Israel to withdraw troops from Gaza before Obama's inauguration
13:27 | 19/ 01/ 2009
TEL AVIV, January 19 (RIA Novosti) - Israel plans to withdraw all of its troops from the Gaza Strip before U.S. president-elect Barack Obama's inauguration on January 20, according to Israeli media outlets.
Israel started pulling troops out of Gaza on Sunday, more than three weeks after the start of its assault on the Palestinian enclave of 1.5 million. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has promised European leaders that Israel will finish the process "as soon as possible."
According to Israeli media, an unnamed government official said that "Israel did not want to put Obama in a difficult situation once taking office and hopes to continue cooperation with the U.S. in the global fight against Islamic terrorism and weapons smuggling in the Gaza Strip."
Israel declared a unilateral ceasefire at 2 a.m. local time (0000 GMT) on Sunday, saying it had achieved all its objectives. Several hours after Israel's announcement, Hamas, which controls Gaza, also declared an immediate ceasefire, adding that the militants had given Israel a week to withdraw its troops.
Gaza: Worse than a crime
“Israel is not going to show restraint”, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told The Washington Post on January 10, after the United States abstained on the previous day’s UN Security Council resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza. All the previous week the speculation grew that Washington was going to defy its Israeli ally for once and vote for the resolution, but literally as the delegates sat down in the Council chamber the phone call came from President Bush ordering Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to abstain.
So nothing will stop Israel from hammering the Gaza Strip as hard as it likes -- and the situation is unlikely to change with the inauguration of Barack Obama on January 20, because he has no intention of squandering his abundant but finite political capital on a quixotic attempt to bring peace to the Middle East. He will spend it instead on goals that have some chance of being achieved, and he will be right to do so.
Yet the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip will almost certainly end within the next two weeks. International revulsion at the carnage among Palestinian civilians will play a certain role. Any big loss of life among Israeli soldiers, or the capture of even one or two soldiers, would turn Israeli public opinion against the war overnight. And the clincher is that the Israeli elections are on February 10.
The war is being fought now largely to shift the opinion polls in favor of the ruling parties before the elections. However, it must be over, and somehow look like a success, before Israelis actually vote. Good luck.