Drowning in Blood

Yesterday was just another regular day in the Middle East. The Gaza Strip took another step on the road to becoming like Somalia, or Afghanistan, with the bloody Hamas attack against the Fatah camp near the Karni Crossing.

The Mecca Accord that promised to bring calm to the internecine Palestinian fighting and led to the establishment of a unity government in the PA is increasingly being drowned in blood as Israel debates whether to reoccupy the Gaza Strip, and if so, when.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert traveled from Jordan, where he discussed peace with King Abdullah, to the "pit" at the General Staff, participating in a major war game involving all the IDF's regional commands. Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi presented him with assessments on imaginary military actions on a number of fronts. The war game quickly turned into a real alarm, with Qassam rockets landing on Sderot.

Olmert heard the assessments and opted to stay with the policy of restraint and containment, at least until the cabinet meeting this Sunday. This is largely based on the interpretation that the Hamas attack on Sderot was an attempt to divert attention from the killing of the Fatah policemen earlier in the day. According to this view, Hamas would like to draw Israel into a major offensive in the Gaza Strip so that all the factions can unite against the "aggressor."

It is also obvious from the cabinet meeting last Sunday that neither the government nor the defense establishment are eager to embark on a major offensive in the Gaza Strip. Ashkenazi made it clear that Israel may find itself stuck in Gaza for a long time. With such warnings Olmert can continue showing restraint while warning the international community that he is losing his patience.