israel for self-defense against Hamas rockets with greater range and power, if not much greater accuracy, than the past. There is no defense of Hamas’s use of terrorism. Equally, the kind of ground assault that now looks inevitable is yet another iteration of the same dead end. Except, this time, for Israel, the region is shifting against it. The visit to Gaza by the Egyptian prime minister yesterday – he and Hamas’s leader together beheld the body of a Gazan boy killed by Israeli firepower yesterday – represents a tectonic shift. And the deeper regional and international isolation of Israel is pregnant with foreboding. If we see another civilian bloodbath in Gaza, four years after the last one, the failures of the Israeli government to seize the opportunity Obama offered them four years ago – indeed to treat the United States president with contempt combined with an open attempt to elect his opponent – will haunt the Jewish state. Greater Israel is as unsustainable as it appears to be inevitable. There was, and maybe still is, a ramp off this conflagration. But Netanyahu and Hamas feed off it domestically – a gruesome and ominous fact.

They are radicalizing each other. And while we finance and defend the more democratic one, we are seemingly powerless to shape or influence, let alone, dictate its policies.

(Photo: Palestinian relatives mourn over the body of Hanen Tafish, a 10-month-old girl, at the morgue of the al-Shifa hospital in Gaza City, on November 15, 2012, after she died following an Israeli air strike in the Zeitun neighbourhood.By Mahmud Hams//AFP/Getty Images.)