Tuesday, August 5, 2014

What Comes Next?

With Gaza War Ostensibly Over, Israelis Ask What's Next?

On the ninth of the month of Av, Jews traditionally mourn the destruction of two Temples, among a laundry list of other calamities that befell the Jewish people on this day throughout the ages.

On this Tuesday, the ninth of Av in the Hebrew calendar, many Israeli Jews, especially those leaning to the right, added Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to agree to a 72-hour ceasefire with Hamas to that long tally.

Once more, many wailed, Israel is caving to international pressure, holding its fire and withdrawing its forces from Gaza without having “finished the job.” The government again wasted an opportunity to root out terrorism, once and for all, from the Hamas-ruled Strip, they lament.

“It’s a real disgrace that we’re withdrawing; we gained nothing but dead soldiers,” an IDF reservist told Ynet Monday as his battalion was withdrawing from Gaza.
“If they let us go and pull out, this will all be for nothing,” said another soldier. “We’ll go back for another war under a different name; it’s only the names that change.”
A Channel 2 poll published Tuesday showed that 42 percent thought Israel had won the war, versus 44% who said it had lost.
Those sentiments are likely to be shared not only by right-wing politicians, who advocated for a full-scale ground invasion and the reoccupation of Gaza, but also by the residents of the South. Thirty-two cross-border terror tunnels have been destroyed, but the prevailing feeling is that Hamas will use the next days, weeks and months of quiet to rearm and prepare for the next round of violence if it can.
“Best case scenario: Time-out!” tweeted Channel 2’s chief foreign editor Arad Nir on Tuesday morning, as the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire went into effect.
The architects of Operation Protective Edge can cite several significant accomplishments, beyond the mere cessation of rocket attacks: Hamas’s arsenal of rockets was depleted; and the 32 tunnels — which Hamas planned to use for deadly terror attacks against Israeli civilians — were destroyed. Eleven soldiers were killed by Hamas gunmen rushing to use the tunnels before the IDF found and demolished them.

And yet, Netanyahu will have to work hard to explain why this month-long war, during which 64 IDF soldiers and three Israeli civilians were killed, was a success. The operation’s official objectives may turn out to be met – restoring quiet to the South, and dealing a harsh blow to Hamas’s terror infrastructure. But the prime minister knows that he needs to deliver more than that.

Instead of having the army remove Hamas from power, Netanyahu now hopes that the international community — including the moderate Arab world — will help achieve a different goal, through diplomatic means: the demilitarization of Gaza.

“US and European support of the need to demilitarize the terrorist organizations is an important achievement for the State of Israel,” the prime minister said Saturday. “It will strengthen our demand to link the rehabilitation and development of the Gaza Strip with its demilitarization of rockets, tunnels, etc.”

More important than Western support for the desired disarmament of Hamas, however, is that of key Arab players in the region – support that Israel does have, according to Netanyahu.
A “unique link” has been forged with Arab states since the war started, he said. “This, as well, is a very important asset for the State of Israel. With the cessation of the fighting and the conclusion of the campaign, this will open new possibilities for us.”
This is seen as a reference not only to Egypt and the Palestinian Authority, but also to states such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that see radical Islamism as an existential threat.

“It’s very clear that he’s talking about some kind of clandestine arrangement involving coordination with Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the UAE,” said Joshua Teitelbaum, a senior research associate at Bar-Ilan University’s Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. Netanyahu probably seeks to install a mechanism to rehabilitate the utterly devastated Gaza Strip with Saudi funds and have the Egyptians monitor the process to make sure Hamas doesn’t abuse the aid to rearm, added Teitelbaum, whose research focuses on Persian Gulf countries and political and social development in the Arab world.

Hamas will certainly not volunteer to give up its machine guns and their rockets. “To ask Hamas to demilitarize Gaza is like asking a priest to convert to Judaism,” Amos Yadlin, a former head of Military Intelligence and currently the director of the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University, quipped wryly last week.
Netanyahu has yet to explain how, exactly, the disarmament of Gaza terrorists is supposed to work. Until he does, and until progress is made on seeing the Strip weapon-free, many Israelis, and many worldwide, will be left wondering.

Israel and a Palestinian delegation to talks in Cairo, including Hamas, were due to start observing a 72-hour ceasefire in the Gaza Strip starting Tuesday, Aug. 5, at 8 a.m., to be followed by negotiations under Egyptian aegis for a long-term cessation of hostilities.

This decision flies in the face of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s solemn pledge 48 hours earlier to continue Operation Defensive Edge until Hamas and its terrorist allies stopped firing rockets (a massive barrage was fired up to five minutes to eight).

But already then, the prime minister had quietly conceded to the demands of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi and US Foreign Secretary John Kerry to withdraw IDF contingents from the Gaza Strip. This was in obedience to Hamas’ precondition for talks, following which Israeli envoys would present themselves in Cairo for indirect negotiations on a long-term accommodation with Hamas through Egyptian intermediaries.

The slogan designed for the goal of these talks was now: “Rehabilitation in exchange for demilitarization.”

The IDF would build a new security fence enclosing Gaza like the barrier along the Egyptian border and instal a home guard system backed by electronic sensors and other gadgets in all their communities.

Doubters, who wondered how a fence would stop rockets and the underground terror tunnels burrowed surreptitiously under their homes, were not heeded. 

A former National Security Adviser Gen (res) Giora Eiland, summed up the month-long Israeli military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip as a draw between the two adversaries, with neither side the winner. This judgment, shared by many military experts contradicted the way the operation’s outcome is presented by the prime minister and defense minister who directed it. They describe Hamas as reeling from the heavy damage the IDF wrought to its military machine and weakened enough to be finished off at the negotiating table in Cairo.

The damage was undoubtedly heavy, but still Hamas has come out of the Israeli offensive standing on its feet, an outcome that will have profound political and security ramifications upon and beyond the forthcoming Cairo negotiations.

The reality facing Israel’s war planners at home is also grim: For the first time, the country comes out of a major conflict with a domestic refugee problem.  Longtime inhabitants of the region around the Gazan border who have lost homes, property or livelihood have nothing to return to after the ceasefire.
There are no official figures for Israel’s internal refugee problem, but it is believed that up to half of the quarter of a million people inhabiting 57 communities, many of them kibbutzim and private farms, who fled during the hostilities, may refuse to return.

While many endured 13 years of on-and-off rocket fire, they are consumed by the dread of Hamas terrorists jumping out of tunnels in their fields, classrooms or kitchens.

They point to negative side of the IDF official statement: “We have destroyed all the tunnels we know about” as being far from an ironclad guarantee to have obliterated that menace. And the rockets never let up for a single day in the month-long IDF operation - 3,300 in all.

Israel’s first ghost villages are clearly visible to the enemy and no doubt chalked up on the credit side of the Hamas war ledger.

Haim Yelin, head of the Eshkol District Council said Monday that 75 percent of the frontline population has moved north. He said he believes the assurances he received from Netanyahu and Ya’alon that the IDF has solved the tunnel threat and would provide the communities with protection against new tunnels. But he said, people are no longer willing to live under the threat of terrorist rocket fire, which they don’t believe has been finally curbed.
This credibility gap is part of the general unease over the outcome of this long-delayed counter-terror operation. It started out with 86 percent of the population canvassed holding high hopes of curing the festering terrorist woe emanting from the Gaza Strip. But now, Israel’s leaders, no less than Hamas, face a rehabilitation challenge – not just the reconstruction of damaged businesses, farms and buildings, but also of faith in government.

Without question, Israel failed to reach the lofty objective of Gaza’s disarmament, and no one expects Hamas to voluntarily throw down its arms.
The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says 900 Hamas and allied terrorists were killed, 32 terror tunnels were found and destroyed, and Gaza’s arsenal of missiles was significantly reduced over the past month of fighting.
Nevertheless, a great many Israelis, particularly those who live in the vicinity of Gaza, say they feel no more secure than they did at the start of Operation Protective Edge.
“They say when the war is over we can return home,” Salait Feter told Israel’s Ynet news portal. “But I can’t say that I feel we’re returning to a safe place. It’s not a safe place to raise my children.”
“It’s not right to start an operation and then suddenly fold, while telling us everything is now OK,” Feter continued. “What about the rest of the tunnels? What about the regular rocket attacks?”
“They keep saying the mission against the tunnels is almost complete, but we know that’s not true,” added Inbal Hamoui. “We don’t want to return to a situation where they tell us the problem is taken care of, only to have Hamas prove them wrong.”
Even if the IDF did manage to severely impede the terrorists’ ability to attack Israelis for the time being, there is little doubt that as soon as the war is officially over, Hamas will immediately return to digging terror tunnels and building missiles.

Pulling out of Gaza prematurely had, according to Landau, sent a “destructive message regarding Israeli deterrence.”
Hamas agreed.
“The destruction of Israeli deterrence” was one of the primary outcomes of the war, declared Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri. “The Palestinian people now have confidence in their ability to stand firm and fight.”

But Netanyahu, under tremendous international pressure to stop warring against the Gaza terrorist infrastructure, stood by his decision to withdraw all Israeli ground forces from the coastal enclave ahead of the current ceasefire.
“We did everything to make the most of it,” Netanyahu told reporters, acknowledging that there was no way to guarantee all the terror tunnels had been destroyed. “This is a complicated mission done by heroic soldiers under harsh fighting conditions.”

Ceasefires, truces and bilateral agreements will never bring the peace most people in the Middle East desire. Only by following the biblical model, including the rebuilding of the Third Temple in Jerusalem, can genuine peace be achieved, argues an Israeli organization dedicated to that goal.

“Every prophet of Israel, without exception, prophesied that the Temple would be rebuilt, ushering a new era of universal harmony and peace,” wrote the Temple Institute as an intro to its new crowdfunding campaign at Indiegogo.

The Temple Institute has already spent years recreating 60 of the vessels and implements necessary for Temple worship, per specifications contained in the Bible.

Now, the group is embarking on “one of its most ambitious projects yet: completing architectural plans for the actual construction” of the Third Temple, an effort that will require “fusing ancient texts and modern technology.”
Toward this goal, the Temple Institute is looking to raise $100,000 in the next two months.
During a heated session of the Knesset’s Interior Committee last month, an outspoken and extremist Arab MK insisted that the Jews had no right to the Temple Mount and the eastern half of Jerusalem, to which a Jewish MK replied:
“On the Temple Mount our temple will be built in our time.”


Unknown said...

ISIS in Lebanon may become a threat soon to Israel

Scott said...

Agree....It hasn't materialized in the North, which is where the action is IMO (Isaiah 17)...Thats why I've been watching what happens in the north this whole episode. We'll see what happens next.

Caver said...

Good points, but am suspecting a longer lull between the end of Gaza and the next real flair up.

Three major objectives of Iran (Hamas) was to
(1) Determine how to defeat the new Israel tank armor, Windjammer II. They failed miserably.
(2) Sneak in a few major hits on the prime targets...Jerusalem, Tel Avie, and Dimmona, the nuclear facility. They failed completely
(3) Determine the limitations and how to overcome or overwhelm Iron Dome. Again, they failed completely.

Is it just me, or does anyone else get a since of Divine intervention here? Am sure everyone saw the report of the inbound warhead that both Iron Dome anti missile missed and then the wind came up and blew the warhead into the sea before it landed.