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Things are still escalating, although at a slower pace than in the first few days. the death toll in Gaza is now over 80, with hundreds of wounded. The IDF has done an amazing job at targeted strikes, but i am still upset at teh rising number of civilian fatalities and casualties.

Just as I am edgy and angry over the ongoing onslaught of rockets on israeli civilians. More than 850 rockets and mortars fired from Gaza to israeli cities and communities since the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense. yesterday three on tel aviv. And according the military, over 100 rockets were launched from Gaza and never reached israel but exploded over palestinian civilians (one of the reason the whole “number blame-game” between israeli and hamas officials is impossible to varify. who is hurting whom? who is a hamas operative, who a civilian. On the israeli side it is easier to varify, but somehow the fact that 1.5 million people are running to shelters and being saved by the Iron Dome (insert : big Cheer! yeah, iron dome!) should make the situation more bearable on our side. I don’t know. doesn’t feel very bearable. hence the blog post from a young female MA-student from Ben Gurion University in Be’er Sheva that we reposted yesterday).

But actually, this is not what i wanted to write. I just seem to get lost in the maze.

Basically, from what i read and hear and thing, at this point we are rapidly approaching a cross-roads: Either the IDF sends in ground troops. Or a cease-fire is announced.

The ground troop is being heavily debated in israel, the pros and cons. Amos Harel (yes, i am currenly greatly favoring israeli analysts over foreign ones) says today in Ha’aretz (warning – long quote ahead)

“The purpose of the operation: At the moment, it appears this issue is a major question mark, shared by the forces on the ground themselves. The first step by the IDF, the killing of Hamas military wing leader Ahmed Jabari and wiping out most of the long-range Fajr missiles, surprised Hamas and hit at its capacities. But it’s hard to understand what a limited ground operation would serve now, and how it would further restore Israel’s deterrent power, even if the number of Hamas dead increases by several dozen or by hundreds (when at the same time there will be losses on our side).

No doubt if it is ultimately decided to go in on the ground, the Palestinian factions will pay a steeper price than Israel. Hamas and the smaller organizations are no match for Israel. But it has to be asked whether, under the current circumstances, a continuation of the confrontation is necessary (in the hope that a quick diplomatic exit is possible ), and whether additional blows at Hamas would improve the balance of deterrence on the Gaza border.

It is very possible that the answer is actually that it would be better to wrap it up now and leverage the gains that have already been racked up, instead of a gamble on twice the reward.

Raising such issues is done out of concern, taking the safety of our forces into consideration.”

Basically, going in will cost lives on both sides. and will it in a meaningful way increase the success of the operation (which is to destroy Hamas’ infrastructure and prevent more terror on israel, and restore the “calm to the south” that has lived with rocket attacks for the past 12 years). the pundits, the analysts, the military spokespeople, the media disagree amongst themselves. if nothing else, this is Israeli society in close-up: It’s not an academic discussion, the people writing about this (again, pros and cons) have children that will be sent in, in the event of a ground op. and they have family sitting in bomb shelters right this minute. and yes, it’s loud and noisy, but at least different voices are heard.

a technical note: it’s the Cabinet that can approve a ground-op. so netanyahu needs a majority to order the IDF to expand the operation.

The other option is a cease-fire.

As Ynet reported:

While the prime minister is waiting for the cessation of rocket fire in order to start negotiations for a ceasefire, state officials stressed that “If there will be a way to meet the operation’s objectives without a ground offensive it would be preferable, otherwise – we are ready for a ground operation.”

A basic “stop firing, then we can discuss a cease-fire”-approach.

Reuters reporter says that

“Izzat Risheq, aide to Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshaal, wrote on Facebook that Hamas would enter a truce only after Israel “stops its aggression, ends its policy of targeted assassinations and lifts the blockade of Gaza”.

Which is certainly not opening any doors. Hamas’ Musa Abumarzuq had an op-ed in The Guardian yesterday spelling out the position:

Hamas may not be able to defeat Israel but we can stand firm against it, and paralyse life in a significant part of the country. This is the right of any free people. Gaza and Hamas are not alone, and the enemies of Israel are increasing. The Arab world is changing. The Palestinian people today see in Hamas hope and leadership.

And Iran is chipping in: “World Muslims should find a way to remove this cancerous tumor (Zionist regime),”National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Hossein Naqavi Hosseini told IRNA, as he spoke of the “unprecedented crimes of the Zionists in Gaza Strip and the occupied lands.”

And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi in a telephone conversation on Sunday talking about a strategy for Gaza… Just to remind us that the country everybody thinks is supposed to broker a deal (Egypt) has some worrying ties to Tehran.

As we say here at the Gates: A deadlock by another other name is still a deadlock. But that’s what diplomats are there to fix, no?

Good luck.

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