While I am mindful of constraints on my time and the fact that it is Labor Day, I post to do follow-through and share some important perspectives.
Netanyahu has now made additional comments as to why he chose to embrace certain positions regarding Hamas, and what he might still do.
Credit: Flash 90
First, he explained why he called a halt to the fighting with Hamas when he did:
“…today, when I look around and I see Al Qaeda on the [border] fence, and ISIS galloping into Jordan and already in Lebanon, and in Lebanon there is Hezbollah that is a little larger than Hamas, and Iran that backs it, and Iran [itself] – and I say, in the face of these combined threats, we set a goal in the Cabinet, to deal Hamas a very severe blow, and we did this, with the thousand terrorists we killed, the senior commanders, the tunnels, the rockets… I decided not to put all of our resources into this single arena and not into other arenas.”
He alluded to Fallujah in Iraq. where American troops fought against the Islamists. Once the US pulled out of Fallujah, the Islamists came back in and took over. He didn’t want to create such a problem in Gaza – where Israel would take out Hamas, and then pull out, only to leave space for Islamists in Gaza to take over.
And he explained his reluctance to do another ground operation: “Why do I need to go in? If I can hit them from the air and get the effect of grinding them without risking soldiers’ lives, why should I go in?”
And you know what? I understand all of these reasons. In fact, I enumerated them myself just days ago – when I explained why taking out Hamas completely might not be the best way to go.
However…I remain unsettled because the decision to terminate the fighting was made in a way that felt precipitous. A beautiful and much-loved four year old child had been killed by Hamas mortar. This saddened the heart of Israel. And then very shortly before the ceasefire was called, two other Israelis – Ze’ev Etzion, head of security for Kibbutz Nirim, and his deputy, Shahar Melamed – were killed and some four others wounded by mortar fire.
What is more, there was no reduction in the number of projectiles fired from Gaza into Israel in the hours before the ceasefire. There was, instead, a horrendous barrage that persisted until the last second and I believe even a bit beyond.
That a ceasefire was agreed to precisely then gave the Israeli populace a sense that governmental resolution was lacking – that an adequate job had not yet been done. It wasn’t, after all, an either/or question of stopping that very instant or having to go into Gaza and take out Hamas completely. A continuation of the punishing bombing might have been possible for some additional days. Perhaps another high level terrorist might have been taken out. Or there might have been a foray of ground troops that headed for a specific target inside of Gaza and then pulled back.
Instead, what it felt like was that we took that last minute beating – with the deaths and the furious barrage – and then said, that’s it, guys, we’re done. And that didn’t feel like victory – no matter how accurate the prime minister’s description of the beating Hamas had taken. It felt like caving. And, as I’ve said before, perceptions do matter. Not just for our own populace, but because al-Qaeda and ISIS and all the others are watching.
The fact that the agreement to accept the ceasefire was made just then, with that sense of precipitousness and lack of resolution, leads me to believe, still, that Netanyahu was under duress – that he did not decide this unilaterally, but had some “guidance” from the White House.
It is pretty much a given that presidential pressure was part of the picture – it would not be something unexpected. The question remains (and we will likely never know) what the import of the threat was. Was Netanyahu, for his part, too quick to concede – for indeed, it is the job of the prime minister to stand strong for Israel’s sovereignty? Or was the threat of a serious enough nature that what he did was prudent?
I am mindful of the fact that Netanyahu did not take a vote in the Security Cabinet before deciding to agree to the ceasefire, it is said because he was unsure of securing its approval. Were the bottom-line issues the ones he now enunciates regarding other dangers to contend with, etc., one would think that he would have discussed them with the members of the Cabinet; the fact that this didn’t happen also leads to questions as to what was going on.
The reason he now gives for not taking it to the Cabinet: he saved the ministers who would likely have opposed the ceasefire – Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, Public Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch and Communications Minister Gilad Erdan – the “dilemma of opposing a proposal whereby Hamas gave up all its demands.” They were secretly pleased not to have to vote on this, he said.
Well. These ministers will have to speak for themselves on this, but it sounds more than a bit hollow.
Netanyahu has said that a “drizzle” of rockets launched from Gaza will not be tolerated. This – tolerating a “drizzle” – has been a problem since the Hamas takeover of Gaza: “So, Hamas launched two rockets today. No one was hurt. Are we going to start up over that? Let’s make a statement (or bomb an empty field where a launcher had been) and then let it go.” Thus was deterrence lost, as Hamas observed the Israeli readiness to be shot at, a little.
Now the terrorists must know that there cannot be even a single rocket launched or single instance of firing of mortar shells. This is not only for deterrence, it is to provide a very necessary sense of security to the residents of the south.
What he has indicated is that the bombing Gaza has endured until now would be nothing compared to the attack that would ensue if they started launching rockets again. This is by way of deterrence. There is reasonable likelihood that Netanyahu will be tested on this: the negotiations in Cairo are due to begin and Hamas intends to demand a seaport, an airport, release of prisoners and all the rest.
Netanyahu is also saying something else: “I never removed the goal of toppling Hamas, and I am not doing that now.” (JPost citation above.)
And here, again, his statements lead to a confusion as to what his plan was, or his specified goal. For he is still saying that the goal was to remove the danger of the tunnels and strike a hard blow to Hamas – goals he says we achieved.
This latest comment is presumably intended as deterrence: What he means, I trust, is that he didn’t want to focus on Gaza sufficiently to take out Hamas all the way, but if Hamas persists in its aggression, then he will have to adjust his goals and topple this terrorist group. Would that he had been more precise in saying this.
When I last wrote, a report from a Jordanian paper had surfaced that claimed Netanyahu and Abbas had met in Amman. At that point there was no denial from Netanyahu’s office and it was most unsettling.
There have since been denials here in Israel:
I was asked by an associate if this makes me feel better. My answer: only marginally. For Netanyahu did make inane statements about how he hopes Abbas will be a partner for negotiations. That is, he hopes that Abbas will chose peace with Israel and not unity with Hamas. But, as I have repeatedly pointed out, Abbas has already made his choice and is no moderate peace partner. The fact that Netanyahu – well knowing this – feels the need to make such a statement tells us a good deal about the duress he faces and what may be coming down the road.
There was a bit of a flap when Abbas allegedly claimed that Netanyahu had agreed to negotiate based on the pre-1967 border. When it was vehemently denied here, a correction ensued. There had been a mistake – it was Obama who agreed on this line, not Netanyahu. And, indeed, this has been Obama’s position from the start.
My wish for a long time now has been that Netanyahu would have the courage to state forthrightly and publicly that it is a mistake to talk about negotiations based on the pre-1967 border, because there was never such a border: There was only a temporary armistice line.
How can we remotely expect the world to understand this, if our head of state will not clarify?
This, however, is encouraging, if true:
According to the London-based Al-Quds al-Arabi, Kerry and Netanyahu recently had a conversation about restarting the peace talks, and Israel’s release of the fourth group of prisoners. As Netanyahu was not receptive, Kerry apparently decided to cancel plans to come to this area.
Release of prisoners? Netanyahu knows this would fly here in Israel like a lead balloon.
Reportedly, a PA delegation will be going to Washington, instead, to discuss “a new peace initiative.”
Actually, Abbas is falling back into his habit of making threats – re: the Security Council and the ICC now – in order to frighten us into making “peace” on his terms. This will not work.
Israel has just designated about 4,000 dunams (988 acres) of land in Judea and Samaria, mostly in Gush Etzion, as state land.
This paves the way for construction to be done on the land, and, as could be anticipated, the US has objected because this is “counterproductive” to the “peace process.”
What else is new?
Reportedly – there was no official word on this – the land will be used for building a community in memory of the three students kidnapped and murdered in June.
While I am all for memorials to the students, I object to the notion that we need a pretext to build in Judea and Samaria. It is simply our right to do so. In point of fact, Israel has been talking since 2000 about a community to be called Gva’ot, to be built on that land, starting with 1,000 housing units. I hope to have more on this.
I want to end here with information about the dangers of encroaching radical Islam, which in the end is not only a major problem for Israel, but for the entire world.
I note, first, that Islamic rebels have taken the area on the other side of the Golan border, and that from time to time shelling spills over. With the war with Hamas, I did not focus on this but now hope to watch the situation with greater attention. As I write, there is fierce fighting at the Quneitra crossing.
In a picture taken from the Golan Heights, smoke billows from the Syrian village of Quneitra following an explosion during fighting, between forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad and rebels, near the Quneitra border crossing on August 31, 2014.
Credit: AFP/Menahem Kahana
And then there is the issue of ISIS (the “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria), which in its determination and viciousness, makes the threat of Hamas pale considerably.
Please see this video of a news program on the issue by CBN (with thanks to Dov Shmuel Freedman for posting this on his FB page.):
If can watch this with equanimity, you just do not get it. Every single American ought to be terrified at this point, for ISIS is aiming for the United States, which is very vulnerable. This is because the southern border of the US is porous and will permit the infiltration of ISIS terrorists, and because there are reported to be at least 100 people with US citizenship fighting with ISIS, who – thoroughly indoctrinated – may then return to America to generate terrorism.
With this all, Obama does not have a plan. Obama does not have a plan.
CBN is a Christian station. Their broadcasters have a vision that is clear – a vision that mainstream liberal media lack. They end their program with prayer – and it is prayer that my Christian readers will embrace. For my Jewish readers, I heartily endorse prayer, as well, of a Jewish nature.
Clare M. Lopez, Vice President for Research and Analysis at the Center for Security Policy and a former CIA agent, is an entirely reputable analyst with a strong background in issues of terrorism.
I have had direct communication with her, and I respect her greatly – as it turns out, not just for her knowledge but her courage in speaking truth (emphasis to her quotes added):
Just days ago, she cautioned against a strong US response to ISIS before the US has an overall strategy in place. “Any military action would be further complicated…if it were not clear which side the U.S. is on, either in the short term or in the overall war on terror.
“In any case, and for whatever motivations, there is no doubt this administration switched sides in what used to be called the Global War on Terror.”
Lopez believes Obama has essentially the same goals in the Mideast as the late Osama bin Laden: “to remove American power and influence, including military forces, from Islamic lands.”
Reports the Examiner:
According to a report by the Center for Security Policy, Mohamed Elibiary, a senior member of the Department of Homeland Security Advisory Council, supports brokering a US partnership with the Muslim Brotherhood. “Two months ago, a firestorm erupted online after Elibiary tweeted that a ‘Caliphate’ is inevitable and compared it to the European Union.”
(With thanks to Andrew B.)
Is it too late to save America? I pray not. But in the end, only Americans can answer this question.
Coming full circle, I suspect that the state of affairs in the American administration, as we’re seeing it, provides clues as to what Netanyahu likely must cope with. This is with regard to what Obama might stoop to in making threats. But it is also an indicator of how very alone Israel stands: America does not have our back at all but quite the contrary.