When Ehud Olmert toured Beersheba last Thursday, he announced with solemn assurance that â€œWe have not declared war on the residents of Gaza.Â I reiterate that we will treat the population with silk gloves but will apply an iron fist to Hamas.â€Â
I suppose he expected the people of Gaza to feel grateful for leniency today when Israeli tanks and artillery opened fire on three UN Schools, and now refugee shelters, in Khan Younis, Gaza City, and the Jabaliya refugee camp, where more than 40 civilians were killed according to latest estimates.Â Of course it is difficult to get accurate figures because the Israelis will not permit foreign journalists into Gaza.Â So when army spokesperson Major Avital Leibowitz informs the world that Israeli soldiers had been fired on from within the school precincts and that two Hamas terrorists were among the four dozen dead women, children, and other civilians, we can either believe her or not.Â The question is why should we believe her?Â It was Major Leibowitz whoÂ like Tzipi Livni assured the world a week ago that â€œthere is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.â€Â Truth has become a major casualty of this war in particular.Â As have children and other noncombatants.
When I was in Iraq in 2001, people still referred to the heartless air attack on Baghdad the week before Christmas in 1998, as â€œthe Lewinsky bombing.â€Â Thereâ€™s nothing like a little war to get votersâ€™ minds focused. Â Or unfocused. Â Coincidentally, national elections are just ahead in Israel.Â It may not come as a great surprise that Tzipi Livni, the foreign minister, and Ehud Barack, the defense minister, are both vying to replace Ehud Olmert as prime minister.Â Mr. Olmert himself, you might remember, has been under investigation for over three years with regard to bribery and corruption.
It only gets stranger as it gets bloodier.