Israel's Battle Against Hamas Could Spark Wildfire
from Der Spiegel:
The bitter battle in Gaza highlights the fact that Islamist extremists have gained ground in the Palestinian territories with support from Egypt and Iran. The next battleground is likely to be the United Nations, where the Palestinians are seeking observer status. Has Israel miscalculated with its new offensive?
The current situation in the Middle East is reminiscent of events that unfolded shortly before Christmas in 2008, when then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert launched a campaign against the radical Islamist group Hamas in the Gaza Strip to stop it from launching rockets at his country -- and, most likely, with the aim of securing a second term in office. Elections were around the corner, and Olmert's opponent, Benjamin Netanyahu, was ahead in the polls.
Olmert had more than 1,000 bombs dropped on Gaza, and 10,000 Israeli troops marched into the territory. Building by building, they fought their way through refugee camps, villages and Gaza City. Well over 1,000 Palestinians lay dead in the wreckage before the extremists finally abandoned their resistance. "We have reached all of our objectives in Gaza," Olmert declared after three weeks of war, "and Hamas has been dealt a heavy blow." Opposition leader Netanyahu wasn't convinced. "The next government will have no choice but to finish the job," he said. Netanyahu ultimately won the election, using slogans like "Strong on Security" in his campaign.
Now Netanyahu is fighting for votes once again, and this time, as the current prime minister, he too is fighting terror. His army has been attacking Gaza since the middle of last week, in an operation dubbed Pillar of Defense. Netanyahu's aim is to use force to achieve the peace on the Gaza front that Olmert was unable to secure four years ago. And perhaps, two months before the election, Netanyahu is also hoping for a war bonus, even though he is already ahead in the polls. At the very least, a military campaign against Gaza is a distraction from the serious social problems Israel currently faces. ................(more)