A recent Time magazine report on the effects of the current Gaza crisis on the many Palestinians whose family members are being held in Israeli prisons, many on no charge, quite clearly shows (as if we needed any confirmation), that the Israeli government, in refusing to end the crisis, cares nothing for the suffering of the Palestinian population.

From the report:
Ghalia Baroud's every emotion is on display when she speaks of her son, Ibrahim. Sitting in her tidy home in Gaza's Jabaliya refugee camp, surrounded by pictures of Ibrahim - jailed since 1986, at the age of 21, for taking part in attacks on Israeli troops - she is by turns furious and woeful. She doesn't deny her son's actions; what almost all Israelis see as terrorism, she sees as justified resistance. But when asked about the parents of Corporal Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier held captive by Palestinian militants since June 25, she is instantly empathetic. "We know Israelis love their children just as we do," she says softly.
Very importantly however, the Time magazine report also deals with the effects of the crisis on the family of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, the alleged reason for the current crisis, and in doing so shows just as clearly, that the Israeli government is in no way concerned for the suffering, or the will, of the Israeli population either.
The Shalit family's love for Gilad is indeed palpable in the northern Israeli town of Hila, where his parents, Noam and Aviva, live and where a banner hangs reading gilad: we are waiting for you at home. Noam, a compact man with close-cropped white hair and blue eyes, has no sympathy for the actions of the militants of Hamas or the Popular Resistance Committee, but he is keenly aware that the current military operation in Gaza - launched with the stated intent of freeing his son, but since greatly expanded to counter Palestinian rocket fire into Israel, and to make a political point - is imposing extraordinary hardships on noncombatants there. "Thousands of ordinary Palestinians are suffering for this issue," he said last week.
Olmert continually claims that his goal is to stop the firing of rockets into Israel by Palestinian militants, yet, at every turn, Olmert, like Sharon before him, has sought to exacerbate the conflict with the Palestinians.

Consider the fact that, when elected to power in Palestine in January this year, Hamas had been holding to a year-long unilateral ceasefire with Israel i.e. while Israel continued to attack and kill militants and civilians in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Hamas did not respond. Despite this, on their election, Olmert immediately sought to isolate Hamas internationally and he successfully convinced most Western governments into agreeing to cut off all international aid, effectively crippling the fledgling Hamas government. To add insult to injury, Olmert announced that newly and democratically-elected Hamas officials would be subject to assassination attempts by Israeli forces. Olmert also began a policy of preventing essential supplies from entering Gaza, including food and medicine - a clear attempt at collectively punishing the entire Gaza population for electing, from Israel's point of view, the 'wrong' leaders. In the midst of this complete control that Israel wielded over the lives of the 1.3M people of Gaza, Olmert has the gall to claim that, following the withdrawal of Israeli settlers last year from Gaza, Gazans were now a free people in their own land!

While Israel (and Condi Rice) have attempted to lay the blame for the current crisis at the door of Hamas, important facts about recent events in Israel and Palestine have been conspicuously absent from the mainstream press.

The first of these is the already-mentioned fact that, up until the current impasse, Hamas had been holding to a 16 month unilateral ceasefire with Israel.

The second is the report that a large-scale Israeli army incursion into Gaza had been in the planning many months prior to the capture of Gilad, an event which appears to have been seized upon at justification for the incursion to begin.

The third is that the day before the Hamas-led attack on the Israeli army post that led to the capture of Israeli soldier Shalit, Israeli agents had infiltrated Gaza and abducted and imprisoned two Hamas politicians, while Hamas was still holding to its ceasefire.

The fourth is that, in the two weeks prior to the Hamas attack, Israeli forces had murdered 23 Palestinian civilians.

Hamas captured one Israeli soldier. 10,000 Palestinians are languishing in Israeli prisons, many of them women and children. Hamas has asked that the women and children be released in exchange for the release of Shalit. Olmert has refused, point blank.

What we conclude from all of this is that the Israeli government, under the leadership of PM Ehud Olmert, abides by its own version of law and justice and it expects the international community to turn a blind eye to Israeli brutality, while at the same time expecting to be treated as "the only democracy in the Middle East".

Olmert is following his own agenda, or rather, he is continuing the 100+ year-old Zionist agenda that was responsible for the creation of the state of Israel on stolen Palestinian land. It is an agenda that not only spurns all consideration for the welfare or lives of Palestinian civilians, but shows a similar contempt for the safety and well-being of the Israeli Jewish population.

Olmert's agenda, conscious or not, seems destined to push the Israeli-Palestinian conflict past boiling point, and in doing so, ignite a major conflict in the wider Middle East. Out of such a war, no group of people will emerge unscathed (if at all), regardless of their religious affiliation or what their "God" promised them 2,000 years ago.