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September 17, 2009 - Image 48

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-09-17

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5769 In Israel from page 47


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September 17 2009

The disproportionate death toll and
the widespread destruction in Gaza
led to claims that the Israel Defense
Forces' response to Hamas rocket
attacks had been disproportionate and
indiscriminate. The debate extended
into the summer with the release of
numerous reports about the brief war.
Israel argued that its soldiers oper-
ated strictly within the laws of war
and that strenuous efforts had been
made to warn civilians of impend-
ing attacks. The U.N. Human Rights
Council established a fact-finding
commission under South African
Judge Richard Goldstone that heard
testimony mainly from Palestinians.
Israel refused to cooperate, claiming
the commission's mandate was inher-
ently biased.
In late July, the Israeli Foreign
Ministry issued a 164-page rejection
of claims made against it by groups
such as Human Rights Watch and
Amnesty International. The report
found that "Israel's resort to force in
the Gaza operation was both a neces-
sary and a proportionate response"
to the more than 12,000 rockets
and mortars fired by Gaza militants
between 2000 and December 2008.
It also said that Israel was conduct-
ing its own investigation of about
100 alleged violations by soldiers in
the field and had opened 13 criminal
From an Israeli point of view, the
Gaza operation had two major impli-
cations. Although it hurt Israel's image
overseas, the operation appeared to
establish a strong deterrent balance,
at least in the short term. Six months
after the war, rocket fire from Gaza

had nearly stopped; and Israel and
Hamas were negotiating a deal behind
the scenes for the release of captured
IDF soldier Gilad Shalit that would
include opening border crossing
points into Gaza.

Iranian Threat
The Gaza operation also marked a
rare setback for Iran and its proxies
in Gaza, further unifying relative Arab
moderates like Egypt, Saudi Arabia,
Jordan and some Gulf states against
Iran's nuclear weapons' drive.
For Netanyahu, stopping Iran from
going nuclear remained a historical
imperative in 5769. Israeli officials both
under Olmert and Netanyahu made
frequent trips to Washington to press
the issue, and in late July a parade of
top U.S. officials went to Jerusalem to
coordinate policy on the issue.
Netanyahu's other major preoccu-
pation in 5769 was dealing with the
impact on Israel of the global econom-
ic crisis. He passed a two-year budget
with increased government spending
to counteract growing unemployment,
and the Bank of Israel lowered interest
rates to encourage business activity.
By mid-summer, the economy was
showing some signs of a recovery,
including strong gains on the Tel
Aviv Stock Exchange, where the main
indexes were up by 45 to 57 percent
over the lows of December 2008.
One of the main worrying factors,
however, was a rise in the national
debt-to-GNP ratio, which was pro-
jected for the end of 2009 to be at 84
to 84.4 percent, up from 78.3 percent
at the end of 2008. I I

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