The fierce fighting that occurred at midweek in the south Lebanese village of Bint Jbail, (in which a reported 14 Israeli soldiers were killed and more than a dozen wounded) has caused at least one prominent analyst to question Israel's handling of the war.
"I think it will raise doubts in Israel about the whole rationale and logic about using only more force in this war," said Yoram Meital, chairman of the Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy at Ben-Gurion University.
Jessica Leifer, a college student studying Hebrew this summer at the University of Haifa, went into a bomb shelter for the first time last Thursday just as a “precaution.” But when she went in again Sunday, it was the real thing.
“We heard intermittent booms,” Leifer, 20, said of the missiles that exploded nearby and kept her in the shelter for three hours.
Fighting between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian gunmen in the Gaza Strip intensified this week, claiming the lives of three Israeli soldiers and about 20 Palestinians, while Egyptian troops scoured the Sinai for more terrorists seeking to attack Israelis on Passover vacation.
Drawn into what now appears to be a two-front war, Israel sent its forces into Lebanon on Wednesday in a major military offensive. The move came after Hezbollah terrorists launched a coordinated attack on communities and military positions in northern Israel and captured two soldiers, vowing to release them only in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the attack “an act of war” as he launched a large-scale military campaign into Lebanon.
As the Israeli government approved an expanded military operation in the northern Gaza Strip to thwart the launching of improved Kassam rockets — like the one that landed harmlessly Tuesday in a school parking lot in Ashkelon, Israel’s fifth largest city — the Hamas leadership was reportedly on the run to avoid being killed or arrested by Israeli forces.
As a new Israeli-Palestinian peace proposal reportedly from Israeli President Shimon Peres was floated in the media this week, there were reports that Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has decided to accept a Palestinian state with provisional borders, something he had flatly ruled out. The change stems from Hamas’ forceful take-over of the Gaza Strip in June, according to Yaakov Bar Siman Tov, a professor in the International Relations Department at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert was to unveil his new cabinet this week in a move to solidify his strength in the Kadima Party and herald a new era after a year of crises, while the opposition Likud Party advanced the date of its own primary and the Labor Party selected Ehud Barak as its candidate for prime minister in the next election.
Saudi Arabia was seen this week as the key to a future peace agreement between Israel and the rest of the Arab world.
“The Saudis are trying to find a [compromise] between the Israelis and the other Arab parties in which all are satisfied,” said Yitzchak Reiter, a fellow of the Harry S. Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. “I’m not sure they will succeed.”
Even though nearly three years of secret, unofficial Israeli-Syrian talks have ended, the Israeli who conducted the negotiations has not given up and believes it would take only four to six months for both sides to reach an agreement. Alon Liel, a former director general of the Israeli Foreign Ministry, said he and his Syrian-American counterpart, Ibrahim Suleiman, have been invited to discuss their talks at an April 12 meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.
TThe agreement in Mecca reached between Hamas and Fatah last week halted internecine warfare between the two groups but it failed to finalize the platform or makeup of their new coalition government, thereby casting doubt on the success of Monday’s Israeli-Palestinian summit in JerusalemSome Israeli officials reportedly sought to postpone the meeting, but Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who convened the summit, was said to have insisted that it proceed. Few expect anything positive.