An excellent article on the pathway forward, with some insights into the diplomatic process that are not available in most mainstream media…
There is a lot of speculation going on about Israel’s decision on Saturday night to unilaterally begin withdrawing from Gaza, followed by the current 72-hour ceasefire. There are those analysts who suggest we have once again failed to “win the war”. There are those who believe that Israel’s leadership has succumbed to international pressure. There are those who suggest that Israel has lost its stomach for war.
But let’s recognize the key element here. It is all speculation. These are all people’s opinions.
Now let’s look at a few facts:
Fact #1: Operation Protective Edge Had Specifically Defined First-Stage Objectives
- As Defined by PM Netanyahu, the original goals of Operation Protective Edge were: (http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Speeches/Pages/speechkirya200714.aspx)
- “To restore quiet and safety to Israelis for a long time to come”
- “Significantly harming the infrastructure of Hamas and other terrorist groups in the Gaza Strip” .
- The objective did notinclude toppling Hamas (although it could be expanded to include toppling Hamas if goal 1A could not be achieved through the limited military engagements or via diplomatic means).
- In his 7/28 address to the nation Netanyahu expanded the current operation to include:
- The discovered terror tunnels, and declared that Israel would “not complete the current operation without neutralizing the tunnels”. (http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Events/Pages/eventkirya280714.aspx)
Goals 1B and 2A were met by the recent military operations.
Goal 1A is unclear at this time. But this is because it ties in with the second side of Operation Protective Edge, Israel’s diplomatic operations.
Fact #2: Operation Protective Edge has been clearly defined to have both a Military and Diplomatic Component, and each is a Critical Part of the Israeli Leadership’s Strategy
- In his 7/20 address to the nation from Israel’s military headquarters, PM Netanyahu stated: “In the days before we commenced ground action, we were engaged in building the diplomatic and military infrastructure for it and we did this in several areas simultaneously… These measures, along with the personal talks we held with many world leaders, built the diplomatic infrastructure thanks to which we are currently receiving international credit for the operation. This can never be taken for granted; it must be invested in.” (http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Speeches/Pages/speechkirya200714.aspx)
- At that same address, Defense Minister Yaalon have emphasized that the international diplomatic front is as important to this war as the military front. He stated: “We have three possible pathways in this operation against Hamas: Diplomatic; Military; or Military and Diplomatic. Hamas, by rejecting the original Egyptian ceasefire approach, eliminated the possibility of a diplomatic solution at this time. Now we are engaged militarily. We will return to diplomacy at the right time. And just like we have have military surprises for Hamas, we have diplomatic surprises for them, too.” This early statement by Yaalon identifies a strategy from the outset to return to diplomacy after the military component of the operation was completed, and that there is a thoughtful strategy on the diplomatic front, too. Yaalon has reiterated that we have a combined military/diplomatic strategy at nearly ever subsequent address to the nation since then. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elKSbwqtz_A&list=UU4XJnRPZjXhgvVMhXKNSJvQ – min 7:22-8:00)
Fact #3: The Second-Stage Goals of Operation Protective Edge, Which Israel Has Decided to First Seek to Achieve Diplomatically, Consists of Two Stated Components
- In their 7/28 address to the nation, Netanyahu and Yaalon began revealing the diplomatic ‘next stage’ of the operation.
- PM Netanyahu Stated: (http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Events/Pages/eventkirya280714.aspx)
- Goal 1: “The process of preventing the arming of the terrorist organization and demilitarizing the Gaza Strip must be part of any solution. The international community needs to demand this explicitly.”
- Goal 2: “Instead of the international community allowing funds to enter the Gaza Strip, via Hamas, for concrete and cement to serve in the unlimited construction of tunnels, there must be monitoring and supervision. In the past, when we raised these demands and these concerns of ours, we were not taken seriously. This has to change.”
- DM Yaalon stated: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elKSbwqtz_A&list=UU4XJnRPZjXhgvVMhXKNSJvQ min: 7:50-8:00)
- That after the current phase of the operation “we will continue to demilitarize Hamas, either diplomatically, or militarily.
- These goals are the logical extension of goal 1A of the First Stage Objectives, “to restore quiet and safety to Israelis for a long time to come”.
Fact #4: Unilaterally Pulling Out of Gaza at This Time Was Militarily Helpful, Diplomatically Helpful, and Strategically Helpful
- Militarily, if Israel decided to topple Hamas, attacking from its positions held at the conclusion of destroying the tunnels would have been somewhere between disadvantageous and downright dangerous to Israeli soldiers.
- Israeli soldiers were dispersed over the entire length of the Gaza border
- They had been deployed for a very different type of mission, with armaments, staffing and positioning suited to that mission
- There were massive amounts of tools in the field (bulldozers, engineering machinery) related to the prior mission that would be in the way
- Hamas knew the precise locations of Israeli troops, and Hamas was already well-deployed to resist the advancing of IDF soldiers from those positions
- IDF troops were exhausted, many having been engage in high-risk/high-livefire circumstances for several weeks
- Pulling back temporarily allows:
- Soldiers to rest and have 24-hour furloughs with their family,
- Armor and troops to redeploy for a different kind of mission from different positions
- An element of surprise if Israel does choose to go after Hamas
- The clearing of unnecessary armor and materials from the field
- Sows uncertainty among the enemy
- Provides time for Hamas to come out of hiding, see the damage, and face the wrath of its people – a reality check that is sure to unsettle them (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/183741#.U-D6Po2wLlk)
- Diplomatically, the ability for world leaders of allied countries to continue providing cover for Israel to continue the operation was waning. Domestic opposition among the citizens of many allies had reached a fever pitch. By Israel unilaterally pulling out of Gaza (without even a promise of a ceasefire from Hamas), followed by Israel providing a 7-hour humanitarian ceasefire for Gaza (again, without Hamas, the UN, or the US even asking for it), Israel shifted the image of ‘agressor’ squarely back to Hamas
- Strategically, Israel’s leadership seized an absolutely brilliant moment to make this move, painting Hamas into an isolated corner at its weakest moment
- The Friday prior, the US and UN exerted fierce pressure on Israel to agree to a 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire.
- Qatar, Hamas’ key financial sponsor and patron, had guaranteed both Obama and Ban Ki Moon that Hamas and all other Palestinian factions would honor the ceasefire. They guaranteed it. This was key, as it proved another major point that Obama had been trying to make to Israel, namely:
- Israel (and Egypt and the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia and Baharain and the United Arab Emirates) objected to the inclusion of Qatar in matters here, since Qatar sponsors Hamas and even provided engineering support for their terror-tunnels. The regional players told Obama he was too far away from the region to understand the mistake in involving Qatar. (http://www.cipmo.org/rassegna-internazionale/2014/07/pautority.html)
- Obama countered that the local players were ‘too close’ to the situation, and that the best way to get Qatar and Hamas to change their behavior was to include them in the process.
- Being the United States, Obama won the argument – thus Qatar was included and sought to prove its value (and Obama’s wisdom), by being able to produce a guarantee of halting fire from all Palestinian terror groups.
- When Hamas staged a combined ambush-suicide bombing-kidnapping all within 90 minutes after the ceasefire began, they humiliated all three patrons (Qatar, the US, and the UN) in front of the entire Middle-East region. Through this action, Hamas isolated itself from its most sympathetic supporters.
- In light of Hamas’ attack and severe violation of the ceasefire, everyone expected Israel to escalate after that attack. Israel’s move to instead unilaterally pull back from Gaza – without even a guarantee of an end to rocket-fire – left Hamas exposed as the belligerent, while simultaneously breaking the stereotyped image the press had been building of Israel as an insatiable war-monger
- Every rocket Hamas fired at Israel after she pulled back only made them look further belligerent and added to the embarrassment of those who supported them
- By doing a unilateral pullback, Israel also excused itself from participating the planned US/UN sponsored ceasefire talks. This enabled Israel to sideline Qatar, who is now no longer central to the new (Aug 5) 72-hour ceasefire taking place in Egypt. Again, Hamas’ public humiliation of Qatar increases (a BIG deal in the Arab world)
Fact #5: Israel Has a Real Chance to Topple Hamas Diplomatically
- The Palestinian Authority, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Baharain are all interested in seeing Gaza demilitarized and the military arm of Hamas retired. (http://english.al-akhbar.com/node/20887) (http://www.haaretz.com/mobile/.premium-1.608894?v=36A181AE97A30BC315053246B2E3C6CB)
- Egypt has destroyed nearly all (if not all) smuggling tunnels into Gaza, eliminating Hamas’ ability to quickly rebuild and save face with the Palestinians of Gaza
- With electricity, water, and housing crises now upon the Palestinian population, the heat Hamas faces as the local government to restore order is extraordinary; and Hamas inability to deliver may be fatal to them
- The ‘Mofaz Plan’ has been in motion since the first days of the war, and the USA, many European countries, Japan, and several Arab countries have already promised millions of dollars towards the plan, as has Israel itself (http://www.timesofisrael.com/the-mofaz-plan-for-demilitarizing-gaza/)
- Hamas only path to survival may be as a political group in Gaza, and even more that it hates Israel, Hamas loves itself (http://www.timesofisrael.com/truce-means-hamas-must-shift-from-terror-to-governing-official-says/)
Fact #6: Operation Protective Edge is not Over; it is Just in a Diplomatic Phase. Israel is Prepared to Move in and Topple Hamas if Hamas does not Willingly Disarm
- The Southern Commander of the Israeli Army has said so (http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/IDF-prepared-to-continue-conflict-if-necessary-says-OC-Southern-Command-370142)
- The Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, has said so (http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/183706#.U-EE2o2wLlk)
- PM Netanyahu has emphasized that the Operation is not over (http://www.pmo.gov.il/English/MediaCenter/Events/Pages/eventpikuddarom040814.aspx)
Fact #7: There Have Been No Recriminations or Statements Against One Another Among the 4 Israeli Leaders In-the-Know
- The Inner Cabinet of Operation Strategic Edge include Tzipi Livni (a dove), Bogie Yaalon (a warrior-politician), Benny Gantz (a warrior), and Netanyahu (a politician). When things don’t go as planned, these personalities consistently come out publicly to defend themselves and expose each other’s mistakes (http://www.jpost.com/Diplomacy-and-Politics/Before-meeting-Abbas-Livni-was-told-by-Netanyahu-You-dont-speak-for-Israeli-government-352553)
- To date, they continue to speak publicly in a unified, confident, serious, and optimistic tone.
- The only public figures doubting Israel’s current moves or position are those who are not in the know.
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My goal here has been to present the facts without opinion, so that readers can decide for themselves whether to be optimistic about the future.
I, for one, am very optimistic (albeit with a broken heart due to all the loss of life, trauma, and destruction). There is a real vision and tangible opportunity here to move towards peace and a better future for the Palestinians and Israel.
May we see the blessings of peace in our days.
In the supermarket today, as I bought some Challah-Bread, the traditional bread of the Sabbath meal, two reserve soldiers came up to the bakery counter to buy some ‘borekas’, a middle-eastern pastry snack. They were sent to the supermarket by the army to buy a cart-full of provisions for their platoon. But they came to the bakery counter because they wanted to surprise their brothers-in-arms with a treat for Shabbat.
“How much would 90 borekas be?” the soldier on the left asked the woman behind the counter.
“It goes by weight”, she said.
He looked uncertain. He wasn’t carrying much of his own money with him.
“Brother,” I said, “Get anything you want! It’s my treat. Do you want to pick up some hotdogs or burgers, too?”
They were so happy to just buy the borekas for their friends. They thanked me profusely. They asked to take a picture together. They thought I was the most amazing guy in the world!
Yeah, right. Me.
What about them?! Judging by the non-regulation length of their hair, I could guess they were reservists. Most of these guys have young families at home. They walk into the hell of Gaza, into a necessary war that is not of our choosing, knowing that they may never hold their children or kiss their wives again (God forbid). And they do it with unflinching bravery and smiles.
And they treat me like I am the hero.
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Last week a Kassam Missile fired by Hamas landed in an open property next to my home.
That’s my orange house in the background.
The concussion blew out my screens, split the center-wall of my house, and ripped a hole through my roof. Those Kassam Missiles have a big payload, and an enormous shrapnel blast-radius.
The thing is, there are no army bases for miles and miles around here. And half-a-dozen Kassam Missiles fall on our community every day.
And then there are the terror-tunnels. The other day my wife and I left our home at 8am, our kids still asleep in their beds. I was bringing her to work, and I was heading to accompany a young friend of mine to the funeral of two of his 20-something year old friends who were killed the previous day in Gaza in an RPG ambush.
About three miles from our home, we suddenly saw an army helicopter hovering over a wheat-field, and about a half-dozen humvees racing across the same fields.
We turned on the radio, and heard an alert instructing everyone in our area to lock their doors and stay inside their homes; terrorists had come through another terror-tunnel and were loose in the fields.
My wife an I looked at each other. We were three miles from home. Our children were home alone, asleep in their beds. We turned white, as fear washed over us. “Even if we were at home”, I whispered to my wife, “we would still be helpless. We have no gun, and these terrorists are highly trained killers… These soldiers in front of us are the only thing between us and those who would do our children harm…” It was a horrible thing to have to think about as a parent. It is the kind of calculus no parent should ever have to process.
As we spun our car around – pointlessly, to the logical mind, but our minds were not interested in logic – I called the security coordinator of our farming town. “It’s an error”, she said. “They are not loose in our area. They are loose around a village 3 miles from here, and the army is already closing in on them. We’re safe.”
And so here I am in the supermarket buying some pastries for a platoon of soldiers who have left their own families behind, walking into the fog of war in order to protect mine. And they treat me like I’m the hero. Yeah, right.
These beautiful, selfless young men and women of the Israeli Defense Force. Key word: “Defense”.
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But here is the part that will surprise you, if you are not from Israel.
I am a fair representative of the Israeli people. And I live under circumstances that could easily allow me to hate “the other”.
But I don’t. And neither do over 80% of Israelis. You wouldn’t know this from the press. They prefer to make sensationalistic stories out of those that are too deeply scarred by war to be able to forgive anymore. But the vast, vast, vast majority of us want no war with the Palestinians. In fact, just the opposite.
We want peace for them. We are an intelligent enough people to understand that our fates are tied to each other. We know that nothing could offer Israelis a greater guarantee for a peaceful existence than a prosperous Palestinian society.
But Hamas does not want that for either of us, Israelis or Palestinians. Death on both sides of the border is a victory for Hamas.
Here in Israel, we see the same images of Palestinian suffering that those in the rest of the world do. And you are a fool and an idiot if you cannot comprehend that it hurts us here so much more than it does you on the other side of the world (and of course, it hurts innocent Palestinians most of all).
My Palestinian cousins and I are victims of the same darkness. The missile and terrorist threat to my children is reflected in the 1,400 lives lost over the past three weeks in Gaza. We both live under the specter of the same cruel regime. Hamas turns its own children into targets, and our children into trigger-men. (http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/07/29/hamas-police-shoot-kill-starving-gazans-a-day-after-executing-protesters/)
Diplomacy will not end this madness. Regimes like Hamas, Isis, and Al Qaida do not leave their bloodlust ideologies at the doorpost of US-brokered and UN-endorsed agreements.
For each time Israel stopped the last two wars in Gaza in order to spare more lives, the cost has been a stronger Hamas, another round of fighting, and nearly double the lives lost on both sides.
Cancer is not cured by removing half-a-tumor.
We must steel our nerve, grit our teeth, and finish this. Hamas must be removed from power.
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A the funeral of Gilad, one of the first Israeli soldiers to fall in this war, his father wept over the fresh grave of his young son. Through his sobs, this is what he said:
“Please, God, let us win this war, so that not one more Israeli family has to bury their children.. and so that not one more Palestinian family has to bury their children.”
He said these words over the fresh grave of his son, killed hours earlier by a Palestinian.
This is the DNA of Israel. These are not words spoken to sound nice, or to improve our diplomatic standing in front of the world or our image in front of the media. These are the words of a father spoken through sobs over the grave of his son, who fell protecting my family and Israel, and trying to save the Palestinians from the grips of a terrorist regime called Hamas.
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So these soldiers in the supermarket thank me endlessly and treat me like a hero for buying them pastries.
But I know what is in their DNA. And I know what is in mine. And I know what is in the DNA of the Palestinians that the world-press is failing by not telling the real story of Gaza. (http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2014/07/why_the_media_bear_moral_responsibility_for_the_gaza_civilian_casualties.html
Our DNA is peace. It is love. It is hope. It is a mutual dream of no more wars, and prosperity for all of us.
And as those soldiers leave the supermarket with smiles of gratitude, I return home to the sensational and distorted media-images of targets and trigger-men.
And my tears flow.