My Palestinian friends shrugged this off, saying, "They do this shit all the time. It means nothing."
When the bombing began, my friends said it would last a few days and then stop. They said Israel was only making a statement, sending a warning to Hamas about the rocket fire. I told them there would be a ground invasion, and I said that weakening Hamas was not their prime objective.
Well, there's certainly no satisfaction in being right about this. I wish I had been wrong. But my predictions haven't stopped coming. Weakening Hamas is a pleasant side effect of the operation, but the IDF's primary objective is recovering Gilad Shalit, alive or dead. Dead, most likely, at this point.
Shalit was abducted by Hamas in the summer of 2006 during a cross border raid. He has been held all this time. As of July of 2008 he was alive, but this week Hamas has been hinting that he may or may not be alive anymore. Words were to the effect of, "It is no longer our concern." This leads me to believe he's dead, which isn't going to be good for anyone. Not for Hamas, not for the morale of the Israeli people, and not for the politicians running in the upcoming election.
That's right, Israelis will vote for their prime minister presently and whoever is responsible for bringing back the country's beloved Missing Soldier will win the prize. Gilad Shalit is no longer just a person. He is a symbol. If he is found alive, national pride in Israel will flourish. If he is found dead, Israelis' hatred of "the other" will be further cemented and the Gaza operation will likely end later and with more civilians dead. The possibility that Shalit is alive is quite possibly the only factor applying what little restraint there is in this campaign.
On a personal note, I am deeply saddened by the hatred I see coming out of both my Palestinian friends and my Israeli friends. Those who could enjoy each others' company before this operation began can no longer be in the same room together. They see each other as monsters, no longer human beings. Sometimes it is too complicated for the mind to grasp the complexities of humanity in others, or even in ourselves.
But I know the truth. Each soldier who bombs a house, shoots a man, arrests a child...these soldiers are also someone's son, husband, or father. The same as the Hamas operatives who shoot qassam rockets across the border into civilian areas are sons, husbands, and fathers. It is not easy to accept, but it is true. I believe that true progress can only be made with this in mind.
If you believe your own actions are justifiable, then you must believe someone else's actions are too.
UPDATE: An AP article from today says:
Israel said it was approaching the "endgame" of its three-week offensive against Gaza's Hamas rulers and scheduled a Security Cabinet vote Saturday on a truce proposed by Egypt. Under the cease-fire plan, fighting would stop immediately for 10 days, but Israeli forces would initially remain in Gaza and the border crossings into the territory would remain closed until security arrangements are made to ensure Hamas militants do not rearm.According to my theory, Israel scheduling a vote on the ceasefire for Saturday means they think they have located Shalit and are probably planning a night rescue for...that would be tonight. If they were right and they were successful, tomorrow's news will reveal that. If they were wrong or unsuccessful, I doubt anyone will ever hear about it.