Last night, the news of a cease-fire gave rise to two very distinct camps. Hawks and doves, left and right wing, it seems the moderates lost out. Opinions, blogs and Facebook saw heated exchanges between those in favour of the (humanitarian) cease-fire, and those who cursed the Americans, United Nations and even the Israeli Prime Minister, wanting Israel to carry on non-stop, to crush Hamas, to end the terror threat.
It was also mentioned that the protagonists to to the conflict would meet in Cairo to try and thrash out a sustainable peace deal. And so we waited for 8am on Friday, although I did jokingly offer a bet, a shekel to $100 that it would never last, and sadly, I was right. 90 minutes later in Rafah, the Givati Brigade were carrying on shutting down tunnels, which had been allowed in terms of the cease-fire., when they were confronted by Hamas operatives. One jihadi detonated an explosive vest, killing himself and two Israeli soldiers. The other jihadis snatched an IDFsoldier an disappeared into the tunnel.
As word filtered out, the dull thumps of artillery fire could be heard, and Rafah descended into the depths of a full bombardment. The IDF poured troops into the area, sealing it off, and searching for the missing soldier. Word reached us that Second Lt. Hadar Goldin, a 23-year-old Givati Brigade officer from Kfar Saba had been kidnapped. Hamas had finally accomplished what they built their tunnel for, kidnapping a soldier. Hadar Goldin has 3 siblings, including a twin brother, and is engaged to married. Both his grandfathers were Holocaust survivors who participated in Israel’s War of Independence in 1948.
As of writing this, nobody has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping. Word out amongst the intelligence community is that the tunnel was identical in construction to the other Hamas tunnels found and destroyed so far. It is unlikely that Hamas would allow any other groups to use it’s tunnels, and the silence from Hamas is not unexpected. A Hamas spokesman said that the IDF had moved back into Rafah at 2am, 6 hours before the cease-fire, after being out the area for the last 20 days, a strategic move that would give the IDF a frontline on the Southern border of Gaza, and the rearguard on the Northern border, thereby giving the IDF to the whole of Gaza during the cease fire to carry out tunnel location and destruction in a relatively peaceful environment. The nature of the attack in which Hadar Goldin was captured suggests a degree of planning, given it would be unusual for anyone to wear an explosive vest without a definite plan for its use.
USA Foreign Secretary Kerry has been in telephonic contact with Bibi, and issued a statement condemning the attack, and calling for the immediate release of the IDF soldier. Once word got out that Goldin is a dual British/Israeli citizen, leaders amongst the Jewish community in the United Kingdom called upon the UK government to work swiftly to secure the kidnapped soldier’s release from captivity.
Opinions are like asses, everybody has one. Haaretz hoisted the left wing dove flag, high on the mast in an op-ed calling for “Capturing of soldier should not shape the face of the war” and stating that “Despite the pain and sadness following Friday morning’s attack – as well the expected public pressure – the cabinet must remain calm and make rational decisions.” Clearly written by somebody who has never seen combat. No military unit worth its salt ever leaves a man on the battlefield, alive or dead, every soldier comes home. History abounds with tales of soldiers sacrificing their lives to bring a comrade home, and for good reason, no soldier would be effective without the knowledge that he will not be abandoned should he fall on the battlefield or be captured. The IDF will, and must, do whatever they can to recover their warrior, and not one man serving in the IDF will expect any less. I recall seeing MIG23’s lighting up positions behind me as we advanced in Southern Angola, and the only reason we didn’t dig in, and and stop, was that we knew our comrades behind us would keep coming until they reached us.
And on the right wing, we have former defense deputy minister Danny Dadon calling for the levelling of Gaza. Not withstanding the stupidity of collective punishment, it is obvious that emotions are running very high, and things will be said, that might be regretted later. As I write, the Knesset Security Cabinet is meeting, and one wonders what options are flying around the table in there? The most unpalatable would seem to be the re-occupation of Gaza, this would take Israel back to 2005. With noises coming out of Iran to Hezbollah to open a front in the West Bank, one would expect that the Security Council will want to finish Operation Protective Edge as quickly and efficently as possible. Clearly a large response in Gaza by the IDF will be confirmed, with already 62 dead, 300 injured in Rafah today, their are few options other than to increase ground forces, reduce artillery and mortar attacks on Gaza to limit civilian casualties, and run the risk of loosing more men each day as a door to door search goes on.
Mustafa Barghouti, Palestinian National Initiative founder, and Palestinian parliament member, claims the suicide attack and “possible” kidnapping took place before the cease-fire, saying that the Israeli right to continue anti-tunnel operations was an error. Israel only agreed to a humanitarian cease-fire after John Kerry received explicit assurances from Qatar that Hamas and the other Palestinian factions in Gaza would honor the truce. No surprise that Hamas/Palestinian factions failed to keep to their word, terrorists seldom do. And maybe we should donate Hamas and the other terrorists decent time-pieces? Just a thought….
One issue that has not been addressed by either side, is as the war zone shifts around Gaza, civilians are being caught in the middle. Now as much of a hawk as I am, I am deeply saddened and heartbroken when I see children being killed. Any parent will tell you the same. I have buried a child, and know how devastating that is to everyone. The loss never gets easier, that’s a myth, we just learn to deal and bottle it up, and if you want to create a lifelong enemy of a man, no matter how moderate he might be, kill his child.
We also hear U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has called on Turkey and Qatar to use their influence to secure the release of the Israeli soldier whose reported capture led to the collapse of the cease-fire. Hamas will no doubt resist this move, but lets see how it bites the hands that feed it. In an unusual move, the The U.S. Senate unanimously passed legislation on Friday to provide $225 million in emergency funding for Israel’s “Iron Dome” missile defense system. this after an earlier version of the funding plan had failed on Thursday when Senate Republicans blocked a broader spending bill that was largely intended to provide money to handle the current immigration crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Now it remains for the funding plan to pass the House of Representatives and be signed by President Barack Obama. Given U.S. lawmakers traditionally strong support for Israel, it is not expected to encounter significant resistance in the House, according to Reuters.
A closing thought. The Gilat Shalit deal may well be responsible for Hamas’ burning desire to kidnap Israeli soldiers. Not the deal itself, but the details of the detail. 1000 Palestinian for 1 soldier is a huge incentive for any terror group to leverage a combatant for their brethren. I am not suggestion Shalit should have been abandoned, but the magnitude of the deal should have been more circumspectly considered.
In closing, I pray that HaShem will extended his protective hands over the IDF men and women who place their lives in harms way, to ensure the safety and freedom of their families and friends at home in Israel, and also that HaShem take care of the innocents who will find themselves in the middle of this war. I pray for the families of the fallen warriors of the IDF, and for the family of Hadar Goldin, and for his safe return.