UN divided on Gaza resolution, Kadima grows in popularity
As the UN Security Council remains divided over the wording of a resolution on Israeli attacks on Gaza put forward by Libya, the incumbent Kadima administration in Israel grows in popularity. This related events show the monstrocity of politics at its worst edge.
With Israeli jets continuing to pound the Gaza Strip, members of the UN Security Council have ended an emergency meeting on the crisis after failing to agree on the wording of a draft resolution.The meeting at UN headquarters in New York late on Wednesday came as Israel's assault on Gaza entered a sixth day, with the death toll nearing 400 and much of the territory in ruins. The latest targets included three government buildings in Gaza City, struck by Israeli missiles in the early hours of Thursday. Palestinian officials said the attacks left at least 25 people injured. The special session of the security council followed calls from Arab countries for an urgent resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire, and warnings from aid agencies that the people of Gaza are facing a humanitarian catastrophe. But diplomats said the meeting was unlikely to produce any vote in the near future, with deep divisions among council members over the wording of any resolution. Negotiations are expected to continue in the coming days. But despite mounting international pressure, Israel has so far rejected calls for ceasefire and has continued to build up its forces along the border in preparation for a possible ground invasion. It says the assault is aimed at the Hamas leadership in Gaza and intended to destroy the ability of its fighters to launch rocket attacks on Israeli towns and cities. During Wednesday's Security Council meeting, Libya, the only Arab country on the council, presented an Arab-drafted resolution called for "an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect by both sides." But diplomats said the wording of the draft was unlikely to be acceptable to the veto-holding United States and other Western countries. "It's going to need a lot of work," one Western diplomat told Reuters. The draft resolution, a copy of which was obtained by Al Jazeera, denounced "the excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by Israel" but made only vague reference to Hamas rocket attacks on Israel. The US has said any lasting ceasefire is dependent on concrete assurances from Hamas – in terms that are acceptable to Israel – that the rocket attacks will stop. Meanwhile, with food and fuel supplies running dangerously low, the situation for thousands of Gaza residents is becoming increasingly desperate. According to John Holmes, the United Nation's chief humanitarian official, more than 20,000 people have gone without food since the beginning of the Israeli assault, with many more resorting to begging or picking through rubbish dumps...'Durable' solution: Olmert was speaking after Israel's security cabinet rejected a French proposal for a 48-hour truce to allow for the passage of humanitarian aid into the besieged territory. Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman, said a "durable" solution was needed rather than the "band-aid" that would be provided by a 48-hour truce. "What we need is a solution that will create real quiet ... the only people who really wanted this were Hamas, because we have been hitting them hard and they'd like time to regroup and rearm," he told Al Jazeera. Israel has targeted many of the underground tunnels leading out of Gaza into Egypt, which have been a lifeline to Palestinians for food, fuel and medical supplies since Israel closed Gaza's border crossings 18 months ago. In addition Israel's military has been moving soldiers, tanks and armoured personnel carriers to Gaza's edge amid ongoing concerns that the aerial assault will be followed by a ground offensive. Hamas said on Wednesday that it would fight "until the last breath" if Israel sent ground forces into Gaza. "Israel will embark on a veritable adventure if it decides to invade Gaza. We have prepared surprises for them," Mushir al-Masri, a senior Hamas official, said. Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Gaza, said that in the event of a ground incursion, Palestinian factions felt that they had the advantage, due to the preparations they have made over the past six months of the truce. "They say they have acquired new weapons, new munitions, new explosive devices and this is where they feel they enjoy more of an advantage in terms of the ability to face an Israeli incursion," he said. "They certainly know they can't compete with Israel's air superiority and that is why Israel has been warned against launching a [ground] operation here in Gaza."
Tel Aviv - While war between Israel and Hamas reverberates from Gaza City to southern Israel and to Arab capitals, the fallout will also be felt within the Israeli Knesset. The fighting is already affecting Israeli public opinion ahead of the Feb. 10 parliamentary vote: Before the offensive began polls showed conservative opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu and his Likud party leading. But now, the hawks are losing ground and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, leader of the center-left Labor Party, and Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni of centrist Kadima are gaining.
But while it's too early to tell which politician will emerge from the high-stakes Gaza conflict with the upper hand, Israel finds itself once again at a moment of transition as a mix of war and politics promises change for the Jewish state.
"Israel often starts wars looking very good, and the end is often less clear," says Asher Arian, a political science professor at Haifa University. "The only thing that is clear is that every campaign will try to spin the outcome to their advantage." So far the Israeli operation in Gaza is receiving broad public support among Israelis – a political boon for the incumbent Kadima Party. The government has learned important lessons from the 2006 Lebanon war and executed this operation with more precision and caution that its fight with Hezbollah, says Avraham Ben Tzvi, an international relations commentator for Israel Radio. But, he cautions, "One missile unfortunately can change the whole picture.... We're not even at halftime." In 1996, the government of Prime Minister Shimon Peres launched Operation Grapes of Wrath against Hezbollah in Lebanon – a 16-day war that also ended in an inconclusive cease-fire. But because the carnage in southern Lebanon alienated Israeli Arabs, Mr. Peres lost support from a crucial constituency, giving Mr. Netanyahu his first victory as prime minister. Still the underlying weaknesses for both Mr. Barak and Ms. Livni rest in the fact that they couldn't stop Hamas's rocket fire over the past three years, since Israel's pullout from the coastal enclave. In the war in Lebanon two years ago, electoral politics were seen as one of the primary factors in the heated rhetoric leading to the war – much the same way it is adding to calls today for the complete toppling of Hamas. A successful endgame to the current fighting could help Kadima and Barak's Labor Party make up for their failures on Gaza. A redux of the Lebanon war would be disastrous for their chances in next month's election. Two polls this week showed the center-left bloc of parties – which are headed by Livni and Barak – pulling into a tie or gaining a slight majority in the upcoming parliament. Previously, a coalition of right-wing and religious parties were forecast to hold the advantage. As the fighting continued, Israel's cabinet convened amid international pressure for a truce. The Israel-Hamas conflict seemed to have reached a crossroads with calls for both international diplomacy and a ground assault. The decision as of Wednesday was to continue the air campaign. "We didn't enter an operation in Gaza only to end it with the continuation of rocket fire in the beginning," said Prime Minister Ehud Olmert at the cabinet meeting. "Israel restrained itself for years and gave a chance for calm." Already, the intersection of war and the election is highlighting a number of incongruences of a political system in flux.First, the military operation is being overseen by a lame duck premier. Mr. Olmert was forced to resign last year over corruption allegations and remains deeply unpopular for his handling of the inconclusive Lebanon war. So far, Olmert has been an electoral burden to Kadima and Livni, much the same way that President Bush was a drag on the bid by Sen. John McCain's (R) of Arizona for the presidency. While Livni is running as the leader of the center-left political bloc, the military offensive has relegated her playing only a supporting role. Olmert is calling the shots and Barak is overseeing the widely respected military; Livni is charged with liaising with international diplomats that Israelis largely turn up their noses at. "Tzipi Livni is a third wheel in this troika," says Gideon Doron, a professor of political science at Tel Aviv University. "The foreign minister should provide the international conditions that provide the time for the operation [to succeed]. It's not clear if she can do that." And yet, the momentum from a positive end to the fighting would also help Livni.Barak, meanwhile, remains the dark horse candidate for prime minister even though he has received the biggest boost from the operation. His Labor Party has been forecast to receive 15 to 16 seats in the next parliament, up from 11 or 10. Front-runner Netanyahu, one of the chief critics of the government's policy toward Hamas, has been forced to abandon his assault on Livni's leadership credentials. Instead, he has dutifully taken on the challenge of explaining to the international community the policy of a government he would like to replace. Eventually, however, Netanyahu and Likud are expected to end their political cease-fire.Likud is now running neck-and-neck with Livni's Kadima, forfeiting a lead of about six to eight seats from earlier in December. Political observers have cited internal Likud turmoil as the primary reason for the drop.
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