The circumstance is seemingly surreal. After eight days of pounding each other from the air, a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas was declared today in Cairo. The streets of Gaza are full of people celebrating. Yet 70% of Israelis polled have expressed their (often virulent) opposition to the agreement. Why? Hasn’t Israel pulled off a major accomplishment by getting Islamacist Egypt to agree to negotiate and even to guarantee an agreement that commits Hamas to abandon all attacks on Israel? Wasn’t the goal of Operation “Pillar of Smoke” to finally bring some measure of tranquility to Israelis living with range of the guns of Gaza? Wasn’t Hamas taught a lesson by the thousands of pin point Israeli airstrikes that killed over 100 Palestinians under arms? Wasn’t avoiding a costly land incursion that would cost many lives and endanger Israel’s diplomatic support sufficient reason to celebrate?
The answer to all of these question is yes, but.
Despite all of the above, the ceasefire is not only a victory for the Hamas, it is a significant defeat for Israel, the United States, the European Community and anyone else likely to fight against Jihadi terrorism. It must be kept in mind that Hamas is the leading practitioner of terror in the world today. Its leadership is made up of self-declared war criminals, who take pride in their success at attacking and murdering unarmed civilians. For that reason alone, the pass they have just received from Israel and the international community will plague all of us in the not so distant future.
Again, there are logical reasons for Israel to have signed off on an agreement that gives the Hamas a political victory in the form of Israeli promises to desist from hunting their leaders and to liberalize its policies at the borders of Gaza. Beyond that, however, a great deal of pressure needed to be applied before the Israeli saw the light. The parade of foreign dignitaries that descended on Israel starting yesterday was not only impressive, but suspicious. Secretary of State Clinton, the German Foreign Minister and the Secretary General of the United Nations all came. What did they do? True, they made public, statements supporting Israel’s right to self-defense. However, they also effectively demanded (at least implicitly) that Israel stop hunting the potential mass murders of Hamas and its allies. None of them said to Israeli: “You have not only the right but the obligation to attack the Hamas, capture its leaders and put them on trial for war crimes, release the Palestinians from the burden of a government devoted to mass murder and the summary execution of anyone suspected of collaboration with Israel. Hamas has written itself outside of international law and the international community cannot tolerate its policies or its actions. So, Israel–go for it; we’ll be there for you!’
In other words, as happens time and again, Israel, after an aggregate of many thousands of missile strikes on innocent Israeli civilians, has been left with the following international doctrine: 1) It is duly illegal for anyone to attack civilians, unless those civilians are Israeli 2) International law protects Palestinians serving as human shields from attack by the Israeli army. Hence, if Israelis attack Palestinian civilian targets they will be prosecuted under international law 3) When Palestinians attack Israeli civilians, the very same criminal code is suspended and the watchword is restraint. At the moment, this new code of international justice only excludes Israelis from the protection of international law. History has consistently shown that what starts with Israelis will soon apply to Jews the world over, and will then be applied to everyone else.
[This post was co-authored by Yitzhak Sokoloff]