My friends, I had held off posting right before and again right after Shabbat because the situation here has been enormously lacking in clarity, and in tremendous flux, with many contradictory statements being advanced.
Now, while there is still lack of clarity, and while matters may shift at any moment, I feel it is important to provide a tentative picture for you. It is not a happy picture. I will be brief here and follow through as necessary.
I had written last week about a “plan” being advanced by the UN and Egypt to resolve the violence at the border with Gaza.
The components include broadly:
- Opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel and the Rafah crossing from Egypt – presumably with a cessation of the violence instigated by Hamas.
- Arranging “reconciliation” between Hamas and Fatah, with the PA taking over administration of Gaza.
- Buildup of infrastructure in Gaza, possibly including a port for Gaza on the Egyptian coast.
- Arrangement of a five year “ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas, which would include “negotiations” on release of the bodies of our two soldiers and two Israel civilians being held by Hamas.
Part of the problem in achieving clarity on all of this has been the fact that various sources present the details with variations. As it happens, those “details” are very important.
When this “plan” was first made public, it was presented as a package. Israel was at the point of going into Gaza but stopped short of doing so. All of a sudden, there was news that Prime Minister Netanyahu had told the Security Cabinet that the UN and Egypt were advancing a plan that was making progress.
My reaction was Huh? How can a plan that has as a major component Fatah-Hamas reconciliation be taken seriously? Surely our prime minister doesn’t believe this will happen. My speculation (wishful thinking?) was that he did not want to cross Egypt, and so agreed to go along, knowing the plan would fail and that, having taken the high road, we would then be able to proceed in dealing militarily with Hamas.
Then on Friday news leaked about the intention of the Trump “peace team” to unveil the “peace plan” very soon.
It struck me as a very strange time, right in the middle of attempts by the UN and Egypt (vigorously supported by the EU) to arrange something. Wouldn’t they be working at cross purposes?
My information has been that the “peace team” has kept the details of their plan under wraps so tightly that there have been no leaks to speak of. There have been a lot of reports as to what that plan entailed, but I have not reported on them because I understood they were largely rumor.
But now there is one rumored element of that approach that has made the news big time and which I believe it is important to mention:
It is being said that Jared Kushner wants to reorganize or dismantle UNRWA, which is a prime problem in Gaza. He’s on the mark there, as far as it being a problem, but let us follow this through…
Over the weekend, there were 40 fires started by incendiary devices, and 8,000 Gazans violent at the fence.
Clearly Hamas was ratcheting up the violence in order to “motivate” us to take a deal that was to their advantage.
Clearly, key members of Hamas needed to have their heads blown off in response to this. But that is not the way things are working out.
Some of those very Hamas leaders most deserving of being blown away gathered for a meeting in Gaza to discuss the UN-Egypt plan, which they have reportedly accepted.
What I cannot provide here are the details of WHAT they have accepted, as those details are not yet clear. What does seem to be the case, however, is that the “deal” would be done in stages, and I will come back to this momentarily.
Among the things that I find unbearable is the notion that a terrorist entity should come out ahead here. Israel must have the right to proper self-defense.
Prime Minister Netanyahu met this afternoon with the Security Cabinet, to consider acceptance of the “plan.” No decision has been made by Israel on this as I write.
My information, however, is that enormous pressure is being applied to Israel – from Egypt, from the UN, from the EU. And, for the very first time, I am hearing also from the US. Ouch!
Actually, it is being said that Jared Kushner is bringing pressure to bear. Hey, if Israel were to launch a military operation in Gaza, this would presumably interfere with the imminent release of his “peace plan,” which allegedly involves projected changes in Gaza.
Let us look at some of the key factors with regard to this plan:
- The release of the bodies of our two soldiers — Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul — and the two mentally-ill Israeli civilians – Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed – held by Hamas would not be negotiated until a later stage of the process.
This is simply unacceptable. Their release must be secured at the very beginning. We should proceed no further unless this were the case. The families of the two soldiers have been vigorously lobbying for this.
And make no mistake about it: when it says “negotiated,” it does not mean Hamas will simply release them, it means they will expect something in return. The thought of this makes me a bit sick to my stomach.
- A “five year ceasefire” is totally unacceptable, as it would provide Hamas with international sanction to hit Israel again after the five years expired and Hamas has had time to strengthen.
This is the Muslim way of doing things – a hudna, modeled by Mohammad.
I have written about this as kicking the can down the road, and that is what it is.
- There remains the question of whether each element is a necessary factor in proceeding. Is it really a complete package or will elements be handled separately?
If there is no deal between the PA and Hamas, so that, as envisioned, the PA administers Gaza, will that stymie the plans to rebuild Gaza infrastructure? Or will the international community move ahead any way to rebuild Gaza as ruled by Hamas, and provide the seaport and all of the rest? This is a very serious question.
- If there is a seaport for Gaza on the Egyptian coast, what authority will supervise to make certain that no weapons are smuggled in?
The Palestinian Authority has been lobbying vigorously against a good deal of what is going on, and they may in the end make the “plan” impossible. Let us fervently hope.
Or our government may find the strength to refuse this deal in spite of the enormous pressure – refuse it because some of the very questions I raise above will not have been answered to satisfaction.
It could be that I will write again soon and say that the situation has shifted in positive ways.
In the meantime, please pray for the strength and wisdom of our government.