Saturday, July 26, 2014

Israel Fuming At Kerry For "Capitulating" To Hamas

Israel Said Fuming At Kerry For 'Capitulating' To Hamas Demands; IDF Toll Rises To 40

The Times of Israel is liveblogging events as they unfold through Saturday, the 19th day of Operation Protective Edge. Israel’s government on Friday unanimously rejected a ceasefire offer advanced by US Secretary of State John Kerry, with sources saying it was too tilted towards Hamas. However, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accepted a 12-hour truce from 8 a.m. Saturday, and ministers later extended it to midnight. West Bank violence escalated Friday, with six Palestinians reported killed in riots. With the Gaza death toll said to reach 1,000, Israeli military sources noted that several hundred Hamas gunmen are among those killed. The IDF death toll rose to 40 by Saturday evening as it was announced that five more soldiers were killed in Gaza overnight and on Saturday.

Hamas spokesperson says no ceasefire extension

Hamas spokesperson in Gaza Sami Abu Zuhri is quoted by Israel Radio’s Gal Berger saying that the Palestinian group has made no agreement to extend the ceasefire, which expired at 8 p.m., by four more hours to midnight.
The report comes out after a second rocket barrage is fired at southern Israel since the 8 p.m. ceasefire elapsed.

Israeli government sources on Saturday night accused US Secretary of State John Kerry of “completely capitulating” to the demands of Hamas and its champion Qatar in drafting the Gaza war ceasefire proposal that Israeli ministers unanimously rejected on Friday.

The unnamed sources, quoted by Israel’s Channel 2 TV, said Kerry “dug a tunnel under the Egyptian ceasefire proposal” — which Israel accepted and Hamas rejected last week — and presented the Israeli government with a text that accepted “most of the demands” raised by Hamas, the Islamist terror group that rules the Strip.

To the “horror” of the Israeli ministers, the Kerry proposal accepted Hamas’s demands for the opening of border crossings into Gaza — where Israel and Egypt fear the import of weaponry; the construction of a seaport; and the creation of a post-conflict funding channel for Hamas from Qatar and other countries, according to the sources. The proposal, meanwhile, did not even provide for Israel to continue demolishing the Hamas network of “terror tunnels” dug under the Israeli border.

Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman, in a TV interview just before the Saturday night cabinet meeting, said Israel needed to continue its ground offensive in Gaza until it was confident that what the IDF had achieved “can prevent a fourth round” of conflict with Hamas and guarantee the safety of the people of Israel. “We have to be sure, the day after a ceasefire, that Hamas cannot restart digging tunnels” and amassing better, more dangerous missiles. “If we haven’t achieved that…,” he tailed off.
Israel was also fuming Saturday over the tactics followed by Secretary Kerry since Friday night in his ceasefire quest.
Kerry flew to Paris and held talks Saturday without representatives of Israel, the Palestinian Authority or Egypt, but with Qatar and Turkey, which Israel’s Communications Minister Gilad Erdan said showed “we’re a long way from a political solution.”
Privately, Israeli sources signaled deep dismay that Kerry engaged in the talks in Paris with representatives of Turkey, whose leadership is openly hostile to Israel, and Qatar, whose leadership is seen by Israel to be representing Hamas’s interests. Egypt was also understood to be deeply dissatisfied with Kerry’s tactics.

Hamas is, of course, claiming that it is “winning” in the current conflict with Israel. Unfortunately, not all of its claims can be easily shrugged off, thanks to its ruthlessness and its cynical abuse of the Palestinian people, and in no small part thanks to the international community’s willful blindness and worse. Ultimately, though, what Hamas has to say matters far less than what Israel achieves in this resort to force. And most Israelis seem well aware of that.

Hamas is “winning,” for a start, because it doesn’t care who it kills in support of its declared goal of destroying Israel. It especially likes to kill Israelis, but it has no compunction in killing Palestinians too. It killed many Palestinians when seizing power in Gaza from Mahmoud Abbas’s Palestinian Authority in 2007. And it has cynically got hundreds of Gazans killed in this conflict, by storing its rockets in Gaza schools, firing from inside hospitals, building ammunition stores, rocket launchers and command centers in the heart of residential neighborhoods.

Hamas is “winning,” too, because while Israeli military sources say hundreds of Hamas gunmen have been killed, large numbers more have not. Hamas is also still firing rockets deep into Israel. It’s able to do so because many of its launchers are placed far deeper inside the Gaza Strip than IDF troops have thus far ventured. As with Hezbollah, which was still firing into Israel at the end of the month-long Second Lebanon War in 2006, this is considered a great success — little Hamas besieging the loathed Israel — even though Iron Dome has thwarted almost all of the 2,000-plus rockets that were headed into residential areas. Hamas will doubtless be looking to rectify that “failure” when the fighting ends.

Hamas is giddy with success, too, because it has killed, at time of writing, 40 soldiers. It’s all too easy for Hamas gunmen to kill the incoming troops when the Israelis are trying not to kill the civilians around them, and when Hamas has prepared for this moment for years — when it has booby-trapped buildings, deployed snipers, primed teenagers with suicide-bomber belts, planted bombs, and, most relevantly, when it knows where the soldiers are headed: to the tunnel openings Hamas has dug and in which its gunmen are hiding. That the IDF death toll is not much higher is evidence of the Israeli army’s abilities. But any and every Israeli fatality is a victory for Hamas.

And yet, ultimately, Hamas’s “victory” claims are not the key issue here. What matters is that Israel emerges from this conflict into the “sustained calm” that its leadership and armed forces are working for.
En route to that necessary result, Israelis are atypically united; people believe that this a vital and justified resort to force — a war “for the home,” as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defined it.

Israelis generally believe the government is stewarding the conflict competently. A snap poll on Channel 10 gave Netanyahu an 82% favorability rating on Thursday — unprecedentedly high figures, though understandable in times of war, with so many soldiers dead. The government, for now, is demonstrating unity too; the entire security cabinet rejected the Kerry ceasefire proposal on Friday — Tzipi Livni, Yair Lapid, et al. Of course, that also underlines how outrageous the ministers considered that proposal to be.

Israelis are widely supportive of the IDF. They are also broadly confident that the IDF is indeed trying to minimize Gaza civilian casualties.
Israelis are proving highly resilient despite the endless rocket attacks, and well-disciplined in following the steps recommended to reduce the likelihood that they’ll be hit by either rockets or falling shrapnel after Iron Dome interceptions.

Motivation levels in the IDF itself are very high. Call-up orders to reserve units are being overwhelmingly answered. Reservists who have not been called are seeking ways to serve. There are numerous accounts of soldiers who recently finished their three years in the standing army insisting on being allowed to return to their units.

For all the criticisms abroad, there’s a sense of vindication. Israel was trashed internationally after naval commandos, under attack by thugs with iron bars and clubs, killed nine people aboard the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara when it sought to breach the naval blockade of Gaza in 2010. Hamas is demanding the “lifting of the siege” of Gaza. But Israelis recognize more clearly than ever how much more danger they would now be in were it not for that blockade, which at least partially reduced the quantity and quality of weaponry that Hamas is able to muster against Israel.

Israelis are casting their eyes anxiously now to the north, wondering if Hezbollah, which served as a role model for Hamas in assembling a rocket-assault capability, has also been tunneling energetically under the northern border. On this issue, too, there is sure to be considerable focus once this round of conflict is over. For now, though, the warning alarms are certainly sounding. Far better now than later.

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