Thursday, November 22, 2012

Ceasefire in Gaza

The opposition to a ground invasion of Gaza by the IDF was led by Secty. of State Hillary Clinton, who appeared on the scene immediately, together with a bevy of international leaders, such as the UN's Ban ki-Moon and the German FM Hugo Westervelle, all putting pressure on PM Netanyahu not to invade Gaza.  I thought Netanyahu's response was very moderate, he said that he had no desire to invade Gaza if the elements of a ceasefire could be worked out through Egypt.  From Israel's point of view this has to include a complete cessation of firing missiles into Israel.  What would be the point of stopping the counter-attacks now if the missiles were to continue after a short delay?  The people of southern Israel, who have put up with this situation for an incredible 13 years and over 12,000 missiles, are fed up with it and cannot stand it any more. 
The bus bombing in Tel Aviv on Weds morning is another example of the Palestinians deliberately attacking Israeli civilians.  The explosion injured 23, but luckily noone was killed and this was helped by the fact that the bombing occurred outside the Ichilov hospital in the center of Tel Aviv.  This incident brings back memories of the intifada in 2000 when hundreds were killed in suicide bus explosions.  Apart from the bus bombing, missiles continue to be fired in the south, ca. 60 on Weds morning with about 20 intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile system.  
The kind of people we are dealing with is shown in an incident that happened yesterday in Gaza City, a gang of terrorists on motor bikes dragged six men accused of being spies for Israel (because they had listening devices and cameras according to the report) out into the street and executed them by shooting them in the back of the head, no trial, no due process, no chance.  Then they tied one of the dead men to the back of a motorbike and dragged him around the streets of Gaza City in a convoy.  
Weds evening in Cairo  it was announced in a joint press conference with Clinton and the Egyptian FM that at 9 pm our time a ceasefire would be implemented, negotiated between Clinton representing Israel and Egypt's Pres. Morsi representing Hamas.  No details of the agreement have been reported, but I must admit that I was surprised at this outcome.  WIth the bus bombing and the ceasefire Hamas declared a victory and there were celebrations in Gaza.  In Israel there were no celebrations, mainly a sigh of relief.  But, will this be another temporary ceasefire and then we're back to missiles in a year or two.  Another surprise was that Pres. Morsi, who is a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was able to get Hamas to agree to a ceasefire.  It may be that because of his political affinity to Hamas he was able to persuade them more effectively than former Pres. Mubarak who was their enemy. 
The net result was that both sides wanted to stop the fighting.  Israel needed to have the missile fire from Gaza stopped and could not be sure that even with a ground invasion that would happen (even after the ceasefire 20 missiles fell until 11 pm).  Also, a ground invasion of Gaza was unpopular in Israel (only 30% supported it) and so with an election looming PM Netanyahu decided to use restraint, and thanked Pres. Obama for helping to arrange the ceasefire.  Hamas wanted a ceasefire because of the toll on its operatives and the terrible destruction caused to its infrastructrure in IAF bombings.  The net tally of Operation Pillar of Defense was 1,500 targets hit in Gaza,  ca. 150 Gazans killed, about 10 leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad killed, ca 1,500 missiles fired into Israel, Iron Dome intercepted ca. 85% of those targeted on populated areas, and 5 Israelis killed and 240 injured.  We will have to wait and see if the conditions of the ceasefire will have lasting consequences for Israel.


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