There has been much talk of an Israeli ground invasion of the Gaza Strip these last few days as Israeli tanks and armour together with some 20,000–30,000 Israeli troops amass around the border fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel; indeed, Israeli commandoes have already made some incursions into the Gaza Strip clashing with Hamas fighters in fire-fights. The question is, however, will Israel actually commit itself to this massive escalation of the crisis and what would be the likely consequences of such an action?
But the first question one needs to ask is: Why haven’t the Israelis already invaded the Gaza? What’s been holding them back?
There are several probable answers to that. First, it’s possible that Netanyahu is simply bluffing and hoping that the mere presence of an Israeli invading army on the ground and in clear sight of the Palestinians in the Gaza may be enough to get Hamas to reconsider their position and concede to a ceasefire. At least this is essentially what Netanyahu is telling the world – though not quite in so many words. The problem with this scenario is that it assumes that Israel is merely reacting to Palestinian aggression and simply wants the rockets to stop when in reality the rockets being launched into Israel were as a direct result of Israeli aggression toward Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip in the first place. Israeli IDF snipers have for several months leading up to the present crisis been killing farmers and other civilians who have been working in fields close to the border fence with Israel. Also killed was a mentally ill woman who wandered too close toward the fence. In other words, it has been the Israelis that have deliberately provoked this current crisis and not the Palestinians as the Western media is portraying.
Another probable reason why Netanyahu has held back from launching a ground invasion is because he is cautious of both world opinion and knows also that he lacks full support from the US and Europe leaders – not to mention the people of the world.
In light of his fear of worldwide public opinion being against him, Netanyahu may also be waiting for Hamas to actually score a big hit with one of their missiles which could then possibly swing public opinion and/or world leader’s opinion enough for him to feel safe in launching an invasion without too much criticism from them.
Netanyahu is a little cannier than some of his more right-wing ‘don’t care what the world think’ colleagues in his cabinet who are pressing hard to launch an invasion. He is genuinely sensitive to world opinion but, at the same time, desperately wants to be rid of Hamas and the Jihadists so that Israel can once again fully occupy the Gaza Strip.
It’s likely that Netanyahu is just waiting for the right moment and it’s possible that that moment might not eventuate.
But then, what if he does decide to invade the Gaza Strip? What then would be the likely consequences of an invasion?
Such a decision could have catastrophic consequences for the entire Middle East.
An invasion would likely be resisted by the Palestinians and could also lead to an uprising of Palestinians in the West Bank – something which the Israelis might also be hoping for providing them with an excuse to launch a full-scale occupation there too. This, in turn, might even trigger a response from international jihadists who would find their way into Jordan and Egypt in the hope of getting an opportunity to fight against the Israelis. While unlikely, Hezbollah in Lebanon may even feel inclined to help out by putting aside their differences with those on the Sunni side of the Arab street; they’ve done it before. Already rockets have been fired from Lebanon into Israel, most likely by Palestinian and/or Sunni groups based there.
In the last few days Israel has warned inhabitants of northern Gaza that they will be increasing their raids on the area and have told civilians to leave prior to commencement of bombing sorties. This has led to a mass exodus of civilians fleeing north Gaza and heading south. Such methods of getting Palestinians to flee their homes are reminiscent of how Jewish fighters ethnically cleansed Palestine in the first place in order to create Israel. One wonders if history is repeating itself.
The Gaza Strip is teetering on a knife edge. One of two things will end up happening; either Israel will invade and permanently occupy the Gaza Strip and hope that at least a large proportion of the Gazan people seek refuge in the Sinai or Jordan or there will be no invasion, a peace somehow brokered and then a return to the status quo for another two or three years until the next time some extreme right-wing Israeli premier feels the time is right to yet again provoke the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip in the hope that this time the world will support the Israeli take over of the occupied territories.