Tuesday, August 05, 2014

“And Now?”

I am chagrinned but not exactly shocked by the latest turn of events here. 
As Shabbat went out, I had expressed surprise that – following the Friday ceasefire broken almost immediately by Hamas with an attack that included a suicide bombing and the kidnapping of Hadar Goldin – Netanyahu had not ordered a significant escalation of the operation in Gaza. When it was clear that what was happening was that IDF troops were being pulled back, a sense of great unease set in.  It seemed the operation was about to be terminated in a move that many – myself very much included - saw as premature.
But no, we were told that it was just a redeployment, because the tunnel phase of the operation was complete.  We were told that the decision of the Security Cabinet was to continue the operation.  What is more, there would be no participation in internationally promoted ceasefires, and we would not be going to Cairo to negotiate: If Hamas cannot be trusted to honor its commitment for a 72 hour ceasefire, there is no point in pursuing negotiations, went the explanation.
What happened following this announcement was that the Palestinian Arab factions – Hamas, the PA, etc. – met in Cairo without Israel and put forth their jointly arrived at and ludicrous demands.  They hadn’t simply said – as one might expect - that if Israel would not be participating there would be no point in proceeding. They proceeded.  And this was cause for great unease regarding the likelihood of Israel’s joining the talks. Never mind the protests from the Israeli government that we were continuing to do battle in Gaza. 
The pressure for Israel to come participate was huge as a result of how the situation was set up.  Israel had wanted Egypt to mediate, with both Turkey and Qatar frozen out of the picture.  And that was actually happening.  Was Netanyahu going to leave Egypt’s al-Sisi with egg on his face – thus taking the chance that our newly positive relationship with Egypt would be soured?  Egypt, along with the US, was calling on Israel to come to Cairo.
All of this transpired within the course of three days.  Late yesterday it was announced that Israel and Hamas had jointly agreed to an Egyptian sponsored three-day ceasefire. 
And then it was announced that if the ceasefire held Israel would be pulling out of Gaza completely and joining talks in Cairo.
So far the ceasefire is holding...  When and if our troops are pulled out, they will be deployed on the Israeli side of the border, prepared to go back in immediately if necessary.
What Netanyahu said was that we had accomplished our primary goal of destroying all tunnels that had been discovered that led into the south of Israel; various technologies were being examined for use on the Israeli side of the border to prevent new tunnels from being dug.
Additionally, Hamas had taken a significant hit with regard to depletion of its rocket supplies and infrastructure.  And 1,000 Hamas terrorists had been killed.
The question lingers in the air, however, as to whether that significant hit on Hamas was strong enough.  The major leaders remain alive, and will come out of their tunnels prepared to rebuild for the next attack.  Some one-third of their weaponry remains (which means, it is estimated, over 3,000 rockets).
There was a disinclination on the part of the government to take over Gaza again and take down Hamas entirely.  I will not revisit here again in detail the relevant questions touching upon whether truly taking out Hamas would have been a good thing. Key among these is the question of whether it would have paved the way for a take-over by al-Qaeda.  But there is also the issue of the burden that would be imposed on Israel were we to take over Gaza, and the specter of horrendous fighting in Gaza City.
What remains with me, however, is a conviction that Hamas – if not entirely eliminated – should have been sufficiently taken down so that it acceded on our terms.  I am vastly uncomfortable with the whole concept of having to give Hamas – a terror organization that has been attacking us – something in return for securing its quiet. And that’s what is implied in negotiations.  Not only is it wrong, it gives them a “win.”
Netanyahu’s goal right now, as I have been writing, is to tie the rebuilding of Gaza to the demilitarization of Hamas.  Hamas, clearly, is not about to invite us, or international forces, in to seize its rockets (most of which are hidden in very deep tunnels or in civilian facilities).  What Hamas leaders are suggesting obliquely is that if the blockade of its coastline were lifted and all crossings to Gaza were opened, it might consider this.  But what we would have then is a situation in which rockets would be removed only to be replaced by more sophisticated ones, supplied by Iran and N. Korea, and brought through its open borders. In addition to this is the need to contend with the ability of Hamas to manufacture its own rockets.
Clearly, this is a vastly complex issue that will require close examination in coming posts.  Hamas’s goal remains the same: To destroy Israel.
What we do know is that Egypt would be delighted to see Hamas demilitarized, as would several Sunni Arab countries, starting with Saudi Arabia, and the EU.  What support Israel will receive in this matter remains to be seen.
On a positive note, I observe a couple of things:  It is my understanding that once the Palestinian Arab contingent came to Cairo, Netanyahu and al-Sisi were in touch daily.  It occurs to me that our government may have already received certain reassurances from Egypt that encouraged Netanyahu to go ahead in agreeing to negotiations.
Then I have noticed that those elements within the government, and more specifically within the Security Cabinet, who have been pushing for a hard stand against Hamas have been very quiet with this latest announcement.  I have in mind, for example, Lieberman.  I did pick up one statement by Bennett, but it was fairly subdued and had to do with hoping Hamas did not renege on the ceasefire again.  This prompts me to speculate about what they know, that may be reassuring.
We have lost 64 of our treasured boys in the war with Hamas, and the tone of the nation is subdued.  What has been observed over and over again is the valiant and, indeed, noble, way in which mourning families have conducted themselves. I salute every soldier – we have the very finest and most selfless - and every family.
I have been told that 27 young women who were engaged to soldiers are now bereft.
One thing we are going to be confronting, even with the ceasefire, is on-going unrest and violence on the part of segments of the Israeli Arab population.  We have a fifth column inside our country, and Hamas will be pushing them on.  In the last 24 hours or so, we’ve seen three terror attacks in Jerusalem:
Yesterday afternoon, a terrorist driving a tractor (heavy excavation equipment) in the Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood drove into a bus – which was, thankfully, empty. The bus turned over and the driver was injured; a passerby was killed. The terrorist was shot and killed.
About three hours later, a soldier on Mt. Scopus was shot in the stomach multiple time, and critically injured.  I have not heard that they caught the terrorist.
Today, just hours ago, a security guard at the entrance to Ma’ale Adumim – just outside of Jerusalem to the east - was stabbed and moderately hurt.  I believe the terrorist, who drove away, has been apprehended.
The other day I put up a link to a YouTube that showed an interview with an Arab mother whose baby was being treated in an Israeli hospital. She speaks very openly about embracing death and the honor of being a shahid (martyr) for Jerusalem. She would gladly see her young son go this route.
I had asked that you help it go viral, but, as many wrote to point out, it was taken down.  I now have another longer (7 minute) and even more effective version of the video – more effective because it also shows the kindness to her of Israeli medical staff.  (With thanks to Fred E.)
If you haven’t seen it yet, please do so.  And please! I ask everyone who reads this to send it out to at least three people.  People need to understand what we are dealing with.
I am getting a great deal of wonderful email messages from readers telling me about pro-Israel demonstrations in various places.  Love it, but cannot mention them all or run all the videos showing them.
But I will close here – as Tisha B’Av comes to a close as well – with this lovely video about a spontaneous pro-Israel rally in the Diamond District of NYC:
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