This year especially, this time will help me regain my balance - after weeks of focusing on the war.
And so... I will be posting. But less frequently, and perhaps – after today – with shorter posts.
Now, as to that forecast. I use the term cloudy in two regards. First, the clouds block our vision. And then, they suggest storms advancing.
As most of you doubtlessly already know, an Israeli negotiating team is back in Cairo after Hamas agreed to yet another 72 hour ceasefire. Hamas leaders had refused to extend the last one because they weren’t happy with the way negotiations were going. And so, last Friday they began launching rockets again.
How wearisome, how straining. These rockets startled many in Israel, as people had just begun to relax and think in terms of “normal,” and quiet.
Hamas offered to continue to negotiate, but Israel made it very clear that we have a policy of not negotiating under fire, and our team was called home.
Then followed a touch-and-go situation, with Hamas reluctant to stop launching again and Egyptian mediators trying to bring about yet another ceasefire. Finally Hamas agreed: For another 72 hours. As is the Hamas norm, there was a barrage of launchings right before the ceasefire was to begin – they have to get in as much as they can. This is the last ceasefire, they said. If they are not happy with the results of negotiations in 72 hours, forget it. They will not only begin launching again, they will escalate their attacks.
The ceasefire was called for midnight last night, but the Israeli team was only sent back to Cairo this morning, after it seemed that the ceasefire was holding.
The team: Maj. Gen. (res) Amos Gilad, Director of the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Ministry of Defense; Shin Bet chief Yoram Cohen; Yitzhak Molcho, lawyer and close confident of Netanyahu; Maj.-Gen. Nimrod Sheffer, head of the IDF’s Planning Directorate; and Yoav Mordechai, Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories.
They will concentrate on security issues.
Israel wants Hamas disarmed: With rockets in its possession removed and the means for bringing in more rockets blocked.
Hamas wants to be fully open to the world, permanently and unconditionally: the blockade at sea must be lifted and all crossings into Gaza must be open. That’s just a start. They also want a seaport and an international airport.
These demands are mutually exclusive and the odds that they can be reconciled somehow within 72 hours are zero. The only way to see an extension of the current ceasefire would be if one or both parties were to significantly compromise or modify its demands (Heaven forbid that Israel should).
There are some very modest actions being taken – and proposals being made – in an effort to reconcile demands.
Egypt, which has kept the Rafah crossing into the Sinai tightly closed for some while now, opened it in recent days for wounded in Gaza and those with foreign passports. Rafah is a key element here – would be a key avenue for opening up Gaza.
Additionally, Netanyahu has been alluding for some time to the readiness of some EU countries to lend an assist here, and it turns out that he spoke with some solid reason. Last week, Britain, Germany and France presented Israel with a proposal for international supervision of the rehabilitation of Gaza that would prevent Hamas from re-arming.
It is, however, a long step from making such a proposal to providing Israel with reassurance that sufficient mechanisms would be in place and that the international community would persevere in its commitment. We’re talking about making sure that forbidden armaments do not make their way into Gaza at all, and that materials needed for reconstruction (yes, including concrete!) do not fall in the hands of Hamas.
Netanyahu has said, and it is certainly true, that the EU is more prepared to help now because of alarm about radical Islam (and more on this below).
But there is another proviso in the offer by the EU nations: They want to bring Mahmoud Abbas and the PA into the act, either with regard to manning the crossings or taking some control of Gaza in a more serious way. Obama is pushing for this as well. This is supposed to be a solution to the problem – and a segue into new “two state solution” negotiations!. But it is an absolute non-starter.
Consider the major stumbling blocks here:
 Abbas and his Fatah party are solidly in league with Hamas. They are sitting with Hamas officials, pumped for pro-Hamas Turkey and Qatar to serve mediator roles in negotiations, failed to criticize Hamas for breaking ceasefires, and so on. Israel should trust representatives of Fatah to guard Hamas? This would clearly be a case of assigning the fox to guard the henhouse.
 Abbas and Fatah – the Fatah-dominated PA – are weak and no match for Hamas. Hamas drove Fatah from Gaza in the first place and has failed to defeat Fatah in Judea and Samaria only because of an IDF presence. There is no way Abbas’s people are up to the job, even should they want to do it.
I see this entire scenario as totally absurd anyway, as I had mentioned the other day when I spoke about Abbas trying to ride two horses with one tuchis. Fatah and Hamas have a unity agreement that Fatah, and Abbas, have not disavowed. I allude above to “the Fatah-dominated PA” because in theory the PA now includes Hamas. Sort of. They identify as one when it’s convenient and separately when that suits.
Such is the insanity of world diplomacy that all of this is taken seriously.
As far as the crossings into Gaza from Israel are concerned, I anticipate that in due course they will be opened to commercial merchandise. Whatever authority is checking the crossings from the Gaza side, I cannot imagine a situation in which Israel would not monitor the flow of goods from our side.
Please be aware, Israel has been permitting large quantities of humanitarian goods into Gaza. (Israel does not pay for these goods, but does permit them to go in.) Hundreds of tons of supplies go into Gaza daily: medical supplies, food products, hygiene products, etc., via the Keren Shalom crossing.
Here is yet one more piece of information that exposes the true cold-blooded nature of Hamas:
The Keren Shalom crossing had to be shut down because of deliberate shelling of the area by Hamas. Such is Hamas concern for the civilians of Gaza.
So, if (when) Hamas begins launching rockets again, what will Israel’s response be? It’s here that vision is blocked by the clouds.
We have had several operations over the years fighting Hamas in Gaza (these operations are not technically referred to as “wars”). In each instance, Israel has stopped short of taking Hamas out. This is referred to as “mowing the grass.” There are some very serious thinkers who believe the whole notion of “solving” the problem with Hamas is not realistic, as the radical ideology is too ingrained in the populace. They believe – even today - that it is in Israel’s best interest to increase deterrence from time to time so that Hamas is reluctant to attack Israel again for some period of years.
They believe that to try to do more is both unrealistic and would take too great a toll on Israel.
People of this persuasion speak of our waging a war of attrition, and not more, even if Hamas starts launching again: Hamas launches, we bomb from the air and shell from the sea, until Hamas finally gets tired of doing this.
But there is a growing number of Israeli voices calling for a more serious action.
There are not only voices inside the government calling for this – I note Avigdor Lieberman in particular. There is the almost unanimous opinion that the job is not yet done that has been expressed by frustrated members of the IDF.
And now we have a new situation that we did not have before: pressure from residents of the south of Israel. This is not something that can be ignored.
These long-suffering residents have endured years of living in shelters when rockets were launched from Gaza – and they endured with a stoic bravery. But when word was released about the Hamas tunnels and the Hamas plans for massacres of thousands in the south via those tunnels, that was something else. A large percentage of these residents fled the south, awaiting word that it was safe to return. The tunnels were eliminated, a long term ceasefire was about to be negotiated, and they were told it was time to return. Turns out that it was not yet safe to return, because Hamas started launching rockets again. They are irked and are demanding that the government protect them. And Netanyahu has to pay attention.
And then the question is, how serious would the action be? Stay in Gaza until all terrorist elements are eliminated and then walk away. Stay permanently? Weaken Hamas much more seriously than we’ve done yet – including with assassination of some Hamas leaders – without totally taking Hamas down? The opinions are vastly varied.
I recognize that this is a long posting, but would like to touch upon a few other relevant factors before closing:
It is said that Hamas is continuing on the road of attacking because it is desperate – is low on money and feels it has nothing to lose. (And, it should be noted, since it has had no major “success” in the fighting, it is further motivated to keep trying.) But what I see is that it is also a more formidable enemy than was the case previously.
This has to do in large part with those tunnels. Yes, presumably we eliminated those that crossed the line into Israel. But a huge network of tunnels remains: this is where rockets are kept and where many of their leaders are hidden. A major part of this intricate underground construction is located under Gaza City. Were our troops to enter there – which they would have to do in a serious ground operation - they would be set upon by terrorists literally leaping out of the ground from behind them, either to kill them or to kidnap them.
Our marvelously trained troops, all of whom are dear to Israel, are ready to go. But to send them into this?
A confession: When Hamas started sending those rockets our way again at the end of last week, I thought – Enough! let’s take them down. Israel cannot tolerate this. And Hezbollah and others to the north are watching.
But then I thought again. I realized that the launching of rockets might be a trap, luring us into Gaza City. I realized what the cost might be.
This quandary is precisely what the decision makers of Israel must deal with. And it is possible that some very heavy decisions will have to be made soon.
We speak about fighting the fight against radical Islam for the world. Perhaps, then, we must do what we must do, with full determination.
But perhaps there are other avenues that can accomplish what needs to be done...
What I am seeing, which makes me hopeful (if I am allowed to say “hopeful” in such a gruesome context) is that the world is waking up to the horrors of radical Islam. The absolute horrors of what ISIS is doing in Iraq may have a quantum effect on how the world sees these matters. Finally.
And the world is starting to see that Hamas and ISIS are one and the same. Which will bring about growing isolation for Hamas – already Egypt and Saudi Arabia are arrayed against Hamas, and others will follow - and a stiffening of the spine of the international community.
See this very important and articulate TV interview by anti-terrorist Steve Emerson regarding the fact that Hamas and ISIS are one and the same.
He says Obama cannot bomb ISIS in Iraq and support Hamas as a legitimate entity in Gaza. He says, what is more, that if everyone doesn’t wake up, the US will have to contend with ISIS on its own shores.
Share this link broadly, please!
And we have this tough statement on the issue as well - may it be a harbinger of new attitudes: