The US and Egypt have announced an agreed upon ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. Many are angry because they wanted Hamas’s infrastructure completely wiped out. But what exactly would that mean? A ground offensive would be very costly for Israel. The cost in lives (both Israeli and Palestinian civilian) would be horrible. The loss of the international goodwill that Israel.has engendered over the past week would be lost. There is also no known way to figure out which of Israel’s enemies would actually join in a ground war between Israel and Hamas. Israel would not know if it would have to fight a war on three maybe more fronts (Lebanon, Syrian rebels who have set up shop on the Syrian Israeli border, Jordan because that boy-king needs to hold off the Islamists in his midsts, Egypt which has allowed al-Queada into the Sinai, never mind the money and arms that might flow from Saudi Arabia into these different areas). There needs to be an assessment of the facts on the ground and now Israel does have a better handle on the interactions between the Arab nations since the advent of the Islamists winter. Israel also knows what she needs to actually prepare for when fighting a future ground war.
What then is the overall outcome of the ceasefire?
1. The onus is on Egypt and its newly elected Moslem Brotherhood president to keep Hamas in line. Not only does Morsi want to be seen as an international power player to rival Turkey and Saudi Arabia. By declaring the ceasefire from Cairo instead of Ankara, Morsi has effectively shut out Turkey as a Middle East player. Turkey is now seen as either too weak or too ineffective to handle the issues of the area and that also puts into question Turkey’s real importance to NATO. Also good for Egypt.
Morsi wants to keep that US aide flowing. Egypt is near bankrupt after the Arab spring cum winter and the last thing Morsi wants is a total collapse of the Egyptian economy. He not only wants to continue receiving American monies but he wants to induce venture capitalists and international banks to give money to Egypt as well. Morsi may want to create an Islamist state but a bankrupt state does not equal another Cordoba caliphate.
2. Hamas is the big loser. Yes it will say it is the big winner. Yes it can show that it has rockets. But Israel can fight off those rockets. The only thing Hamas can do is get its own people killed at the request of Iran. Hamas is no better for the Palestinian people than the old leaders of Fatah and the PLO were in the days gone by.While Hamastan may be a state of some kind unto itself, it is unsustainable and like most nations in the Arab world, a powderkeg of resentment and anger, which despite Hamas’ propaganda, is not aimed solely at Israel and the Jews. Proof? How was Israel able to target all the Hamas infrastructure without help from inside Gaza? It is why Hamas brutally murdered 6 supposed Israeli agents. Hamas is losing the Palestinian people. Sadly though for the Palestinian people, if they do not shake off Hamas (and the old guard in the Palestinian territories as well) soon, they will remain stateless for at least another generation if not longer.
3. Obama is now in the hot seat. He has had his secretary of state garner the good will and the name of the United States behind this agreement. It is Obama’s historical record as President that is at stake for him. Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding, this President has basically accomplished nothing on the world stage during his first term and a second term is what a successful foreign policy is all about. While Obama, most definitely not a friend of Israel, would try to put more pressure on the Netanyahu government, Obama is not in the same position he was four years ago. He does not have the international respect he craves (in fact the world views him as a fool) and he didn’t even win reelection in the US by a large margin. Furthermore, he can’t be seen as undercutting Israel for doing exactly what his own government does, aka drone attacks and destruction of terrorists infrastructure. Lastly Obama needs the good will of the American people for his domestic agenda. According to polls 70% of the American electorate support Israel and over 57% supported Israel in this last round of fighting as opposed to 24% that supported Hamas (another issue entirely of course why any person of good conscience supports Hamas). Basically Obama needs the American people on his side in the next four years if he is to go down as truly a transformative rather than a dismissive foolish figure in history.
4. Israel may actually be the biggest winner with the ceasefire. She has shown that her defensive systems do work. That despite tremendous disagreement across the board in Israel about everything there is and will always be agreement about homefront defense. Israel has showcased once again her technological know how. This is no small thing. The international economics of the moment has Israel as a technological leader. As international business becomes more and more dependent upon Israeli know-how, her existence and her cause will become ever more a part of international politics as well. International business and economics rules the day, not the venal political nonsense of the UN. The Arabs with no technology, economic growth or internationalization will end up with nothing but the disdain of the majority of the world. The propaganda arm associated with oil-money will cease to be as important as it once was.
Furthermore, restraint is a big element here for Israel. It shows her democratic leanings and puts aside the rhetorical hate of her enemies. It is clear that Israel targets military and not civilians. It is clear she did everything possible to make sure that civilians are protected. The western leaders see and understand that, because their soldiers are fighting the same kind of war. However if Israel went into Gaza right now without giving a ceasefire a chance and civilian casualties mounted as they would, Israel would bare the brunt of an outraged world who constantly sees Israel as too ready to jump into a war mongering position. It doesn’t matter if it is a double standard. A nation must deal with realpolitik and not what they would like to see happen. It is the way the world works. Israel must survive at this moment, in this time, to be ready to fight another day.
Moreover, the issue arises would Israel truly be able to rid Gaza of Hamas entirely? If it were 8 years ago and Israel hadn’t hesitated as it did to go into Gaza under Olmert and Livni, waiting way too long and finishing way too early, then there might have been a chance to get rid of an infantile Hamas infrastructure without too much devastation and loss of life. That would not happen today. To rid the world of Hamas, as the world needs to rid itself of al-Queada, there needs to be a geopolitical balance to the equation.
That is not to say that Israel may not have to go into Gaza at some point in the future. Who knows it may have to be next week. But the reality is that Israel needs to be seen as trying everything possible to avert a devastating ground action. Not only is it in her best interests in the long run, it is also in her best interest to allow the Arab world to sit and stew in their own politics. Let them find a way to reign in Hamas themselves. Let the Egyptians, the Saudis the Turks fight it out amongst themselves and let them try to hold back Iran too.
Lastly and not least, many are saying that to declare a ceasefire on the day of a terror bus bombing in Tel Aviv gives Hamas succor. Not really. Firstly, it seems Israel has already caught the terrorist who threw the IED. He will undoubtedly give up his handlers and compatriots in the end. Israel will extract her vengeance have no doubt. The truth is that the ceasefire is simply the end to open hostilities. It is not the end to the covert hostilities that occur in the shadows that every nation, the US included conducts.
Also and very very very important…when the President of the USA, through his Secretary of State, says to you, we want you to try this…you do it. What makes anyone think Netanyahu had too much of a choice in the matter? Also who in their right mind thinks Netanyahu wanted to get dozens of Israeli soldiers killed? Everyone knows that would have been the reality of a ground incursion in the end. No not because he is running for reelection, but because he is obligated as the Prime Minister of Israel to try to find a better way, an alternate way than all-out war. Minimizing loss of life is his obligation.
So the world will see what is to come in the Middle East in the weeks, maybe only days, ahead. This is only the beginning of a very long and very scary road. All we can do is pray for the peace of Jerusalem…..