Sunday, March 02, 2008

Send - the envoy!

Last week: Two-thirds of Israelis want talks with Hamas. Not just that, but former secret-service chiefs were in the press arguing for it. Here's Efraim Halevy talking to old-school TYR ally Laura Rozen. And here's the data: ;not only did 64 per cent of Israelis support direct talks, and a majority of Labour and Kadima voters, but a plurality of Likud voters did as well.

Now; first, an air raid in fabulous Khan Yunis that kills five people including a couple of Hamas leaders. The inevitable retaliation; rockets hit Ashkelon and its various network-industrial nodes (oil terminal, power station, etc). A truly impressive amount of linguistic escalation. And a bloody punishment expedition.

Talks, even with the PA, are off. And this is worrying, even though the source is low credibility with a capital S. The whole thing has a kind of Lebanese feel; a mixture of extreme violence with a very low commitment to its actual aims. Consider the US Navy surface-action group that is annoying the Lebanese government; it's not by any means a credible threat of effective intervention, so what is it doing there? (There is only one US aircraft carrier away from home; and she's in the Arabian Gulf, not the Med.)

It also has a nasty echo of the incident back in 2002 that led Alistair Crooke to be blown as the SIS station chief in Tel Aviv; you may recall that he had secured Hamas agreement to a truce when, after some days of calm, an Israeli air raid intended to kill a Hamas man destroyed a block of flats and some children. A major suicide bombing instantly followed; shortly after, Ma'ariv was leaked Crooke's identity and likeness and he was forced to quit.

What's interesting here is that the war doesn't seem to matter to the respective leaderships any more; it's a second-order issue. (Amusingly, I remember that back in tha day Laura was asking for advice on how to buy euro-denominated bonds just after Bush's re-election; more recently, this post. Turns out she didn't.)

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