Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pillar of Defense: The Ceasefire

A total of six Israelis - two soldiers and four civilians - were killed throughout Israel's Gaza offensive. In Gaza, at least 160 Palestinians were killed, both civilians and militants. 

Both sides claimed victory.

Israel flew over 1,500 missions, killed Hamas military chief-of-staff, and another 30 Hamas/Islamic Jihad fighters, destroyed Hamas’ bank, ministry of the interior building, and police center, as well as gas storage depots, the sports stadium used as a rocket launching site, and over 200 tunnels used to smuggle weapons.

Israel also thought that by involving Egyptian president Morsi as the mediator in the conflict helped Israel re-establish ties with the Egyptian government. Pundits are quick to say that Morsi’s arm was twisted painfully by U.S. Sec. of State Hilary Clinton, acting on orders from U.S. President Barak Obama. Morsi didn’t need to be reminded that the USA gives Egypt over $2 billion a year. Some cynics say that if Morsi is anything like his predecessor Husnai Mubarak, a nice chunk of that money will wind up in a private bank account for Morsi’s retirement.

Hamas leaders claimed that sending Israelis scurrying to bomb shelters for 8 days was a victory in itself. And the fact that Hamas gained legitimacy by becoming a center of discussion between Israel and America and Egypt.

The fighting officially stopped at 9:00 PM Israel time on Wednesday Nov 21, 2012.
Hamas continued firing rockets until about midnight, but commentators said that this infraction was expected.

One commentator, discussing the aftermath on Israel Radio’s Reshet Bet said he didn’t understand why Israel launched the offensive in the first place if all they achieved was getting back to where they started. Well-connected commentator Amnon Abramovich on the top-rated Channel 2 news, said that Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak was essentially a dove. He would prepare for a battle and then find reasons not to have it. Abramovich said that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu was gun-shy since his mistake during his last term as Prime Minister when he allowed Ariel Sharon to walk onto the Temple Mount, an act that ignited the second Intifada. “Bibi” said Abramovich, “wasn’t going to order troops into battle if there was a way out.”

The Israeli media also speculated that perhaps the reason for the entire operation was simply to test the Iron Dome missile-defense system in preparation for an attack on Iran. Should that attack ever take place, Israel would be hit by missiles from Hamas in the south, Hezbollah in the north, and probably Iran.

According to Channel 2 news, the Iron Dome destroyed over 400 missiles out of the 1,000 sent at Israel, with only 47 falling in population centers, about 4 percent of the rockets fired. The success of this defense system is undisputed. The Israel government, long dragging their feet in funding the system, has now agreed to supply another 750 million shekels to build more systems. (@$200 million). Israel needs at lest another 18 systems to cover the skies. And probably other types of systems for the 7 kilomet short-range mortars.

Most Israeli analysts are skeptical that the cease-fire will last. Fragile is the way most discuss it. And then, at what point, they ask, will Israel decide to respond? When one missile is fired? Two? If a missile hits an open field? A small town like Sderot, accustomed to such attacks, or only when a major target like Tel Aviv is hit? These are all unanswered questions.

As of now the “quiet” is supposed to give the sides time to work out a formal written cease-fire agreement. Israel TV’s Channel 1 political affairs correspondent Ayala Hasson said she didn’t think the paper would ever be signed. The “quiet” would just continue until it didn’t.

Other commentators have said the signed agreement isn’t important since the Palestinians have never honored any agreement they ever signed, even the one witnessed by Bill Clinton and signed by Yassir Arafat.

So the flea has bitten the elephant and the whole world got a chance to see it. But not many. Sky, the BBC, French TV, all spent more time on fighting in the Congo. Still, commentators in Israel said Hamas reportedly had to stop fighting because the Palestinians in Gaza were getting tired of being bombed, wounded, and watching friends and family killed. They were losing the street. And the world didn’t really care.

In Israel, some of the 50,000 soldiers ready to invade Gaza, and residents of the south who had suffered rocket attacks, demonstrated against the cease-fire, wanting a battle with Hamas to settle once and for all the idea that Israel had to live with rockets falling on civilians.

But most Israelis breathed a sigh of relief. Israeli boys wouldn’t have to die fighting in Gaza, again. The Iron Dome gave the citizens a sense of calm. US support was greatly appreciated.  Calm will prevail, until it doesn’t, again.