After I posted yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the nation in order to explain/defend the war with Hamas and the decision to accept the ceasefire now. He left me decidedly underwhelmed and considerably uneasy.
Yes, it is true, as he says, that Hamas has been hit harder than ever before, that in the end it sought the ceasefire and that nothing was given to Hamas by Israel. But… but…
He also said,
“We can’t say definitively that the goal of bringing sustained quiet has been reached, but the goal of hitting Hamas hard has been achieved.”
He himself refers to sustained quiet as a goal, and, indeed, it is precisely what he’s been consistently promising the people of Israel, even as recently as a week ago:
“restoring quiet for a prolonged period along with a significant blow to the terrorist infrastructure.”
And yet he threw in the towel without having achieved that “quiet for a prolonged period.”
As a matter of fact, even though it is frequently claimed that he never intended to bring Hamas down, he did allude to precisely this just eight days ago“
“We have not given up on our goal to overthrow Hamas and its leadership.”
It has been frequently observed that Netanyahu changes his goals from time to time. There are those who see this as a maneuver designed to confuse his enemies. But many believe it simply signals a lack of strategic planning.
Whatever the case, Netanyahu gave up the fight too soon, and the question remains why.
I would like to share what I believe we are seeing. This is not to justify what he has done, but to attempt to understand it.
These are very tough times for Israel – with virulent anti-Israel riots in many parts of the world, the BDS movement, and more.
To demonstrate how horrendously tough things are, I share a link to a video showing accusations of war crimes committed by Israel made in the British Parliament. It was sent to me by a very horrified reader in England. (Margaret, I thank you.) You don’t even have to see the entire thing to get the picture.
It should have been a no-brainer, that the only democracy in the Middle East is the good guy when doing battle with a terrorist entity that launches rockets by the thousands at its civilians. The fact that this is not the case indicates what a perverted and convoluted world we live in. I do not make light of this, or what it takes to contend with it.
I believe to stand strong at the helm of the Israeli government in the face of the current climate requires a spine of steel. But, regretfully, Netanyahu – whose position is not to be envied – certainly appears to have a backbone made of more pliable stuff.
Mahmoud Abbas of the PA (I refuse to refer to him as “president,” since his term ran out eons ago, although the world conveniently ignores this) has declined to sever his connection to Hamas or to disavow the unity agreement. After meeting with Hamas’s Mashaal in Qatar recently, he announced he had a new “peace plan”: He was going to go to the UN Security Council and get them to set up a “timetable” for Israel to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, and eastern Jerusalem, and declare a Palestinian state on the pre-1967 lines. If this didn’t work, he was going to join the ICC and charge Israel’s leaders with war crimes.
A lot of this is bombast. The Security Council cannot, under international law, establish a state. And if the PA joins the ICC, its own leaders are liable. But it’s troublesome bombast, nonetheless.
The visit to Israel of retired US General John Allen immediately prior to the ceasefire was clearly not without significance. He came to discuss the “peace process,” which would take place after the ceasefire.
Peace process? With the PA that is wedded to Hamas??
The position of the current US administration, as of prior administrations, is that the matter of a Palestinian state must be resolved via negotiations. Obama thus would also find Abbas’s threats troublesome, and would seek to promote the resumption of those “peace negotiations” in order to undercut him.
My guess is that Obama offered to veto all proposals for a Palestinian state that would be brought to the Security Council, if Netanyahu agreed to a ceasefire and then to move towards negotiations with Abbas. Once the ceasefire had been announced, there were statements from the US administration about how they had Israel’s back, etc. etc.
In the course of his statements yesterday, Netanyahu said Abbas had “to choose which side he is on.” But he hoped Abbas will continue to want a diplomatic process with Israel and an eventual agreement.
Excuse me? There was only one proper response for Netanyahu to have made when the suggestion was advanced that we resume negotiations: “Peace process? With the PA that is wedded to Hamas?” Quite clearly, Abbas has already chosen. But he’s being promoted as a moderate and at some level our prime minister is ready to go along with this or is on the cusp of doing so.
This is not in Israel’s best interests and I believe Netanyahu is allowing himself to be maneuvered into a very destructive position.
For starters, the PA is being promoted as the party to oversee the crossings into Gaza and the reconstruction. Not only would Abbas not be inclined to buck Hamas, his people would not have the power to do so.
To make matters worse, the story has broken in the Jordanian daily Al’ad, which cites diplomatic sources that say that before the ceasefire Netanyahu and Abbas had met secretly in Amman. The prime minister’s office had no comment – which means it’s not denying it.
While the Jordanian report did not specifically indicate what the two discussed, it did allude to various roles the PA would likely be playing. Among them, it would do the fundraising for Gaza reconstruction. The PA is notorious for its level of corruption. A joke if ever there was one. But there we are.
This scenario will have to be watched carefully.
But there is more that has to be watched, as well: It is all very fine that Netanyahu says Hamas hasn’t gotten anything from Israel. I would add “yet.” The negotiations on the serious issues won’t be held for a month and this is where Israel must stand firm.
Netanyahu spoke a great deal about reconstruction in return for demilitarization. I don’t see any talk about demilitarization in the current first agreement (as I understand it, the details of that agreement aren’t even public), and I don’t know that this is even on the prime minister’s agenda any longer. This is a serious matter. Even if new weaponry is prevented from being brought in – Hamas still has 2,000 rockets and can manufacture additional ones. What is more, Hamas is skilled at bringing in weapons in parts, which can be more easily smuggled.
He spoke as well about new alliances in this part of the world – by which he means changing attitudes on the part of “moderate” Arab states such as Saudi Arabia as well as on the part of the EU. True enough that Hamas is more isolated now and that the world is beginning to wake up with regard to jihadis because of ISIS. But how will this play out? Will it amount to any more than an eagerness to promote Abbas over Hamas?
© Arlene Kushner. This material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org