Actually that’s a little harsh. The Gaza ceasefire Israel just declared will last beyond January 20th. Maybe till January 21st or even January 30th.
I call it the truce that isn’t. Israel has announced that it will cease hostilities against Gaza. But it won’t withdraw its troops until it sees that Hamas ends its rocket fire. Hamas in turn wants nothing to do with the ceasefire though it may ratchet down its rocket fire in a tacit acceptance of the arrangement.
But if Hamas does not honor the ceasefire then we have a recipe for an open-ended Israeli occupation of Gaza. This, in effect would mark a renunciation of Ariel Sharon’s Gaza withdrawal and a stunning retreat from former policy. Further, if Israel doesn’t withdraw, then as occupier it will become responsible for Gaza’s welfare as it was before it withdrew in 2005. If Israel occupies Gaza but ignores this responsibility then it will be further violating international law (which hasn’t seemed to make the Israeli leadership lose any sleep so far regarding other massacres that were blatant violations).
Even if Israel DOES withdraw from Gaza, it has made no promise to end its siege, which was the sticking point over which Hamas refused to renew the six month ceasefire. As I’ve said repeatedly over the past few weeks, everyone is obsessed with Israel’s needs but very few people are giving any consideration of Gaza’s needs. Without this, any ceasefire is hopeless, as I fear this one is. So it become just a matter of time before hostilities break out again.
Israel’s chief governmental PR flack, Mark Regev did allude to the nation’s willingness to entirely lift the Gaza siege and his conditions were interesting:
Israel said on Sunday it will be prepared to sharply increase the flow of food and medicine to Gaza if the unilateral cease-fire holds, but it ruled out fully lifting a blockade until captured Israel Defense Forces soldier Gilad Shalit is freed.
“If the quiet holds, there will not be any problem dramatically increasing aid like food and medicine. If this quiet holds, we will work with the international community for reconstruction,” said Mark Regev, a spokesman for Olmert.
“But you can’t have anything close to full normalization of the crossings as long as Gilad Shalit remains a hostage,” Regev added.
If Regev wasn’t just freelancing, he’s just radically altered Israeli government policy toward Hamas, which decreed that the siege would continue as long as Hamas was in power in Gaza or it recognized Israel and ceased terror operations. By invoking Shalit’s release as the trigger that will lift the blockade he’s implied the other conditions are no longer operative. If I were Hamas I would be testing Israel’s sincerity and Regev’s bullshit meter to determine whether this is legitimate or not.
As for reconstruction…sure. Israel will “cooperate” as much on Gaza reconstruction as it did on Lebanese reconstruction after the 2006 war. Give me a break. Does he really think anyone believes Israel will lift a finger for Gaza after the holy mess it’s made?
If you read Steven Erlanger’s NY Times piece carefully, it adds to one’s doubts about the efficacy of this negotiation process. He writes about the agreement Livni and Rice signed in Washington two days ago:
…The United States and Israel signed a “memorandum of understanding” on Friday in Washington that calls for expanded cooperation to prevent Hamas from rearming through Egypt. The agreement, which is vague, promises increased American technical assistance and international monitors, presumably to be based in Egypt, to crack down on the smuggling.
Erlanger notes that Egypt, on whose territory the observers are supposed to be based, has rejected the notion of foreigners monitoring its territory. So precisely how is this supposed to work? The answer the reporter provides is that the Egyptians have supposedly impressed on the U.S. that they feel a “new seriousness” about monitoring their border with Gaza. That and three bucks will get you a cappuccino at Starbucks.
Interestingly, the article attempts to exploe long-term strategic issues emanating from the Gaza invasion. What has Israel accomplished, if anything?
…A critical long-term issue is whether the Gaza operation restores Israel’s deterrent. Israel wants Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and the Arab world to view it as a nation too strong and powerful to seriously threaten or attack. That motivation is one reason, Israeli officials say, for going into Gaza so hard, using such firepower, and fighting Hamas as an enemy army.
“Deterrence” is one of those chimeras of Israeli strategic thinking. The idea is that Israel is so vulnerable that it must strike quaking fear into its Arab enemies. Otherwise, they will gang up on it and massacre the living daylights out of Israel. The concept is one of those useless terms like the “domino effect” that influenced U.S. thinking in combating Russian geopolitical ambitions. “Deterrence” is just another word for scaring the living daylights out of Arab states and believing that the only way for Israel to exist in the Middle East is to dominate militarily. This, of course, is at best a short term strategy and will not work in terms of guaranteeing Israel’s long-term security. But don’t tell that to the “geniuses” who conceive Israel’s strategic vision. “Short term” is the only concept they know or trust.
Erlanger continues by invoking that former JDL activist, current Likudist neocon, Yossi Klein Halevi:
The answer will not be known for many months, but the key to the Muslim world’s reaction is actually that of the Israeli public, said Yossi Klein Halevi, of the Adelson Institute for Strategic Studies in Jerusalem. “The Arabs take their cue from Israeli responses,” he said. “Deterrence is about how Israelis feel, whether they feel they’ve won or lost.”
Mr. Halevi cited the 1973 war — which Egyptians celebrate and Israelis mourn, though it ended with a spectacular Israel counterattack — and the 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, apologized for the 2006 war on television, “but he quickly reversed himself to declare a wonderful victory when he saw the Israeli public declaring defeat,” Mr. Halevi said.
This is utter narischkeit. Nasrallah declared victory in the middle of the war and after it. But he, like many Israelis conceded that they had each underestimated the enemy’s response. No Arab nation takes any cues from Israel on how the latter views its own military adventures.
But the truth is that after this disaster, hate for Israel is at a fever pitch. The Klein-Halevis of this world don’t give a crap about that because they don’t believe Israelis can ever live at peace with Arabs nor that they can ever trust them. So the fact that most Arabs will despise Israel for generations doesn’t phase him. He’s prepared to rely on a military solution alone to Israel’s problems with Arabs. This, of course, is a bankrupt solution, but the only one that people of his ilk in Israel can conceive.
Erlanger and Klein Halevi attempt to extrapolate from Gaza to the West Bank in an entirely ill-conceived analogy:
Even more important, perhaps, this Gazan war is a test case for any potential Israeli withdrawal from the occupied West Bank. If Israelis feel that the West Bank will turn into another kind of chaotic, Hamas-run Gaza, they will be unwilling to withdraw — especially if they believe that once they withdrew, and if they were attacked from the West Bank, they would not be allowed to respond with force.
“Gaza is an important test of whether we can defend ourselves within the 1967 boundaries,” Mr. Halevi said, noting that Hamas had been attacking Israel proper, not settlements. “Will we be able to defend ourselves if we need to from the West Bank? Will the international community let us?”
The falsity of this conception is that an international guarantee of the peace between Israel and Palestine will make it unnecessary for Israel to attack the latter. The presence of international forces with a sufficiently robust mandate and rules of engagement will force both sides to accept that there is no point in using violence to make any political statement. So why WOULD Israel need its military or “deterrence” if there was a solid peace with Palestine?
In the following passage, Klein Halevi attempts a witticism at Nasrallah’s expense:
Hamas has modeled itself on Hezbollah, calling on Iranian support. Mr. Nasrallah once spoke of Israeli power as a spider web — impressive from afar, but easily brushed aside. This war against Hamas, Mr. Halevi said, “is the revenge of the spider.”
But the truth of the matter is that the Arabs are not afraid of this spider. The only thing that they and the world have learned from this catastrophe is that the IDF is quite capable of killing women, children and knocking down UN facilities with tank shells. Is this truly “deterrence?” The entire world saw what Israel faced in a badly outnumbered and outgunned Hezbollah, which nevertheless had a modicum of effective weapons at its disposal. Israel lost. Does anyone doubt that Hamas, with half the weaponry at Hezbollah’s disposal would have struck some serious blows against Israel’s vaunted “deterrence?”
The final purpose of this fig leaf ceasefire is that Obama’s inauguration is fast approaching. No doubt, both Rice and Obama have lobbied for this ceasefire. But what happens after the inauguration? How long before it begins again?