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Israeli troops are combing slowly through northern Gaza, destroying tunnels, weapons caches, and booby-trapped houses, and engaging small numbers of militants in battles.
The Israeli government refuses to recognize the facts of international law. Once a significant proportion of a local population has reneged on a truce, war resumes, and the entire population becomes acceptable collateral damage. Where guerrillas operate without uniforms, any suspicious-looking civilians become legitimate targets, and their blood is on the hands of the guerrillas-turned-terrorists.

For years, Russia and Ukraine had an understanding: Ukraine offered transit of Russian gas to Europe at nominal cost while Russia supplied gas at a reduced price. Using the habitual Ukrainian practice of stealing gas as a cause, Putin doubled gas prices for Ukraine in November, and in early January increased it again from $250 to $418 to $450. After Ukraine protested the punitive tariff, Russians cut the gas supply, and Ukraine predictably began massive theft of the gas in transit to Europe.

The Russian government works to create anti-Ukrainian sentiment in Europe by blaming the low supply of gas to Europe on Ukrainian theft. That explanation doesn’t hold water: Russia delivered about 300 cub.m. of gas to Europe through Ukraine daily. Ukraine steals 15-20 mil cub.m., that is, 5-6% of the total. Rather, Russia deliberately reduced the gas supply to Europe by two thirds in order to create ill-will against Ukraine.

The Putin-Medvedev government launched a media campaign against Ukraine that rivaled the worst Soviet propaganda. Now, that’s odd. Russians are generally well disposed toward the ethnically similar Ukrainians. The Russian government has no reason to rally its population against Ukraine over a commercial issue. Putin cut the gas supply to Ukraine…okay, that’s it, why incite common Russians?

The answer may lie in Putin’s speech a few days ago. On New Year eve, Putin spoke of a brotherly Ukrainian nation led by dumb-heads. This parallels his rhetoric regarding Georgia. An all-out war with Ukraine is unlikely, especially after the Russians just lost a bid to occupy Georgia. Russia acts according to the textbook KGB approach of destabilizing an unfriendly regime and looking for an opportunity to replace it with puppet government.

Egypt, Jordan, and Germany are working on a ceasefire plan for Gaza. Fatah thugs would take control over Gaza crossings into Israel. International monitors will again be deployed at Rafah Crossing with Egypt (the same brave monitors who fled the Hamas takeover in 2007). Egypt will promise to stop weapons smuggling through tunnels, which it cannot do because of the small number of troops allowed into Sinai under Camp David agreement, nor wants to.

International monitors will police Gaza to see if Hamas accumulates weapons stocks. Similar monitors in Lebanon proved completely useless, unwilling to report weapons smuggling.

The ceasefire plan involves the parties remaining at their positions; thus Israel would occupy northern Gaza. Hamas is unlikely to agree to that, and Fatah is too weak to take over. France and Germany are pushing Egypt and Jordan to send their troops into Gaza, but to no avail. Indeed, Palestinian terrorism against Israel is not their business.

Gilad Shalit’s return is not on the agenda, though it’s inconceivable that Hamas would refuse it as a condition of ceasefire.

Hamas rejects any ceasefire that doesn’t involve the opening of all border crossings. Israel refuses this commonsensical demand for no reason.

The situation is unpredictable. Hamas may accept the ceasefire or it may bet correctly on guerrilla warfare against Israeli troops. Egyptians may agree to send troops into Gaza, but the Knesset might refuse to change the Camp David peace treaty to that end. The Egyptian troops in Gaza may collude with Hamas and let it stockpile weapons, or they may extirpate the terrorists with non-liberal measures. After Fatah is welcomed back into Gaza, Hamas may slowly re-surge like the Muslim Brotherhood resurged in Egypt, or it may fall into oblivion. Though IDF and Fatah suppressed Hamas in the West Bank, Hamas members will exploit any temporary weakness of Fatah to resurge.

Our guess is that Hamas will rebuild itself because it’s the only Palestinian organization that is honest and popular. Hamas will also make inroads into Israeli Arab society: the recent riots demonstrated that Israeli Arabs, in need of political self-identification, are much more pro-Gazan than their West Bank counterparts who hate being identified with lawless and poor Gazans.

Hamas’ victory is good for Israel, as it stops the peace process.

Whatever happens on battlefield, one person already won his war. Olmert will remain in power for a few more months, as the February 10th elections are likely to be postponed.

The reason for the delay is unclear: the war doesn’t distract Barak and Livni from the election campaign: the war is their campaign.

One goal of the Gaza operation was to push Gazans to topple Hamas. After a year of the blockade failed to change their support for the terrorist organization, the Israeli government dreamed that shelling would do the trick.

That policy is now abandoned as Israel has provided humanitarian corridors and will stop shelling in certain areas to allow for aid distribution. With everything going so well, Gazans have no reason to dislodge Hamas in elections.

Hamas routinely diverts medical supplies for its own hospitals, and armed militias rob aid trucks to sell the supplies on the black market.

Usually skeptical of Zionism, Shas distributed flyers with a prayer for IDF soldiers. Meretz officials claim the prayers do not actually help and are an election ploy.

It’s so pleasant to know that our enemies ran out of body bags. There is no need to differentiate between terrorists and the civilians who democratically elected them.

Rabbis commented on the Torah verse, “When you go to war against your enemies…As they would have no mercy upon you, you should have no mercy upon them.”

The Central Elections Committee rejected appeals by the Meretz and Avodah parties to prevent Moshe Feiglin from being elected to the Knesset.