A Known Ending
I might regret this later, but I have to compliment Netanyahu for the way he’s playing his cards during this latest round of violence between Israel and Gaza. I’ve repeatedly accused him in the past of indecisiveness and hesitation, and of being an excellent spokesman instead of a leader. While a disadvantage during peace time, these qualities can be the difference between success and catastrophe during wartime. Being the amateur historian that I am, I’ve always believed that if Emperors Wilhelm II, Franz Josef I and Tsar Nicholas II had possessed just a touch more of these qualities, the First World War could have been avoided.
Despite the mounting pressure from within the government, Netanyahu accepted the ceasefire deal offered by Egypt. Led by ministers Lieberman and Bennett, and reinforced by Likud troublemakers Danon and Regev – the jingoists within the government have lost no opportunity to criticize Netanyahu’s decisions and undermine his leadership. Accused of “Lefty feebleness”, “damaging Israel’s deterrence” and “surrendering to terror”, Netanyahu stands almost alone in his battle against rightist zealotry.
The zealots’ reaction to Netanyahu’s decision to accept the ceasefire is ridiculously out of place, reeks of panic and borders on hysteria. Does someone really believe that our deterrence has been put at risk? After days of continuous airstrikes and a huge amassing of forces on the border, are a few hours of holding our fire going to be that chink in our armor? It seems to me that the sabotage attempts from within the ranks is what weakens Israel’s position more than anything.
The overall picture is much more in Israel’s favor than what Lieberman and Bennett would have us believe. Hamas, who initiated the confrontation out of weakness to start with, now finds itself backed up against a wall. The devastation in Gaza wrought by the unrelenting airstrikes, coupled with zero military achievements and international isolation, has placed Hamas in an unprecedented vulnerable position. In fact, the only achievement they can be proud of is probably the ability to continuously launch rockets at Israel on a daily basis and on multiple targets. Everything we’ve seen during the past week shows just how desperate the organization is – starting with the failed attempts to execute major attacks and ending with various kinds of psychological warfare. Israel on the other hand, is in pretty good shape. Sure, this round of violence saw rockets landing almost everywhere in Israel. And yes, the psychological effect of sirens and explosions cannot be discounted. But from my office windows in Tel-Aviv, I witness how time and again life goes on as usual for Israelis after another siren is sounded.
It’s time the hotheaded politicians stop fooling themselves and their constituents. Under the current circumstances, there are only two ways to achieve quiet: an internationally-brokered ceasefire deal or a total occupation of Gaza. And now you’re all invited to do the math and conclude whether we want to rule 2 million Palestinians and invite Al Qaeda and ISIS through the front door. No? I didn’t think so.
Netanyahu made the right decision. If he assumed Hamas was not going to accept the deal, he was not only proven right but he also gained Israel some credit around the world. If he believed Hamas was going to accept the truce and halt all hostilities, then there’s no harm in that is there? By accepting the deal, Netanyahu has given Israel international legitimacy to continue, and even intensify, its military operations against Hamas. Israel now has a small window of opportunity to create the right conditions for a better ceasefire deal. A good deal in this case would be a framework that guarantees we don’t find ourselves in the same situation in a year or so. From a military aspect, this means continuing the air offensive and perhaps even a tactical limited and surgical ground offensive in the north of the Gaza Strip. More importantly, and from a political aspect this time, this means discussions with Israel’s allies in the region, including Egypt and Jordan, to negotiate a truce that curbs Hamas’ military capabilities and political influence, and strengthens the Palestinian Authority’s influence in Gaza.
We all knew how this was all going to end right at the beginning. The only question was how much blood had to be spilled before an exit point presented itself. Obviously, the confrontation is not ripe enough for both sides to accept a ceasefire deal yet. But eventually they will. Whether be it tomorrow or in a few days or weeks.
In the meantime, and this is not easy for me – kudos to Netanyahu.