What a rollercoaster ride the last 24 hours has been with regard to our war with Hamas.
Yesterday Egypt announced a proposal for a ceasefire: Both sides would stop firing, and then in 48 hours parties would convene in Cairo and – via an intermediary – discuss terms for a more permanent truce. Kerry was said to be coming to Cairo to participate.
This really did not have a good feel to it, and there was anxiety in several quarters here regarding what appeared to be pending capitulation by our prime minister. For word had come out that he was favoring acceptance of this proposal. Was he going to say that we had done enough, and that it was now time for ‘quiet for quiet’?
For the bottom line is that we have not done enough – I don’t care what Defense Minister Ya’alon says. Yes, there are ways in which Hamas has taken a real beating. But I’m picking up on reports that indicate that the key leaders, sitting in their underground tunnels, are alive and well and would be ready to pick up the fight again in no time. Similarly, because of the tunnels and the use of human shields, a large portion of the rockets remains intact and ready for future use. One source said we’ve destroyed one-third of their rockets. Ya’akov Amidror – who is a straight talker – says they have retained 90% of their high quality rockets.
No, it hardly time seemed like time to call it quits if there is serious intent to make sure that Hamas does not come back at us again in two years or three. Or four or five.
Of course, there was always the question of what Netanyahu would demand at those truce negotiations. But yet…but yet…
This morning the prime minister called a 7:00 AM meeting of the eight-person Security Cabinet to discuss the Egyptian proposal. Word came out that they had decided to accept the proposal. Only Naftali Bennett and Avigdor Lieberman were opposed, and they were both furious. Hearts dropped, stomachs tightened, all over Israel. This looked like caving, a disastrous show of weakness. My own depression (and yes, I know what depression is) was heavy.
At 9:00 AM we stopped all attacks on Gaza.
But Hamas, adamantly and defiantly refusing the Egyptian proposal, kept right on firing rockets at us – at least 50 in the next six hours.
Credit: Yonaton Sindel/Flash90
Hamas would have had trouble accepting the ceasefire because they had not achieved any significant “victories.” With their honor-shame mental-set, it would have been near impossible to do. Especially as they did not anticipate any major victory in the negotiations – no Gaza blockade lifted, no Hamas prisoners released. Their leaders actually complained about this: How can we stop when there is nothing indicated about what terms would be? All that was discussed was a readiness by Israel to open crossings to let additional supplies in.
It took six hours. At 3:00 PM, Netanyahu said, “That’s it!” He ordered attacks on Gaza to begin again, and about half an hour later they started.
Well now…we were suddenly seeing something different. And perhaps quite brilliant.
Netanyahu had been seeing the growing criticism of Israel around the world. The scum in Hamas, by encouraging human shields, had upped the casualties and secured multiple PR opportunities for talking about how Israel hits innocent children. (See more about this below.) In multiple quarters, there were anti-Israel voices being raised. Forgotten is the fact that Hamas started firing those rockets first. Or that we abort sorties to save children.
Our prime minister (and the Cabinet?) likely saw that carrying through a major operation would have been increasingly problematic because of large scale international criticism. The dynamic needed to be changed.
And this undoubtedly changed it. The situation was structured so that Netanyahu became a seeker of peace, the person willing to stop shooting. And Hamas was the party that sought violence even in the face of quiet.
Credit: Olivier Fittousi
This is what Netanyahu said at a press conference earlier today with the German foreign minister (emphasis added):
“…the refusal of Hamas to honor the ceasefire “gives Israel full legitimacy to expand the operation to protect our people.”
“We agreed to the Egyptian proposal in order to give an opportunity for the demilitarization of the Strip – from missiles, from rockets and from tunnels – through diplomatic means.
“But if Hamas does not accept the ceasefire proposal, as would now seem to be the case, Israel would have all international legitimacy to broaden the military operation to achieve the required quiet.”
John Kerry had cancelled his trip to Cairo, because there were not going to be any ceasefire negotiations after all. From Vienna, he said (emphasis added):
“I cannot condemn strongly enough the actions of Hamas in so brazenly firing rockets in multiple numbers in the face of a goodwill effort to offer a ceasefire, in which Egypt and Israel worked together, that the international community strongly supports.
Hamas is “purposely playing politics” by continuing the rocket fire, using innocents as “human shields… against the laws of war. And that is why they are a terrorist organization.”
How about that? He cannot tell us to use “restraint” now, can he?
I’m going to stick my neck out here, with pure speculation, colored by a bit of intuition. (No one has let me in on any secrets.) I think it possible that Egypt was complicit in setting up a situation that cornered Hamas. I think this did not just “happen.” I’ve provided evidence in recent days of an Egyptian desire to have Israel take out Hamas. Their role in the current scenario has helped to make it more possible.
How far will Israel now go towards taking Hamas out? This remains to be seen. Still tonight, I hold my breath, as I wait to see what unfolds. The nation is so weary of this, and so eager to be done with Hamas.
We are being told there is a long operation likely ahead of us, and that what must be done will be done. But this tells us nothing. The prime minister says the war will intensify. Lieberman is pushing for us to take over Gaza.
YNet quotes an unnamed “senior military official,” who said:
“A ground offensive could help combat the many tunnels in the Strip, where the Air Force is not effective…
“Our recommendations to the political leadership were clear on this issue. A ground maneuver to destroy the tunnels will take somewhere between a week and two weeks, and the troops deployed to the border are trained for this and prepared for this. There is a small but significant amount of tunnels that we’ve yet to expose, and they’re targets in this maneuver.
[A ground offensive against the terror tunnels] “has high chances of being successful. It will require confrontation with the enemy and the evacuation of civilians, and will lead to the increase of rocket launching at Israel, but we trust the troops. The solutions will come from the fighting forces on the field, from the bottom, not just from the army command.”
I will add here that trusting the troops with solutions from the bottom is very Israeli.
Data of note:
In a report it just released, CAMERA has revealed Israel has killed “mainly combatant-age males, not women or children”: a close read of the data “shows that, as in past hostilities, the fatalities are disproportionately [compared to the overall population] among young males, which corresponds with the characteristics of combatants. Males over 40 years old are also disproportionately represented. Some of the fatalities in those over 40 years of age likely represent senior members of terrorist organizations.”
This contradicts “media reports that tried to paint Israel’s Operation Protective Edge as indiscriminately killing civilians.”
Keep praying for our soldiers, please! And for all of Israel.