Okay, war sucks. Nobody wants war, nobody likes war, and generally people would rather lounge in hammocks near the beach drinking iced lemonade rather than participate in war – directly or as an unwilling participant. In that regard, I guess we should all throw up our hands in joy at the recently instituted cease fire between the Israeli government and the PA. Or part of the PA. Or all of the PA except for the Palestinian terror groups that claim not to belong but are affiliated. Shucks, you know who I mean.
Olmert and Peretz, who should have resigned by now for the travesty of a war they led a couple of months ago in Lebanon, have not resigned and continue to muck things up. The latest muck-up is this sudden cease-fire. Now, don’t get me wrong, I assume they are privy to information which I do not have at my disposal and make decisions on the basis of that data. Who knows, maybe there’s some sort of magical, secret development that we lay-people have not learned about and which has made Olmert push for this sudden cease fire. I don’t believe, however, that this is what was driving them. Rather, there were a few issues which probably drove them to do it…
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First, it was their abject failure to control or diminish the Qassem rockets landing on Sderot and other Western Negev communities. As we all know, in recent days the rockets have been much more effective in hitting Israeli communities, destroying some homes, coming close to playgrounds and schools, and even in killing two Israelis (ironically, one of them was a Muslim Israeli married to a Jewish Israeli) and injuring several others. The Palestinians have improved their rockets’ accuracy, payload size and have increased the numbers of rockets being fired. Peretz was directly affected when one of the guards who usually protects his home in Sderot was severely injured by a rocket and lost both of his legs.
Second, one of the results of the rocket barrages is that many Sderot residents have evacuated the city. Embarrassingly, it was not the Israeli government that provided assistance in this regard, but a Russian Jewish billionaire, Arcadi Gaydamak, who happens to be living in Israel after a little hiccup with French authorities. Gaydamak ponied up money for transportation, accommodations, food and entertainment for Sderot families. Off to Eilat they went, but not before giving Israeli TV all sorts of priceless interviews praising their generous benefactor and protector and vilifying their hapless government. Once the images of smiling, happy children basking in their freedom from Qassem strikes in Eilat were beamed back on TV to Jerusalem, it is assumed that Mrs. Peretz and Mrs. Olmert advised their husbands that they looked like ineffective, um, cuckolds. Again.
Why again? Because Mr. Gaydamak also provided shelter to Israelis in the North who were under attack by Hizbullah in the summer war while Israel’s homeland security proved completely ineffective despite the fact that the IDF has a person (in the IDF at the general rank) who is responsible for such things.
Third, the IDF’s operation in Gaza was effective, but brought losses with it. They were certainly killing and capturing quite a few terrorists, some even on their way to or from rocket launchings. As always, however, Arab civilians were also getting killed. When the accidental shelling of the Beit Hanoun home that killed 18 family members took place, suddenly the operation lost its luster. As in Qana in Lebanon, Israel suddenly stopped its actions, began to apologize profusely for the attack and watched as the press, the UN, NGOs from within and outside of Israel, the Left, the pro-Palestinians and every government that doesn’t care about Israel but does care about their oil supply or their Muslim population, came forth to criticize the Israeli “butchers.” Of course, just a week earlier
in Afghanistan, NATO targeted and bombed a school, killing 80 individuals among whom were probably many, many civilians, but that’s just the army of Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Turkey, UK and the US…so who cares? in Pakistan, 2 miles from the Afghanistan border, the Pakistani government, although some claim it was the US or NATO, targeted and bombed a school, killing 80 individuals among whom were probably many, many civilians A couple of articles were written about the Pakistan incident and the whole thing was forgotten. Israel, on the other hand, might soon get a Jimmy “Apartheid” Carter-led UN investigative committee to check their errant strike in Beit Hanoun.
Fourth, the Israeli government, after botching the Lebanon war, was looking highly ineffective in securing the release of the three Israeli kidnapped soldiers from Hizbullah and Hamas. Gilad Shalit, in particular, has not been heard from since his disappearance and Hamas’s leaders were playing their end of the public negotiations effectively, while Gilad’s father who is media savvy and apparenly angry about the IDF’s operation in his son’s name (probably because it makes an exchange that much more difficult, endangers his son’s life, and has caused a great deal of damage and harm to innocent Palestinians in the name of his son’s kidnapping), has not been shy about speaking out publicly in ways that suggest an underlying criticism of the Olmert’s government’s performance in securing his son’s release.
Fifth, the noise from all of the above was combining with the ongoing and remaining noise from the Lebanon war to create a cacophony that has disabled Olmert’s aspirations and ability to maneuver his government in any direction. While he successfully buttressed his coalition by adding Lieberman’s party, Israel Beitenu and its 11 votes, it became clear that he was captain of a rudderless boat. Certainly, he would not be able to aggressively pursue his pre-election promise to disengage from most of the West Bank, or any other serious policy.
Olmert is a highly intelligent man and a wily operator. He probably understood that he needed to regain momentum and leadership in some way. What better way than to simply remove the IDF from Gaza, again, and promise to keep things quiet if the Palestinians would do the same? He knew Hamas, Fatah and some of the other rocket launching groups were hurting because of heavy manpower losses. He also knew that Shalit would not be released under fire. Finally, he must have sensed that between the Beit Hanoun family being killed and the constant media “noise” of the IDF operation in Gaza, he was encountering more difficulty in retaking the helm of the nation than he should.
He offered a cease fire. He offered a chance for peace and compromise. He offered a way out and showed the world that he’s a good guy and Israel is serious about peace.
All well and good, except that his timing was seriously off.
It’s no secret that Hamas, while crying that it has no money, has been buying and “smuggling” copious quantities of arms and explosives into Gaza. It is also assumed by many that Iran and possibly Hizbullah have sent people into Gaza to train Palestinian fighters in some of the same tactics that were effective against the IDF in Lebanon. These preparations were being affected and slowed by the IDF operations in Gaza, if not entirely eliminated. Furthermore, there was a great deal of pressure placed upon Hamas in particular but also some of the other non-Fatah groups because they were being targeted, killed, arrested and hounded by IDF forces. They had lost over 150 terrorists and countless others were arrested or injured. While these may not be devastating blows, they are significant and it has been possible to sense that while Khaled Meshaal over in Syria has been buoyant and confident, the Hamas folks in Gaza who actually have to live with the IDF’s offensive, have been under serious strain.
That stress and pressure should have continued and the IDF should have expanded its operations before proposing a cease fire. Yes, the rockets would have continued to fall on Sderot, but attacking the Palestinians’ growing military infrastructure is a far more important task than stopping the Qassems. By going into a cease-fire now, Hamas will have the freedom to breathe again. They will re-group, re-strategize based on this latest IDF incursion, re-arm, re-train, and build the forces and capablities they are intent on building. I don’t believe anybody has any illusions about their intentions, not even the French.
Furthermore, Israel is signalling weakness by leaving now. Hamas et al are sure to read this as fatigue from the rocket attacks, and this will signify a significant weakness on Israel’s part. Some of the Palestinian politicians and terrorists were bold enough to state that the rockets will stop falling only when Sderot is fully evacuated. They said this before the cease fire, after the town panicked because one of their townspeople died.
The cease fire signals a detente that has been sought out by Israel, suggesting to the Palestinians that their rockets have had an equal impact to the IDF’s incursion into Gaza. Objectively, this is absurd to even consider since the Palestinians paid a much heavier price, but it’s the same logic that drives Hizbullah to declare “divine victory” in Lebanon despite much heavier losses than Israel’s. Objectivity, however, isn’t what counts. Impressions count. The impression here is that Israel removed the IDF and asked for a cease fire because of the rockets. How are the Palestinians responding? First, they haven’t stopped firing the rockets completely yet. Second, they justify any rocket launching on some imagined or real “infraction” of the cease fire by Israel. Tit for tat. The IDF, an army which is able to level Gaza, finds itself equated to some terror groups with a small arsenal of rockets.
Perhaps the two sides will begin some talks now, and that’s always a good thing, but one fails to see what Hamas has to offer. Olmert will never offer more than Sharon intended to, which is about 92.5% of the West Bank. Certainly he won’t offer what Barak offered at Taba (97.5% of the West Bank). Hamas wants all of Judea and Samaria as well as Jerusalem as a precursor to “talks” about the rest of the country (hahahahahahaha). To remind you all, in case you’ve forgotten, Hamas is the elected party heading the Palestinian Authority and even if they do play Good Cop Bad Cop with Mahmoud Abbas, the supposed moderate who has done nothing to stop the terror or begin tackling the obligations of the Road Map, ultimately they seem unable or unwilling to even consider making peace with Israel.
What makes this situation even worse with respect to the PA is that until now, Israel has had some success in blocking Western funds from reaching the PA and in isolating Hamas. This cease-fire will open the door to those Western states itching to talk to the terrorists because if Israel can do it, so can they. Precisely at their greatest moment of weakness, when the Fatah and Hamas movements were duking it out to gain full control of the PA, when funds had stopped flowing from the West, when the world vilified and refused to talk to Hamas, when the people on the street were coming to recognize the folly of their choice in the last election, it has taken another reckless act by Ehud Olmert, presumably with the agreement of Peretz and others in the Cabinet, to give Hamas a new lease on life.
This is a dangerous lease; one that could easily lead to war in a very short while. Prior to the cease-fire being declared, Khaled Meshaal had warned that Israel has six months before a new war begins (he called it “intifadah” because that word makes Leftists worldwide moist with sympathy for the downtrodden Palestinians). By removing the IDF instead of strengthening its mandate in Gaza, Olmert is virtually guaranteeing that the Palestinians will be well prepared for the next war.
Olmert might also wish to recall one more thing: the last Israeli PM who tried to negotiate peace with the Palestinians based on territorial compromise but without offering a full “right-of-return” or full soveignty over the Temple Mount got a war instead of a peace agreement.
Actually, Israel is still fighting that war and has been since 2000. This cease-fire is merely a break for both sides – you know, grab a smoke and a beer; sleep with the girlfriend or wife, shave, take a bath, clean the gun…and then go right back to war.