My first reaction to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s agreement to the latest Israel-Gaza cease fire was that of disbelief. We all know that sooner or later, hostilities will resume. Hamas will fire rockets and/or kidnap and kill, and Israel will have to defend itself and its people, and the war is on. Again. The Israeli Prime Minister says he didn’t give up much, and the deal has been covered enough, and it isn’t much, but the worrisome part of all this is he took the terrorists off the ropes. But what is the answer? Nuke Gaza? Re-occupy it with a ground incursion that could cause many casualties? Keep the air war going as Hamas depletes its refurbished cache of rockets? I don’t know what is best, or even just OK, and I live in the US and not in Israel contemplating the next jaunt toward a bomb shelter, but this again? Sigh.
I have read the pundit pontifications about Bibi losing his resolve. I have read that what occurred to this point was his strategy all along. Or it wasn’t. He won, he lost. He is up, he is down. Look at his polls. His support dropped by nearly 50 points in a poll commissioned by Israel’s Channel 2 several days ago. But guess what? In an even more recent poll, one commissioned by Israel’s left-wing paper Haaretz, the verdict is not so clear. Haaretz wrote this: “True, the Haaretz-Dialog poll supervised by Prof. Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University and published here on Thursday, shows a considerable decline in the amazingly high support they garnered during Operation Protective Edge, but the two (Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon), who have intertwined their political fates, are hanging in there pretty well.”
The Israeli public rallied to support its leaders during the conflict, but after, the usual grumbling from all sides unsurprisingly came to the forefront. Still, and I hate to bring politics into this, this tentative, and definitely temporary, cease fire, was a political victory for the PM. He is still considered best to lead Israel.
But why did Bibi jump on the agreement? I personally think Netanyahu succumbed to pressure from President Obama, and perhaps he had no choice. I believe that behind the scenes, the increasingly feckless Obama, warned Bibi that unless he took the deal, there would be negative repercussions – we are all aware of the delay in arms sales to Israel a couple weeks ago, and while the conflict was ongoing, of all things. That’s why the Israeli PM didn’t even consult his war cabinet and just said OK. He knew he would have problems with several of his ministers, and he needed to just get it done.
I think the PM knows this tenuous and tentative truce will end in failure, yet again. And when that happens, it’s back on. Bibi can say he tried, he confronts a newly-armed Hamas once more, and we recycle what just happened. And to state the obvious, Netanyahu is depending on the US Congress, much more supportive than the US President. And for himself or perhaps another similarly-inclined PM, Bibi is waiting Obama out. (So am I.) There is no guarantee Bibi will be PM in 2017, or that he will have a more sympathetic US partner, and it’s a long wait, but I think the PM now believes in Obama’s election mantra, “Hope and Change,” but only directed at the US President.
Small comfort for the Israeli citizens of the South, especially those true pioneers in the western Negev area. They walk the tightrope every second of every day, and they are rightly concerned and angry Hamas wasn’t destroyed once and for all.
Future talks are supposed to cover Hamas disarmament, but does anyone really think that will happen? The naïve, like Jimmy Carter and John Kerry, think one can negotiate with terrorists. Right. Good luck with that. So the deadly dance continues as both sides lick their wounds and await the next escalation.
Rinse and repeat.