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.