Just in time to catch Hope and Change Fever, the Israelis completed their withdrawal from Gaza earlier today. They have not demobilized, however, and their navy continues to fire on targets of opportunity. The Israelis hope to build momentum towards an international effort to stop arms smuggling into Gaza so that the rain of missiles and rockets will end in the south:
The last Israeli troops left the Gaza Strip before dawn Wednesday, the military said, as Israel dispatched its foreign minister to Europe in a bid to rally international support to end arms smuggling into the Hamas-ruled territory.
The timing of the pullout reflected Israeli hopes to defuse the crisis in Gaza before President Barack Obama entered the White House. The military said troops remain massed on the Israeli side of the border and are poised to take action if militants violate a fragile three-day cease-fire. …
Israel launched the offensive to permanently halt years of militant rocket fire on growing numbers of Israelis and to halt the smuggling of arms that turned Hamas into a potent threat to much of southern Israel.
Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni was heading to Brussels on Wednesday, hoping to clinch a deal committing the European Union to contribute forces, ships and technology to anti-smuggling operations, Israeli officials said.
Does anyone ever get the feeling that Israel is sometimes the Blanche DuBois of nations? They repeatedly rely on the kindness of strangers, which given the treatment Israel receives, amounts to a kind of lunacy. If the EU actually assists them with effective anti-smuggling operations, I’ll eat my hat. Most of the EU has more sympathy for the terrorists in Gaza than they do for the Israelis, and I’d bet that half of the nations won’t even consider Hamas’ arms purchases smuggling at all.
Europe certainly sold Israel a bill of goods in 2006, when they convinced Olmert to pull out of Lebanon after reaching the Litani. They promised to send troops to secure the sub-Litani region through a bolstered UN effort that would replace the earlier UNIFIL effort that had failed to prevent Hezbollah from arming themselves with weapons from Syria and Iran. As soon as the Israelis departed, the Europeans (primarily Germans and Italians) announced that they would not interfere with arms shipments to Hezbollah, making the new UNIFIL just as useless as the one it replaced.
Israel withdrew from Gaza for its own reasons, mostly because they had little left to accomplish that would have left Gaza standing. They humiliated Hamas and killed hundreds of their operatives, including some of its key leadership. They destroyed their elite commando unit trained by Iran with little difficulty. They have not destroyed all of the rockets, but at least for the moment, they’ve stopped Hamas from resupplying. We’ll have to see if that’s enough.