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Predictable Things Happen In Gaza

There are two things that were a near 100% certainty when it comes to the situation in Gaza. The first is that the Benjamin Netanyahu administration was going to attack Rafah. The external pressure on Netanyahu NOT to do that has been enormous, but the internal pressure on him to move forward was even more enormous. If he did not make a move into Rafah, which is where the remaining leadership of Hamas is holed up, then the far-right elements of his governing coalition would have rebelled against him, and Netanyahu's government would have fallen. Not only would that take the PM out of power, it would move his criminal trials right back to the front burner. To paraphrase Michael Corleone: "I don't care what Netanyahu says about a deal, he's gonna invade Rafah, that's it. That's the key for him. Gotta get Rafah."

Of course, Rafah is chock-full of regular civilian residents, and of refugees. That brings us to the second 100% certainty, and the reason the international community was trying to stop or limit a Rafah invasion: It was unavoidable that, in an attack, innocent people would die.

This weekend, both things came to pass. On Sunday night, Israel launched an attack that was targeted at two senior Hamas leaders, who were indeed killed. However, in the process, the Israeli Defense Forces also "accidentally" landed a few missiles in a refugee camp, killing 45 civilians, many of them women and children. "Despite our utmost efforts not to harm innocent civilians, last night, there was a tragic mistake," Netanyahu explained afterward. "We are investigating the incident and will obtain a conclusion because this is our policy."

We put "accidentally" in quotations there not because we believe that Israel deliberately bombed civilians. However, we do believe that keeping civilians out of harm's way was an impossibility under the circumstances. So, the Netanyahu administration made its choice, and the PM's post hoc protestations ring hollow. Certainly, you should not hold your breath waiting for a "conclusion" other than "Sometimes things like this happen. What're ya gonna do?"

Condemnation from the international community, from the leaders of France and Turkey and Germany, to U.N. Secretary General Antònio Guterres, to activist groups like Doctors Without Borders, was immediate and unsparing. For example, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Martin Griffiths said: "Whether the attack was a war crime or a 'tragic mistake' for the people of Gaza, there is no debate. What happened last night was the latest—and possibly most cruel—abomination."

That said, our interest is in the response of the Biden administration, which is now officially between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, the White House said that attacking Rafah without taking adequate steps to protect civilians was a "bright-red line," and would result in arms being withheld. On the other hand, even the slightest move in that direction outraged Republicans and some pro-Israel Democrats, and led to withering attacks on the President.

At the moment, Team Biden is reportedly assessing the situation, and whether the "red line" was actually crossed. Better to take a considered position, we suppose, than to issue forth with a knee-jerk response. But the country is going to be watching to see what the White House says, and the President is going to need to use all of his political skills to come up with... something. (Z)

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