Why American decline fuels Third Gaza War....
Begin with a news flash: sources in Israel's security services (necessarily anonymous) state that Hamas planned a mass tunnel raid by 200 terrorists, on the first day (Sept. 24) of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Yesteday Hamas, after breaking a 4-hour humanitarian ceasefire 90 min. before it was to end, agreed to a 24-hour ceasefire upon Israeli forces moving into Gaza, to observe an Arab holiday, Eid al-Fitr, the festival of fast-breaking (ATTN. millennials: food, not basketball) which signals the end phase of Ramadan, Islam's fasting month; Within hours Hamas violated the truce. But that was not the big news--just "same old, same old" for the Palestinians. Big news: Israel is continuing to demolish the terror tunnels (2:13)--which, BTW, reportedly were built with child (partly slave) labor, killing 160 children Hamas professes to cherish.
No, the big news was that SecState Kerry's Hamas-oriented ceasefire proposal not only infuriated Israel; it infuriated--get this--the Palestinian Authority. Predictably, Kerry's draft met the demands of Hamas, and ignored Israel's--including that calling for dismantling of the tunnels:
Haaretz said that Hamas' demands were all met in the draft, including opening of border crossings, passage of goods, and payment of civil servant salaries. However, there is no mention, Haaretz said, of Israel's central demand for the Gaza Strip to be demilitarized and the terror tunnels destroyed.
Furthermore, Haaretz reported, the draft also completely ignores Egypt and instead gives supervision for the implementation of the agreement to Turkey and Qatar, both openly hostile to Israel and extremely sympathetic to Hamas.
A WaPo editorial reports on these "offensive tunnels" (indeed, they do offend civilized sensibilities):
The concrete-lined structures are stocked with materials, such as handcuffs and tranquilizers, that could be used on hostages. Other tunnels in northern Gaza are designed for the storage and firing of missiles at Israeli cities.
One tunnel, WaPo's editorial informs us, was located underneath a hospital, where also were hidden weapons & a command post. Oh yes, the concrete was material sent Hamas for construction of housing for the poor.
A WaPo Gaza War Crossfire graph offers much: (a) Of 2,221 Hamas rockets, 1,632 landed in Israel, with 412 were intercepted by Iron Dome; (b) Israel launched 2,697 sorties. We thus learn: (a) 92 percent of Hamas rockets entered Israeli airspace, with roughly 80 percent landing in empty spaces & Iron Dome taking out the other 20 percent (save for minimal leakage of a few dozen rockets); (b) with the Gaza death toll (if we accept Hamas figures & assume all deaths were caused by the IDF, both dubious propositions) having just passed 1,000, Israel's bombardment has killed less than 1 person per 2 sorties. This, mind you, is not good enough to satisfy Israel's critics, including our president.
Want to track Hamas rocket fire? This rocket-clock site will keep you up to speed (you must reload the page each time to access it). And you will be better informed than SecState Kerry, who wanted Turkey, now sending a second flotilla to Gaza, to referee the talks.
Here's a new contribution to peace for Gaza: a Hamas - North Korea secret deal--cash-for-rockets pact is in the works. North Korea also advises Hamas on how to build tunnels that escape detection.
Walter Russell Mead's perceptive assessment illuminates the ways in which a feckless Obama administration has former enemies forging alliances to contain the damage wrought by tectonic disruptions generated by the risibly misnamed Arab Spring.
Put simply, neither Israel nor Hamas believes that a ceasefire now would serve its interests. Israel sees three strategic imperatives: (a) maintain perception of its military superiority; (b) foster closer ties with new Sunni Arab allies Egypt & Saudi Arabia; (c) preserve a level of security that enables Israelis to carry on with their daily lives--which means not just ending rocket fire but securing terror tunnels (did the UN know about years of digging by Hamas & kept mum?).
Hamas, for its part, sees the current struggle as existential: unless its supporters--the West Bank Palestinians who in 2006 voted Hamas into power, those Gazans who prosper under Hamas's suzerainty, external allies like Iran, its Shia surrogate Hezbollah, its Sunni Islamist supporters (al-Qaeda, ISI, etc.)--perceive a Hamas victory, Hamas could not only lose influence; it could collapse entirely. To secure its position requires opening the embargo of goods, which not only Israel opposes, but also is opposed by Egypt's anti-Muslim Brotherhood government & Saudi Arabia's anti-Iran government.
WM adds that leftists fail to grasp the import of the Arab Spring, and that only a hawkish US will be able to pressure the combatants into a peace deal. He cites a maxim from 19th century military strategist Carl von Clausewitz: “[T]he side that feels the lesser urge for peace will necessarily get the better bargain.” Most likely, he concludes, is another inconclusive outcome that restores their long-prevailing strategic stalemate.
I am not so sure.
Begin with the fact that SecState Kerry's ceasefire proposal was unanimously rejected by the Israeli cabinet. Add in that unlike Egypt's no-conditions ceasefire proposal Kerry's idea was to lean towards Hamas (subs. req.) by re-opening embargo issues and possibly frustrating Israel's strategic imperative of destroying all the Hamas terror tunnels. Factor in that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell used his parliamentary skill to introduce a standalone bill to give Israel $250 million for additional Iron Dome procurement. The administration & its senatorial allies had attached the funding to its immigration bill--thus holding Israel's national security needs hostage to the immigration's immigration policy--in an effort to force pro-Israel GOP senators to vote for the border bill. Team Obama's tilt against Israel comes as American voter attitudes are shifting in the same direction--most notably among millennials & less educated voters (categories that overlap). Celebs mostly support the Palestinians, but comedienne Joan Rivers let fly with a verbal sally (1:48) that Bibi Netanyahu can only envy.
But Times of Israel columnist David Horovitz sees an Israel win as probable, though at high cost in blood, treasure, relations with Washington & international prestige. Hamas will extract a fearful price but Israelis feel--rightly--that they have no choice to proceed. Else next time things will be even worse. Ominously for Israel, once again Israeli Arabs showed public solidarity with Palestinian violence.
One permanent casualty: Israel will never fully trust America again. It knows that voters here can not only elect, but even re-elect, a president whose preferred policies and gut-level sympathies favor Israel's adversaries. That neither election turned on the president's view of Israel offers small comfort, as it suggests that Israel's fate is not a prime concern of American voters--not even Jewish voters.
Bottom Line. Israel faces an implacable enemy, with its number one ally over the past 50 years tilting away. The Jewish state would do well to cultivate stronger ties with its emerging Arab allies, and also to move swiftly towards complete financial independence from America, its longtime chief benefactor, due to changes in the American electorate that signal growing risks in continued Israeli financial dependence. The game changer here is for Israel to fulfill its goal of becoming an energy superpower.
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