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Israeli Peace Activist Fears Israel May Launch Disastrous Ground Offensive
Into Gaza Within 24 Hours

Jan. 2, 2009 (EIRNS)— An Israeli peace activist today told EIR that he fears an Israeli land assault could be launched within the next twenty-four hours. He said that the assault, if launched, would lead to one of the darkest days in the history of Israel.

Naftali Raz, a member of the pro-peace Meretz party, told EIR by telephone, "It is a dark day." He said he feared that within 24 hours, Israel will decide to launch a ground assult on Gaza, which will be the "worst decision in its history," and lead to thousands of Palestinian deaths and hundreds of Israeli deaths. He admitted that he did not have any direct information about an imminent invasion, but he said he thought that, given the current climate in Israel and the level of military preparation, all it would take is for one Hamas-launched Grad missile to hit an Israeli apartment house, causing a large number of casualties, to trigger an immediate invasion.

According to Raz, Hamas is banking on an Israeli ground assault and has already prepared for it, and would strategically benefit from the catastrophe. While he admits that he has no evidence that this is the case, he says it is his gut feeling. He thinks the only thing that had prevented the assault up til now, was the combination of Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni being in France, and the bad weather. Now Livni has returned, Israel has rejected the French ceasefire proposal, and the weather is fine.

A similar scenario occurred in March 2002 when a suicide bombing was used as a pretext for then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, to launch his infamous "Operation Defensive Shield," which had been in preparation for months. That operation took place during the course of the Second Intifada. It was the largest military operation in the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War. It lasted for three weeks, during which 500 Palestinians were reported killed, and 1,500 wounded.

Although he said he supported the initial Israeli attack, because of the Hamas missile strikes, Raz said the Israeli attacks should have ended after the first or second day. The only way out, Raz said, would have been an immediate ceasefire, even it had been a unilateral one, followed by a return to the negotiating table. Raz said his views are shared by some very senior retired military officers who have been speaking out in the media. One of the most outspoken is retired General Amram Mitzner, former Chairman of the Labor Party, who was interviewed on national radio calling for an immediate ceasefire. Mitzner spoke emphatically against a ground assault. Other retired Generals who have made similar statements include General Amos Lapidot, former chief of the Israeli Airforce; General Shlomi Gazit, former head of military intelligence; and Lt. General Ben Ami Gov, a winner of the Israeli prize for national security. In addition, three well-known authors—David Grossman, Amos Oz, and A.B. Joshua—have also been speaking out against the war.

While the latest poll shows that 82% of Israelis support the Gaza operation, a group called "The Other Voice," based in Sederot, which is the Israeli city that has suffered the largest number ofrocket attacks from Gaza, has called for a ceasefire and co-existence between Israelis and Palestinians. The group is led by four citizens of the city, including Eric Yalin, Naomi Ben Bassad, Monika Zion, and Zohar Avitan. Two are oriental Jews, which is significant, since that grouping tends to be the base for the most right wing and vengeful views in Israeli politics. In the midst of these attacks, the group has been working around the clock, and has been given a lot of media coverage.