One full day in, the current ceasefire between Israel and Hamas shows every indication of holding. After a month of heavy fighting in and around the Gaza Strip, both sides have agreed to hold their fire unconditionally for three days while negotiating a more sustainable long-term truce. The details of these negotiations will have implications that affect many generations to come – both Israeli and Palestinian.
Like a majority of Israelis, I have little confidence that the current ceasefire and negotiations will result in a tangible period of quiet and security. In this third round (and third ceasefire) between Israel and Hamas, it would be foolish to expect a different result than in previous engagements. Once again, Hamas can claim victory through their very survival. Further, the fact that the IDF, with all its might, was unable, in nearly 30 days, to significantly damage Hamas’ ability to fire rockets at Israeli population centers, is an important propaganda victory for Hamas. Only minutes before the cease fire went into effect, they defiantly fired a barrage of 17 rockets at Israel – to the backdrop of Israeli forces withdrawing from Gaza. No matter the actual military situation on the ground, this withdrawal — under heavy fire — is viewed as a retreat throughout the Arab world. The “defeat” of the IDF at the hands of Hamas emboldens other terror organizations, such as Hizbullah, and further sidelines the so-called “moderates”. In contrast to these significant gains by Hamas, the IDF can, at best, claim only moderate tactical achievements. This is of no fault of Israel’s military, but of weak political leadership.
From the very beginning of Operation Protective Edge, Prime Minister Netanyahu has made no secret of his desire to seek a ceasefire that preserves the status quo. His mantra, “quiet will be met with quiet” was so oft repeated that it has become a national joke. It is of public record that Netanyahu, against public opinion, has been seeking an “out”, however has been opposed by nearly the entire political spectrum. For what may be the first time in Israeli history, the consensus was (and still is) clear: the status quo cannot continue. Nonetheless, Netanyahu has effectively ignored his constituents and sold out our future generations by agreeing to just that. Nor is this his first time. Only two years ago, during Operation Pillar of Defense, Netanyahu agreed to an internationally brokered ceasefire with Hamas that allowed them to rearm and continue building terror infrastructure to threaten Israeli citizens. This most recent war is a direct result of that strategic error. The next round will be far more bloody. The irony here, with both Pillar of Defense and Protective Edge, is the complete reversal of Netantahu’s position from 2008’s Cast Lead. As a member of the opposition during Cast Lead, Netanyahu had nothing but the harshest criticism of the cease fire that ended the operation. He promised the Israeli public that, if elected prime minister, he would not negotiate with terrorists – he would defeat them. These have proven to be nothing but empty words.
Now that the cards have already been dealt in such a way, the question remains: is there an acceptable outcome to the negotiations in Cairo? Yes, but it is unlikely to ever occur. He only acceptable outcome to the Israeli people (and the only outcome that can justify the blood that has been shed) is the complete disarmament of Hamas. Hamas, of course, will never agree to this. By giving up heir arms, Hamas would be effectively giving up on their raison d’etre. Instead, the best result that Israelis can hope for is a period of months to years with diminished rocket fire. This would provide our Southern residents with a much deserved respite from the terror that they have lived with for years, but with a serious price. Hamas will undoubtedly use this period of quiet to restock their arsenal of terror and acquire even more advanced weapons. This is not hyperbole, but simple fact based on recent history.
I wrote the following in November 2012, as Israel agreed to the previous cease fire. It is, once again relevant to today as history is repeating itself.
NOVEMBER 2012, HAS THE WORLD GONE MAD:
Has the world gone mad? On its 8th day, Israel ended its operation, “Pillar of Defense”, by agreeing to a cease fire with the terrorist group Hamas. During the 8 day war, Palestinian terrorists launched over 1,300 rockets at Israeli cities, including its capital city, Jerusalem. Israel’s financial capital also found itself under rocket attack. Millions of Israelis live within rocket range of the Gaza Strip, ruled by Hamas. Most spent the past week in bomb shelters. For many this isn’t new. Residents of southern Israel have been under near continuous rocket fire for a decade. A generation of children has grown up to the sounds of sirens and explosions.
For the first 7 days of the operation, Hamas fired large rocket barrages continuously on southern Israeli communities. These were interspersed with occasional attacks on central cities, such as Tel Aviv and Rishon Lezion. On two occasions, Hamas fired missiles towards Jerusalem. Meanwhile, the Israeli Air Force struck dozens of terrorist targets in the Gaza Strip. On day 7, Hamas announced that they had reached a cease fire agreement with Israel. Israeli officials denied this, but confirmed talks were under way. Support for the war was near unanimous, with even Aviv Geffen- a pro-Palestinian musician- being counted among the supporters of “Pillar of Defense”. On day 8, an event occurred that changed everything. An explosion occurred on Tel Aviv bus 142, wounding 23. Bus bombings bring back terrible memories in Israelis of the 2nd Intifada. Suicide bombers on buses were a near daily experience. And in cafes. And hotels. For many, those feelings all came rolling back, and, along with them, a familiar name: The Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades. This is the terrorist wing of the “moderate” Fatah political party and the Palestinian Authority. They were responsible for dozens of terror attacks against Israelis during the 2nd Intifada and claimed responsibility for the attack on bus 142. Hamas praised their efforts. Despite the bus bombing and the ongoing barrage of rockets in the south, it was announced that a cease fire would go into effect at 21:00. Israel stopped firing, Hamas did not.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s acceptance of the ceasefire was against the wishes of the vast majority of the Israeli public. It was against the best interests of the entire western world. It was contrary to his own ideology, and that of his political party. By accepting a ceasefire when he did, and under the terms he did, Netanyahu must have known that he will seriously hurt his results in upcoming elections and alienate himself among the Israeli people. Why then, did he agree to this ceasefire? The answer is actually quite clear: international pressure, most importantly from the United States and the Obama Administration. Despite his comments about Israel’s “right of defense”, President Obama immediately dispatched Hillary Clinton to the region to pressure Israel into an unfavorable cease fire with Hamas. Whatever pressure she exerted, she succeeded. Within hours of her arrival, Netanyahu agreed to terms. This was a victory for terror.
The agreed to ceasefire is disastrous for Israel’s future and has dangerous implications throughout the region and possibly the world. The very negotiations for this ceasefire proved to the Islamic world that, despite professing otherwise, both Israel and the United States are willing to negotiate with terror. This inspires terrorist groups and radical governments everywhere. The implications of the ceasefire go far beyond the psychological, however. One part of the agreement involves the lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. This would, indeed, be a very dangerous development. Hamas would, more or less, be able to import newer, better and bigger rockets- freely. The current Israeli blockade requires them to sneak rockets and other weapons in through underground tunnels. There is a size limit on what can fit through those tunnels. With no blockade, Hamas could, theoretically, import anything that could fit on a ship. This could include even longer range missiles from Iran (and possibly other countries), placing even more Israeli cities at risk, or even sophisticated anti-aircraft weaponry. The track record of Hamas, and other Palestinian terror groups, is clear. In 2009, a ceasefire with Hamas ended the Cast Lead military operation in Gaza. Between that ceasefire and the most recent round of hostilities, hundreds of rockets from the Gaza Strip were fired at Israel. This, in the Israeli reality, is considered a “trickle” of rockets. It is clear to Hamas that its attacks on Israeli civilians will be tolerated; they just need to do it a little less. Residents of southern Israel are once again left out to dry.
Possibly even more disturbing, is the effect of the ceasefire on Israel’s situation vis a vis Iran. In previous rounds of fighting, Israel had set a clear “red line” for Hamas terrorists: an attack on Tel Aviv would mean unparalleled retaliation. Up until the recent round of fighting, Hamas refrained from attacking Tel Aviv, despite possessing missiles capable of doing so. After Hamas crossed that line, anything less than massive retaliation is a sign of weakness. Netanyahu, famously, has followed this same “red line” principle in his dealings with the Iranian nuclear program. He has given Iran a clear level of nuclear development that would warrant an Israeli strike- 90% uranium enrichment. Iran’s leadership has been watching Israel carefully, weighing how seriously to take the Israeli threat. What they’ve observed is that Israeli threats need not be taken seriously — “red lines” are not so red after all.
Rockets will once again “trickle” down on southern, and possibly central, Israel. The Israeli government will allow it to happen as long as it stays at “acceptable levels”. The Israeli people have been betrayed. Betrayed by their own government and betrayed by their “closest ally” who promised he “had their back” if they were attacked. By pressuring Israel into a ceasefire, President Obama, and his administration, have forced regular, everyday Israelis to face an uncertain future- in a more dangerous middle east. Quite probably facing a more dangerous world. When terror wins, liberty loses. And that is the travesty that occurred this week.