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Is regime change the ultimate goal?
by UK Independent (reposted)
Monday Jan 5th, 2009 7:53 AM
Israel is playing a 'wait and see' game to test Hamas's resolve and international opinion, but it is a high-risk strategy that could backfire
Israeli politicians have talked for so long about a possible large-scale invasion of Gaza to confront Hamas that it has been easy to be lulled into thinking it would never actually happen. Now that it is underway, it looks as if the timing, from Israel's perspective, could be a lot worse. And not just because of the clear winter weather in which its forces have rolled into the Strip.

Globally, for example, it has a window afforded by the last two weeks of a fundamentally supportive White House and – though this is less important – the opening of a Czech EU presidency which is hardly less so. For all the calls for an immediate ceasefire, Israel – Defence Minister Ehud Barak's brief flirtation with the idea last week excepted – clearly believes it has enough leeway from Western powers to continue expanding its operation for now.

It nevertheless carries serious risks – acknowledged yesterday by Israeli analysts across a broad political spectrum. Polling before the ground offensive, but after the air attacks began, reinforced Mr Barak's initial hesitation: while a narrow majority supported the continued air offensive, only 19 per cent were in favour of one on the ground.

Doubtless that reflects the searing experience of the 2006 Lebanon war and would be transformed if there is a clear military success with a minimum of Israeli casualties. But it is a reminder that Israeli ministers – including Mr Barak, whose poll ratings rose impressively as a result of Operation Cast Lead last week – are playing for high stakes.

by UK Guardian (reposted)
Monday Jan 5th, 2009 7:54 AM
Israel hopes its military offensive in Gaza will end with an agreement imposed by the international community rather than a ceasefire renewed directly with the Hamas movement, according to reports in Israel today.

Israel aims to convince the international community to accept a deal under which Egypt would prevent smuggling into Gaza across its border, and border crossings into Gaza would operate under international supervision and in the presence of the Palestinian Authority (PA), which is run by the West Bank-based Fatah movement, Hamas's bitter rival, the reports said.

Senior Israeli cabinet ministers will hold meetings today with a delegation from the European Union and later with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy. The Ha'aretz newspaper reported that the Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, the foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, and the defence minister, Ehud Barak, yesterday decided against any ceasefire agreement with Hamas for fear it would give legitimacy to the Islamist movement.

Hamas said it would send a delegation to Cairo today at Egypt's invitation to talk about how to end the conflict in Gaza. Egypt mediated the ceasefire agreement between Hamas and Israel that began in June last year and broke down six months later.

"The international community will initiate the agreements and will impose it on Hamas," Ha'aretz quoted a senior political source in Jerusalem as saying. "The agreements will be with both the PA and Egypt and then if Hamas will not agree it will pay the price, mostly by even greater isolation."

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