Monday, July 14, 2014
With Hamas hurting, it's time for a decision
Every operation the Israel Defense Forces carries out has a special name. This one is called "Tzuk Eitan" in Hebrew, which translates to "Sturdy Cliff." In English, it is known as Operation Protective Edge.
The Hebrew name projects strength and resilience. In English, the name explains and justifies. The Hebrew name shows a government considerate of Sderot residents, voters and Israeli citizens. The English name appeals to foreign ministries, the United Nations and the International Court of Justice in The Hague. The difference between the names in each language paints a clear picture of the endless conflicts facing the Diplomatic-Security Cabinet.
Palestinians in Gaza in 2014, like the Philistines who were there 3,200 years ago, "plowed with [Samson's] heifer" and solved Samson's -- or the IDF's -- riddle. They know very well that the response of the international community, which is already sympathetic to the Arabs, is almost as important to Israel as military power. That is why Israel shared the story of the pilot who held fire after seeing innocent civilians near his target, and that is also why it suffers every time the victim of a strike is not a terrorist.
Hamas has taken a hit on several different levels during Operation Protective Edge: considerable destruction of its military infrastructure; the total defeat of its attacks by the Iron Dome defense system; and an international understanding -- at least, thus far -- that it "had it coming." This last in Hebrew, English, French, and even in a faint, whispered Arabic.
However, it appears that international pressure for a cease-fire is mounting. On Sunday night, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, but the conversation was a comfortable one for Israel. In fact, some political analysts believe Jerusalem is encouraging this kind of moderate exchange.
The fact that a decision was made on Sunday night to return to life as usual, with the exception of having protected areas and bomb shelters to run to in the south, shows that the operation has started to take a toll on Hamas. However, there is a certain impatience in Israel as well.
One thing is for certain: Whether it comes to expanding the operation to change Israel's strategic position in the face of Gazan terror, or whether Israel will simply deal a blow to Hamas, we must not let this descend into a war of attrition.
A clear decision, but not a hasty one, must be made in the next few days. Hamas is interested in a cease-fire on its own terms, including a declaration of its official victory. First and foremost, Hamas wants all the terrorists arrested in the investigation into the kidnapping and murder of the three Israeli teens to be released.
This condition must be rejected outright, even if Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal secretly visited Turkey to ask for help in reaching a cease-fire. Release prisoners? Only after a full Israeli investigation shows that the prisoners in question followed instructions after being released in the Gilad Schalit deal and did not return to terrorist activity,
In practice, if Israel cannot establish a Middle East coalition to change the regime in Gaza, the government must clearly articulate the conditions for a cease-fire: What will become of the underground city that Hamas dug underneath the Gaza Strip for terrorist purposes? What about rocket production in Gaza? And who is responsible for ensuring that no incident on any Gazan front will return it to its warring ways?
Answers are needed, even if they're not perfect, so that at the end of this operation, the public will know and feel that it was more "Tzuk Eitan" than Protective Edge.