What to Expect From a Ceasefire Between the ‘Zionist Entity’ and ‘the Armed Resistance of Palestine’
by Gabriel Eichler
A ceasefire between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers took hold on Thursday after eight days of intense conflict, although deep mistrust on both sides cast serious doubt on how long the Egyptian-sponsored deal can actually last.
The exiled leader of Hamas Khaled Meshaal, who suddenly found himself in the spotlight after a period of near oblivion said that his Islamist movement would respect the truce if Israel did, but would respond to any violations. “If Israel complies, we are compliant. If it does not comply, our hands are on the trigger,” he told a news conference in Cairo.
Borrowing a page from earlier times, under intense pressure from several quarters around the world, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he had agreed to “exhaust this opportunity for an extended truce”, but- for good measure- told his people a tougher approach might be required in the future.
Not surprisingly, almost as soon as the announcement was made, both sides quickly began offering diametrically differing interpretations of the ceasefire, brokered by Egypt’s new Islamist government immediately highlighting the countless actual or potential areas of disagreements.
“Allahu akbar, (God is greatest), dear people of Gaza you won,” blared mosque loudspeakers in Gaza as soon the truce took effect. “You have broken the arrogance of the Jews.”
Fifteen minutes later, wild celebratory gunfire echoed across the darkened streets, which gradually filled with crowds waving Palestinian flags. Ululating women leaned out of windows and fireworks lit up the sky. Candies and sweets were handed out throughout Gaza and in many parts of the Islamic world in celebration of the “victory”.
Khaled Meshaal promptly thanked Egypt for mediating and gratefully praised his sponsors in Teheran for providing Gazans with ample financing, know-how and arms. “We have come out of this battle with our heads up high,” he said, adding that Israel had been defeated and failed in its “adventure”.
“Resistance fighters changed the rules of the game with the occupation (Israel), upset its calculations,” Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, who had attended the rally, said later in a televised speech. “The option of invading Gaza after this victory is gone and will never return.”
On the Israeli side, some Israelis staged protests against the deal, notably in the southern town of Kiryat Malachi, where three people were killed by a Gaza rocket during the conflict, army radio said.
Netanyahu said he was willing to give the truce a chance but- keeping his eye on the soon approaching election date- held open the possibility of reopening the conflict. “I know there are citizens expecting a more severe military action, and perhaps we shall need to do so,” he said.
The Israeli leader, who faces a parliamentary election in January, delivered a similar message earlier in a telephone call with U.S. President Barack Obama.
According to a purported text of the agreement, both sides must halt all hostilities, with Israel desisting from incursions and targeting of individuals, while all Palestinian factions must cease rocket fire and cross-border attacks. The deal also provides for easing Israeli restrictions on Gaza’s residents.
Israel established the blockade of the enclave after Hamas, which rejects the Jewish state’s right to exist, won a Palestinian election in 2006.
Meshaal’s interpretation of the deal is that it supposedly guarantees the opening of all of the territory’s border crossings. “The document stipulates the opening of the crossings, all the crossings, and not just Rafah,” Meshaal said.
Israel currently controls all of Gaza’s crossings apart from the Rafah post with Egypt.
While Hamas lost its top military commanders to Israeli strikes in the conflict and suffered serious hits to its infrastructure and weaponry, in the eyes of the jubilant Arab world-and among its own population Meshaal’s terrorist entity has emerged with its reputation stronger.
Israel may take a measure of comfort from the fact that it dealt painful blows to its enemy, which will take a few months to recover, and showed to the world that its Iron Dome system can fairly effectively defend its population from a barrage of rockets. (See my earlier column.)
Egypt, whose only income since the death of its tourism in addition to Suez Canal fees are the handouts of sustenance it receives from some in the Arab world and mostly from the US, is now under fundamentalist Islamist leadership. At the urging of the White House, the nation of 82 million hungry and angry Egyptians was immediately propelled to center stage in diplomacy to become a mediator.
Cairo is pretending to be interested in all of this by walking a fine line between its obvious deep seated sympathies for Hamas, a direct offshoot of the Muslim Brotherhood to which President Mohamed Morsi belongs, and its apparent strategic need to preserve its 1979 peace treaty with Israel and its critical ties with Washington, its main source of handouts.
Announcing the agreement in Cairo, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said mediation had “resulted in understandings to cease fire, restore calm and halt the bloodshed”.
Soon after outgoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, standing beside Amr, thanked Morsi for peace efforts that showed “responsibility, leadership” in the region.
The Gaza conflict erupted in a Middle East already shaken by last year’s naive, Western-inspired Arab uprisings that toppled several previously U.S.-backed leaders, including Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, and by a raging civil war in Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is backed by Russia’s increasingly arrogant and belligerent Putin.
In his call with Netanyahu, Obama repeated a much needed U.S. commitment to Israel’s security and promised to seek further funds for a joint missile defense program.
While in the world of diplomacy assuring the financing of an improved iron umbrella against the potential next onslaught of terrorist missiles looks good, once Hamas will once again catch its breath, the reality on the ground will still be millions of Israelis having to live under constant threat from an emboldened band of bloody handed terrorists.
And by the way, support for new defense systems will by no means be a guarantee against the ultimate Islamic terror weapon: suicide bombers.
Everyone agrees that temporary solutions cannot be trusted and deep down no one really believes that diplomacy will achieve even the minimum necessity: Hamas’ acceptance of Israel’s right to exist.
Once again, the proverbial tail is wagging the dog.
When reading the official statement by the Egyptian news agency declaring that the truce has been reached between the ‘Zionist entity’ and ‘the armed resistance of Palestine’ one must wonder how long it will take this time around for another armed conflict.
Curiously, the ceasefire was cobbled together despite a bus bomb explosion that wounded 23 Israelis in Tel Aviv earlier in the day and despite more Israeli air strikes that killed 10 Gazans. It was the first serious bombing in Israel’s largest city after six years of quiet.
Looking at the overall picture: the current clash between Israel and Hamas did not begin with rocket fire but with an ever growing campaign of terror on the Israel-Gaza border.
Hamas’ strategy has changed drastically over the past two years. It is greatly emboldened by America’s support of the Arab Spring- seen by Hamas as an “Islamic Spring”- and in their minds it has fundamentally altered the balance of power between the Arab world and Israel.
Egypt is now deeply and fervently Islamist and is run by the Muslim Brotherhood movement, the inspiring-movement of Hamas.
Egypt’s Islamist government is on the record as considering Hamas as a de facto strategic partner in the Islamist struggle against the Jewish state.
Ironically, it is through the “good” offices of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood regime that Hamas now enjoys the growing acceptance and legitimacy of empowered dialogue with the United States and the EU.
Arafat’s mantra of “liberating Palestine from the river to the sea” is now positioned as a fully realistic goal for the present generation thanks to the Islamic Spring, which has redrawn the map of the Middle East.
Conversely, Hamas now views Israel as greatly weakened politically, militarily and diplomatically as Erdogan’s Islamist Turkey and Morsi’s Islamist Egypt have graduated into major, bitter enemies of Israel within the Arab world’s new vision of its struggle.
Hamas, emboldened by its sponsors who are now “allies” of the United States views each round of armed escalation with Israel as just another stage in a long-term war of attrition.
It is in the best political interest of Khaled Meshaal and other Hamas leaders to seize the moment and stoke the flames of the increasingly severe and violent outbreaks -hoping that it will eventually erode Israel’s resilience, while goading the fanatic Islamic masses bent on revenge, toward the emergence of a united military front for the complete liberation of Palestine and thus the elimination of the State of Israel.
Despite the military blows it has suffered, Hamas is coming out stronger from this round of conflict with Israel. With its rocket fire on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hamas is walking tall in the Arab and Islamic world while it now enjoys wall-to-wall backing in that world.
The oil rich Arab countries- while they can never agree on anything will still pour massive amounts of money into Hamas’s coffers and that financial aid will flow into Gaza and will enable Hamas to rebuild, regroup and even further modernize its military infrastructure for the next round.
In the eyes of many observers, by once again giving in to international pressure for a ceasefire, Israel’s leaders Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman show that they have failed to learn from their predecessors’ mistakes in ending the last two wars against terrorists inconclusively and prematurely and allowing the terrorists to declare total victory.
Tens of thousands of soldiers and reservists whose lives were interrupted in the call ups are meanwhile sitting on the Gaza border in suspense for a much needed ground incursion that may not occur now.
If one important lesson was learned from the 2006 conflict against the Lebanese Hezbollah, it was that rockets and guerrilla attacks cannot be stopped by air strikes alone. As unappetizing as it may be, boots on the ground alone can bring substantive results. To be sure, no one wants to risk the life of a single Israeli soldier by sending them into obvious harm’s way in the sewers of Gaza.
In recent times, Israel’s political and military leaders repeatedly promised not to stop until lost deterrence was regained, Palestinian missile and terror capabilities were degraded and the people of the south could at last return to relatively normal lives.
Hamas and Jihad Islami were stunned by the decapitation of its top military leadership, but now Israel lost the momentum to move ahead and parlay that initial shock into cleaning up the cancer that is Gaza. But instead of seizing this moment for rapid in-and-out, lightning ground incursions against well-defined targets, the three Israeli ministers paused to listen to outside interference.
How was the momentum lost?
Forty eight hours into the Gaza operation, the Israeli leaders bowed to President Barack Obama’s repeated requests every few hours for yet another 24 hours’ grace for “paid for” Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and his megalomaniac, Caliphate-thinking friend and chief Islamic adviser and ally, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan with backup player, the Qatar Emir al-Thani to conclude their bid for a proposed ceasefire.
It now appears that those two radical Islamists are President Obama’s “go to guys” for the President’s last term.
While it may serve US interests on the short term, it puts Israel in the greatest danger.
This welcome development is being watched by Iran’s leaders very carefully, while the nuclear centrifuges are spinning faster, pushing the nuclear clock ahead in an unprecedented pace.
Only a mere few hours after a fragile ceasefire took effect between Israel and the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Iran‘s top military commander, Gen. Mohammad-Ali Jafari, announced on Wednesday that the Iranian government is going to provide the Palestinian “resistance” with the technology necessary to mass produce Fajr-5 missiles, according to an Israeli counter-terrorist who monitors the Iranian news organizations.
Gen. Jafari claimed that since Iran is prohibited from sending arms and military equipment due to Gaza being held under siege, Iran’s Quds Force has provided the Palestinians with training in the manufacture of Fajr-5 missiles, the Israeli source informed this writer.
In fact, if the Iranian general is telling the truth, these missiles are already in the planning stages for manufacturing in relatively large numbers.
The Fajr-5 missile is much more powerful, accurate and destructive than the rockets used during Hamas’ week-long barrage of Israeli targets.
The Islamic republic extends technological aid and assistance to every Muslim nation or group that stands against “the arrogant powers” such as the Little Satan (Israel) and the Big Satan (United States).
On Wednesday, the Iranian Parliament’s Speaker Ali Larijani said on Iranian television that the Quds Force — Iran’s special forces — has provided military aid to the Palestinian “resistance groups” in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians living under the rule of the Palestinian National Authority in the West Bank refrained from becoming involved in this latest conflict.
“We declare proudly that we have supported the Palestinian nation and Hamas and we have the honor to declare that we will stand beside the Palestinian people in the hardest and most difficult conditions,” Larijani said during a rally staged by the Iranian parliamentarians in support of the Palestinians in Gaza and televised throughout the Middle East by semi-official Fars News Agency.
Hamas terrorists admitted their responsibility for the Fajr- 5 long-range missile attacks on Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in their ongoing terror war against Israel.
Hamas and the PIJ claimed responsibility for most of the rockets, including long-range rockets, fired into Israeli territory. Other small organizations, such as the Popular Resistance Committees, Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and networks affiliated with the global jihad also claimed responsibility for a number of rocket launchings.
In the meantime, the IDF units called up and sitting literally on the Gaza border received orders to go ahead and move into Gaza. Many reservists and active duty soldiers have notified their families by text messages, that they were ordered to move into Gaza. Reportedly, less than an hour later, the order was apparently cancelled and the forces poised for the attack were then pulled back after another phone call was received in Jerusalem from President Obama. Some soldiers reported that this occurred on two occasions.
At that point Israel’s strategic momentum had evaporated.
The leadership in Jerusalem decided to go along with President Obama’s ceasefire brokerage effort, based on the direct advice of his friends, three sworn enemies of the Jewish state: Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood; Erdogan who keeps on dumping on Israel at every opportunity as “a terrorist state;” and the Qatari ruler, who is the very financier that is personally bankrolling Hamas’s purchases of sophisticated weapons smuggled out of Libya.
The net result: on the US’s apparent instructions a hastily assembled Israeli delegation was dispatched to Cairo, only to find mid-level Egyptian intelligence officers across the table acting as intermediaries forcing them to accept Hamas and Jihad Islami as de facto negotiating partners.
When the terrorist leadership saw tens of thousands of IDF reservists hesitating and standing idle on the Gaza border, they concluded that while they may have lost the opening round of the war, they had now gained enough momentum to make up for it in the days that followed.
Shrewdly, the two terrorist organizations then promptly and substantially intensified showering new rockets on Israel and raised their terms for a ceasefire, taking strategic advantage of the fact, that unbearable international pressure was put on Netanyahu by global leaders ranging from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who both traveled to the region.
Has it occurred to any of them, that the previous Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak who was clearly a far more pro-Western figure, never ever upheld a single security accord backed by the US and negotiated with Israel for the Gaza Strip or Sinai?
Now then, why would the Muslim Brotherhood and their leader (two of Morsi’s five children were born in California and are U.S. citizens by birth)-who refers to Israel as “the Zionist entity” behave any differently?
Commenting on the ongoing situation, many sincere sentiments are reflected in an email sent to this writer by one of Israel’s most effective philanthropic supporters:
“Wow.. The Zionist entity.. what the hell is that? If that is what the truce says then we have achieved nothing.. nothing, nothing at all!
And every time this happens Israel is forced to back down. One of these days Israel has to declare.
1. We are tired of making war by letting leaflets fly and warning Palestinians so that innocents won’t be hurt when their own leaders worry not a tad about that.
2. We are tired of making war and being intimidated when the world declares that we are Goliath when in fact we are not fighting the disenfranchised people in the Gaza strip but a nuclear armed Iran and a very potent Egypt.
3. We are tired of making war with our hands tied behind our backs while rockets reign down before we even do anything.
4. We are tired of being called the occupiers when in fact we desperately want to not be spending our limited resources guarding against suicide bombers, rockets, and trying to communicate the truth of what is going on in our neighborhood.
5. We are tired of fighting with all those in this region who refer to us as a Zionist entity – as opposed to what we are.. a legitimate state that lives by democratic principles.
6. We are tired of being the face of the sadness and hopelessness in Gaza when the responsibility is clearly and firmly with their own elected leaders..
7. We are tired and ready to fight for real as clearly this is the only option we have.
“Peace in our time!”
The phrase was spoken on 30 September 1938 by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in his speech concerning the Munich Agreement and the Anglo-German Declaration. We must remember it for its ultimate irony, as the German occupation of the Sudetenland began on the following day.