Is it smart for Israel to blow the hell out of Palestinian civilians past all boundaries of good sense? No. But has Israel timed this war brilliantly, from a PR perspective? No doubt.

They launched their strikes against Gaza on Dec. 27, when most of the media was on vacation, and the rest was in a holiday stupor.

Two months ago, the Supreme Court said that Israel's rule against letting foreign reporters into Gaza could not stand. Then the war started. Which gave them the perfect pretense to ban reporters from Gaza once again:

And so for an 11th day of Israel’s war in Gaza, the several hundred journalists here to cover it waited in clusters away from direct contact with any fighting or Palestinian suffering, but with full access to Israeli political and military commentators eager to show them around southern Israel, where Hamas rockets have been terrorizing civilians. A slew of private groups financed mostly by Americans are helping guide the press around Israel.

Maybe the Palestinians should have their own American backers pay to bring reporters into Gaza? No, those supporters have all been jailed under the Patriot Act. And it's not like most reporters are eager to try to smuggle themselves into Gaza, because they stand a fair chance of being blown up. One reporter, the Associated Press's Ibrahim Barzak, who was already inside the war zone because he lives there, has given a grim account of life inside.

The final piece: when this whole thing wraps up (likely) next week, the news will be wall-to-wall Obamanauguration. And the nasty parts of Israel's war will be quickly forgotten. PR mastery. [Pic via]