Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu lambasted his cabinet ministers on Thursday after they criticized the way he and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon were conducting the Gaza operation.
One can understand why he would take them to task. That said, this was too late in the game, because by then the ministers had already made an about-face, dropping their initial demand for an all-out offensive to take over the entire Gaza Strip.
The criticism was replaced with a more subtle claim, that Netanyahu and Ya'alon were dithering, that they were wavering on the next phase of the operation. But that is not the case: Backed by Finance Minister Yair Lapid and Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, they dealt a crushing blow to Hamas, which had prematurely swaggered as a would-be victor; they destroyed Hamas tunnels, setting back the clock a few years; and they have countered its efforts to replenish its stockpiles.
The operation will come to an end only after things are finalized through an Egyptian-mediated accord. If the various Arab parties fail to deliver, Israel must pull out unilaterally. This would end the stalemate that has resulted in Israeli troops repeatedly being targeted, and killed, by mortar shells.
Who has won? The verdict is crystal clear, but the world has changed. The changing media landscape has resulted in greater access to news in our global village, but falsehoods get reported as credible stories. Hamas has been crying out for help, trying to marshal support in the Arab world, and has threatened to get Israel bogged down in international tribunals. Because the two sides have a different definition of victory, Hamas says it has come out victorious. Israel has won because it has something to show for on the battlefield. This is the definition of victory in the classical sense of the word. But a terrorist organization will forever define success as survival.
The sentiment abroad is in constant flux. As Israel's Channel 10 and Channel 2 reported Thursday, Palestinian terrorism is going to be overlooked and even excused. Only Israel will stand trial. The White House has adopted the ever-hostile United Nations' claims that Israel was to blame for the recent deaths at a facility operated by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency. This in and of itself goes to show that there is no honest broker to be found, even though the Americans love to throw around this term.
The bias was evident when Channel 2 news anchor Yonit Levi interviewed UNRWA Spokesman Christopher Gunness earlier this week. The interview was conducted a day after he broke out in tears while speaking with Al-Jazeera, accusing Israel of deliberately targeting an UNRWA school. When Levi mentioned that Hamas used UNRWA facilities as a rocket cache he beat around the bush. He also said UNRWA did not take pictures of the rockets because they could have exploded. It was particularly troubling to watch Gunness answer a question on how he thought Israelis should react to the barrages being fired on southern communities. His answer was very reasoned, yet very evil: The two sides must make peace. As if Hamas would ever be willing or prepared to do so.
With the military phase of the operation drawing to a close, it may be time to launch a few initiatives, even if only a few materialize. Repeating that Hamas is the devil, that it uses children as human shields, is not enough. Israel must make it clear that the West is reluctant to call Hamas out on this. Israel should introduce a new international convention that would prohibit the excavation of tunnels for war-related purposes and it should engage those who have come out against Operation Protective Edge. Israel should also take the first step in the thousand-mile journey toward a rocket-free Gaza Strip.
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