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January 2, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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PAGE 20A HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, JANUARY 2, 2009 With new rocket barrages, Gaza dilemma returns By Leslie Susser Palestinian factions in the strip were observing a 24-hour lull requested by Egyptian mediators. Israeli officials are calling for sharp retaliation. The Israeli Cabinet already has voted to hit back, leaving the timing and scope of the nation's response to Defense Minister Ehud Barak. The rocket attacks are a reminder of the Israeli gov- ernment's inability to resolve the Gaza problem. Coming in the midst of an election campaign, the deterioration of the situation around Gaza has prompted many Israelis to ask why the government has not yet struck back in a serious way. JERUSALEM (JTA)--The renewal of intense Palestin- Jan rocket attacks on Israeli civilian areas has put Israelis in a somber mood during the usually festive week of Chanukah. The new fighting erupted Friday, Dec. 19--the day a six-month truce between Hamas and Israel expired and the Islamist group declared it would not renew. Since then, Hamas has al- lowed Islamic Jihad militants to bombard Israelis in the towns near the Gaza Strip, in- cluding Sderot. The barrages slowed down only on Dec. 22, when Hamas announced that ABBEY'S HOUSEKEEPING No Need to Worry, Just Have a Great Day! Into Special, $55 for 4 hours of regular cleaning. Schedule weekly, biweekly, or one time. Get a Free Cleaning, ask us how! Handyman service available. Servicing all of Central FL. 407-268-4435 Service with a Smile! Cabinet ministers and leading members of the coalition have jumped into the fray, questioning Barak's apparent restraint. Barak, however, refuses to be hurried. He dismisses calls for immediate action as political grandstanding, saying that for the sake of its standing in the region, Israel must retaliate the right way. Barak insists he does not want to repeat the mistakes of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. Complicating matters, Hamas' rockets have in- creased their range from six months ago, before the cease-fire. Yuval Diskin, the chief of the Shin Bet security agency, told the Cabinet on Sunday that Hamas now could target Israeli population centers within a radius of 25 miles from the Gaza Strip. That includes Beersheba, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, and a host of smaller cities and towns. As the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot put it in a scream- ing headline, "One of every eight Israelis is in range of the rockets." Hamas used the truce to smuggle in tons of new weap- onry, including upgraded Katyusha rocket launchers with a 25-mile range. Israeli military planners estimate that in the event of a show- down in Gaza, Hamas would be able to fire hundreds of rockets a day at Israeli civilian centers--much the same way Hezbollah did in 2006. Hamas also has built Hez- bollah-style fortifications and brought anti-tank weapons into the strip. "For Israel, invading Gaza will not be awalk in the park," warned MoussaAbu Marzuk, the deputy head of Hamas' Damascus-based leadership. Israel has several military options in Gaza, all of them problematic. The Jewish state could strike at rocket-launching crews and military installa- tions from the air, but that alone would not be enough to stop the rocket fire. Robert A. Cumins This Kassam rocket landed in Sderot on Nov. 16, 2008. With the Hamas-lsrael truce officially over, Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli towns have intensified. Israel's army could target Hamas leaders, but most them already have gone underground. The army also could fire artillery shells at the sources of rocket fire, but since the Palestinian militiamen operate mainly from built-up civilian areas, this likely would cause many civilian casualties and invite international condemna- tion. Israel could undertake limited ground operations against rocket launchers and capture the territory from where the rockets are being fired, but this would put Israeli troops at risk in the heart of Palestinian territory. A large-scale ground op- eration likely would be more effective, but itwould require an exit strategy Israel does not have--or leave Israel responsible for Gaza and the needs of its estimated 1.5 million Palestinians. For its part, Hamas has much to lose from an all-out war. Its goal in the current crisis is to get Israel to ease its siege on Gaza and lessen the pressure on Hamas militants in the West Bank. But if Israel invades and overruns Gaza, it could lose everything--in- cluding its hold on power in Gaza. On Dec. 22, Hamas showed signs of stepping back from the brink. It ordered a 24- hour suspension of rocket fire to give Egyptian mediators another chance to negotiate a new cease-fire on terms more favorable to Hamas. Israel, however, shows no sign of backing down. The standoff with Hamas goes far beyond Gaza, and the outcome will reverberate across the region. It is part of the regional power struggle between Iran and its proxies, and between fundamentalists and the moderate pro-West- ern camp, including countries such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. While Arab moderates in public have expressed alarm at the escalation, in private some reportedly have hinted to Israel that they would not be sorry to see Hamas and its leaders hit hard. The Egyptians even have hinted publicly that Iran has been fanning the flames from be- hind the scenes. Indeed, the Gaza standoff is part of the showdown between Israel and Iran. A powerful Israeli response will send a strong message to Tehran and its Hezbollah proxy in Lebanon. A failed action or a perceived retreat could encourage the Islamic Republic to step up its chal- lenges of Israel. Barak is keenly aware of what's at stake and is insist- ing on detailed planning and thinking through all the strategic implications. This way, if Israel does launch a major operation, it will achieve an overwhelming victory and have a clear strategy for the political aftermath. But there is still no agree- ment among Israel's three major prime ministerial can- didates on what to do about Hamas in the long term. Kadima leader Tzipi Livni and the Likud's Benjamin Ne- tanyahu say the Hamas gov- ernment should be toppled. Barak advocates the more modest goal of restoring quiet after dealing a heavy blow to the organization's military wing. The way the goal is defined will determine the nature of the military operation and set the tone for the political aftermath. SAVE $5 on Tickets! JAN. 15- 19 IIIIIIF_,| .lbl_llll "J l aL -'/.l "]11 llllt OPENING NIGHT JAN. 16 JAN. 17 ] JAN. 18 ] JAN. 19 I 11:30 AM TICKETS $15! 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Co-chaired by former Sec- retary of State Madeleine Albright and former Secretary of Defense William Cohen, the 13-person committee was formed in November 2007 with the goal of generating concrete recommendations to enhance the U. S. govern- ment's capacity to recognize and respond to threats of genocide. The task force is among a number of efforts undertaken by the museum in the past few years to shed light on the issue. The report argues that preventing genocide "is an achievable goal" that is not an "inevitable result of 'ancient hatreds' or irrational leaders." But the goal, the report states, can be met only with a "blue- print" of "structures, strate- gies and partnerships." First, the report says, the next U. S. president must "demonstrate at the outset that preventing genocide and mass atrocities is a national priority" by developing a "government-wide policy. " That policy should be backed up with "increased and more flexible funding" for genocide prevention. It suggests that the U. S. Congress invest $250 million--"less than a dollar for every American each year"--in new funds for crisis prevention and response, with one-fifth of that funding available for "rapid allocation in support of urgent activities to prevent or halt emerging crises. " Incorporating genocide prevention and response into "national policy guidance and planning for the military and into defense doctrine and training" is one of five parts of the "comprehensive policy approflch" the report espouses. The document states that military assets must be con- sidered as one of the many instruments of national power that the United States must "leverage" in dealing with genocide, and while "espe- cially relevant when opportu- nities for prevention have been lost, "they can "also play an important role in deterring and suppressing violence. " The report stresses "early warning and early preven- tion, " recommending that the director of national intel- ligence prepare an "estimate on worldwide risks of genocide and mass atrocities, "and that "acute warning" of "potential genocide" be made an "auto- matic trigger" of policy review. Engaging leaders and institu- tions within "high-risk coun- tries" also is encouraged. The task force also recom- mends the creation in the United States of a "new high- level interagency body"--an Atrocities Prevention Com- mittee-dedicated to respond to threats of genocide. And in- ternationally, the report states that the United States should launch a diplomatic initiative "to create an international network for information shar- ing and coordinated action to prevent genocide. " In addition to Albright and Cohen, members of the task force included former U. S. senators John Danforth and Tom Daschle, former top Carter and Clinton ad- ministration official Stuart Eizenstat, former secretary of agriculture Dan Glickman and former congressmen Vin Weber and Jack Kemp.