In the latter part of June I was sitting in a quirkily themed restaurant just off Agrippas near Machane Yehuda in Jerusalem, enjoying a gourmet hamburger and the summer atmosphere. Apparently what qualified the hamburger to be gourmet was the very nice plate it was served on and the additional cost. Never the less, it did taste great!
Finding a parking spot had been nearly impossible and we were only allowed into the restaurant after we promised to be out by 8pm as another party had a reservation.
Yes the 3 boys had been kidnapped, and yes there was great concern, but at the same time summer was in full swing.
If at that point in time anyone had suggested that what has taken place in these past 2 months would occur, they would have been considered quite unbalanced.
And yet that is the reality.
If in July anyone had written that Hamas would still be raining rockets on Israeli civilians towards the end of August, their comments would have been dismissed as simply impossible.
And yet that is the reality.
Having written previously of and spoken around the community about the first 3 phases of the current conflict, I will now focus a little on the 4th and 5th phases of this absurd situation.
And absurd it is.
Israel faces an enemy that is very clear about its aims – the total destruction of the Jewish State.
It is absurd because we know exactly what Australia or America would do if G-d forbid even one rocket fell on Sydney or New York. And rightly so.
All governments have an obligation to defend their people against terrorism and barbarism and to protect their citizens.
And we all know that is even more difficult when the enemy has no qualms about terrorising its own population as well and seeks and worships the deaths of its own people hoping for a public relations gain.
The clarity of this situation is so self evident that the fact that Israel’s allies seem to not fully appreciate it defies all logic and belief.
When even people such as Amos Oz say the Israeli reaction is excessive but justified and without alternatives, one wonders just what the media’s problem really is.
To boil down the first 3 phases of the current conflict, the ebb and flow of support for Israel depended on one thing – the number of dead children seen on our TV screens.
Nothing else seemed to matter.
Yes, most commentators and politicians seemed to accept that Israel was defending herself, yes they agreed that Israel had to take action, but the question asked repeatedly was simply why Gazan children had to die?
And strangely they asked that question of Israel instead of Hamas.
And therein lay the public relations problem and the reason so many are still suffering.
Western media and western leaders were prolonging Hamas’ action and the suffering of Gazans by reacting as they did to Hamas’ desires and playing into Hamas’ hands.
However, during the 4th phase with Israeli ground forces out of Gaza, ceasefires having been broken yet again by Hamas, and Israel responding largely with air power – something subtle had changed.
Israel was eliminating Hamas leaders and in some cases their families. Gazans were still given warnings to leave certain homes and institutions used to launch rockets and if they stayed became additional statistics and yet and yet………….
In the 4th phase the images were not front and centre in newspapers or on our TV screens.
Journalists themselves, even media outlets like the BBC, had started to publicly describe the pressure on them inside Gaza that they were subjected to by Hamas and the lies they were forced to report.
We were not hearing western leaders making public demands on Israel.
The absolutely horrific beheading of James Foley by ISIS, the understanding of the similarities between ISIS and Hamas and the sheer refusal of Hamas to even agree to ceasefires, let alone keep them, may have just pushed the very people Hamas were directing their public relations efforts towards, to understand how they had been duped and how complicit they were in what Hamas was hoping to be decried as war crimes.
What is astonishing is how seemingly that beheading has galvanised and motivated President Obama to say and do the same things he has strongly criticised Israel for.
One American citizen.
Not an entire country under rocket attack.
The hypocrisy and moral equivalence of President Obama.
And to do so without shame.
The UN itself is of course still pushing ahead with Goldstone mark 2, knowingly or otherwise encouraging Hamas to continue its aggression and perverted ideological antisemitism, also harming the very Gazans the UN claims to want to protect.
And so into the 5th phase.
Hamas having hoped to avoid agreeing to any ceasefire without the twin “victory” of western pressure on Israel and dead babies on our screens.
Hoping to bring their allies Qatar and Turkey in as the mediators rather than their most feared enemy Egypt.
Hoping for some gains to be able to show their own people whose suffering they are directly responsible for.
Have achieved an expansion of their fishing zone and an agreement to discuss other issues in a month’s time in return for a ceasefire it did not want.
The deal on humanitarian aid is ridiculous because in effect is simply a return to the status quo ante. They were getting that aid anyway before they started firing missiles into Israel.
And with Egypt and Israel still controlling what can go in and out to try and ensure that materials for war cannot flow to Hamas again.
It should be noted that the expansion of the fishing zone was offered even before Israeli troops entered Gaza.
All that suffering for nought.
Hamas, more isolated than ever with the EU and the United States now conducting a diplomatic effort to bring to the Security Council of the UN a resolution, which if successful, will ensure that it will be much harder for Hamas to rearm and much harder for Hamas to divert aid meant for its people, into weapons and explosive devices and more attack tunnels.
The real questions are:
– Will Hamas even keep this 1 month truce, having broken each and every truce in the current conflict?
– What will Israel do if Hamas breaks the truce? How strongly or otherwise will she respond?
– If the truce holds, what will happen in a month’s time when talks only begin? Will Hamas feel that rockets will assist their bargaining power?
– What happens if during the talks Hamas will not make any perceived gains on their list of demands?
– And what will happen internally in Israel at the political level?
In time we will learn the answers to these questions, but the main lessons for the West and the media are to get a better understanding of the very central role they have played in increasing the misery of all people during this conflict and how they have prolonged this war.