In my previous post I spelled out quite clearly my own, very negative and suspicious, feelings on the subject of the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. I am not alone in these sentiments. I bring you here a couple of articles that support my thesis that the ceasefire is either dangerous, short-sighted, untenable, or any combination of these and more.
One of the most lucid pieces is by David Horovitz in the Times of Israel: “Until the next time“. Here are some excerpts:
Setting out on Operation Pillar of Defense last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak said it was aimed to bolster Israel’s deterrent capability, degrade Hamas’s rocket launch infrastructure, badly damage Gaza’s terror cells, and reduce the attacks on Israel’s citizenry.
In other words, from the start, the stewards of the conflict made plain that they did not intend to retake the Gaza Strip seven years after Israel had left it. Although Netanyahu had vowed while in the opposition to rid Gaza of its Hamas terrorist rulers, that ambition was neither the declared nor the unstated goal in the last few days.
Apparently, to use one of Ariel Sharon’s favorite aphorisms, “what you see from here, you don’t see from there.” It works better in Hebrew, but the thrust is that it’s a lot harder to implement dramatic policy promises when you actually are prime minister than when you’re merely aspiring to be prime minister.
From the get-go, then, it was clear that Hamas would be hailing “victory” whenever and however this round of conflict ended — since, for Hamas, mere survival is victory.
When Barak claimed dubiously Wednesday night that the goals of the operation had been “achieved in full,” he was referring to the fact that much of Hamas’s military command has been eliminated, starting with the assassination of Ahmed Jabari at the launch of the operation last Wednesday afternoon. Hundreds of rocket-launch sites have been smashed, tunnels blown up, ammunition stores, weapons factories and other aspects of the Islamists’ terror infrastructure destroyed.
This weakening of Hamas’s terror-wreaking capacity, even if it proves temporary, may also have profound implications if Israel finds itself in confrontation with Iran in the near future, with Hamas posing a less potent threat from the south.
The intelligence aspect of Israel’s strikes has shaken Hamas, no matter how swaggering its bravado. To lose your chief of staff, Jabari, on day one of a mini-war exposes a massive intelligence vulnerability. To see many of your key long-range missile locations pinpointed and targeted underlines the extent to which Israel has penetrated Hamas’s command and communications networks.
This has been achieved while Israel’s casualty rate has been kept very low, largely through the remarkable success of the Iron Dome anti-missile system
Helping themselves immensely, Israel’s civilians showed exemplary discipline in following Home Front Command orders about how best to stay safe when under attack; life after life was saved because people simply rushed to secure areas and stayed there, while those rockets beyond Iron Dome’s protection crashed down.
By eschewing a ground offensive, Israel also avoided both a rise in its casualty figures and a likely drastic increase in Gaza fatalities. (Of the 177 Palestinians who were killed in Gaza, 120 of them were “engaged in terrorist activity,” the IDF Spokesman said Wednesday night.) It has consequently retained the support of the responsible members of the international diplomatic community (the likes of Turkey would condemn any Israel attempt at self-defense), and at least a measure of the empathy of the fair-minded members of the international media. It has also avoided a possible descent into a far wider confrontation, which could have come to threaten the already unpredictable relationships with Egypt and Jordan.
Set against all this, however, is the fact that Hamas proved robustly capable of continuing to fire rockets into Israel right up until the ceasefire, and to extend the range of its fire — setting off alarms in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and hitting the country’s fourth-largest city, Rishon Lezion, just south of Tel Aviv.
Its “resistance” — that pernicious misnomer for Hamas’s indiscriminate targeting of Israel’s civilians, effected from the midst of the Gazan populace — has doubtless attracted new adherents among the Palestinian public, …
This in turn leaves the Palestinian Authority of President Mahmoud Abbas increasingly marginalized, even irrelevant — a situation Abbas will doubtless seek to change by pursuing his unilateral recognition gambit at the UN General Assembly later this month.
Hamas has also gained greater governing legitimacy, hosting solidarity visits from regional leaders, and essentially requiring Israel to negotiate with it — albeit indirectly — even as it maintains its avowed goal of destroying the Jewish state.
Among the additional worries for Israelis is the concern that Netanyahu’s disinclination to make even limited use of ground forces — Pillar of Defense lasted less than half as long as Operation Cast Lead four years ago, when a ground offensive did further degrade Hamas’s terrorist infrastructure — was in part a consequence of heavy American pressure.
But primarily, nightmarishly, there is the recognition that, ceasefire terms and guarantees notwithstanding, Hamas will now surely find a way to rebuild and to rearm — just as it did after Cast Lead in 2009. Which means that when the next round comes — and come it will — Hamas will have a still more potent arsenal of weaponry to fire at Israel.
And that is the absolute crux of the whole problem.
Another excellent article is produced by the indefatigable Melanie Phillips in “A most uneasy truce”. Again, some excerpts:
So here we go again.
At 9 pm this evening Israel time, a ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian terror groups of Gaza came into effect.
‘Military sources indicate that they would not be surprised if rogue terror cells test the ceasefire in its early phases.’
Well of course. I mean, it’s a bit unreasonable, isn’t it, to expect ‘rogue terror cells’ to honour a cease-fire – even if they are the very terror cells supposedly party to this agreement.
Except that of course we have been here before. On January 18 2009, Israel’s operation Cast Lead was halted by a ceasefire agreement between Israel and the Hamas. Two days later, residents of a kibbutz near Gaza ran for cover as an air raid siren sounded; an explosion was heard, but the government denied there had been an attack.
… it took almost four years and more than 1000 rockets from Gaza for Israel finally to take action when it started Operation Pillar of Defence last week.
This time, Israelis said to each other, we have to go in and finish the job that was so shamefully left unfinished last time. But now it looks as if history is to repeat itself. Israelis are dismayed; polls suggest that some 70 per cent of them are against this ceasefire. Can it really be that Netanyahu has caved?
The way this cease-fire was reached sounded alarm bells from the get-go. It was brokered by the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, with the driving actor apparently being her protégé the President of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi.
But Egypt is hardly a neutral actor in this drama. Morsi owes allegiance to the Muslim Brotherhood — the parent body of the very Hamas that Israel has been fighting. The Brotherhood is pledged to wage both cultural and military jihad upon the west in order to Islamise it.
In other words, this ceasefire seems to be some kind of nightmarish joke.
At time of writing, the details are still unclear. The text that has been released is absurdly vague. And Netanyahu’s remarks this evening on the cease-fire were also studiously imprecise:
‘In a phone call I had this evening with President Obama, I agreed with him that we should give the cease-fire a chance in order to enable a lull in the situation and allow for the citizens of Israel to return to routine.’
Well, ‘a lull in the situation’ hardly sounds like he envisages this cease-fire is going to last very long. Yet he has agreed to it. Why? Maybe a clue lay in this bit of his speech:
‘Under these conditions we are required to navigate this ship, the State of Israel, wisely and responsibly while taking into account all considerations – military and political alike. This is what a responsible government does, and it is what we did here: we made use of our military might while applying political considerations.
‘…As Prime Minister, I have the responsibility, and it is the highest responsibility, to make the right steps to ensure our security. That is what I have done and it is what I will continue to do.’
So in deciding how best to ensure the security of Israel, he had to take into account political considerations. That may well imply that, for all his professions of solid support for Israel, Obama had placed him in an impossible position.
There have been rumours that Obama made the price of his support for a Gaza ground operation acceptance of a Palestine state in much of the West Bank. Whether or not this is so, it is possible that in some way Obama did turn the screws on Netanyahu to force him to accept a clearly unstable and even farcical ceasefire.
Maybe in the poker game he is forced to play with Obama, Netanyahu has calculated that the ceasefire won’t hold and then he’ll be justified in going back into Gaza. Or maybe he just bottled out.
Meanwhile, Hamas is celebrating a victory over Israel. It has not been smashed, it retains several thousand rockets – and unless Iran is dealt with, it will continue to receive ever more accurate and deadly missiles which it will be capable of firing at Israel.
Netanyahu has still left open option of ‘severe military action’. We’ll know in the next few days and weeks whether this is just another empty threat or not – and whether the ‘normal routines’ that Netanyahu envisages now returning for Israel’s citizens will see them back living in those shelters.
Melanie Phillips too gets to the essence of the crisis between Israel and Hamas: the unequal balance of power militarily (in Israel’s favour) and strategically (possibly in Hamas’s favour).
Here are two articles from Ynet which also reflect on the implications of the ceasefire:
Israeli politicians weigh in on the value of the ceasefire. The main opinion from the opposition leader:
Opposition leader Shaul Mofaz blasted the decision to announce a ceasefire in Gaza, saying that “the operation’s goals haven’t been met. It’s only a matter of time before the next round occurs. This is not how you end a battle against terrorism.”
Mofaz claimed that “the operation shouldn’t have been stopped at this point. Hamas is empowered and deterrence hasn’t been restored. Hamas has the upper hand.”
Shimon Shiffer accurately describes the imbalance of the ceasefire. It will be Hamas who decides how long the ceasefire lasts because Israel will show restraint.
And on a final bitter note, the IDF officer who was badly injured by mortar fire yesterday in the Eshkol region has died of his wounds.
He was named as 28-year-old Capt. Boris Yarmulnik, of Netanya. The IDF has notified his family.
Yarmulnik became the sixth Israeli citizen killed in rocket attacks from Gaza during Operation Pillar of Defense.
Cpl. Yosef Partuk, 18, of Emanuel was killed Tuesday morning in a mortar attack in the Eshkol Regional Council area, along with a civilian from a Beduin village in the South, Alian Salem Alanbari.
Last week, Mirah Scharf, 25, Aharon Smadja, 49, and Itzik Amsalem, 27, were killed in a direct hit by a rocket on an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi.
Baruch Dayan Emet. May Hashem avenge their blood.