Thursday, November 22, 2012

The Aftermath And Beyond

Israeli leaders seem to know what the future holds:

Israel may be forced to fight Hamas again, possibly in the near future, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday morning.

But despite the tenuous nature of the ceasefire with the rulers of the Gaza Strip, he said, Israel had obtained its goals in Operation Pillar of Defense.
In an interview with Israel Radio — his first since Israel and Hamas agreed to ceasefire terms Wednesday, after eight days of fighting — Barak said that the military option of conquering the Gaza Strip was on the table throughout the operation. But removing Hamas from power, he said, would create a situation where “we’ll be forced to stay [in Gaza] for years.”

Opposition leader and former military chief of staff Shaul Mofaz of the Kadima party criticized the government for the agreement, which he said did not guarantee the safety of Israeli citizens and did not mark the defeat of Hamas.
The agreement was not a ceasefire but a “postponement of fire,” he said.

PM: We're Ready To Take A Harsher Stance If Truce Fails

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel is prepared to act if Hamas breaks the Egypt-mediated truce.
"The operation's goals were met," Netanyahu said. "I know there are citizens that expect a harsher stand in Gaza - and we are prepared to make one. We choose when to act, against who to act and how to act," Netanyahu added.

"Right now we're giving the cease-fire a chance," the prime minister said.
Senior IDF officials on Thursday said they believe Hamas and Islamic Jihad are intending to implement the cease-fire with Israel and prevent other terror factions from firing into Israel, but Defense Minister Ehud Barak clarified that the truce was merely an understanding and not an actual agreement.

Terrorist factions are due to hold damage evaluations across Gaza and discover the considerable damage incurred to them during the week-long operation to repress rocket fire on southern Israel, a senior defense source said.
"There is no agreement. I am holding the paper in my hands," Barak told Israel Radio. Quiet will be met by quiet, he explained.

The IDF believes that contrary to the triumphalist public stance of Hamas, the Gaza regime is privately shocked by the level of damage it sustained.
Barak clarified that the cease-fire was not an agreement with Hamas but rather a document of understandings between Israel and Egypt, and between Egypt and Hamas. A document detailing the understandings was published by Hamas in order to boast its achievements, he said.

Netanyahu: Ground Campaign Might Be Necessary After All

On Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu announced that Israel was accepting the U.S.-Egypt brokered cease-fire with Hamas, saying that it would “provide an opportunity for the situation to stabilize and become calmer.” But on his Facebook pageWednesday night, Netanyahu wrote that despite the cease-fire, “it may be necessary for us to conduct a major and harsh military campaign” againstHamas – and if such a campaign would become necessary, Israel would follow through.
Netanyahu was responding to thousands of Facebook commenters who slammed him, along with Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, for failing to fully rout Hamas and engage in a ground campaign to destroy the terror group for once and for all. Netanyahu wrote that he understood the commenters' feelings, but that Israel needed to “take this opportunity to achieve a long-term cease-fire.

Long-Term Success Or Blip In The Chart Of The Conflict?

The absence of a ground operation speaks to the vulnerabilities that both sides prefer to conceal. Israel, though it states publicly that it has the right to defend itself, knows that Hamas rockets cannot be silenced without a prolonged house-to-house ground offensive, which could claim thousands of lives and erode further Israel’s public standing in the world.
Moreover, as King Abdullah of Jordan reportedly made clear Tuesday afternoon to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, such an operation could threaten the stability of the entire region — that was a nice way of the king saying that Jordanian Hamas members could topple the Hashemite throne, leaving Israel’s eastern border open to Islamist regimes and chaos all the way through to India.
Iran and its proxy Hezbollah sat remarkably still during the days of warfare between Israel and Gaza. But surely the silence from Tehran and the Dahieh is not to be interpreted as a lack of concentration. Quds Force leaders will chart where the rockets fell, how Israelis responded, and which salvos proved most difficult for Iron Dome to handle. They will readjust their smuggling routes as necessary and make every attempt to keep Hamas — in essence, the first Sunni Islamist revolutionaries of the Arab Spring — within its Shiite sphere of influence.

Finally, as relates to the conflict with Hamas, the real test will be not so much in the immediately disputed provisions of the agreement, but in the reality that ensues. The former commander of the IDF’s operational branch within the General Staff, Maj.-Gen. Israel Ziv, told Israel Radio earlier this week that Israel had reestablished its deterrence, damaged the command structure of the military wing of Hamas, hindered the organization’s ability to manufacture and fire rockets, and damaged the image that it has tried to cultivate as a mainstream Sunni government rather than a destabilizing terror network. “But the only strategic element,” he said, “is the future” — Hamas’s ability to smuggle Iranian weapons into the Gaza Strip.
If, in several months, the flow of weapons resumes its pace, then lsrael’s accomplishments will be quickly forgotten and all too swiftly challenged.

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