Friday, November 23, 2012
I know that many who will be receiving this are celebrating Thanksgiving today and I do not wish to impose unduly on that celebration. And yet... and yet...
I entitled this posting "grim," because this is very much the mood of the nation here. From the right and from the left there is criticism of the ceasefire agreement concluded yesterday. Somewhere in this country there must be someone who thinks this was a good move, but I have yet to encounter that person. Unless there is a huge shift in the situation, it seems that Netanyahu and his Likud party may suffer in the coming election for what has happened.
After all the talk of Cast Lead -- the last operation inside of Gaza -- having been terminated too soon, the sense is that this is precisely what happened again here. Yes, we did damage to Hamas -- took out some military leaders and many rockets and missiles as well as infrastructure. But in the end there was no definitive resolution.
As I understand it, while many, if not most, long range missiles and rockets were destroyed, Hamas is still in possession of some 6,000 medium range rockets.
Far more seriously, author Mike Evans, writing in the JPost today says:
"Also of great concern to the Israelis is a report that a freighter is enroute from Bandar Abbas [Iran] to Gaza with a payload of 220 short-range and 50 Fajr 5 missiles with larger warheads and greater range than those Hamas possessed at the beginning of Operation Pillar of Defense.
"The cargo on the freighter would replace the dwindling stockpile of missiles fired into Israel since November 10. To cover its tracks, the ship has changed names and ownership several times since its launch....
On the South Pacific Island of Tuvala, its name was changed to the Cargo Star and hoisted a Tuvalu flag.
"According to sources, four Sudanese cargo ships departed the Port of Sudan recently for an assignation with the Cargo Star. The missiles would then be transferred to the other vessels at sea. It is believed that the ships will either put into port in Sudan or rendezvous with a fleet of Egyptian fishing boats. From there, the arms would be transported to Egypt, and then to Gaza by way of the tunnel system between the two countries. While at sea, the Cargo Star has been shadowed by two Iranian warships."
Evans' point in writing this piece is reflected in its title: "It's About Tehran, not Gaza." And the fact that the world is ignoring this is part of what's very wrong with the current situation.
Hamas attacked Israel at the behest of Iran. Israel is at the front line in the battle with Iran. We are fighting the fight on behalf of the Western world, which gladly ties our hands as we do so.
Of course, there's a great deal more wrong with the situation, as well. Galling, actually:
There is lip service to Israel's right to self defense, but in the end there was a sort of equity established between Israel and Hamas in the way the ceasefire agreement was worded. It's not a question of eliminating a terror entity and all that it represents -- a terror entity that challenges the only democracy in the Middle East. It's, rather, a situation in which both, equally, have to stop attacks against the other. And both have the same option to complain to Egypt about infractions of the other.
No mention of the smuggling of weapons, which have absolutely no purpose other than eventual attacks on Israel.
And no recourse, within the agreement, for Israel to defend herself if there are (which there certainly will be) Hamas violations. Although, as it is worded, smuggling is NOT a violation.
This is the first time that there has been a written ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas. Previously, it was simply a matter of informal quiet -- when they stopped, we stopped. The idea then was to let them know that if they started again, we would as well.
We haven't always followed through on this option when we should have. But it WAS an option. We had sovereignty, in terms of right to act. Now, with this agreement, as least on paper, we no longer have that option. If we respond to a violation -- launching of rockets or the attempt to do so -- with our own attack, then we have violated the agreement.
Of course, ultimately, that's precisely what we will have to do.
Last night on his FaceBook page, Netanyahu put this up: "...it may be necessary for us to conduct a major and harsh military campaign [against Hamas]." And if it became necessary, he said, Israel would follow through.
It may become necessary?
Today I picked up some news comments that bewildered and unsettled me: If there is quiet for a while, the reports indicated, then there will be negotiations to work out further details. This is apparently a reference to item (d) in the agreement, which reads: "Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed."
Uh oh! Have we left ourselves open to further pressure and demands?
It's very clear that Hamas wants Israel to abandon or loosen the sea blockade on Gaza.
In line with this, it's possible that there will be talk about Egypt working to stop the smuggling. I can only reiterate yet again that this should not be taken seriously -- for Egypt will not take it seriously. There will be some announcements, some photo-ops, and that will be the end of it.
One way that Egypt has handled this issue in the past is by denying that there is any smuggling. You might want to see some examples of this, here: http://imra.org.il/story.php3?id=59160
What is more, statements -- in at least one instance made privately -- have come from a key member of the government that makes it clear that there is no genuine government expectation that the smuggling of rockets and missiles will be stopped.
Nor do I, from what I've heard, have any serious expectation that the government will respond to the presence of new rockets in Gaza, as long as they are not being launched.
Item (c) of the agreement, which talks about opening of passages, also includes this phrase: "and refraining from restricting residents free movement, and targeting residents in border areas." Haggai Huberman, of Arutz Sheva points out today that Israel had been maintaining a security strip of up to 300 meters in width inside Gaza along the border -- preventing Gazans from freely moving in that area so as to prevent harm to IDF soldiers on the other side of the border.
This practice has now been relinquished.
We may have some answers as to why Prime Minister Netanyahu made the decision he did regarding the ground invasion of Gaza:
According to Channel 2 today, as reported by Arutz Sheva, "Mossad Head Tamir Pardo, who went to Cairo as Israel's representative in the contacts that preceded the ceasefire, was told in messages from Cairo and from Washington that the peaceful relations between Israel, Jordan and Egypt were at risk [if there were to be a ground invasion]."
Absorb the full import of this, please. It's not just that Egypt made the threat, it's that Washington also carried it.
Subsequently, Obama, via Clinton, leaned on Morsi to play the role of negotiator and mediator -- to assume a part in the ceasefire process. This was accomplished, almost certainly, according to my very best information, because of Morsi's need for the billions he seeks from Obama. And after Morsi agreed, both Obama and Clinton praised him as being a key figure in the area, as a new time begins, blah blah blah.
We hear that Obama defended Israel's right to defend herself. At any rate, gave lip service to this. But if he were truly concerned with Israel's security, he would have told Morsi that if he attempted to cancel Egypt's peace treaty with Israel, there would be no money. That is, he could have used the promise of money as the carrot to help Israel rather than simply using it to get Morsi on board in a ceasefire process that actually inhibited Israel.
Obama, who played along, is just as responsible as Morsi.
Truly, I hope everyone reading this absorbs the enormous import of what we're seeing here. And I hope that every American who sees this is furious, and understands precisely who the president of the US is.
Absorb the import, please, of Obama selecting as the man to arbitrate -- when there are violations of the ceasefire agreement by Hamas -- someone who has already threatened Israel with possible war. It's so incredible, it's difficult to absorb. But absorb it we all must.
I do note here that while Morsi's threat may have caused Netanyahu to blink with regard to a ground operation, that still doesn't explain why he signed on to the ceasefire agreement. There is still more to the story, I am certain.
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution.
If it is reproduced and emphasis is added, the fact that it has been added must be noted.