As news broke last night about the possibility of a potential Egyptian backed ceasefire agreement to end the recent upsurge of violence between Hamas and Israel, it is a good time to take stock and see whether Operation Protective Edge has achieved the goals that it set out to do. In my opinion it has not yet achieved its aims. Hamas have not been dealt a hard enough blow to punish them for the thousand plus rockets they have fired over the last few days. The deterrent in the South is not quite there, yet. It is obviously a very difficult dilemma no matter how Israel tries to prevent civilian casualties- they are inevitable. Should the IDF’s perfectionism cut off Israel’s nose to spite its own face?
This is now the third time we have been in this situation. Each time Hamas get better rockets that reach further into Central and even Northern Israel, even to the North of Haifa. How many more conflicts do we need to go through before Hamas gets weapons that are really effective and change the strategic status quo dramatically? How close does a Qassam rocket have to get to Ben Gurion Airport or the Dimona Nuclear reactors? Yesterday it was Qassams, today it was Fajrs and UAVs, tomorrow what? Yesterday was a milestone as for the first time Israel was attacked on four fronts; from Gaza, Sinai, Syria and Lebanon. Is it the fifth that will tip the balance whereby we can act with conviction to protect our citizens?
There is also the question of whether it is morally right to accept the ceasefire agreement. This latest bout of fighting came about via the kidnappings and murder of the three Israeli teenagers, Eyal, Naftali and Gilad. Three days after what was thought to be the kidnapping, Hamas fired its first rockets since the Operation Pillar of Defence in 2012. The rocket fire has intensified over the past few weeks despite Prime Minister Netanyahu’s statement that “we will respond to calm with calm”. Netanyahu gave Hamas a 48 hour deadline to stop the rocket fire which they refused, he then waited a further 48 hours with rocket fire intensifying to almost two hundred rockets a day before he launched Operation Protective Edge. And therefore to capitulate now would be to condone the next barrage to come Israel’s way.
We must never forget the extent of the challenges that have and continue to pose an existential threat to Israel, let alone the quality of life of the people living in the south. The consequence of a ceasefire agreement in this context would be for the international community to take for granted Israel’s capability to remain in control even at moments of great peril. If we have a ceasefire now, what would this say, in the context of being attacked on four fronts about Israel’s security concerns being taken seriously by the international community? What situation would have to occur in order for the world to take this seriously?
The people of Israel feel more threatened than ever and they don’t feel confident that Hamas has been effectively deterred. The people of Israel has been constantly appeased in their wish to have local concerns to be taken seriously on the grounds that such money needs to go towards military spending. There is a consensual relationship between the Military and the Citizenry, this money needs to be seen as being effective and able to prevent situations where Israelis have to live weeks on end under this threat. If this does not happen, an integral bond between Army and Citizenry will be in jeopardy. The people of Israel are united now, international opinion is as favourable as it is ever likely to be, and civilians see this as the time for the military to strike the decisive blow to the terrorist infrastructure within Gaza. Sgt Benjamin Anthony’s recent article in The Times of Israel is an important read on the limits of air strikes and the need for a ground invasion. The 2006 Lebanon war has brought relative peace to the North with eight years without any rocket fire, a long time in the Middle East.
Both in the physical war and the PR war, Israel has now been given a golden opportunity to gain leverage over its opponents. The time for a ceasefire is not now. We cannot allow Hamas the time to restock and advance their missile capability and pose a substantial threat to the whole of Israel. The region is so unstable with the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The dissolution of the borders created by the Sykes- Picot agreement which at one point we took to be fixed, is indicative of the fragility of the region at this time. Surely this is the time to take seriously the need to rigidify Israel’s borders rather than test them. Backing down now would send out three enormously damaging messages. Firstly, to Hamas and other terrorist organisations that Israel is fertile ground for being attacked. Secondly, to moderate Israelis- that should the West Bank be given up to other terrorist organisations, Israel will not be able to defend itself. Whether from Hamas, Islamic Jihad or ISIS. Finally, the conflicts are getting worse and worse every time- what hangs on this is whether the international community can take Israel’s suffering seriously. It will respect Israel’s decisiveness.
Israel should not accept the ceasefire agreement at this time. Israel should do what is in its national interest and should not concede respectability.