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Half Pregnant – The Current Ceasefire Proposal

On Friday afternoon, President Biden delivered a speech in which he publicized the terms of Israel’s ceasefire offer to Hamas. It’s a stand alone agreement that calls for an end to the war and the release of hostages without addressing a “day after” plan. Biden claims that if this three phase agreement is successful, it will open the doors to possible Saudi normalization, and a more secure, prosperous life for Israelis and Palestinians. For Biden, the success of this deal provides a much needed reprieve from perceived, negative public opinion and it means healing a fracture that has since October 7th, split the Democratic party. With only five months until US elections, Biden no longer has the luxury of entertaining the Saudi Grand Bargain, and is willing to support any half baked solution that will abruptly end the war regardless of the fallout for Israelis and Palestinians. In his speech Biden assured the world that Hamas is sufficiently damaged and no longer poses a credible threat to Israelis, but just because Biden says it’s so, doesn’t make it true. 

At first blush, this proposal appears to be half pregnant. What’s troubling is what the proposal doesn’t say; does Gaza continue to be powered by Hamas or Gaza doesn’t continue to be powered by Hamas? If one were to take the proposal at face value, yes eventually all hostages (alive and dead) will be returned, but with an Israeli withdrawal and no agreed upon alternate governing structure, Hamas will definitely remain in power. The initial phase of the proposal sees Israel withdrawing from Gazan cities, and allowing the local population to return to their homes, but without an alternative governing force in place, Hamas will quickly fill the governing void. Even a degraded Hamas has shown its uncanny ability to quickly resurrect itself in areas the Israeli military vacates, and will continue to do so absent a day after plan.

Furthermore, phase three of the plan sees billions of reconstruction dollars pouring into Gaza, which also means billions of dollars available for Hamas to siphon off to rebuild their military infrastructure. Once rebuilt, it is a fool’s notion not to believe Hamas’s desire to repeat October 7th over and over again, as promised on international television by both Mashal and Hamdan.  Basically, this ceasefire offer,  without containing even the semblance of a “day after” plan guarantees a continuous cycle of terror/missile/war, in which Hamas showers Southern Israel with missiles and attempts to incite the West Bank and East Jerusalem to Intifada, while Israel is forced to respond with bombs, tanks and troops until the world becomes weary of war and demands that Israel stop. 

Thus, a standalone ceasefire and hostage release agreement in Gaza, which does not lay the foundation and groundwork for the “day after”, and leaves Hamas as the principle power in Gaza, proves that Hamas, or any other Iranian proxy, can massacre, rape and torture and yet remain standing against Israel.  Moreover, this proposed plan not only erodes, but annihilates the Israeli Doctrine of Deterrence (stating a harsh disproportionate response to any attack in order to deter such an attack) which has ensured our existence since 1948.

In my previous article titled the “Coalescing Two Grand Bargains” https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/coalescing-two-grand-bargains-a-pathway-to-israels-survival/, I analyzed a potential “day after” plan promoted by the Americans and supported by the “moderate” Sunni countries. It calls for a comprehensive regional solution to Gaza, including a partnership to rebuild Gaza with local Palestinians or a reformed Palestinian Authority. It deals a death blow to Hamas, and it includes Saudi’s normalization with Israel and a US-Israeli-Saudi defense alliance to counter the Iranian Axis. The majority of feedback I received from readers about the deal was that Israel would have to take enormous risks and that these risks demand a deep rooted trust in the Americans and Sunni States to achieve this super deal. I was reminded by readers that we withdrew from southern Lebanon and in return received Hezbollah missiles and that we withdrew from Gaza and received Hamas missiles and incitement to terror.  Readers couldn’t help but ask, haven’t we learned from the past? 

Missing from both of these examples is the key word “unilateral”. We unilaterally withdrew from Lebanon and we unilaterally withdrew from Gaza. Neither withdrawal had a well laid out agreement for the “day after”, nor even an inkling of a strategy to mitigate the risks involved. It was not a grand failure in concept for a desired peace which even today Israelis yearn for, but it was a grand failure in so much as we arrogantly thought we could control everything without proactively mitigating the risks of such unilateral actions.  

Any decision on how to move forward, whether to reoccupy Gaza fully, whether to return to the status quo pre-October 7th, or to push for a more comprehensive deal, should be analyzed beneath the lens of a utopian world. Ideally, we close our eyes and dream of what we want Israel to look like in 50 years; picture the totality of it, and then based on what we really desire, we design a road-map of how to possibly get there. It should be analyzed as a series of choices each examined through the overriding prism of “Risk-Reward”.

 “Risk-Reward” analysis has already proven highly successful for several Israeli sectors, from Technology, Economics, Agriculture and most recently in positioning Israel as the “Start-up Nation”. Israel’s growing and highly successful Entrepreneurial class uses Risk-Reward in every faucet of decision making.  

As these entrepreneurs realize, no risk equals no reward, and too much unmitigated risk equals total failure. To be highly successful, calculated risks rule the day, which is defined by taking substantial risk to obtain an extreme positive result but planned with forethought to mitigate as much of the risk as possible.

Within a very short period of time, Israel will declare “operational control” over Rafah. At that moment, with most of its battalions disassembled, Hamas will continue to fight on as an insurgency force. Hamas will not be completely annihilated no matter how hard the IDF presses and pushes,  and Netanyahu’s “total victory” will not be achieved and yet, our leaders will be forced to decide which path we as a country must take. 

One option, as some ministers in the current government promote is to battle Hamas until  “total victory” and then rule over Gaza with the resettlement of Israelis in the utopic Gush Katif of Gaza. The risks of such an objective include further international isolation, being labeled a pariah state, never-ending violence and escalating IDF casualties while ruling over a hostile, domestic population, and, expending huge military and financial costs to maintain a status quo while being “stuck in the mud” of Gaza. This option also risks abandoning the lives of those hostages however many may still be alive. For those promoting this option, the conquest and resettling of Gaza is their ultimate objective. They recognize the risks,  but they believe some of these can be mitigated, and they believe their vision of the resettlement of Gaza  is worth the other  associated risks..

A second option we can choose is what I consider that of being half pregnant; meaning do as little as possible, and make no decisions that lead to a fundamental future change. This non-decision is in fact a hard decision. It means making a stand alone ceasefire deal without committing to any type of day after. It demands we withdraw unilaterally from Gaza with our hostages (both alive and dead), that we better build up our defenses along the border, allow Hamas to rebuild and return to the pre-October status quo , and await the next round of missiles, terrorism and bloody combat. This option was the one chosen after the 2009 and 2014 wars, picked because it fit the future vision we had convinced ourselves was possible. After the trauma of October 7th, how many of us really want to risk that Hamas will succeed once more in making a bloodbath of our families, neighbors and colleagues?

The third option is the most complex as it attempts to use a regional solution to resolve Gaza. Israel can partner with the Americans, Western allies and “moderate Sunni” states to create a comprehensive day after plan consisting of a slow, methodical withdrawal from Gaza, being replaced as it withdraws by a non-Hamas, local Palestinian administrative rule, the exiling of all Hamas leadership preferably to somewhere distant like Algeria, a new regional defense alliance to successfully counter the Iranian Axis of Evil, a broader economic integration of Israel into the region, and a long term framework of this new Gaza First experiment, which if successful, to be extended incrementally in the West Bank. This is a fully multilateral as opposed to unilateral plan that may improve Israel’s reputation and international relations, but it certainly will strengthen Israel’s  position in the region.  The risks of such an objective include an  Iranian/Hezbollah over reaction to losing a key part of their axis, a failure to de-radicalize the Gazan population and, the rise of new, more murderous fundamentalist groups in Gaza. It also risks the lives of remaining hostages, as this plan offers Hamas  little incentive to release them. 

Those who still push for resettlement of Gaza have selective memory. The reason we withdrew unilaterally was because we were stuck in the mud of Gaza, constantly under attack and utilizing huge security resources (both financial and human) to protect a few thousand settlers. The decision to withdraw was correct. The decision to unilaterally withdraw was a strategic mistake, as we had no plan for the day after. 

A return to the status quo, which is the easiest of all options, is abhorrent to a nation still traumatized by the events of October 7th. In addition, it would be a strategic mistake, as once again a decision to withdraw will be made unilaterally with no plan for the day after. 

As a nation, we brag about our love for life.  We, as a people want to live in peace with our neighbors, and to infuse the world with light and goodness.This is a tall order in our tough neighborhood, where we are literally surrounded by those seeking our demise. Despite this we have proven to be a very strong, resolute people. As a nation, we have taken a dusty, dirty strip of desert and within a single generation transformed it into an agricultural, educational, economic, technological, and military powerhouse. Our Saudi and Emirate neighbors are offering us an alliance not because they truly love us, but because an alliance with us guarantees their survival. They recognize the security and economic benefits to a new world order in which they are aligned with America and Israel against Iran and its proxies (both Shia and Muslim Brotherhood). For Israel, the potential rewards of this plan far outweigh the calculated risks . When I dream of a Utopian future for this great country of ours, I see one that has Israel prospering economically, socially and culturally, a true Zionist state in which its people live in peace and harmony.

About the Author
Parry Rosenberg is a strategic analyst who guides international clients through complex issues and a labyrinth of corporate landscapes. He received an Hons.BA in Political Science from Haifa University, and an MBA in Finance and Marketing from York University. In 2021, he and his wife made Aliyah, and have since called Tel Aviv home.
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