Israeli News: A Daily Analysis

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A Daily Analysis
By Marc Schulman

January 11, 2009--Day Sixteen of War with Hamas, Cabinet May Be Split- Ground Forces Advance

At the cabinet meeting today-the Sixteen Day of the War with Hamas, Prime Minister Olmert spoke about the fact Israel is near reaching its goal. He said, though, it would take more time. At today's meeting the army head of intelligence, Amos Yadlin, stated Hamas is in a difficult situation. They are close to collapse. According to Yadlin, Hamas is running out of ammunition and has lost much of its command and control. The head of the Shin Bet went on to say Hamas is on the verge of collapse.

There seems to be a division within Israel's cabinet on whether to go ahead with the final stage of the attack or not. Barak, Livini and Yadlin believe Israel should be satisfied with what has been accomplished to date, as nearly all the goals first set forth have been reached. On the other hand, Yuval Diskin, Yoav Gal (Southern Commander in charge of the attack), and possibly, Gabi Ashkenazi, Israel's Chief of Staff believe Israel should keep pushing forward. Prime Minister Olmert is said to be leaning in the direction of those who want to keep going. Their view is that the operation has been much easier than expected, Hamas is close to collapse, and this is a historic opportunity to bring down their rule. The opponents of a mission extension point out this is exactly the mission creep that got Israel into trouble before. They state Israel's successes could be undermined by one success Hamas could have, in either killing a large number of Israelis or destroying a Israeli tank, changing the psychology of the situation. Independent Israeli observers are not sure if the picture depicted by Yadlin are totally accurate. They say it is very difficult to determine how completely the military wing of Hamas has been hurt.

Meanwhile, on the ground, IDF troops are advancing slowly but steadily. While a new stage has not officially been approved or officially started, reserve troops have now joined the forces fighting in Gaza. The IDF troops are moving slowly further into the city of Gaza. This has forced Hamas troops to come out and fight a number of times today. The exchanges have all ended well for the IDF. No IDF troops were killed or wounded today, and at least 30 Hamas men were killed in direct combat. In one case, a 10 member group of Hamas' military wing advanced on a Golani attachment. All 10 were killed. Israel may not have officially moved forward on the next step of the mission, but clearly, the army continues to move forward with its mission. Hamas managed to fire 24 rockets into Israel today. The missiles hit Ashdod, Ashqelon, Beersheba and Sderot.

Tomorrow, Amos Gilead goes back to Cairo to continue to negotiate with Egypt and indirectly with Hamas on their ceasefire resolution. Halid Meashal gave a very militant speech today, saying he will not accept any of the plans that have been floated. He said anything that limits the Palestinian ability to resist is not acceptable. He seems willing to fight to the last inhabitant of Gaza. Today, Egypt is, on one hand, calling for Israel to accept its ceasefire proposal, while at the same time, blaming Syria for giving Meashal a platform to undermine the ceasefire talks. The pressure on Hamas will clearly grow, but some observers believe that Hamas may be trying to hold out until Obama get inaugurated next Tuesday.

Obama appeared on This Week on ABC news today. When he was asked by George Stephanopoulos whether he stood behind his statement during the campaign from S'derot–– if his home was being hit by rockets, he would take action. He stated that he did still stand behind his words. He went on to say once he takes office his team would begin immediate action to reach a comprehensive peace agreement between the Palestinians and Israel. He said both sides knew what an agreement would have to look like; they just needed the political cover to do it. This sounds dangerously naive. Thomas Freidman, who was on the show after him (as part of the panel), stated that in all the years he has been covering the Middle East, he has never seen the chances for peace lower than they are right now. He said after the experience with Gaza, no Israeli government could ever give up the West Bank for the creation of a Palestinian state. The only solution he thought possible, for the moment, was some form of international trusteeship over Gaza and the West Bank.