I was sitting in the New Delhi airport while watching the latest news with a bunch of fellow passengers. Each viewed the invasion of Gaza with their own perspectives. As a columnist, I could not keep quiet. So I engaged the waiting passengers in an informal poll, asking each person what they thought of the ongoing news.
Most of the passengers who were from India believed that Israel was engaged at this point for two main reasons: The first was to make sure all the fighting was complete before President Obama takes office and the second was to make sure that there was a re-entrance of Fata in Gaza so that Hamas would be sidelined. During my week in India, I had been told by several sources that there has been many back channel sources between India and Israel. The activity surrounded technology as well as military goods and information. All this had to be carefully arranged to keep from formally upsetting the Chinese.
Most Western leaders have now fallen in line with “Israel’s right to self-defense” and support Israel’s destruction of specific missile sites. These sites should not be confused with silos and advanced weapon depots we have here in the United States. These “missile” sites are designed to be operated by low-tech operators and are designed less to cause damage then to annoy and provoke.
Contrast this with the West Bank which is controlled by Fatah, the Arafat founded political party that became so corrupt that the citizens supported Hamas. Television anchors interviewing Fatah leaders engaged in a great evening of political theater. You did not have to be an expert in body language or voice intonation to know that the Fatah leaders were evading the truth or even out and out lying. They all condemned Israel on camera. But the anchors kept pressing the point that that there was no agreement between Fatah and Hamas and that Hamas had no interest in a two-state settlement or peace process. No matter who was interviewed from the West Bank, the answer was the same. It went something like violence on the part of Israel would get more violence from Hamas. True enough, but you don’t need to be a State Department diplomat to know that Fatah is secretly hoping that they can get back in power in Gaza.
The more a journalist covers international politics, the more they learn not to look at the public face of diplomacy. Countries employ proxies and let other countries do their work for them. Leaders make public statements for their home consituancies to claim plausible denial. Back channels and deals are made all the time, and the goal of an international journalist is to find the trail of the back-channel communications.
My guess is that Israel would not have taken such as step without a wink-wink, nod-nod to the West Bank leadership, nor without Abbas and the Egyptians giving the green light.
Leaflets were distributed to the citizens of the West Bank telling them to leave, but since Egypt sealed the border tighter than ever, there was no place for the citizens of Gaza to go. There are few if any bomb shelters in Gaza and no fuel in a cold winter. Food is scarce. Those citizens are suffering though this political chess game – a game where the major players are Hamas, Fatah and, of course, Israel with a behind the curtain cheering section made up of the European Union, the United States, Egypt and Jordan.
Israel would not have moved its ground troops into Gaza without informing President Bush and the Obama administration. The political question from our side is why is this happening now? Armchair analysts from India to the United States believe that this “clean up the missiles” operation has happened for two reasons; to give Obama a fresh start on working on a two-state solution and, second, for a way to make Fatah the administrator of Gaza.
Good luck to them. They are going to need it. As my cousin writes in his book, we have had too many years of negotiation in what he calls “The Much Too Promised Land.”