Friendless in Gaza, part 2

Dan Diker is a foreign policy analyst with the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. He has filed the following report with us:

Israel has launched with great precision what Israeli media are calling a “shock and awe” campaign against strategic bases, command centers and weapons depots belonging to surprised Iranian-backed Hamas forces. According to local news reports, more than 100 IDF warplanes hit 150 Hamas military targets with 98 percent accuracy in the first three to five minutes of the Israeli strikes yesterday from 11:30 to 11:35 a.m. Israel time. The sheer power of Israel’s air strikes and its name branding is reminiscent of the massive 1991 American air campaign against Saddam Hussein’s regime.

What is remarkable and certainly unprecedented in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict is that despite the number of Palestinian combatants killed in one day, Arab leaders continue to criticize Hamas.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit held a press conference in Cairo yesterday for the Arabic press in which he extended condolences to the Palestinians killed in the attacks but blamed Hamas for ignoring warnings that Israel would attack if rocket fire from Gaza didn’t cease. Aboul Gheit’s comments follow last Thursday’s report in al Quds al Arabi, in which Egyptian Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman reportedly told Israeli officials that Egypt would not oppose a short operation to topple Hamas.

Suleiman accused “Meshal’s gang” – a reference to the Damascus-based head of Hamas’ political bureau, Khaled Meshal – of behaving arrogantly toward Egypt, and added that there was no choice but “to educate the Hamas leadership – even in Damascus.”

Reuters today reported that PA chairman Mahmoud Abbas said that “Palestinians could have avoided the Gaza massacre.” Israel radio this morning also reported Saudi official criticism of Hamas as quoted in the UK based Al Sharq al Awsat. I had noted in my post of December 18 that Iran and Hamas are also scaring the Saudis.

Mohammad Abdallah Al Zulfa, member of the Saudi Shoura Council said on the Alhurra Arabic TV news program on December 17 that “Iran is the big threat in today’s world, supporting all the terrorists from Hamas to Hezbollah to some other terrorists that we don’t know their names yet” and “Iran destabilized the region by supporting all the illegal activities and activists such as Hamas.”

What’s clear to the Egyptians, the Palestinian Fatah leadership, the Saudis and the GCC states is that Israel’s current war to neutralize the Hamas threat also sets back Iran’s aggressive project to reshape the Arab Middle East in its image.

Ironically, the Iranian regime’s “New Middle East” — not the version that had earned President Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat a Nobel Prize — could leave Israel in a stronger regional position if it beats Hamas into the ground, and uproots its terror infrastructure. It would be called a humiliating defeat for Hamas’ leadership and its Iranian overlords and it would lever up Israel’s position with Arab neighbors who have been paralyzed from acting against the same Iran that threatens their very existence.

If Israel continues to avoid Palestinian civilan causalites and uproot Hamas, the Arab states will honor Israeli power and Israel’s will to use it, that in this case protects their future too.

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