The audio of the meeting is here.
First, A Brief Overiew
In an overview of the diplomatic as well as military situation, General Eitam reminded us that Hamas was terrorizing more than 1 million Israelis with long range missiles that could reach as far as 40km into Israel. Despite this, Israel gave a chance for diplomacy. Hamas, in turned, used what amounted to a Hudna to smuggle in heavier missiles along Philadelphia corridor which is the Gaza border with Egypt. As many as 90-100 missiles have been smuggled in per day.
Currently, Israel has stopped the barrage of missiles effectively enough that four days ago the IDF was able to start a land operation blocking Gaza from everywhere but the sea.
He mentioned that Hamas came into power through the democratic process--he made the comparison to Hitler also exploited a weakness in the democratic process--and pretend to act as a government.
Now, Hamas leaders are hiding in deep bunkers, leaving the civilians abandoned by their ‘leaders’. Hamas has used ambulances and children, while Israel has opened a humanitarian corridor—but according to information this aid has been robbed by Hamas and only a little bit has come into the hands of civilians
The Situation In Gaza
Gaza City has been totally blockaded, while Gaza itself has been divided into 3 different zones. There is now no such thing as 'Hamas territory'. Meanwhile, a smaller and smaller amount of missiles can be launched by Hamas. While Hamas will run out of missiles, no one can be sure that there will be absolutely no missiles left.
Hamas has been beaten and has suffered damage to its military infrastructure, while insisting on pretending that they are the leaders of Gaza. In the international arena Hamas is isolated.
Though there are louder calls for a ceasefire, especially after the tragedy at the school, there is still a broad consensus that Hamas deserves no recognition, even while the people themselves must be helped.
The 3 Main Goals That Lie Ahead
o Israel must make sure that the Philadelphia Corridor or southern part of Gaza will not be used for channel to smuggle in arms. If one cannot turn off the fuel, one cannot turn out the flames. There will be no missiles and no weapons through there. Should be a diplomatic effort--Israel, Egypt and some international forces should see to this. Egypt control can be relatively easily achieved.Meanwhile, In Israel
o There is a need to separate the general Gazan population from the Hamas terror organization and move as many civilians as possible to southern Gaza from Gaza City and open an area in the dunes of what was Gush Katif. An area for humanitarian aid will be created, because now the problem is that the aid is not coming into the hands of the civilian population but to Hamas. We are talking about approximately 300,000-400,000 people who will get the best care for their temporary stay until Gaza City is cleared out from terrorists.
o Gaza city will be a hunting zone where Israel knows only Hamas and their supporters remain. After about a week it will be possible to bring Hamas to a ponit where they will not be able/willing to shoot ‘for quite a long time’.
General Eitam said that solidarity and patriotism in Israel has been strong, despite the typical Israeli cynicism. According to polls, more than 80% of Israelis support the war.
Operation Cast Lead: Implications For The West
There are interests in the operation for the US. We must remember that Iran is rushing towards getting a nuclear weapon ready in the next 2-2 1/2 years. Iran trains, finances and sponsors terrorist groups like Hamas and Hizbollah--Al Qaeda too.
We cannot allow Hamas to claim they won, or to clsim that they have found the key to defeating democracies. This war goes far beyond just the security of Israel--we must show that that Democracies have the will and the way to defend itself.
Question and Answer Session
Israpundit: What about Gilad Shalit
If the goal is to destroy Hamas, why talk about a ceasefire.
General Eitam: Israel considers Hamas responsible for the life of Gilad Shalit.
Any conditions for a ceasefire are predicated upon his return.
True, Israel should not seem as if rushing into a ceasefire. That is what happened in 2006.
Keep in mind that Gaza is not Lebanon--it is isolated.
We should have patience--if a presence in Gaza is needed for a while, so be it. However, there are no intentions to reoccupy Gaza. Israel does not want to be in charge of Gaza's future.
Maybe Israel would participate in an international effort at rebuilding Gaza. But there will be no more Hamistan.
The Peace Process goal of 2 states for 2 nations is not something that can actually be implemented. Instead, the West Bank realizes that there is not going to be a separate state but rather only real option is for Israel to continue to be a shield. The Palestinian Arabs in Judea and Samaria are comfortable with this. If new ideas/leadership comes—then maybe can we can talk. Till then in Judea and Samaria – Israel is the defense shield, but not occupying.
(Note: It is not clear that General Eitam was speaking on behalf of the Israeli government as opposed to just offering his own position
Update: According to Christian Science Monitor: Israel finds more sympathy in Europe:
A Euro-American convergence leaves European Union diplomats supporting Palestinians on "shallower emotional and humanitarian grounds," says Mr. Bitar [member of International Institute of Strategic Relations in Paris], "helping people survive, hoping economic improvement is enough, and forgetting the old issues of substance, and Israeli occupation. The two-state solution is nearly dead.")Jerry Gordon of The Iconoclast: Will this be a message to Iran that it can no longer use proxies?
General Eitam: It is a good message for Iran that enough is enough.
Let Iran know that Israel's capability and will are back in the region.
The problem has been that Iran still feels that the world will not find the necessary determination and unity.
We will make clear—Israel will not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons. Having a nuclear capability in the hands of Iran is a threat to the free world. Even without Iran using that nuclear ability, the threat will shape the will of the people of Israel and they will have a constant cloud over their lives.
The last word on Iran has not been said yet. The Hamas operation is the beginning of giving democratic countries the will to defend themselves.
An international operation will have to be launched against Iran if they insist on posing a threat.
Israel hopes that Obama will carefully learn the situation in the Middle East and about the conflict between Israel and Hamas as a model about the nature of the Iranian enemy. The US should not underestimate the threat and if necessary the threat should be destroyed.
Pam Geller of Atlas Shrugs: How has Israel been affected by the sight of protests calling for the destruction of Jews and of Israel. How has it affected their resolve?
General Eitam: Israel is holding firm. Arabs in western countries use western democracy to express views--that is OK, to use democracy. However we need to be concerned about the penetration of Muslims radicalism in western Democracies such as France, Denmark and the US
This is also a problem in Israel. There is a big minority of Israeli Arabs with full civilian rights and they protest on behalf of Iisrael’s enemies--we must be careful of the line.
Israel must keep her eyes open when lines are crossed.
There can be an innocent act of democracy which yet a poses a threat to values we share in the democratic free world.
Omri Ceren of Mere Rhetoric: Within the last 6 hours there have been news reports that the Israeli government agreed with the Sarkozy proposal--which among other things has no mention of Gilad Shalit. What sense do you have of the government's resolve?
General Eitam: News of a positive response in Israel to the Sarkozy initiative is not true. At a government meeting today the decision was made to permit the army to continue the operation. Many amateurs in the military aspect believe the operation requires coming deeply into Gaza City--which is highly fortified.
This is not true. Israel does not need to clear every house and blow up every tunnel.
Gaza is now surrounded--it is a target that will be even more efficient if civilians are let out as planned.
Israel will keep surrounding and slowly smash every launch pad and part of the infrastructure. This takes more time but Hamas has no solution to this advantage of Israel. Israel’s soldiers are more motivated.
The current administration of President George Bush is giving support to Israel to defend itself as needed. Barring a change in the new incoming administration of Obama, Israel can continue.
Anne Lieberman of Boker Tov, Boulder: Regarding moving the Palestinian Arabs south--We see thousands of Gazans in protest, while Hamas says they are in every home.
How does Israel know who is Hamas and who is not?
General Eitam: Hamas actually did enjoy support of the general population before the operation. Since the beginning of the oeration, Hamas has really suffered, and has lost the confidence of the people. Hamas has abandoned their people—using their children as shields and stealing ambulances. Hamas is now holding their people with no electricity or food. They are shooting people in their feet so they cannot leave.
If Gazans know security is 5km to the south--with food and medical, they will go.
Hamas getting weaker and weaker.
We will see more and more civilians leaving the city.
The conference ended here.
Crossposted on Soccer Dad
Technorati Tag: Israel and Gaza and Hamas and Operation Cast Lead.