Israel’s stated reason for launching Operation Cast Lead (the 23-day bombardment of Gaza in Dec. 08 – Jan. 09) was in response to the Hamas rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel.
The day following the initial attack, Phyllis Bennis castigated the U.S. complicity in Israel’s airstrikes. There was an election coming up soon in Israel. Netanyahu (Likud Party) needed to show voters that he had the balls to protect them. (Of course, his balls were never on the front line!) He had to move quickly before Obama took office in mid-January because no one knew how Obama might respond. Clearly, Bush was in Netanyahu’s corner. Bennis noted:
The Israeli decision to launch the attacks on Gaza was a political, not security, decision. Just a day or two before the airstrikes, it was Israel that rejected Hamas’s diplomatic initiative aimed at extending the six-month-long ceasefire that had frayed but largely stayed together since June, and that expired 26 December. Hamas officials, working through Egyptian mediators, had urged Israel to lift the siege of Gaza as the basis for continuing an extended ceasefire. Israel, including Foreign Minister Tsipi Livni, of the “centrist” (in the Israeli context) Kadima Party, rejected the proposal. Livni, who went to Egypt but refused to seriously consider the Hamas offer, is running in a tight race for prime minister; her top opponent is the further-right Benyamin Netanyahu of the officially hawkish Likud party, who has campaigned against Livni and the Kadima government for their alleged “soft” approach to the Palestinians. With elections looming in February, no candidate can afford to appear anything but super-militaristic.
Further, it is certain that the Israeli government was eager to move militarily while Bush was still in office. The Washington Post quoted a Bush administration official saying that Israel struck in Gaza “because they want it to be over before the next administration comes in. They can’t predict how the next administration will handle it. And this is not the way they want to start with the new administration.” The Israeli officials may or may not be right about President Obama’s likelihood of responding differently than Bush on this issue – but it does point to a clear obligation on those of us in this country who voted for Obama with hope, to do all that’s necessary to press him to make good on the “change” he promised that gave rise to that hope.
Another researcher put Operation Cast Lead into a much broader Israeli military-intelligence agenda.
On December 30, 2008, the U.S. blocked Libya’s proposal at the U.N. Security Council calling for a ceasefire. Read the resolution here. The United States was the only member of the U.N. Security Council that refused to support a ceasefire resolution which passed 14-0 (with the U.S. abstaining). Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had been instrumental in drafting the ceasefire resolution and so the other Security Council members were stunned when she abstained. Wish I could have intercepted that phone call between Bush and Rice before the vote to hear how it really went down!
As if shielding Israel from the world’s opprobrium in the United Nations wasn’t enough, on January 31, the U.S. hired a German merchant ship to deliver more weapons to Israel.
In the last days of December 2008, many Americans were caught up in the euphoria of Obama’s election, hopeful that change was in the air. In Gaza, only fighter jets carrying death and destruction were in the air.