The IDF’s Benny Gantz recently boasted…

IDF chief: Gaza war against Hamas was an ‘excellent’ operation

Second round of fighting in Gaza is not a matter of choice for Israel; it must be initiated by Israel and must be ‘swift and painful,’ Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz says…

As Paul Mutter wrote at Mondoweiss…

…For now, I think Gantz is saber-rattling. Israel is hoping to scare or wrongfoot Hamas as it scores political successes through the prisoner exchanges, the electoral success of Egypt’s Islamist bloc, entry to the PLO and new unity talks with Fatah. A more conciliatory Hamas is not what Likud wants to deal with. The best way to undermine Hamas’s nonviolent political successes would be to put Hamas in awkward position over the actions of Islamic Jihad (which Israel struck just this week) or another militant organization. Hamas’s leadership would be an awkward position of having to manage feelings of militant nationalism that it has cultivated in order to secure potentially ephemeral political concessions. Its legitimacy would be at stake, but should it respond with violence, its survival would be in jeopardy.

Hamas will likely avoid the temptation to return to fighting. The Middle East is too politically fluid at the moment. But given the hawkishness of the “liberal” alternatives to Likud, as Dimi Reider points out, I am still convinced that the timing of Cast Lead II will be a question of when, not if. Israel would be more likely to use massive force against Gaza than Iran if it came down to an eleventh-hour choice for Defense Minister Barak. Israel’s leadership has no doubt been encouraged by SecDef Leon Panetta and President Obama’s public backpedalling on their reluctance to attack Iran. The U.S. could deal with Iran (an “October surprise,” as some have suggested), leaving Israel a stronger hand to play against Hamas. The timing for any of these possible actions will greatly depend on how the 2012 U.S. presidential election progresses.

As for how the IDF will react to Hamas’s announced new focus on popular demonstrations, Gantz’s past comments about the Arab Spring offer some insight:

There is a focal player in the Middle East – the street – and it is clear to us that in the coming months we can find ourselves in broad popular demonstrations, which gain public resonance. The IDF is preparing for these demonstrations.

[snip]

For this reason, we will act with great fire power and full force at the very beginning of the confrontation. Anything the camera can stand or could stand in the first three days of fighting – it will not be prepared to put up with thereafter.

Now, here’s proof positive the Likudniks don’t want peace with the Palestinians on any terms…

Palestinians offer to renew Israel peace talks without settlement freeze, official says

PA reportedly submits new Quartet offer to restart negotiations, demand Israel releases 100 Palestinian prisoners; Israel rejects offer fearing renewal of only low-grade talks…

…The Palestinian proposal was reputedly the result of heavy pressure applied by Quartet members – the United States, the European Union, Russian, and the United Nations – on Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to renew talks before January 26…

…Quartet officials – especially EU – made it clear to the Palestinians that they would bear equal responsibility in the event that the two sides would not resume talks by late January…

…With one month to the Quartet deadline, the two sides haven’t even held predatory meetings that were supposed to take place two months ago, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s adviser Yitzhak Molcho and top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat were supposed to set the talks agenda.

The Israeli official indicated that Israel rejects the Palestinian offer for two reasons: 1) That is replaces one precondition with another, and 2) since officials say the Palestinian proposal is too vague and did not make it clear whether the prisoners’ release will lead to full talks that would include meetings between Netanyahu and Abbas or just the preparatory sessions…

…News of the new PA proposal came after on Sunday, Netanyahu commented on the recent moves by Fatah and Hamas to set up a unity government, saying that Israel would not negotiate with the Palestinians should such a government be established.

“If Hamas joins the Palestinian government we will not hold negotiations with the Palestinian Authority,” said Netanyahu in a speech at a conference for Israeli ambassadors.

He added that he is ready to meet with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas anytime, anywhere, in order to renew negotiations

Now, isn’t this reassuring…

Israel, U.S. discuss triggers for military strike on Iran

The Daily Beast reports that the countries are discussing “red lines” in Iran’s nuclear program, that if crossed would justify a preemptive strike on its nuclear facilities…

Please read this entire, well-researched, and chilling article, Tom Burghhardt wrote recently…

Red Lines and Ticking Clocks: U.S. War Plans Against Iran

Wars don’t just happen.

Before the first bomb falls disinformation specialists prepare the ground.

Leading media outlets, foreign policy journals and a plethora of think tanks funded by elite foundations, energy and weapons’ conglomerates, “right,” “left” or “center” take your pick, churn out war propaganda disguised as “analysis.”

From the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute (AEI) to the neoliberal Center for American Progress (CAP), rhetorical skirmishes aside, the line is remarkably similar.

Indeed, for “conservative” and “liberal” elite bloviators alike, Iran poses an “existential threat” to Israel and America’s regional “allies,” a disparate crew of land-grabbing colonizers, murderous princes and profligate potentates.

Only U.S. intervention, in the form of an overt military attack now or crippling economic sanctions followed by military action later, can save the day and bring “democracy” to the benighted Iranian people…

{snip}

…That an attack on Iran might set-off a global conflict with far-reaching, and deadly, consequences was underscored by Russia Today.

Analyst Col. Vladimir Popov said that “if in the midst [of an attack on Iran] Azerbaijan supported by Turkey, attacks Armenia, then, of course, all of the adversary’s attacks against Armenia will be repelled by Russia in conjunction with Armenian anti-missile defense forces.”

“The analyst does not exclude the possibility of Russia’s military involvement in the Iranian conflict.”

“‘In the worst-case scenario’,” Popov told RT, “‘if Tehran is facing complete military defeat after a land invasion of the US and NATO troops, Russia will provide its military support–at least on a military-technical level.”

As the United States, Israel and NATO prepare the ground for war against Iran, and with operations already underway by the U.S. and NATO to effect “regime change” in Syria, Iran’s close regional ally, the pieces of a slow-motion global catastrophe are falling into place.

God help us all…!

*gah*