Not the most dignified of titles, but one that best captures my mood – and the mood, I will note, of a whole lot of other people here in Israel.
This will be a short posting, very directly to the point.
When I wrote yesterday about the rocket attacks from Gaza, and how we were responding, I was buoyed with a sense that finally, finally we were getting it right by getting tougher. I was delighted by the fact that we had begun targeted assassinations again, and had managed to take out the man who handled huge infusions of Iranian money brought into Gaza to fund terrorism.
If I lent the impression then, my friends, that our battle would go on for some days, with determination, that was because this was the message being put out. Our prime minister, talking tough, spoke about his orders to the IDF to hit hard, and suggested that it might not be over by Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) on Thursday.
Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan (Likud) said it straight in a Tweet:
“The Independence Day events and Eurovision should not be a consideration [in] the intensity of the blow that the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip must absorb….Real independence is to fight back forcefully and allow the children of Israel and all of us to sleep peacefully at night.”
Last night, a statement had come from our government indicating that we would not even start to discuss terms for a ceasefire until launching of rockets had stopped.
That’s how it should be. THEY should have to blink first, ceasing their aggression.
So, when I saw late in the evening that Hamas said they would stop launching rockets if we stopped attacking, putting the onus on Israel, I said, “Ha!”
When I then read that Egypt and the UN were laboring hard to hammer together a ceasefire, I saw it as no more than par for the course. I read that Hamas had agreed to its terms, but that Israel had yet to respond, and still – still! – I retained confidence that Israel would not agree so fast.
Well, I was wrong.
At midnight, according to reports, a ceasefire was supposed to begin, but there were still rockets and bombing.
By morning, all was quiet, and had been since about 4 AM. All reports about the fact that there was a ceasefire came from Arab sources. From our government there was only silence.
Maybe, I thought very briefly, maybe there really was no ceasefire. But then security measures in the South were lifted, and that was a sure sign that there indeed was. (I am referring to an informal short-term agreement.)
What I am seeing is that Binyamin Netanyahu caved. Hamas read him right with the supposition that he would not want active hostilities during Yom Ha’atzmaut and, perhaps even worse, during the Eurovision activities. They played him, and in the end, from what I am reading, they are about to get the money from Qatar that they had been seeking.
What did Israel get, except for a temporary cessation in rocket launchings? If there is anything, we are not being told.
Finally Netanyahu made a statement, which revealed nothing about our current situation or the terms of the ceasefire, and did not, in my opinion remotely make the situation any more palatable:
“Over the past two days, we have hit Hamas and Islamic Jihad with great force, attacking over 350 targets and terrorist leaders and activists, and destroying terrorist infrastructure.
“The campaign is not over and requires patience and judgment. We are preparing to continue.” (Emphasis added)
We don’t need him to tell us that the campaign is not over. And I have not a clue as to what it means, that “we are preparing to continue.” What? Preparing to bomb them again if they launch rockets again?
We certainly have not achieved any additional deterrence, and there is no way to know how soon they’ll start bombing again. The guess is that it won’t take long. I am reading that the IDF estimates perhaps weeks.
In fact, Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri, declared: “Our message is that this round is over, but the conflict will not end until we regain our rights.”
We don’t know what the IDF will do if there is violence at the fence, or if inflammatory balloons are launched. How much will we look the way before we “continue”?
We may not have to wait very long for an answer, for this evening, already, there was a report of two fires started in the Eshkol Council by inflammatory balloons.
In the end, Islamic Jihad signed off on the ceasefire with Hamas, or there would not be a ceasefire. But this group was the last holdout, and I hasten to point out is more virulently aggressive than Hamas. IJ takes orders from Iran (which is orchestrating this unrest), and may be the faction that stirs things up once again.
What I have observed is that Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz (Likud), who is more centrist than many in Likud and a confidant of Netanyahu, seems to be speaking for the prime minister. After Erdan said that Yom Ha’atzmaut and Eurovision should not be a consideration, he said, well, if we really had to continue, we could, but of course it is a consideration.
And then, this morning, Steinitz argued “to get rid of Hamas, we have to conquer Gaza…” This, he said, was “a possible step, but will enact a very heavy price.”
The argument he seems to be making is that we did all that was possible short of conquering Gaza. But this, in my opinion, is a fallacious argument: there is a good deal more we might have done without conquering Gaza.
A number of critics agree with this take: that more could have/should have been done. Gideon Sa’ar(Likud) was highly critical of the situation, which left us with no gain, as was Bezalel Smotrich (Union of the Right), who spoke about hurting Hamas badly.
The assessment of commentator Avi Issacharoff is that (emphasis added): “The latest flare-up and truce were born of Jerusalem’s past capitulation to extortion by the rulers of the Strip…
“The morning after the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas looks exactly like the morning before it began. It’s as if nothing had happened…
“…as usual, Israel and Hamas find themselves in a shaky truce without the situation having changed in the slightest…
“Neither side has any substantive achievement to boast of, nor have they made a move that has altered the status quo…
“Ultimately, both sides are hostages to Israel’s decision six months ago to approve the transfer of Qatari money to pay the salaries of Hamas employees.
“That money was interpreted in Gaza in only one way — an Israeli surrender to Hamas’s extortion.
“It is clear that whoever on the Israeli side made the deal with Hamas — whether they were from the Mossad or the Prime Minister’s Office — did not understand this.
“What appeared to those on the Israeli side as an opportunity to cut a deal with Hamas was interpreted on the other side as sign of a weakness that could be exploited.
“Thus, when the Qatari money was delayed last weekend, not due to any fault of Israel, Hamas immediately triggered a broader conflict than usual, thinking and believing that what had worked six months ago would work again this time.
“And it seems that Hamas was right.”
The only way out of this is to refuse to be exploited again, and to recognize once and for all time that concessions do not work with the Arabs. Instead, what Netanyahu did was reinforce the pattern for short term gain.
If there is one possible redeeming factor, it is that Netanyahu this evening announced that:
“In the past two days we have renewed the policy of eliminating senior terrorists, killing dozens of terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad…
“We have changed the rules of the game, and Hamas understands this very well.”
This is good, as it sets terrorist leaders off balance (although they are adept at hiding).
But I have a nagging question raised by our assassination this week of Hamed Ahmed Abed Khudari, the man responsible for bringing Iranian funds into Gaza. We obviously knew about him. Why did we not take him out sooner?
Netanyahu also announced at the same time that, as this was not over, he was leaving the armored and artillery forces in place around Gaza.
And it feels to me as if this whole thing has been a huge charade: Hamas decided they had to hit Israel before Yom Ha’atzmaut in order to secure Qatari money promptly. Since they got the money, they agreed to give Israel quiet for Yom Ha’atzmaut and Eurovision, giving Netanyahu a moment of ease, but that all bets would be off after that. It would be: “Back to your places, everyone!”
This is “preparing to continue.”
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by independent journalist Arlene Kushner. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.