Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein
Never before have I seen so many glum faces at a wedding – and not because anyone disapproved of the match. On the contrary, the wedding was beautiful and elegant and very joyous. But as we were leaving the house we caught the news that a ceasefire had been declared - yet again – between Israel and the Hamas terrorists.
In a “normal” war situation, the civilians of a country under fire would be delighted at the news of a ceasefire. But we are not a normal country, our situation is not normal and our enemy is most definitely not normal. In fact they are the most immoral and cruel enemy one could never wish to have this side of ISIS, and they are backed by the same sponsors as ISIS and have similar aims.
We wedding guests were not the only ones opposed to the ceasefire. There was opposition to the ceasefire across entire political spectrum:
Murmurs of dissatisfaction rose from the political Left and Right Tuesday night, after Israel agreed to a ceasefire with Hamas.
Meanwhile, Eshkol Regional Council head Haim Yellin indicated that he does not trust the truce will last, saying residents of his constituency who evacuated should not return to their homes.
“It doesn’t interest me what the government or Hamas say. I will only call on residents to return when I feel like there’s a real ceasefire,” Yellin told Channel 10 News.
Just as half of the cabinet ministers were opposed to the cease-fire, many in the coalition expressed similar opinions.
Construction and Housing Minister Uri Ariel (Bayit Yehudi) said “any agreement that doesn’t include eliminating the rocket threat on residents of Israel and demilitarizing the Gaza Strip is less than half of what is necessary.
“In this reality, the defense establishment will have no choice but to prepare for the next round, which will be soon,” Ariel added.
According to MK Danny Danon (Likud), in the Middle East, restraint is seen as weakness.
“Despite the heavy price Hamas paid, we did not defeat Hamas,” he said. “Fifty days of fighting, 64 soldiers killed, five civilians killed, 82,000 reservists called up, and in the end we’re back to the agreement from Operation Pillar of Defense.”
Danon said a defeat was necessary to broadcast to the whole Middle East, including Hezbollah, Islamic State and Iran, that “they should not mess with the people of Israel.”
MK Eli Yishai (Shas) said that a cease-fire without Gaza being demilitarized means Israel may as well pencil in the next round of fighting in its calendar.
On the Left, lawmakers called for the government to take initiative and launch diplomatic negotiations.
Meretz chairwoman Zehava Gal-On said “this cease-fire comes too late, and its conditions prove, finally, that Operation Protective Edge is [Prime Minister Binyamin] Netanyahu’s strategic failure, as he went to war without goals and finished [it] letting Hamas gain on the backs of residents of the South.”
Gal-On also posited that the suffering residents of the South underwent in recent weeks came without any long-term planning by an “irresponsible” government.
MK Shelly Yacimovich (Labor) said a cease-fire is a positive thing, but it must come with “active and courageous initiative toward a diplomatic agreement.”
“We lost our best sons in this war and we cannot accept bloody rounds [of fighting] as necessary,” she said. “A historic axis of moderates was created in the Middle East, with Arab powers that share interests with Israel, and we cannot miss this opportunity.”
Like Finance Minister Yair Lapid (Yesh Atid), Yacimovich called for an international summit to bring a peace treaty with the Palestinians.
An international summit is the last thing we need! It will be hardly better than the UN’s biased “Commission of Inquiry into Israeli war crimes” (or whatever pseudo-title it’s been given), it would be loaded with anti-Israel members and would seek to impose a one-sided solution on Israel. Thanks but no thanks.
So what the hell was Bibi thinking when he accepted an open-ended ceasefire? Especially as this undemocratic-but-legal decision of his has led to his popularity drop in a free-fall.
In the first week of Operation Protective Edge at the beginning of July, 57% of Israelis were satisfied with Netanyahu, according to a Channel 2 poll taken by Shiluv Millward Brown Market Research. It rose to 82% on July 23, after ground forces entered the Gaza Strip.
Netanyahu came back down to earth Monday night when data showed that 50% of Israelis were dissatisfied with him and just 38% satisfied – a 17% drop since a poll broadcast Thursday night.
I am at a loss to explain his decision.
Let’s first have a look at the parameters of the ceasefire:
* Hamas and other militant groups in Gaza agree to halt all rocket and mortar fire into Israel.
* Israel will stop all military action including air strikes and ground operations.
* Israel agrees to open more of its border crossings with Gaza to allow the easier flow of goods, including humanitarian aid and reconstruction equipment, into the coastal enclave.
* In a separate, bilateral agreement, Egypt will agree to open its 14 km (8 mile) border with Gaza at Rafah.
* The Palestinian Authority, headed by President Mahmoud Abbas, is expected to take over responsibility for administering Gaza’s borders from Hamas. Israel and Egypt hope it will ensure weapons, ammunition and any “dual-use” goods are prevented from flowing into Gaza.
* The Palestinian Authority will lead in coordinating the reconstruction effort in Gaza with international donors, including the European Union.
* Israel is expected to narrow the security buffer along the inside of the Gaza border, reducing it from 300 metres to 100 meters if the truce holds. The move will allow Palestinians more access to farm land close to the border.
* Israel will extend the fishing limit off Gaza’s coast to six miles from three miles, with the possibility of widening it gradually if the truce holds. Ultimately, the Palestinians want to return to a full 12-mile international allowance.
Longer-term issues to be discussed are a Gaza sea-port, more prisoner releases, the return of the bodies of the two abducted IDF soldiers Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin HY’D, and a Gaza airport.
Demonstrating the viciousness and venom of our enemy, they continued pounding the south with mortar and rocket fire until the very last second – and beyond. And in the last barrage two more Israeli civilians were killed in Kibbutz Nirim:
Two Israelis died Tuesday evening in a mortar attack on Kibbutz Nirim, near the border with the Gaza Strip, and four others were wounded.
One person was in serious condition, and three others suffered minor injuries, in the strike on the Eshkol region community.
Kibbutz Nirim security chief Zeev Etzion HY’D (screen capture: Channel 2)
Fifty-five year-old Ze’ev Etzion, the security chief for the kibbutz, was killed on the spot as he worked to fix electricity lines damaged in an earlier mortar attack. Israel Radio reported that he was also a volunteer ambulance driver for Magen David Adom.
Nirim resident Shahar Melamed, a 43-year-old father of 3, died on his way to the hospital.
Nirim resident and kibbutz mechanic Shachar Melamed HY’D, killed by Hamas mortar attack
May their memories be for a blessing and may Hashem avenge their blood.
Medical care was given to the wounded as rockets and mortars fell around the kibbutz and Code Red sirens wailed.
The two Israelis killed Tuesday raised the civilian death toll in Israel in Operation Protective Edge, which entered its fiftieth day Tuesday, to six.
Last week a four-year-old child was killed in an attack in the nearby Kibbutz Nahal Oz.
The Nirim attack came amid a fierce bombardment of the towns and communities of southern Israel in the hour before a ceasefire agreed upon by Israeli and Palestinian representatives took effect.
Earlier in the day, dozens were injured in Ashkelon when a rocket fired from the Gaza Strip struck a house in the southern coastal city.
This is what that house in Ashkelon looked like after the rocket hit it:
Objection to the ceasefire came not only from the political classes but from media commentators too. Nachum Barnea called the ceasefire “too little, too late“:
Israel Prize winner Nahum Barnea writes in Yedioth Ahronoth that the ceasefire is “Too little, too late.”
“Not every ending is a happy ending,” he writes. “The fear is that instead of paving the way for the Gaza threat to be lifted, we are paving the way for the next round, from Lebanon or Gaza. But this is what our government produced for us, and we must live with it.”
Barnea, who lost a son in a 1996 Hamas bus bombing, says that Israel discovered a few unpleasant truths during the fighting. One, Israel couldn’t defeat a small, isolated terrorist organization. Two, even limited conflicts demand a price Israelis are reluctant to pay. Three, the army ran the fighting, not the government.
The clearest objection though comes from a different angle, reflecting my own opinion, in Arlene Kushner’s excellent analysis “Worse and Worser“:
The truth: There is no entirely satisfactory resolution to our war with Hamas (the war that is not called a war).
Aside, of course, from that “ultimate” resolution in which we would fully retake Gaza and banish all terrorists and jihadis – thereby creating a peaceful situation in Gaza and a situation of deterrence with regard to terrorists in other locales – and then rebuild Gush Katif, helping the former residents to return.
But I also know that this vision is not about to be realized. There are a variety of factors that are arrayed against us and render this scenario severely problematic. I’ve covered them before:
- The fact of the network of tunnels means we would pay a large price in the lives of our young soldiers – a price that would be difficult for the nation to bear. …
- The expense of this war, which would be prolonged, and of then assuming responsibility for the Arabs in Gaza who would remain would create a tremendous fiscal drain on the nation that many would consider unacceptable.
- As soon as Hamas and related jihadi groups were banished, there would be an incredible international push for Abbas and his “moderate” cohorts to control Gaza as a step towards a Palestinian state. (More on this below.) There are a host of international problems associated with this.
- Perhaps most significantly, the drain on our military resources might render us ill-equipped to do battle with Hezbollah in Lebanon and radicals in Syria who are at our border in the Golan, should this become necessary. [...] But what if, while we were in the course of fighting that extended war in Gaza, Hezbollah decided that it would be a great time to attack us from the northern front? [...] And here I didn’t even mention Iran.
And so we must resign ourselves to something less.
From my perspective there had to be certain parameters to any resolution: Hamas should not be rewarded for its attack on Israel. It should not receive something as enticement to get it to stop firing upon us. It should be sufficiently vanquished so that it would petition us for a respite. (“Sufficiently vanquished” does not mean finally defeated.)
Most importantly, Israel must (now I use that word) convey strength. And Hamas must be prevented from re-arming (leave aside the question of whether it would have to surrender the rockets it currently has).
In a nutshell now: The ceasefire, accepted also by Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is for a month. At the end of the month, negotiations would begin on the demands of each side: from our side, demilitarization of Hamas; from the Hamas side, lifting of the blockade of Gaza, building of a seaport and airport, release of prisoners, etc.
This ceasefire, then, is another temporary one, albeit for a longer period of time. It is not permanent, and in point of fact is likely to fall apart once the difficult issues are approached. What would happen then is that Hamas – which would have had a month to regroup and manufacture more rockets – would begin to launch rockets again. And where does a month leave us? Right at the time of our High Holidays.
At this time, the restrictions for Gaza fishermen will be relaxed, with the limit being extended to six nautical miles. And apparently two crossings will be opened under Israeli supervision to allow in humanitarian supplies and building supplies for reconstruction. (What kind of materials?) It is entirely unclear what sort of supervision there would be inside of Gaza to make certain that the materials were used appropriately or who would oversee the reconstruction. What would UNRWA’s role be?
A statement was made recently by a representative of the EU, who said that the EU wanted to be involved. How? They would supervise the PA to be sure it was doing the job it was supposed to do at the crossings. That’s reassuring, is it not?
Arlene returns to the role played by the PA, and possible US influence over Netanyahu’s decision:
One source I encountered now said that in a month Israel would resume negotiations with the PA. That this was going to be pushed on us is no surprise, but I believe this is still a projection for down the road – not a statement of Israel’s commitment at present.
I think of everything I find this prospect most offensive. Abbas is the good buddy of Hamas’s Mashaal. Representatives of Fatah sat at the negotiations during ceasefires with Hamas, and spoke for Hamas. Abbas has never renounced the “unity government.” Yet we are supposed to consider the PA “moderate,” a partner for peace. This is the sort of stuff that drives me to consider running my head into the wall.
Retired US general John Allen came to town last night to meet with Israeli officials regarding the renewal of peace talks after there is a ceasefire.
Who knows what message Allen conveyed from Obama to Netanyahu and how this played into Netanyahu’s decision to accept the ceasefire proposal.
Gen. Allen was the one who came here to design a “security plan” for the Jordan Valley that was supposed to advance our negotiations with the PA some months ago; Israel rejected his ideas.
The ceasefire will be debated to death in Israel for days and weeks to come. But how did Hamas “celebrate” their glorious victory?
David Horovitz in another perceptive column says we should not dismiss Hamas’s “victory celebrations” so quickly:
Hamas has breached truce agreement after truce agreement in the past 50 days, and there is no compelling reason to assume that this case will be any different. Unnamed sources in the Palestinian negotiating delegation — a curious forum comprising rival factions including Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad — claimed Tuesday night that Hamas’s leadership in Gaza insisted on accepting the same unconditional Egyptian terms that it rejected more than a month ago, and sidelined the Qatar-based Khaled Mashaal, who had previously rejected such terms. Some say that the sight of the Israeli Air Force moving to smash the apartment buildings in which Israel claims it had some of its command centers finally prompted Hamas in Gaza to call a halt. Time will tell if a terror government’s solemn assurance that it has silenced its guns has any credibility.
Entirely predictably, Hamas immediately busied itself extricating what it called success from amid the devastation it has brought down upon Gaza these past seven weeks. It fired over 4,500 rockets at Israel. It killed 64 soldiers and five civilians. It prompted several dozen airlines to shun Israel for two days last month. It terrorized southern Israel, especially in more recent weeks, when it stepped up its mortar fire and rocket barrages on the south. It killed four-year-old Daniel Tragerman inside his own home on Kibbutz Nahal Oz. For an organization committed to the destruction of Israel, these are achievements to celebrate.
By emplacing its war machine in the very heart of Gaza, it also condemned hundreds of thousands of people — the Gazans in whose interests it falsely claims to have fought — to homelessness, dire poverty, and the bleakest of futures. But for Hamas, these too are achievements. Extremism flourishes amid bitterness. Islamic radicals find willing recruits where hope of a better future is in short supply. Thus Hamas expects to profit, too, from the destruction wrought as Israel targeted all those rocket launchers and terror tunnel entrances sited in the homes, mosques and schools of the Gaza Strip. And it can also celebrate the staining of Israel’s reputation in those wide international circles where the evil, cynical nature of Hamas’s war strategy is misunderstood or ignored.
A slightly more positive note is taken by Yossi Melman at the Jerusalem Post, whose analysis tells us how Israel made Hamas crawl to a ceasefire:
Hamas was forced to accept Egyptian and Israeli dictates.
Hamas crawled to the cease-fire. One should not be impressed by the well-organized victory festivities in Gaza. Most of Hamas’s demands and preconditions were rejected from the outset.
The cease-fire is unlimited in time and Hamas was not promised anything except that which had been offered at the start of the military campaign.
Full of itself and arrogant, it miscalculated. If Hamas had not rejected the offers, Israel would not have launched a ground incursion. Hamas’s 32 attacking tunnels would not have been destroyed. Its rockets and mortar shells wouldn’t be reduced to a residual arsenal of 20 percent – from 10,000 to approximately 2,000.
And most importantly, parts of Gaza wouldn’t have been destroyed.
Unfortunately, Gaza has been set back decades. More than 5,000 houses were destroyed. Thousands were damaged and on the verge of collapse. Gaza has been suffering water and electricity shortages.
Three hundred thousand residents – 15% of its population – turned into homeless refugees within the boundaries of the small enclave, which was already mostly one big refugee camp.
Anger, despair and frustration are ruling the day in Gaza.
Surely people will not go to protest in the streets. Hamas has established a reign of fear and terror. The massive public executions during the war, and in particular last week, of alleged traitors were not aimed at unveiling and disrupting Israeli intelligence operations, rather to send a clear message to the Gazans: We are Hamas and we are here to stay. Don’t dare revolt against us.
But the locals have a long memory. They will remember who brought them the calamity.
n a sense, the Gaza war is reminiscent of what happened during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Hezbollah was defeated. Its secretary-general admitted it in public. But then he heard Israeli defense commentators who criticized the war’s conduct by then prime minister Ehud Olmert’s government and regained his self-confidence. Hassan Nasrallah told himself that if stupid Israel thought that it was defeated, so let it – and declared his false victory.
Eight years later, it is quite clear that war brought Israel significant gains at the strategic level. Northern Israel has enjoyed peace and tranquility.
The bottom line is that Hamas failed to reach its strategic goals. Israel showed determination and except some marginal manifestations, the Israeli home front was stubborn and did not break down.
The real index with which to check Israel’s gains is against the war’s declared aims. The leading trio – Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz – who have shown reason and self restraint in order to avoid more casualties, were determined not to surrender to populist voices, including from their cabinet colleagues who pulled out long knives to stab them in the back and demanded to “smash Hamas.”
Netanyahu, Ya’alon and Gantz decided neither to occupy Gaza nor topple the Hamas regime.
Having said all that, much depends on the cease-fire being honored.
I like the optimism in Melman’s article but my true feelings, or maybe suspicions, are more along the lines of Arlene Kushner and David Horovitz.
If Israel does not project strength, or is perceived to have lost the war or only lost international standing, then even if technically we have won the war as Melman says, not only Hamas, but Hezbollah and ISIS will learn their lessons and repeat the exercise.