Chris Mitchell

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Cease-fire: The Day After


After eight days of war, Israel and Hamas agreed to a cease-fire. The agreement said in part:
A. Israel should stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including incursions and targeting of individuals.

B. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.

It’s a short agreement but could have long-term ramifications.
 
After the agreement Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in Jerusalem: 
Eight days ago, Israel embarked on operation Pillar of Defense … The terror organizations assumed that we would avoid offensive action against them; they were wrong. We hit their senior commanders, we destroyed thousands of rockets which were aimed towards the South and most of those aimed towards central Israel, and we crushed Hamas’ control facilities. I must say that we did this with the strong support of the leading authorities of the international community.”

Down in Cairo Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal told a press conference: “Israel failed in all its goals … after eight days, God stayed their hand from the people of Gaza, and they were compelled to submit to the conditions of the resistance.”
He also thanked Iran who supplied Hamas weapons and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi:  "I would like to thank our dear Egypt, aided by the brave elected President Mohamed Morsi... Egypt acted responsibly and understood the demands of the resistance and the Palestinian people.”  He also warned Israel:  "If you commit, we will commit. If you do not commit, the rifles are in our hands.”
 
After the cease-fire and eight days of Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense here are some observations: 
While Hamas declared victory, it was severely hurt during the campaign.  Despite their public posturing they “cried uncle.”  Their top military commander was killed; their stockpile of weapons was severely diminished and their stash of Fajr 5 missiles – their strategic long range weapon – was almost entirely eliminated.  A ground war would have eroded even more of their weapons cache and might have decimated their leadership.  But surviving a war with Israel is considered a victory which is exactly what Hamas leader Khaled Mashall claimed in Cairo. 

Rockets penetrated further into Israel than ever before.  This is a dangerous and ominous development for Israel.  It showed their enemies – Iran, Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon – that despite the prowess of the Iron Dome - Israel’s defenses are not impenetrable and can be breached.  Israel can shoot down a large number of rockets but not everyone.  Iran’s Shahab 3 or Syria’s Scud D missiles are a great deal bigger and more accurate than the Fagr 5 missiles Hamas shot.  They can also carry chemical, biological or nuclear warheads. 

According to Col. Eran Kochav, Israel is preparing for the next missile war and warned it needs to expect to be a multi-front war:  "The challenges are ahead of us, and there will be less successful days," Kochav said. "Everybody is focused on Gaza, but we preparing for multiple fronts."

Nevertheless, Iron Dome was the technological star of the eight-day war.  It’s the world’s premier short-range anti-missile defense.  To see it work in action in person is an incredible sight.  From our vantage point on the Gaza border we saw Hamas rockets streak through the air and then saw the Iron Dome blast them out of the sky.  It tracks the incoming missiles, changes direction when necessary and eliminates them from the sky.  The puffs of white smoke indicating another Iron Dome hit was some of the most compelling sights of the war.  Many Israelis came out to see for themselves what this technological marvel could do.
 
Despite the tragic loss of innocent life in Gaza, the number of deaths was incredibly low compared to Israel’s massive aerial bombardment.  The Israeli Air Force hit Gaza with more than 1,000 sorties; yet according to an IDF source, the ratio of civilian deaths to combatants was the one lowest in the annals of warfare, lower than in places like Fallujah, for example.  This low level of civilian deaths was due to a number of factors.  The IDF took incredible efforts to minimize civilian casualties.  First they dropped leaflets warning the people of Gaza to get out of harm’s way with incredibly specific instructions.  Here’s the text of one of the leaflets: 

To the residents of of the outskirts of Shati, Al-Atatra, Beit Lahiya and Beit Hanoun: for your safety, you are required to evacuate your residences immediately and move  towards central Gaza city via Al-Falujah, Al-Udda and Salah A-din. In the central Gaza city, you are required to stay between the roads of Salah A-din from the west, Amar Al-Muchtar from the north, Al-Nasser from the east and Al-Quds St. from the south.”

     After the leaflets, the IDF called and sent Arabic text messages to Gazans.  Finally, their munitions were dropped with the precision of a dart.  For example, they could hit a floor of a building while not destroying the rest of the building or the floor below.  Israel did this for a couple of reasons.  First, so Hamas could not use civilian deaths as a propaganda tool. But also and more importantly, they did it because they sincerely want to preserve human life.  It’s little known that Israel continued to treat the people of Gaza in Israeli hospitals during the conflict.  Nearly 70 people from Gaza crossed the border into Israel during the eight day conflict to receive Israeli medical care and at least one of them was injured during the campaign. 

The agreement increased the stature of Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi.  He became the power broker to “rein” in Hamas and also the guarantor of the agreement.  These are two of the stipulations of the cease-fire:
.  Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what was agreed upon.
Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this understanding. In case of any observations Egypt as the sponsor of this understanding shall be informed to follow up.

This puts Morsi in a powerful role in the conflict between Hamas and Israel.  However, it must be remembered that Hamas is an offspring of the Muslim Brotherhood of which Morsi is a member.  While many observers praise the “pragmatic” nature of Morsi’s role, it’s clear he hasn’t abandoned the long term goals of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is to establish an Islamic caliphate (a Muslim government ruled by Sharia Law) throughout the Middle East.   

Hamas too has not changed its goals nor rejected their charter:  In their charter, it clearly states in Article 7: 

“… the Hamas has been looking forward to implement Allah's promise whatever time it might take. The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: ‘The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).’”

As Yoram Ettinger succinctly noted this morning: “To Supporters of the Israel-Hamas Agreement: Beware of Hamas Leopards! They don't change spots - only tactics!”

Daniel Greenfield is his article, “The War for the Future of the Middle East” (Front Page Magazine, November 20, 2012) addressed this Islamic ideology:  
Islamist imperialism has come to revolve around the old problem of destroying Israel.  The ideology of Islamism says that only Islamic unity can allow the peoples of the Muslim world to tackle great challenges.  To establish the Caliphate and build a regional empire, the Islamists must do what the Arab Nationalists could not do.  They must destroy Israel.  And if they cannot do that, their reign will end in humiliation and failure.” 

He ended his article ominously, “The Gates of Jerusalem are the new Gates of Vienna.” (The gates of Vienna is a reference to the time the Muslim Ottoman Empire marched on Vienna in 1529.)  

Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S., but who’s the turkey here in the Middle East?  Is this like the old “Peanuts” cartoon where Lucy tells hapless Charlie Brown to kick the football one more time?  Every time she promises she won’t pull it away at the last moment and make him fly up in the air and hit the ground on his back.  So he runs at the ball confident “this time” Lucy will keep her word.  But once again – as always – Lucy pulls the ball away and Charlie Brown once again falls to the ground with a thud.  Except this time, it’s not a football, or a cartoon, it’s missiles and life and death for the people of Israel.  What happens when the missiles fall the next time? 

Noam Bedein of the Sderot Media Center has documented this “Lucy – Charlie Brown” scenario for years from the front lines of the war with Hamas.  Here’s an excerpt from his report that he wrote when a cease-fire began to be discussed: 
Let us refresh our memories. From November 26, 2006, until May 15, 2007, the first 'ceasefire' between Hamas and Israel lasted for six months. Here is the statement made by Hamas five days before agreeing to that cease-fire: 'Hamas's military wing will stop rocket fire when residents evacuate the city of Sderot.' (from November 21, 2006)

During that 'cease-fire', The Gaza Hamas regime l launched 315 attacks on Sderot and the western Negev. There was no IDF response to those attacks during that “cease-fire”

The second ‘cease-fire’ took place from June 19, 2008 (1 year after the Hamas military took control of the Gaza strip) until December 19, 2008.during those six months of “we cease they fire” ,The Gaza Hamas regime launched 530 attacks on Israel.

One question needs to be asked: What nation in the world would allow for a one-sided ceasefire? What other nation would allow for one missile to explode within its territory, let alone allowing an entity to now place the majority of its population under the threat of a missile attack?

It is worthy to note that Israel's adversaries doe not advocate a 'ceasefire'; they promote a hudna. A hudna means no more than a temporary respite in the war between Islamic forces and non-Islamic forces. The authoritative Islamic Encyclopedia (London, 1922) defines hudna as a "temporary treaty" which can be approved or abrogated by Islamic religious leaders, depending on whether or not it serves the interests of Islam; with the proviso that a hudna cannot last for more than 10 years.”  “Legacy of 'CEASE-FIRES' BETWEEN ISRAEL AND HAMAS: six years of a record of non-compliance.”

The war is not over; it’s just taken a hiatus.  Hamas will continue to arm and re-arm.  It will continue to strategize on how to destroy the Jewish state.  The cease-fire agreement is only a short term lull in which to gain strength.  The question remains, how long will it take Hamas to re-arm?  Unless the smuggling can be controlled Hamas’s stockpile can be re-supplied.  Operation Pillar of Defense will be in vain if the smuggling of weapons continues.  Iran is capable of making more missiles and Egypt is capable of looking the other way when they make their way into Gaza.   

The cease-fire also begs questions:  What did the U.S. agree to “pay” Israel?  What will the Obama Administration expect from the Netanyahu government?  They stopped hostilities but in the process “saved” Hamas, Israel’s intractable enemy and of the U.S. for that matter. 

This agreement also has regional implications.  Jonathan S. Tobin addressed some of those issues in his article “What Price Will Obama Make Israel Pay?” (November 20, 2012)

Though Egypt and Turkey are attempting to position themselves as sponsors of any new peace on the ground in Gaza, their role in helping to foment the violence is clear.  It is doubtful that without the strong diplomatic support they have gotten from the Islamist governments of both countries Hamas would have chosen to pick a fight with Israel at this time.  Throughout the fighting, Egypt and Turkey have done their best to demonize Israel.  Though Israel is the victim here, those two countries have treated the Israelis as the aggressors and egged on the true aggressor:  Hamas.  However, if the Obama administration has gotten Egyptian President Mohmed Morsi or the president’s good friend Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to persuade Hamas to stand down, it is reasonable to suppose that they have gotten something in exchange from Washington.
 
    "It is equally reasonable to speculate that what they got was a promise that Obama would return to the policy of pressure on Israel that he employed throughout most of the his first term until he was forced to terminate it amid his election-year Jewish charm offensive.”

Many of the people in Gaza are celebrating.  Many of the folks in Sderot and southern Israel are not.  In fact, many Israelis – according to a local poll – feel the cease-fire was a bad idea.  They feel the deal short circuited a way to stop Hamas and stop the rockets. As Greenfield put it, it seems now more than ever, the “Gates of Jerusalem have become the Gates of Vienna.”      

Print     Email to a Friend    posted on Thursday, November 22, 2012 7:11 AM



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