New Gaza War: Ceasefire and Then What?

Category: Israel, Gaza, Hamas

EWI BLOG: Kenneth D.M. Jensen: The New Gaza War: Cease Fire and Then What?
> []
> Today’s EWI Digest is really for the convenience of those following the New Gaza
> War. One can’t find what’s worth reading all in one place and available to non-subscribers.
> The Washington Post provides an update on a ceasefire that’s, at this moment of > writing, less than two hours old. The piece is extensive.
> Early analysis, some of it extensive, is provided by Lee Smith for Tablet,Adam Garfinkle
> for The American Interest,Fouad Ajami and Bret Stephens for the Wall Street Journal,
> and Aaron David Miller for Foreign Policy. There are useful things in all these > pieces.
> Thanks to Daniel Halper of the Weekly Standard for providing the text of the ceasefire > agreement.
> There are two other pieces of interest here today. The first is by Israeli ambassador
> to the United States Michael Oren on why Hamas left Israel no choice but to strike
> in Gaza. The second comes from DEBKA, reporting on a new shipment of rockets on > the way from Iran to Hamas.
> The last is the most thought-provoking. It suggests that the hand of Iran in Hamas’s
> new aggressiveness may be heavier than most analysts are apt to think. Just as
> they ignore the fact that the United States and Iran have been at war since 1979,
> most are inclined to think that war between Israel and Iran hasn’t started yet and
> depends on whether or not Israel will allow the Iranian nuclear program to go forward.
> Couldn’t it possibly be that, given Hamas’s aggression and new rocket capabilities,
> the game is now on as far as Iran is concerned? Of course, the New Gaza War has
> all sorts of implications for Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood in the region.
> While it may be tempting to view Hamas’s behavior as rogue and self-serving, what
> if it was Iran that encouraged it to cause big trouble? Knowing full well that
> Egypt would be unwilling to cut off Iranian rocket shipments to Gaza because of
> the collateral damage that would do to Gaza’s economy, why wouldn’t Iran say to
> Hamas “Replacement rockets are on their way. Go ahead: if you provoke a regional
> war, so much the better. You might get your fellow Muslim Brothers off the dime
> and Egypt into a war with Israel. We doubt this, but it will certainly show you
> who your real friends are. At the very least, you’ll be helping us to send a message
> to Israel. If they bomb our nuclear facilities, there will be a continuous rain > of rockets from Gaza and not just the short-range ones.”
> I will probably have to recant on the foregoing, but it’s worth thinking about.
> Now, some of you will ask what this has to do with the ordinary subject-matter
> of the EWI Blog and Digest, economic warfare. Consider this: Is Iran giving away
> rockets for free? They aren’t cheap, after all, and a lot more will be needed between
> now and the next X number of ceasefires. How is Hamas paying for them? Did the
> Emir of Qatar drop off a few suitcases full of money during his visit the other
> week? How is the Muslim Brotherhood helping? And what about the largess in relief > you get from the United Nations?
> ITEM 1: Lee Smith: How Gaza Changes the Game. A ceasefire may be imminent, but the > fallout is just beginning. What’s next for Iran, Egypt, and the U.S.
> []
> ITEM 2: DEBKA: Iranian arms ship carries fresh, improved Fajar supplies for Gaza
> [] > ITEM 3: Michael Oren: Hamas Left Israel No Choice but to Strike
> []
> ITEM 4: Michael Birnbaum, Ernesto Londono: Egypt announces cease-fire in Gaza conflict
> []
> ITEM 5: Fouad Ajami: Will the Arab Spring Deliver for Hamas? The Gaza-based terror
> group sees an Islamist wave covering the region, but national divisions die hard.
> []
> ITEM 6: Bret Stephens: The Truth About Gaza. I was wrong to support Israel’s ‘disengagement’ > from the Strip in 2005.
> [] > ITEM 7: Daniel Halper: Text of Ceasefire Between Israel and Hamas
> [] > ITEM 8: Adam Garfinkle: Shock the Casbah
> []
> ITEM 9: Aaron David Miller: How Hamas Won the War. It Doesn’t Really Matter If Israel > Wins the Battle
> ITEM 1a: Lee Smith: How Gaza Changes the Game. A ceasefire may be imminent, but
> the fallout is just beginning. What’s next for Iran, Egypt, and the U.S.
> [] > November 21, 2012
> Seven days ago, Israel embarked on Operation Pillar of Defense, the second time
> it’s gone to war against Hamas in the past four years. The proximate cause of this
> campaign, according to Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, was “the incessant rounds
> of artillery rockets and mortars into the heart of our southern communities.” But
> that rationale was surely coupled with a build-up in Hamas’ weapons arsenal-including
> the Iranian-made Fajr-5 missile, capable of striking Tel Aviv, and Kornet anti-tank
> missiles, one of which was fired on an IDF jeep and injured four soldiers on Nov. > 10.
> But as with all conflicts in the Middle East, this confrontation is not limited
> to the two actors currently exchanging fire. It will shape the strategic position
> of a host of regional and international actors, most dramatically Egypt, the United
> States, and Iran. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s arrival yesterday in Jerusalem
> (she will also be visiting Ramallah and Cairo) for ceasefire talks marks a very > delicate and perhaps dangerous phase of this war.
> Will the secretary of state be able to take Israel’s winning military campaign and
> turn it into a diplomatic triumph for Washington and Jerusalem at the expense of
> Hamas and Iran? Successful negotiations would also convince a reluctant Egyptian
> President Mohamed Morsi that his long-term interests are best served by staying
> close to the United States rather than Hamas. Perhaps no one is watching Clinton
> and the course of the Israeli campaign more closely than those in Tehran. With
> rumors of bilateral talks with Washington over their nuclear arms program, the Iranians
> want to see how the Americans deal with their Israeli ally and negotiate under pressure.
> No matter what happens in the next few days, though, Operation Pillar of Defense
> has rearranged the Middle East game board. Here’s how it looks right now-and how
> the dynamics might look in the coming months as Iran continues to march toward nuclear > weapons.
> Israel
> If deterrence seems like a short-term fix to those in search of a permanent solution
> to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the reality is that most of Israel’s wars,
> like most conflicts in the Middle East, are duct-tape wars: There are few permanent
> solutions in the region, merely readjustments to the status quo. That may prove
> dissatisfying to some, but it’s far preferable to the 900 rockets and missiles that > Hamas has rained down on Israelis over the past year.
> Israel has already accomplished two of its main goals: killing several of Hamas’
> top military officials, and degrading the Islamic Resistance’s arsenal of long-range
> missiles, including the Fajr-5. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has
> no interest in occupying Gaza or uprooting Hamas. Some Israeli officials fear that
> with Hamas gone, the even more extreme Salafist movement would come to rule Gaza.
> What Jerusalem wants is to prevent Hamas from renewing hostilities anytime soon,
> and the IDF looks like it may well accomplish that without sending the 30,000 troops
> currently poised on the Gaza border. Israel cannot stop its campaign until it is
> certain to have the same quiet on its southern border that it has enjoyed on its > northern frontier since the 2006 war with Hezbollah.
> One of the most noteworthy aspects of the current campaign is the relative lack
> of international criticism of Netanyahu, a world leader unloved by his peers. Given
> that Israel is typically the target of international opprobrium, the silence is
> hard to explain. Some are speculating that Netanyahu may have paved the way for
> Pillar of Defense, beginning last month when a factory in Khartoum was bombed. Israel
> was widely credited for bombing the site, which was said to serve as an Iranian
> weapons depot, though Jerusalem has avoided comment. Some experts have argued that
> Pillar of Defense might best be seen as the second stage of a two-part operation
> against Hamas that began in the Sudanese capital. Perhaps Netanyahu took the evidence
> gathered in Khartoum to European leaders and the Obama Administration to make sure
> that no one was going to be surprised by this current operation in Gaza-and so they > understood that the larger target was Iran.
> Hamas
> It’s not clear why Hamas chose to escalate at present. Perhaps there are intra-Palestinian
> issues that forced its hand, like Mahmoud Abbas’ upcoming trip to the U.N. General
> Assembly later this month when he intends to once again push for Palestinian statehood;
> Hamas may have simply wanted to remind Abbas (and others) that it is they who truly
> represent the Palestinians since they fight and die for the cause. There are also
> regional factors. The Iranians may have sought to change the conversation from their
> nuclear weapons program by having Hamas wage war against Israel. Finally, there
> are ideological reasons: An anti-Zionist resistance movement has to fight Israel.
> Whatever the cause, the result seems clear: In stepping up its attacks against Israel,
> Palestine’s Islamic Resistance Movement overreached badly. Clinton must avoid the
> temptation to give Hamas a fig leaf, like lifting the six-year-long blockade of
> Gaza, which would allow them to portray this confrontation as a win. That’s not
> just for the sake of U.S. and Israeli prestige, but also to show Hamas that it must
> pay a price for putting Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in a compromising situation.
> After honor, what Hamas wants most right now is money. The emir of Qatar pledged
> $400 million for construction projects in Gaza last month, but this will do little
> to turn around an economy that is effectively shut off from the rest of the world.
> Though often blamed for Gaza’s crippled economy, the Israeli blockade is only one
> side of the problem. The other is that the Egyptian army has started to close down
> the smuggling tunnels to the Sinai that serve as a major source of income for Gazan > entrepreneurs.
> Paradoxically, the army under Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government has been more
> active in closing down tunnels than Hosni Mubarak’s military ever was. After a jihadist
> group in the Sinai killed 16 Egyptian border guards in August, the army realized
> that with the flow of materials going back and forth between Sinai and Gaza Egyptian
> national security was at stake-and so were their lives. When the army moved to close
> tunnels, they inadvertently sent the Gazan economy into a tailspin. The current
> exchange with Israel might be considered in part as a sort of fundraising drive:
> The longer Hamas can drag the conflict out, the better chance they have at eliciting > donations from Gulf patrons.
> Still, money won’t solve the organization’s structural problems. Ever since the
> uprising against Bashar al-Assad started, Hamas, whose political bureau was based
> in Damascus until last year, has been in trouble. They couldn’t very well side with
> a regime killing their Sunni brothers, but to go against Damascus meant alienating
> Iran, which supplies the group with the weapons it needs to wage resistance against
> Israel. That left Cairo as a possible patron. To be sure, an Egypt led by the Brotherhood
> is a more natural fit for Hamas than the foundering Alawite regime in Syria. But
> Egypt has its own interests, like staying out of a war with Israel, at least for
> the present, and not being publicly embarrassed when it doesn’t enter a war it can’t
> afford. Trying to ride Cairo for political clout while at the same time depending > on Tehran for weapons was bound to get Hamas in a jam.
> Egypt
> It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi. The Muslim
> Brotherhood and Hamas are blood relatives, sharing ideology and the larger strategic
> goal of destroying Israel. To lend real clout to Hamas, Morsi’s big move would be
> to threaten to trash the peace treaty with Israel. But he can’t play that card since
> 1) Egypt sorely needs financial support from the United States and Europe; and 2)
> the Egyptian army would likely move against him if he jeopardized the supply of > American arms and cash flow that it lives on.
> Morsi’s domestic rivals to the right, the Salafists, must enjoy seeing him twisting
> in the wind, not able to make war or broker peace. It’s unclear what kind of a compromise
> he can sell Hamas, especially now that Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal has named a price-end > of the blockade-that Israel won’t pay.
> And so Morsi’s prestige is on the line, even if he has been somewhat insulated by
> news of a domestic tragedy in which 49 Egyptian schoolchildren were hit by an oncoming
> train. If the Gaza war is still hot when Egyptians turn their attention away from
> this horrific story, he will have to manage large parts of a population questioning > whether he, like his predecessor, is simply an American and Israeli stooge.
> The Brotherhood is likely incensed that Hamas put them in this position, subject
> to ridicule and criticism from regional rivals. On Monday, Hassan Nasrallah described
> Egypt much the way he did when Mubarak was in charge. “What is asked from the Arab
> countries is to help and arm Gaza, rather than working as mediators between the > [Palestinians] and the Israeli enemy,” said Hezbollah’s general secretary.
> As many Egyptian journalists have remarked, the reality is that Morsi’s key interests
> are virtually identical to Mubarak’s-among others, maintaining stability in the
> Sinai, observing the peace treaty, and keeping Gaza quiet. Unlike Mubarak, the Brotherhood
> was elected, in no small part because of its historical reputation for repudiating
> the West. Morsi’s weakness hurts the Brotherhood not only with its Salafist rivals,
> but also in the larger regional competition with Iran for the hearts and minds of > the umma.
> The United States
> Clinton’s visit to the region reminds all the regional players why the United States
> is, at least in the Middle East, the indispensable nation. The secretary of state’s
> trip could reap significant dividends for U.S. policy. Or it could misfire badly.
> So far, the Obama Administration has been very generous in its support of Israel,
> and it likely earned Netanyahu some good will that he embarked on his campaign after
> the president was re-elected. But warm feelings can evaporate very quickly, as we
> saw during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war when Condoleezza Rice won control of the
> Bush Administration’s foreign policy. Rice wasn’t entirely wrong to be angry with
> the Olmert government, which proved incapable of meeting its stated war aims, like
> disarming Hezbollah and freeing the IDF soldiers that the Lebanese outfit had taken > hostage.
> In contrast, Netanyahu’s handling of this conflict has been the model of competence-at
> least so far-and may allow Clinton to build on the groundwork laid in the 1973 Arab-Israeli
> war. It was then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger’s massive air lifts to Israel
> that proved to the Arabs they were incapable of driving the Jews into the sea, and
> that they had to come through Washington to deal with the Israelis. What the United
> States wants in exchange from the Arabs has changed over the years, and right now
> what Washington needs most in the eastern Mediterranean is a stable Egypt, meaning
> a compliant Morsi who understands the region is safer when it is he, and not Israel,
> who keeps Hamas in line. With some luck and some skill, Clinton may well leave the
> region with just that, which would be a big win for the administration and U.S. > policy in general.
> Iran
> It is important to see this entire campaign in its second dimension-that is, in
> terms of how it reflects and illuminates the Iran issue. The Iranians are watching
> carefully, noting Israel’s ability to target Iranian missiles and Hamas militants
> who trained in Iran. Iron Dome’s 90 percent success rate in destroying short-range
> missiles destined for populated or security-sensitive areas will surely affect how
> the Iranians plan to react in the event of an Israeli or American attack on Iranian
> nuclear facilities. If Iron Dome limits both Hamas and Hezbollah in their future
> missile campaigns against Israel, then Iran will have to spend other, likely costlier, > resources to target Israelis.
> But perhaps most important, the Iranians are watching to see if there are any signs
> of daylight between the United States and Israel. With all the talk of the administration
> offering a grand bargain to the Iranians, the question that the regime most wants
> answered is whether or not Obama will restrain the Israelis. To date, Washington
> and Jerusalem’s coordination has painted a picture that is likely to keep Tehran
> guessing. So far, the message from Operation Pillar of Defense is that the Israelis
> will act on their own-and have the support of the United States, which does the
> diplomatic and political mop-up after the damage is done. That’s the kind of strong
> message that might even convince the Iranians, fearful of America’s effective ally, > to enter direct talks with the administration.
> Lee Smith is a senior editor at the Weekly Standard, a fellow at the Foundation
> for Defense of Democracies, and the author of The Strong Horse: Power, Politics, > and the Clash of Arab Civilizations.
> ITEM 2a: DEBKA: Iranian arms ship carries fresh, improved Fajar supplies for Gaza
> [] > November 19, 2012, 1:37 PM (GMT+02:00)
> An Iranian 150-ton freighter departed Bandar Abbas port Sunday, Nov. 18, with a
> cargo of 220 short-range missiles and 50 improved long-range Fajar-5 rockets for
> the Gaza Strip, DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources report. The ship turned toward > the Bab al-Mandeb Straits and the Red Sea.
> The new Fajar-5s have a 200-kilo warhead, which packs a bigger punch than the 175
> kilos of explosives delivered by the rockets in current use with the Palestinian
> terrorists in the Gaza Strip. To extend their range to cover the 85 kilometers
> from Gaza to Tel Aviv, Hamas removed a part of their payloads to make them lighter.
> Tehran is sending the fresh supply of disassembled rockets to replenish the stocks
> its allies, the Palestinian Hamas and Jihad Islami, depleted in their round-the-clock > attacks on Israel since Nov. 10. .
> To throw Israeli surveillance off the trail, the ship started its voyage called
> Vali-e Asr owned by the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, and was quickly
> renamed Cargo Star and hoisted the flag of Tuvalu. This South Pacific island nation,
> which lies between Hawaii and Australia, has a tiny population of 11,000, most of
> them Polynesians. Iran provides most of its revenue since earlier this year when
> Prime Minister Willy Telavi agreed to register Iran’s entire tanker fleet of 22 > vessels to Tuvalu, to help Tehran dodge the US-EU oil embargo.
> Our intelligence sources have learned that four big Sudanese shipping boats sailed
> out of Port Sudan early Monday and are waiting to rendezvous with the Cargo Star > and offload its missile cargo in mid-sea.
> The Sudanese will then be told by Tehran whether put into Port Sudan with the missiles,
> or turn north and sail up the Red Sea to the Straits of Tiran to link up with Egyptian
> fishing boats which regularly ply this waterway in the service of Palestinian-Iranian
> smuggling networks. They would unload the missile cargo in a quiet inlet on the
> Sinai coast. From there, it would be carried to the smuggling tunnels running from > Sinai under the border into the Gaza Strip.
> Palestinian teams assisted by Iranian and Hizballah technicians in the Gaza Strip > would then assemble the new rockets and make them operational.
> Through most of the voyage, two Iranian warships, the Khark heliicopter carrier
> and Shahid Naqdi destroyer, which are posted permanently in the Red Sea, escorted > the arms ship until the cargo changed hands.
> DEBKAfile’s Iranian sources also disclose that the Jihad Islami leader Ramadan Abdullah
> Shelah was sharply remanded by Tehran for meeting Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi
> in Cairo Sunday to discuss terms for halting Israel’s counter-missile operation > in Gaza now in its sixth day.
> Iran bankrolls these Palestinian extremists and has no intention of letting Shelah > bow to Cairo’s wishes which run counter to Tehran’s plans and interests.
> While Egypt’s new Islamist leaders are intent on carving out for themselves a responsible
> role in the region by restoring order, solving crises and restraining radicals,
> radical Iran has its own fish to fry and is bent on escalating war tensions in the > Middle East.
> ITEM 3a: Michael Oren: Hamas Left Israel No Choice but to Strike
> [] > November 20, 2012
> Washington
> CRITICS of Israel’s campaign to defend millions of its citizens from deadly Hamas
> rocket fire claim that it lacks a clear objective. Israel has bombed Gaza in the
> past, they argue, and received only rockets in return. Is there any logic, much > less an end, to the cycle of violence? Can it lead to negotiations and peace?
> Such questions can be answered only by going back to the origin of the campaign
> that we Israelis now call Operation Pillar of Defense. It did not begin last week,
> after Hamas fired more than 700 rockets at southern Israel this year; nor did it
> start four years ago, as Israel acted to stop thousands of terrorist rockets striking
> its south. It did not even begin in 2005, when Israel uprooted 21 of its Gaza settlements,
> together with their 9,000 Israeli residents, to advance peace, and received only
> Hamas terrorism in return. Rather, the operation began on May 14, 1948, the day > Arab forces moved to destroy the newly declared state of Israel.
> There were no settlements back then, and the West Bank and East Jerusalem were in
> Jordanian hands. Yet the very notion of a sovereign Jewish state in the Middle East
> was abhorrent to the Arabs, many of whom were inflamed by religious extremism. They
> rebuffed repeated Israeli offers of peace, and instead launched a war of national
> annihilation. Israel had no choice but to defend itself, losing 1 percent of its
> population – the equivalent of 3.1 million Americans today – before achieving an > armistice.
> But few Israelis mistook that truce for peace. On the contrary, most assumed that
> the Arabs would eventually forget their defeat and seek a “second round.” Indeed,
> eight years later, in 1956, Israeli and Arab forces again clashed, and then fought
> again in 1967, 1973 and 1982. The periods in between were punctuated by Arab attacks
> and Israeli retaliations. Subsequently, in Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Israel > mounted major counterstrikes against terrorists dedicated to its destruction.
> Throughout, Israelis never abandoned the vision of peace. Still, we came to understand
> that the cause of the conflict was not borders or even refugees but the same hatred
> of Jewish statehood that drove the Arabs to invade us in 1948. We understood that
> our enemies required periodic reminders of the prohibitive price they would pay
> for murdering our families. We also understood that defending ourselves incurred
> economic, diplomatic and human costs, yet there was no practical or moral alternative. > The tactic is deterrence. Our strategy is survival.
> Negotiations leading to peace can be realistic with an adversary who shares that
> goal. But Hamas, whose covenant calls for the slaughter of Jews worldwide, is striving
> not to join peace talks, but to prevent them. It rejects Israel’s existence, refuses
> to eschew terror, and disavows all previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements – the
> terms established by the United States and the other members of the so-called quartet
> of Middle East peacemakers for participation in the peace process. Bound by its
> genocidal theology and crude anti-Semitism, Hamas cannot be induced to make peace. > But it can be deterred from war.
> This was the case with Hezbollah in Lebanon. Like Hamas, Hezbollah is an Islamist
> organization committed to Israel’s demise. It, too, ambushed Israeli soldiers on
> our side of the border and rained rockets on Israeli towns. Then, in 2006, Israel
> struck back, destroying much of Hezbollah’s military infrastructure, neutralizing
> its long-range missiles, and killing hundreds of terrorists. Hezbollah internalized
> the message, and since then its missiles have remained inert. The people of northern > Israel, meanwhile, have enjoyed six of their quietest years ever.
> This does not mean that the tactics of deterrence and the strategy of survival cannot
> result in peace. Egypt and Jordan tried more than once to defeat Israel militarily,
> only to recognize the permanence of the Jewish state and to sign peace accords with
> it. Similarly, the Palestine Liberation Organization, guided by nationalism rather
> than militant theology, realized it could gain more by talking with Israel than
> by battling us. The result was the 1993 Oslo Accords, the foundation for what we
> still hope will be a two-state solution. By establishing deterrence, Israel led > these rational actors toward peace.
> Unfortunately, Hamas is not rational. It targets Israeli civilians while hiding
> behind its own. During a campaign of murder and kidnapping in 2006 and 2007, it
> gunned down members of its rival, Al Fatah, in the streets. Its covenant says Christians
> and Jews “must desist from struggling against Islam over sovereignty in this region”;
> under its rule, militants firebombed a Christian bookshop. It celebrated 9/11 and
> mourned the death of Osama bin Laden. We hope some day to persuade its leaders to
> make peace with us, but until then we must convince them of the exorbitant price > of aggression.
> Back in 1948, we envisaged a future of security, prosperity and mutual respect with
> our neighbors. We still cling to that dream. But we must also remain vigilant and,
> occasionally, neutralize the rockets and combat the terrorists that target us. President
> Obama said Sunday in Bangkok that “we’re fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend
> itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing
> civilians, and we will continue to support Israel’s right to defend itself.” Earlier
> in the trip, his deputy national security adviser, Benjamin Rhodes, said that Israelis
> would “make their own decisions about the tactics they use.” Those tactics, together
> with our survival strategy, have helped us to create one of the world’s most vibrant > and innovative societies, while enabling us to pursue peace. > Michael Oren is Israel’s ambassador to the United States.
> ITEM 4a: Michael Birnbaum, Ernesto Londono: Egypt announces cease-fire in Gaza conflict
> [] > Updated: Wednesday, November 21, 2:16 PM
> CAIRO- The Egyptian government announced Wednesday night that Israel and Palestinian
> leaders in the Gaza strip have agreed to halt hostilities after eight days of Israeli > bombardment of the enclave and hundreds of rocket strikes inside Israel.
> Standing alongside Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who engaged in intensive
> shuttle diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict, Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed
> Amr told a news conference that the cease-fire would begin at 9 p.m. local time > (2 p.m. in Washington).
> The cease-fire pact appeared to fall short of the grand bargain that both sides
> had hoped to reach. But it headed off, at least temporarily, an Israeli ground invasion > of Gaza that could have unleashed a broader regional war.
> Clinton said the United States welcomes the move. “This is a critical moment for
> the region,” she said. “The people of this region deserve the chance” to live in > peace.
> The agreement will “improve conditions for the people of Gaza and provide security > for the people of Israel,” Clinton said.
> A senior leader of Hamas, the militant Palestinian Islamist group that rules the
> Gaza Strip, said Wednesday night that his organization could commit to stopping > rocket attacks against Israel.
> “Hamas was only defending itself and its people,” Mousa Abu Marzook said. “If they > [the Israelis] stop their aggression, then that will definitely stop.”
> A draft agreement circulated at the news conference and scheduled to be discussed
> over the next day called for an easing of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip. That
> has been a key Hamas demand in return for ending its rocket attacks on Israel, but > neither side had yet committed to the more durable truce.
> The agreement said “Israel shall stop all hostilities on the Gaza Strip land, sea
> and air including incursions and targeting of individuals” and that “all Palestinian
> factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against Israel, including
> rocket attacks and attacks along the border.” It said issues of opening border crossings
> and facilitating the free movement of people and goods “shall be dealt with after > 24 hours from the start of the cease-fire.”
> In a speech in Jerusalem shortly before the cease-fire took effect, Israeli Prime
> Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that in talks by telephone with President Obama,
> he agreed to “give an opportunity to the cease-fire” that Obama was urging him to
> accept. But Netanyahu warned that at the same time, Israel could not sit idly by > as “our enemies continue to arm themselves with terrorist arms.”
> He said he and Obama had agreed, therefore, that Israel and the United States would
> “work together to prevent the smuggling of arms to the terrorist organizations, > the vast majority of which come from Iran.” He did not elaborate.
> Netanyahu also left open the prospect that an even more intensive military campaign > against Gaza “may be needed” in the future.
> In Gaza, Palestinians reacted to the news Wednesday night with a mixture of joy
> and skepticism. Many in Gaza welcomed the end of a war in which they said they were
> severely outgunned. But many also said they doubted Israel’s commitment to a long-term
> peace, and they questioned whether this truce would last any longer than previous > ones over decades of conflict.
> Others said the agreement, like prior truces, failed to address the basic demands
> of Palestinians in Gaza, including an end to the crippling Israeli economic blockade
> and the right to move about their territory – including within the border zone – > without fear of assassination.
> “There are no conditions to guarantee that Israel will not go back to carrying out
> new assassinations on armed groups,” said Khalil Abu Shammala, who heads the al-Dameer
> human rights organization in Gaza. He and other Gazans also said they were frustrated > with Washington’s failure, as they saw it, to promote a lasting peace.
> “Hillary Clinton said in the press conference in Cairo that we support the security
> of the Israeli citizens,” said Abu Shammala. “What about the Gazan security? Are > they human beings or not?”
> Israel launched its campaign of airstrikes and artillery bombardment against the
> strip last week in an effort to cripple the capabilities of militant cells in the > crowded enclave.
> The announcement of the truce came after a bus bombing Wednesday morning brought
> the Gaza conflict to central Tel Aviv. The intensified fighting between Hamas militants
> and the Israeli military had raised doubts about the prospects of a durable cease-fire > sought by Clinton and others in hectic shuttle diplomacy.
> In Washington, the White House announced that Obama spoke Wednesday to Netanyahu > and praised him for accepting the cease-fire.
> “The president commended the prime minister for agreeing to the Egyptian cease-fire
> proposal – which the president recommended the prime minister do – while reiterating
> that Israel maintains the right to defend itself,” the White House said. “The president
> said that the United States would use the opportunity offered by a cease-fire to
> intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue > of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.”
> Obama added that he was “committed to seeking additional funding for Iron Dome and > other U.S.-Israel missile defense programs,” the White House statement said.
> Obama also called Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to thank him for “his efforts
> to achieve a sustainable cease-fire and for his personal leadership in negotiating
> a cease-fire proposal,” the office of press secretary Jay Carney announced. Obama
> and Morsi “agreed on the importance of working toward a more durable solution to > the situation in Gaza,” the statement said.
> After flickers of hope on Tuesday that a cease-fire was imminent, Israel’s assault
> on Gaza early Wednesday instead appeared to have escalated. Israeli airstrikes targeted
> ministerial buildings of Hamas, as well as dozens of other sites. Ten rockets were > fired into Israel, according to an Israeli Defense Forces spokesman.
> In Tel Aviv, an explosion on a bus wounded 22 people, Israeli authorities said.
> At least three were immediately taken to a hospital with critical injuries, according
> to a medical official at the site of the blast across from an entrance to Israel’s > military headquarters.
> Although the attack paled in comparison to the destruction and casualties suffered
> by Palestinian civilians over eight days of intense Israeli bombardment of Gaza,
> it raised the specter of a return to an era of Palestinian bombings of Israeli
> civilian targets that killed more than 500 people between 2001 and 2004, the deadliest
> years of the Second Intifada. It also threatened to steel Israeli resolve to continue
> the offensive against Gaza – and possibly to invade on the ground. That step that
> would risk causing far more suffering, as well as saddling Egypt with a potentially > destabilizing refugee crisis.
> “If we decide to launch a ground phase, it should be very effective and very dramatic,”
> a senior Israeli military official said in Tel Aviv, briefing reporters on condition
> of anonymity to discuss internal government thinking. If there is a ground invasion, > the official said, “collateral damage will be dramatically higher.”
> The senior official said Israel believes that Gaza militias still possess “many > hundreds to thousands” of rockets, stockpiled over the last four years.
> Speaking three hours after the bus bombing, Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld
> said investigators suspect that the attacker left the explosive device inside the
> bus and fled on foot. “There was definitely one person who fled the scene,” he told
> CNN near the site of the explosion. “They managed to find their way into the heart > of Tel Aviv.”
> Police cordoned off the area around the wrecked bus, saying they feared there could
> be other explosives. It was the first such bombing in Tel Aviv since April 2006,
> when a Palestinian suicide bomber killed 11 people near this Mediterranean city’s > old central bus station.
> As police pushed crowds of onlookers away from the wreckage of the blue and white > bus, Tel Aviv residents looked dazed and horrified.
> Dalia Kaminer, 70, an English teacher, said the bombing was certain to derail cease-fire > negotiations.
> “Today we woke up to a new reality,” she said, looking dejected. “It starts all > over again.”
> Over the past few days, Kaminer said, a negotiated cease-fire seemed like the best > way out of the week-long conflict.
> “We now have to fight,” she said. “This is what I feel. Now there is no way back.”
> Clinton, who arrived in Cairo on Wednesday after meeting with Israeli Prime Minister
> Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, said in a statement: “The United States strongly
> condemns this terrorist attack, and our thoughts and prayers are with the victims
> and the people of Israel. As I arrive in Cairo, I am closely monitoring reports
> from Tel Aviv, and we will stay in close contact with Prime Minister Netanyahu’s
> team. The United States stands ready to provide any assistance that Israel requires.”
> The White House issued a similar statement of condemnation. “These attacks against
> innocent Israeli civilians are outrageous,” it said. It offered to help “identify
> and bring to justice the perpetrators” of the bus bombing and reaffirmed Washington’s
> “unshakeable commitment to Israel’s security and our deep friendship and solidarity > with the Israeli people.”
> In Gaza, some residents greeted news of the attack in Tel Aviv with praise, although > Hamas stopped short of claiming responsibility.
> “We told you #IDF that our blessed hands will reach your leaders and soldiers wherever
> they are,” wrote a spokesman for Hamas’s military arm on Twitter. “You opened the > Gates of Hell on Yourselves.”
> News of the attack was announced over mosque loudspeakers in Gaza. Fawzi Barhoum,
> a Hamas spokesman, told the Associated Press that the attack was to be expected.
> “We consider it a natural response to the occupation crimes and the ongoing massacres > against civilians in the Gaza Strip,”Barhoum said.
> “Israel must know that the continuation of its aggression and crimes against our
> unarmed people in Gaza will double the state of rage … in the midst of our people
> everywhere,” Izzat Risheq, a top Hamas official, said on Facebook. “It must expect > the worst.”
> Gaza residents said the Israeli offensive, ostensibly aimed at militant cells and
> arms caches, has also targeted vital government infrastructure and private homes
> in a densely crowded enclave where few strikes land without inflicting collateral > damage.
> Many feared Wednesday that the offensive could soon expand to target other individuals > and buildings with far more tenuous links to the territory’s Hamas leadership.
> By Wednesday night, much of Gaza City was covered in shards of glass, the result
> of powerful bombs dropped by F-16 fighter jets that blew out the walls and windows > of shops and homes abutting military targets.
> Among the businesses sustaining collateral damage on one street were a travel agency
> and a Mitsubishi dealership. Shortly after shell-shocked employees attempted to
> sweep up the debris in their offices Wednesday afternoon, another round of violent > explosions hit their street.
> Negotiations continued Wednesday, but it was unclear whether Israeli officials and
> Hamas negotiators, communicating through Egyptian interlocutors, were moving closer
> to the truce that the international community was furiously trying to broker. Among
> the main sticking points was whether Egypt and the United States could act as guarantors
> of a peace deal in a region where waves of aggression have come in vicious cycles.
> A former senior Israeli official who has been briefed on the negotiations said both
> sides have made it clear that they prefer a cease-fire to avert a ground invasion
> by Israel, which could multiply casualties and spark a broader regional conflagration.
> But neither wants to back down without getting significant concessions, said the
> former official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private negotiations.
> The Israelis, the former official said, want a commitment that Egypt will do a better
> job of policing its porous border with Gaza, which includes dozens of tunnels that
> are used to smuggle everything from vehicles to rocket parts. Hamas wants Israel > to lift its blockade of the enclave, home to 1.7 million Palestinians.
> That left Clinton to rush between meetings with Netanyahu, Palestinian Authority
> President Mahmoud Abbas and Morsi in Jerusalem, Ramallah and Cairo respectively.
> She is not communicating directly with Hamas, a group that Israel and the United > States consider a terrorist organization.
> Putting to rest rumors and assertions throughout Tuesday that suggested a cease-fire
> deal was imminent, Netanyahu late in the day made it clear to Clinton that he had > not ruled out a ground invasion.
> “If there is a possibility of achieving a long-term solution to this problem through
> diplomatic means, we prefer that,” Netanyahu said. “If not, I’m sure you understand
> that Israel will have to take whatever action is necessary to defend its people. > This is something I don’t have to explain to Americans.”
> In her meeting with Abbas in Ramallah on Wednesday morning, Clinton expressed appreciation
> for his “leadership in encouraging the restoration of calm and his role in maintaining
> security throughout the area, including in the West Bank,” State Department spokeswoman
> Victoria Nuland said. She said that in their half hour of talks, Clinton and Abbas
> were joined by, among others, Palestinian chief negotiator Saeb Erakat, U.S. special
> envoy David Hale and Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., assistant to the chairman of > the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
> More than 100 targets in Gaza were hit overnight, according to the Twitter feed
> of the Israeli Defense Forces spokeswoman, and a major Hamas ministry appeared to > have been pulverized by several large airstrikes.
> The impasse was a blow to Morsi, who had said earlier Tuesday that he expected a
> deal within hours. On Tuesday, the Israeli military said Gaza militants launched > 200 rockets, while Israel struck more than 133 targets in Gaza.
> Clinton, looking weary Tuesday after flying across five time zones from Cambodia,
> where she had been attending a regional summit with President Obama, spoke firmly > about her desire to avert greater bloodshed.
> “America’s commitment to Israel’s security is rock-solid and unwavering,” Clinton
> said late Tuesday before sitting down with Netanyahu. “That is why we believe it > is essential to de-escalate the situation in Gaza.”
> Points of contention
> The former Israeli official briefed on the discussions said a key concern is clearly > defining the role that Egypt would play as a guarantor if a deal were reached.
> “The cessation of smuggling requires a strong Egyptian role,” the former official > said. “I don’t believe Hamas will commit to halt smuggling weapons.”
> In her remarks to Netanyahu, Clinton also stressed the pivotal part that Egypt stands
> to play, saying that “as a regional leader and neighbor, Egypt has the opportunity
> and responsibility to continue playing a crucial and constructive role in this process.”
> Israel also wants the deal to include the establishment of a buffer zone along its
> border with Gaza to prevent attacks on Israeli patrols, the former official said.
> Hamas has demanded the permanent lifting of the Gaza blockade, the former official
> said, a concession that Israel is unlikely to grant. Israel says the measure is > designed to keep militants from smuggling weapons and building bunkers.
> Complicating matters, the former official said, the Egyptians are making demands
> of their own. Cairo wants Hamas to rein in Gaza-based militant groups that have > formed alliances in recent years with extremists in Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula.
> “This is a two-layered deal,” the former official said. “Israel does not want to > find itself agreeing to a deal that collapses after two or three weeks.” > Fighting intensifies
> Tuesday was among the most violent days since Israel’s operation, called Pillar
> of Defense, began a week ago. The campaign seeks to cripple militant cells in Gaza
> that have stockpiled enormous caches of rockets that are routinely fired toward > southern Israeli towns.
> The Israeli military suffered its first casualty of the offensive Tuesday, when
> an 18-year-old corporal from Emmanuel, an Israeli settlement town in the West Bank,
> was killed by a rocket in southern Israel. Five other Israeli soldiers were wounded
> by artillery Tuesday, the military said. A civilian Israeli defense employee was
> killed in a separate rocket attack in southern Israel, officials said, raising
> the Israeli death toll to five. More than 130 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza > since the fighting began, according to health officials.
> The 200 rockets launched by Gaza militants on Tuesday included 14 that landed in
> populated areas, said Capt. Eytan Buchman, an Israeli military spokesman. Two of
> those were long-range rockets. One landed in a barren area outside Jerusalem, and > the other struck a building in a Tel Aviv suburb.
> The rocket attacks “reflect the organization’s intent to target population centers,
> as well as the increasingly advanced capabilities they have acquired over recent > years,” Buchman said.
> Israel pounded densely populated Gaza throughout the day from the air and the sea.
> One of the airstrikes targeted the Islamic National Bank, which Hamas set up to > fund operations in Gaza in the face of international sanctions.
> The Israeli military distributed leaflets and sent text messages warning Gaza residents
> to move from certain parts of the border area – a warning that some interpreted > as a prelude to a ground invasion.
> As the strikes continued, Mohammed Deif, a top Hamas military commander in Gaza,
> issued a recorded statement exhorting his group’s fighters to keep attacking Israel.
> Hamas “must invest all resources to uproot this aggressor from our land,” said Deif,
> who is in hiding. “The enemy should know that it will pay a heavy price for its > heinous crimes against our people.”
> In Gaza City, meanwhile, masked Hamas gunmen publicly executed six alleged Israeli
> spies at a large intersection Tuesday, the Associated Press reported. Hamas’s military
> wing accused the men of giving Israel information about fighters and rocket-launching
> sites. The suspects were forced to lie facedown in the street and shot, and one
> of the corpses was tied to a motorcycle and dragged through the streets as passersby > screamed, “Spy! Spy!”
> Visit by U.N. chief
> In a surprise visit to Israel on Tuesday, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appealed
> for an end to hostilities, warning that an Israeli ground invasion could spark a > destabilizing regional conflict.
> “Further escalation would be dangerous and tragic for Palestinians and Israelis
> and would put the entire region at risk,” he said, speaking alongside Netanyahu.
> Saying that rocket strikes inside Israel have sown “fear and terror,” Ban added:
> “Rocket attacks by Palestinian militants targeting Israel must cease immediately.”
> ITEM 5a: Fouad Ajami: Will the Arab Spring Deliver for Hamas? The Gaza-based terror
> group sees an Islamist wave covering the region, but national divisions die hard.
> [] > November 20, 2012, 8:10 p.m. ET
> ‘Egypt of today is entirely different from the Egypt of yesterday, and the Arabs
> of today are not the Arabs of yesterday.” So said Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi > after Friday prayers last week, adding: “We will not leave Gaza alone.”
> And Gaza will not leave Mr. Morsi alone. As in decades past, Egypt is playing mediator
> between the Palestinians and Israel-but Mr. Morsi finds himself in a more precarious
> position than his predecessors. He has been involved in a delicate balancing act
> since his election in June, mindful of his indebtedness to the Hamas-allied Muslim
> Brotherhood that brought him to power and of his need not to alienate his foreign-aid > benefactors in Washington.
> Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s mission to the region this week will include
> talks in Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in the West Bank with Palestinian
> President Mahmoud Abbas and in Cairo with Egyptian leaders and officials of the > Muslim Brotherhood. Whether Mr. Morsi will join the talks is not clear.
> Mr. Morsi didn’t rise to power to carry the burden of the Palestinian question.
> The 18 magical days of protests in Tahrir Square that upended the military regime,
> and the elections that followed, weren’t about pan-Arab duties. Egyptians could
> rightly claim that they had paid their dues for Palestine. Enough was enough-the
> last of Egypt’s four wars with Israel (in 1973) appeared to deliver a binding verdict:
> Egypt would put behind it the furies and the dangers of the struggle of Palestine.
> Yet here was Mr. Morsi indulging the radicalism and ruinous ways of Hamas when even > the Palestinians have fed off that diet for far too long.
> It is commonplace to observe that the Arab Awakening of 2011-12 has remade the region,
> that the rise of Islamist governments in Egypt and Tunisia, and the rebellion in > Syria, have brought a new balance of Arab forces.
> The men of Hamas could see this new landscape as favorable to their kind of politics.
> Hamas fought a fratricidal war against its rival, Fatah, and the prize in 2007 was
> Gaza’s virtual secession, under Hamas rule, from the Palestinian National Authority
> in the West Bank. The established Arab states had cast their lot with the “legitimate” > order of Fatah, and Hamas was left to the isolation of Gaza.
> Iranian patronage became a lifeline for Hamas, which was soon riven by tension between
> the leadership in Gaza and a “political bureau” of exiles in Damascus who claimed
> authority over strategic direction and political theology. A militant Sunni movement
> sustained by the Shiite theocrats in Tehran and the Alawite rulers in Damascus wasn’t > in the most tenable position.
> Greed and plunder, and the rise of more radical factions and brigands within Gaza,
> sapped Hamas’s reign of any legitimacy. Soon, the Sunni-Shiite schism that Hamas
> was sitting astride became a veritable civil war in the House of Islam. The ground
> burned in Syria, forcing Hamas to choose between a regime that had granted it sanctuary
> and a Sunni Arab world that had taken up the cause of Syria’s (Sunni) rebellion.
> Hamas broke with Damascus and hoped that its Iranian patrons, who provided money > and rockets, would look the other way.
> But the Arab rebellions suddenly gave Hamas a reprieve from this dilemma. The secular
> regimes toppled, and political Islam began riding what looked like an irresistible
> historical wave. Gone was the Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak, who had been a partner
> of Israel in the blockade that isolated Gaza. Hamas could read his demise as evidence > that ‘collaborationist” regimes aren’t destined to last.
> The ascendancy of the Muslim Brotherhood in Tunisia and Egypt only added to Hamas’s
> conviction that history was breaking its way. Throughout their modern history, the
> Palestinians have looked for a redeemer-a man, a power-that could spare them the
> rigors of a compromise with their Zionist adversaries. In the 1930s, the Palestinians
> invested their hopes in the Axis powers. More recently, they chose the Egyptian
> Gamal Abdul Nasser, the Iraqi Saddam Hussein, the power of the Arab oil weapon, > etc.
> Of late Hamas also drew solace from Turkey’s Islamist leader, Prime Minister Recep
> Tayyip Erdogan. Ever since the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of
> World War I, Turkey (wisely) quit Arab affairs, but Mr. Erdogan surveyed the Arab
> scene and concluded that he could fill the vacuum left by the autocrats. His willingness
> to turn his back on the Turkish-Israeli alliance that was a pillar of the Turkish
> military class made him a darling of the “Arab street.” On Monday, he decried Israel > as a “terrorist state.”
> Then, as luck would have it, there was the emir of Qatar, eager for a role beyond
> his small principality. He has vast treasure and sway over the Qatari-based satellite
> channel al-Jazeera. He bet big on the Libyan revolution against Moammar Gadhafi
> and on the Syrian rebellion, and he had some sympathy for Hamas. Last month, the
> emir made a highly publicized visit to Gaza, bringing aid of $400 million and the > promise of more.
> So an Egyptian-Turkish-Qatari alliance formed. But after the wilderness, travelers
> can be forgiven their propensity to see oases over the horizon. These are, invariably, > mirages.
> Hamas has a fairly sympathetic government in Cairo today, but the group won’t be
> given a veto over Egypt’s choices. The Egypt of the Muslim Brotherhood will hold
> on to the peace of Camp David. It can facilitate the intelligence traffic between
> Hamas and Israel, giving cover to that exchange, but the Egyptians are shrewd enough
> to know that the Palestinians are keen to frustrate the Arab tutelage of their affairs.
> On Sunday in Egypt’s leading official daily, Al-Ahram, I came upon a daring column
> by one of that paper’s writers, Hazem Abdul Rahman. The solution lies in the development
> of Egypt, not in Gaza, he observed. He minced no words: President Morsi wasn’t elected
> to serve the cause of Palestine-his mandate was the “pursuit of bread, freedom,
> and social justice.” The popularity of the Muslim Brotherhood has eroded, but it
> cannot find salvation in foreign policy: “That road is blocked, the other players
> are ill-intentioned, including Hamas, Syria, Hezbollah, Iran, even the United States.”
> Mr. Abdul Rahman didn’t think much of Mr. Morsi’s decision to withdraw the Egyptian
> ambassador to Israel after its counterattack against Hamas began last week. Egypt
> needed its ambassador there to conduct its own diplomacy, the columnist said, and > this was nothing more than grandstanding.
> The Palestinians ignore a fundamental truth about the Arab Awakenings at their peril.
> These rebellions were distinctly national affairs, emphasizing the primacy of home
> and its needs. Indeed, the Palestinians themselves have bristled in indignation
> that the pan-Arab media have zealously covered Syria while all but ignoring Palestine, > which was the obsession of the 1960s and 1970s.
> History has moved on, and Arab populations have gone their separate ways. They caught
> on to the sobering conclusion that the cause of Palestine had been hijacked by military
> regimes and tyrants for their own ends. As they watched the Syrian fighter jets
> reduce so much of the fabled city of Aleppo to rubble, they understood that their
> wounds are self-inflicted, that their political maladies have nothing to do with
> Israel. Hamas better not press its luck. Palestinian deliverance lies in realism,
> and in an accommodation with Israel. Six decades of futility ought to have driven > home so self-evident a lesson.
> Mr. Ajami is a senior fellow at Stanford’s Hoover Institution and the author most > recently of “The Syrian Rebellion” (Hoover Press, 2012).
> ITEM 6a: Bret Stephens: The Truth About Gaza. I was wrong to support Israel’s ‘disengagement’
> from the Strip in 2005.
> [] > Updated November 19, 2012, 8:06 p.m. ET
> Sometimes it behooves even a pundit to acknowledge his mistakes. In 2004 as editor
> of the Jerusalem Post, and in 2006 in this column, I made the case that Israel was > smart to withdraw its soldiers and settlers from the Gaza Strip. I was wrong.
> My error was to confuse a good argument with good policy; to suppose that mere self-justification
> is a form of strategic prudence. It isn’t. Israel is obviously within its rights
> to defend itself now against a swarm of rockets and mortars from Gaza. But if it
> had maintained a military presence in the Strip, it would not now be living under > this massive barrage.
> Or, to put it another way: The diplomatic and public-relations benefit Israel derives
> from being able to defend itself from across a “border” and without having to get
> into an argument about settlements isn’t worth the price Israelis have had to pay > in lives and terror.
> That is not the way it seemed to me in 2004, when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon
> decided to pull up stakes, reversing the very policy he had done so much to promote
> as a general and politician in the 1970s. Gaza, I argued, was vital neither to the
> Jewish state’s security nor to its identity. It was a drain on Israel’s moral, military,
> political and diplomatic resources. Getting out of the Strip meant shaving off nearly
> half of the Palestinian population (and the population with the highest birthrate), > thereby largely solving Israel’s demographic challenge.
> Withdrawal also meant putting the notion of land-for-peace to a real-world test.
> Would Gazans turn the Strip into a showcase Palestinian state, a Mediterranean
> Dubai, or into another Beirut circa 1982? If the former, then Israel could withdraw
> from the West Bank with some confidence. If the latter, it would put illusions to > rest, both within Israel and throughout the Western world.
> Finally, I argued that while direct negotiations with the Palestinians had proved
> fruitless for Israel, Jerusalem could use its withdrawal from Gaza to obtain political
> and security guarantees from the United States. That’s just what Mr. Sharon appeared
> to get through an exchange of formal letters with George W. Bush in April 2004. > Things didn’t work out as I had hoped. To say the least.
> Within six months of Israel’s withdrawal, Hamas won Palestinian parliamentary elections.
> Within two years, Hamas seized control of the Strip from the ostensible moderates > of Fatah after a brief civil war.
> In 2004, the last full year in which Israel had a security presence in Gaza, Gazans
> fired 281 rockets into Israel. By 2006 that figure had risen to 1,777. The Strip
> became a terrorist bazaar, home not only to Hamas but also Islamic Jihad and Ansar > al-Sunna, an al Qaeda affiliate.
> In late 2008, Israel finally tried to put a stop to attacks from Gaza with Operation
> Cast Lead. The limited action-Israeli troops didn’t go into heavily populated areas
> and refrained from targeting Hamas’s senior leadership-was met with broad condemnation,
> including a U.N. report (since recanted by its lead author) accusing Israel of possible > “crimes against humanity.”
> Nor did the reality of post-occupation Gaza do much to dent the appetite of the
> Obama administration for yet another effort to broker Israeli-Palestinian peace.
> That included a settlement freeze in the West Bank (observed by the government
> of Benjamin Netanyahu, to zero benefit) and calls by President Obama for Israel > to withdraw to its 1967 lines “with mutually agreed swaps.”
> In 2009, Hillary Clinton disavowed the Bush-Sharon exchange of letters, saying they
> “did not become part of the official position of the United States government.”
> Even today, the Obama administration considers Gaza to be “occupied” territory, > a position disavowed even by Hamas.
> Put simply, Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza yielded less security, greater diplomatic
> isolation, and a Palestinian regime even more radical and emboldened than it had > been before. As strategic failures go, it was nearly perfect.
> Now Israel may be on the cusp of purchasing yet another long-term strategic failure
> for the sake of a short-term tactical success. The Israeli government wants to bomb
> Hamas into a cease-fire-hopefully lasting, probably orchestrated in Cairo. That
> way Israel gets the quiet it seeks, especially on the eve of elections in January, > and the Egyptians get the responsibility for holding the leash on Hamas.
> That is largely how it played out during Cast Lead. But as one leading Israeli political
> figure told me in January 2009, just as the last cease-fire had been declared, “Notwithstanding
> the blows to the Hamas, it’s still in Gaza, it’s still ruling Gaza, and the Philadelphi
> corridor [which runs along Gaza’s border with Egypt] is still porous, and Hamas
> can smuggle new rockets unless [the corridor] is closed, to fire at Israel in the > future.”
> That leading political figure was Benjamin Netanyahu, just before he returned to
> office as prime minister. He might now consider taking his own advice. Israel can > afford to watch only so many reruns of this same, sordid show.
> ITEM 7a: Daniel Halper: Text of Ceasefire Between Israel and Hamas
> [] > 2:23 PM November 21, 2012
> Here’s the text, via the Egyptian president, of the ceasefire agreement between > Israel and Hamas:
> Agreement of Understanding For a Ceasefire in the Gaza Strip > 1: (no title given for this section)
> A. Israel should stop all hostilities in the Gaza Strip land, sea and air including > incursions and targeting of individuals.
> B. All Palestinian factions shall stop all hostilities from the Gaza Strip against > Israel including rocket attacks and all attacks along the border.
> C. Opening the crossings and facilitating the movements of people and transfer of
> goods and refraining from restricting residents’ free movements and targeting residents
> in border areas and procedures of implementation shall be dealt with after 24 hours > from the start of the ceasefire.
> D. Other matters as may be requested shall be addressed.
> 2: Implementation mechanisms:
> A. Setting up the zero hour for the ceasefire understanding to enter into effect.
> B. Egypt shall receive assurances from each party that the party commits to what > was agreed upon.
> C. Each party shall commit itself not to perform any acts that would breach this
> understanding. In case of any observations Egypt as the sponsor of this understanding > shall be informed to follow up.
> ITEM 8a: Adam Garfinkle: Shock the Casbah
> [] > November 20, 2012
> Again I come late to the gabfest, this time about the Hamas-IDF confrontation in
> and around Gaza. So much has already been said, and it falls in the usual categories:
> the thinly didactic, the fatuous, the banal, the shrewd and, especially, the emotional.
> The usual irrational Jewcentric crap, of all four sorts, too, can be readily identified:
> the anti-Semitic, the philo-Semitic, the chauvinist and the self-hating. For those
> who have endured this conflict in its several manifestations for a wilderness of
> forty years (or more), the whole thing-the Jewcentric mutterings very much included-is
> still as heartbreaking as ever. It is also something well worth ignoring for the
> sake of one’s sanity, which helps explain why I am so late to the keyboard. I tried > mightily to resist writing this note; I failed.
> So what is there to say after all? I can think of three, possibly useful, things > to discuss.
> First, in this age of instantaneous amnesia in the segmented American cyberswirl,
> where the backstory to any telegenic foreign event has long since disappeared into
> the historical ether, it’s useful to restate for the inexpert observer a little
> of the relevant history. Not knowing the basics makes it seem like both sides of
> the conflict are made up of a bunch of hateful and insane yet regrettably determined
> extremists. As appealing as this description may be to those with no dog in the
> fight and who have an appetite for violent entertainment, and as apt as it may seem
> upon substituting the words “one side” for “both sides” to pro-Israel or pro-Palestinian
> partisans, it is not really accurate. Knowing the history shows why what’s going
> on is a tragedy rather than a simple, if protracted, act of mutual madness. Both
> sides are adept at making highly rational tactical calculations, but they find themselves
> trapped in a merciless strategic framework that turns every temporary advantage > into a pointless sacrifice of blood and hope.
> Second, it is worth pointing out what is both new and true in essence about the
> current round of fighting. This round of fighting both is and is not the same ‘ol > same ‘ol.
> Third, it is also worth thinking through what it would really take to turn this
> current crisis into an opportunity. There is a way, I think, to transform the aforementioned
> strategic framework so that this sort of thing actually stops happening on a fairly
> regular basis. But it is a way that requires multi-party coordination, boldness,
> courage and foresight. That is another way of saying that while a way out of the
> mutual Israeli-Palestinian zugzwang is possible, it’s almost certainly not going > to happen.
> A Very Little History
> The history of Gaza goes back a very long time, all the way to Samson and the Philistines,
> and even, if you like the Muslim tradition, to the time of Jonah. Why? Because according
> to the folk traditions of the region, the great fish of Biblical lore barfed out
> the contrite prophet in what is today Khan Yunis, one of Gaza’s largest towns.
> For present purposes, however, all you need to know is what I call the following > Fourteen Points:
> first, that Gaza was designated part of the Arab state when the United Nations Special
> Commission on Palestine (UNSCOP) divided the British Mandate of Palestine into Jewish > and Arab states in 1947;
> second, that the results of the 1948 war left Gaza outside of Israel’s security
> perimeter, but inundated by refugees from Jaffa, Ashqelon, Ramla, Lod and elsewhere,
> leaving Gaza today with a self-identifying refugee population nearly triple that > of the West Bank;
> third, that while the West Bank was soon annexed by Jordan and the Arabs there given
> Jordanian citizenship, Gaza was occupied by Egypt and its residents were not offered > Egyptian citizenship;
> fourth, that in due course, after the July 1952 Egyptian revolution, Gaza became
> a source of the fedayeen attacks on Israel that led in part to the October 1956
> Sinai War, even as Nasser’s Egypt used Gaza as a lever to advance its bid for pan-Arabism > under Egyptian leadership;
> fifth, that while the IDF overran Gaza in the Sinai War, it evacuated it along with > the Sinai Peninsula in 1957;
> sixth, that as part of the June 1967 War the IDF again overran Gaza, but did not
> evacuate it when, eventually, after the Egyptian-Israeli Peace Treaty of March
> 1979, the Sinai was finally returned in full to Egypt in April 1982-and the reason > was, essentially, that Egypt refused to take Gaza back;
> seventh, that as part of a “revisionist” Zionist effort to prevent Israel’s relinquishing
> any further land seized in 1967, Israeli settlements (eventually totaling 21 in > all) were established in Gaza;
> eighth, that the IDF military administration of Gaza was relatively placid until
> the eruption of the first intifada in December 1987, after which the costs of the
> occupation began to exceed any reasonable calculus of benefits, until, at long last……;
> ninth, in August 2005, after an exceedingly difficult and protracted political debate
> within Israel, the Sharon government unilaterally disengaged Israel from Gaza after > a negotiated arrangement proved impossible;
> tenth, that almost immediately after the settlements were dismantled and the IDF
> was out of Gaza, buildings that had been used as synagogues were desecrated and > primitive mortars were fired from Gaza into southern Israel;
> eleventh, that in January 2006 Hamas won a legislative election in Gaza in a vote
> that never should have been allowed to occur, since Hamas rejected Oslo Accords
> the framework agreement that established the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the first
> place-there is plenty of blame to go around for this inexcusable blunder, not to
> exclude both the Israeli government and an utterly feckless PLO, but the lion’s
> share of it falls on President George W. Bush and his disastrous early-elections-no-matter-what > “forward strategy for freedom”;
> twelfth, after the Hamas victory Israel, the United States, the PLO and Egypt began
> to collude in a strategy to unseat Hamas in Gaza, but Hamas pre-empted this effort
> with a coup in the summer of 2007-after which it immediately closened its relationship > with Iran and accelerated rocket attacks on southern Israel;
> thirteenth, in December 2008 Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against Gaza to
> suppress the source of escalating attacks against it, hopefully to topple the Hamas
> government, and in any event and to re-establish its diminished deterrence reputation > writ large; and
> fourteenth, an Egyptian-mediated, U.S.-supported ceasefire ended the fighting and
> Israel withdrew all forces from Gaza by March 2009 in accord with a ceasefire that > more or less held until about a week ago.
> What’s New and What’s True
> With this basic though completely inadequate history now in mind, let’s list what > is both new and true about the current situation.
> First of all, what is new and true militarily is that Hamas’s capacity to launch
> missiles is vastly greater now than it was in 2007-08. It has more missiles and
> their ranges are much longer than before. Until this bout of fighting, missile
> attacks from Gaza had not been able to kill many Israelis, despite aiming (if you
> can call it that) at static targets like buildings housing schools and kindergartens-the
> Palestinians’ favorites-just across the border. This time missiles have flown to
> Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem, where one killed three people in one family.
> Israeli ballistic missile defenses have so far proven quite effective, but not perfect
> given the expanded area they must now cover. Anything less than just about perfect
> creates an intolerable situation; 50 percent and more of a country’s population > cannot live in shelters constantly fearing missile attack.
> Second, the motives on both sides are a bit different from before. Most of the 1,947
> missile attacks that Israel absorbed this year before the most recent IDF operation
> began were not fired by Hamas types, but by smaller, mostly salafi Islamist groups.
> Hamas let them operate, within certain limits, in order to deflect growing opposition
> to the incompetent, arrogant and narrow neo-tribal base of its post-summer 2007
> rule. That put Hamas’s military leader, Ahmed al-Jabari, in a tight spot as a kind
> of one-man balancing act between his political superiors, these smaller groups and
> the IDF. Then the rise of a new and presumably more sympathetic Egyptian government
> certainly tugged at Hamas calculations, pushing them in the direction of more military > risk-taking.
> Meanwhile, as Israel absorbed these strikes without response, the political leadership
> and the IDF had to keep several factors in mind simultaneously: the erosion of Israeli
> deterrence and the broad domestic psychological and political ramifications thereof;
> the tradeoff between confidence in the IDF’s missile defense and the longer ranges
> of the attacking missiles; the impact of a military response on a delicately evolving
> relationship with the new Egyptian government; as time passed, the impact of a response
> on relations with the Obama Administration amid a re-election campaign; and, of > course, Israel’s own upcoming election on January 22.
> All of this, and especially the combination of factors, made for a unique problem
> compared to 2008 and earlier. Israeli leaders knew that if they struck Gaza Hamas
> would respond with its own much more voluminous and longer-range missiles-as indeed
> it did. It fired more than 1,200 missiles in just a few days last week. But to have
> waited indefinitely while the Hamas arsenal grew in numbers and sophistication could
> have hardly been an appealing prospect. It is clear that the Israeli targeting of
> Ahmed al-Jabari, the man responsible for keeping the ceasefire, after all, signaled
> that the deteriorating situation was no longer tolerable. Whether this decision > was the right one we’ll come to in a moment.
> Also new and true is that the role of the Morsi-led Egyptian government clearly
> took pride of place on both sides. The Hamas leadership, seeing its sister Muslim
> Brotherhood movement come to power in Egypt, naturally expected a more supportive
> hand. Not that the Mubarak government had been an outright enemy to Hamas. Yes,
> it joined Israel in embargoing Gaza from the sea, but at the same time it played
> a complex double game, operated by Egyptian intelligence chief Omar Suleiman himself,
> with respect to the tunnels under the Egyptian-Gazan border, without which Hamas
> could never has amassed its missile arsenal. (This tunnel double-game was and remains
> a very, very complex affair, and this is not the time or place to go into details
> about it.) But the Morsi government seemed a dream come true for Hamas. Sure, that
> government was still young and not yet ready to qualitatively downgrade its relationship
> with Israel, partly for fear of triggering the sequestration of its critical aid
> money from the United States. But it would be pulled by its faith ultimately to
> side with Hamas and thus to deeply harm Israel’s security situation by essentially
> repudiating the 1979 peace treaty. A clarifying act of violence would speed the > process.
> Israelis feared that this, indeed, is what the future probably looked like, which
> is one reason they were reluctant to trigger that clarifying act of violence. Another
> reason is that they still think it possible that the Egyptian military/intelligence
> leadership will oust Morsi before the year is up, thus shifting the likely shape
> of the future altogether. That is also why the violence-abstaining Israelis conducted
> an ongoing moving private seminar with American officials at all levels in an effort
> to gain credit in Washington for their forbearance, a credit that might be redeemable
> not only with regard to Gaza, but also possibly Iran at a future time. From the
> looks of things so far, the effort worked: Obama Administration support for Israel
> in this crisis, from the mouth of the President on down, has been full and vocal.
> I think it entirely reasonable to ascribe this stance to the logic and justice of
> Israel’s position. But it doesn’t hurt that the Netanyahu government has managed
> this time not to blunder its way to another mess in U.S.-Israeli relations, a most > uncharacteristic and refreshing turn of events.
> Finally with regard to this second theme, there are some who claim that, precisely
> because of the key role of Egypt in what has transpired, the events of recent days
> show that the Arab-Israeli, or Palestinian-Israeli, impasse really is central to
> American interests in the region as a whole. This is wrong. The Palestinian-Israeli
> impasse is obviously not irrelevant, but it is not central either.1 Central are
> the rise of Sunni radicalism and the joining of conflict between it and Shi’a radical
> mobilization; the related rise of Iranian hegemonic ambitions and, to a lesser extent,
> Turkish re-entry into the Arab region; and the political futures of Egypt and Syria.
> Israelis and Palestinians battling each other affects these larger stakes marginally,
> but those stakes would still exist even if the ceasefire had never been broken.
> Insofar as the Palestinian issue impinges most on these other problems, it does
> so with regard to Egypt. But from the U.S. point of view, it is crucial to get straight
> what matters most to what. For many decades, as a matter of peace-process habit
> more than cold-blooded strategic assessment, Egypt was important instrumentally
> to the United States as an agent in managing and, hopefully, one day resolving the
> Palestinian and other Arab-Israeli issues. Today, we have to reverse the arrows:
> The ups and downs of the Palestinian impasse, like whether it is kinetic or not
> at any given time, have become instrumental with regard to the far more consequential
> future of politics in Egypt. Egypt is now less reliably useful to the United States
> as a mediator in Israeli-Palestinian affairs, but it has become far more important
> to the United States because its uncertain future will ramify across the entire,
> now destabilized Arab world, and also impinge significantly on the role of Iran
> and Turkey amid the Arabs. This does not make the Palestine impasse central to
> U.S. interests in the region, but its importance rises in rough proportion to how > it impinges on the future of Egypt.
> Are U.S. officials capable of reversing the arrows? Are they capable of a genuinely
> nuanced view of the region as a whole, one that finally grasps the intricacies and
> cleavages in intra-regional relations, or will they remain fixated on the more or
> less Manichean drama of Israel-Palestine? The jury is still out on that one, but > I’m not holding my breath.
> Exiting the Treadmill
> Everyone who really understands the underlying strategic realities of the present
> crisis knows that the best that can be achieved for now is another Hamas-Israeli
> ceasefire, after a suitable amount of pain and blood have been exacted. There is
> no possibility of a genuine reconciliation between Israel, with whatever government
> it may elect, and Hamas, at least as long as Hamas remains what it is: a particularly
> nationalized Palestinian form of the Muslim Brotherhood, itself a deeply authoritarian
> and atavistic movement. Now, it is true, as I have written before that significant
> changes are afoot in Arab culture, not least of them the fact that religion as a
> political symbol has been decisively pluralized. All sorts of interesting things
> percolating into Arab politics, even some positive ones, could flow from that in
> due course-but not very soon, not easily, and not smoothly. If we wait until a
> liberal democratic force rises to governance in Gaza, or even in the West Bank for
> that matter, we’ll be waiting not just until the cows come home, but until their > bovine progeny learn to churn their own butter.
> Nor, for the time being, is there any prospect of the PLO regaining control over
> Gaza and uniting the PA under a single political-territorial umbrella. Indeed,
> this whole business in Gaza weakens the PLO in the West Bank, through probably not
> fatally so. Not that a reunified PA would then want or be able to waltz itself into
> a final settlement with even a center-left Israeli coalition. But it would at least > be a thinkable prospect.
> Given those realities, the prospect is for ceasefire followed by mini-war followed
> by ceasefire followed by another mini-war and so on, with each successive burst
> of violence more destructive than the one before. With all due respect to my old
> friend, Ehud Ya’ari, his most recent whack at the piñata in Foreign Affairs really
> doesn’t amount to much. Yes, it’ll be harder to get a ceasefire now thanks to the
> uncertainties of the Egyptian role, but so what? Another ceasefire will be born > only to be broken.
> So is there any way off this treadmill? Yes, there is.
> I promised above that I would comment on whether Israeli decision-making in this
> crisis has been wise or not. Well, not being in the midst of the process makes
> it impossible for anyone to really bring judgment; it is, as already discussed,
> a hellishly complex problem set, with lots of moving parts and uncertain causal
> vectors. But if the Israeli government is going to whack al-Jabari but not seek
> an overthrow of Hamas rule, then what it is really trying to do is persuade the
> next cast of Hamas characters to enforce a ceasefire a lot more strictly, and not
> let the smaller groups running around the place drag Hamas policy by the nose. A
> bombing campaign is the right sort of tool to accomplish that limited objective,
> but a ground incursion would be doing too much for too little. It wouldn’t change
> the basic dynamic. At best it would buy more time for the next ceasefire, before
> the next mini-war. Either way we’re talking about management techniques, not attempts
> at a real solution. We’re talking, ultimately, about the hell of half measures.
> The only way to really end the cycle is to remove the Hamas government in Gaza.
> If Israel is going to move into Gaza on the ground, the aim should be to occupy
> the area for as long as it takes to change the tone of governance there. That simply
> cannot happen, however, unless the operation simultaneously manages to empower the
> PA to the point that it can reassert itself in Gaza and then set up a Palestinian
> state whose nature is pre-negotiated in private with Israel and is ratified in effect,
> if not formally at first, by the Arab League. Of course, the U.S. and Egyptian governments
> would have to be in on this from the start, and America’s regional allies and associates
> would have to be carefully and discretely briefed, and their timely public support > secured.
> So what, in very simple terms, would this plan look like as it unfolds to an unsuspecting > observer?
> Day 1: The IDF mounts a massive invasion of Gaza.
> Day 1+4 : Gaza is secured; the Hamas government ceases to exist.
> Day 1+5: Directly on the heels of this clarifying act of violence, Israel and the
> PA, in Jerusalem, announce preliminary agreement on a peace settlement that includes
> new borders more or less along the 1967 lines (only as regards the former Israeli-Jordanian
> armistice lines), the withdrawal of Israeli settlements and settlers from areas
> inside Palestine, the application of the right of return only to Palestine, the
> bi-national administration of the Old City of Jerusalem and the permanent granting
> of sovereignty to God and God alone, the demilitarization of the Palestinian state,
> and an irrevocable quit-claim on both sides to any further aspect of the conflict.
> Both sides commit to seeking parliamentary ratification at the earlier possible
> moment. Phased implementation of the agreement is to start immediately upon ratification
> and take no longer than one year. The turnover of Gaza to PA administration and > full withdrawal of the IDF is to occur as soon as possible.
> Day 1+6: Israel exchanges diplomatic recognition with Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Morocco,
> Yemen, Oman, Tunisia, Iraq, Kuwait and, if it can be arranged, Lebanon, Sudan, Algeria, > Libya and Qatar.
> Day 1+10: The Arab League endorses the Israel-Palestine accord and announces the
> formation of an Egyptian-led peacekeeping force to advance the transition of Israeli-occupied
> Gaza to a PA-controlled Gaza. NATO agrees to participate temporarily as an adjunct
> of the Arab League force, particularly for its assistance in training PA police
> and self-defense forces (short of an army). (If someone wants to get a UN imprimatur
> for any of this, fine; but under no circumstances should UN personnel be seriously > involved in any of this.)
> Day 1+12: Israel and the EU deepen their association agreement; the PA announces
> new legislative elections for the first all-Palestine parliament for Day 1+120.
> Meanwhile, the PA and the PLO Executive Council endorses the peace deal until such > time as the Palestinian legislature can ratify it.
> The purpose of this whirlwind process would be to jolt everyone’s imagination so
> hard and so fast that the usual objections to everything new would be temporarily
> deprived of oxygen. The idea is to create a new psychological reality with a shock,
> and to do so along the lines of an agreement that all serious people have known
> for years must look pretty much the way this one looks, as described just above.
> If the painful concessions of both sides can be grouped and made simultaneous,
> there is a much better chance that leaders in concert can spin the result to make
> the deal stick against the crush of opposition-some of it no doubt violent-that > will inevitably arise.
> If it were carefully enough planned and executed by adroit and courageous leaders,
> could this shock peace actually work? I believe it could, yes. Is there any chance > of something like this really happening? Of course not.
> 1For more detail on this point, see chapter 12 of my Jewcentricity; my “How to Deal
> with the Arab-Israeli ‘Condition'”, in David Pollock, ed., Prevent Breakdown, Prepare
> for Breakthrough (Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Policy Focus #90, December
> 2008); and Robert Satloff, “Middle East Policy Planning for a Second Obama Administration: > Memo from a Fictional NSC Staffer”, Policywatch
> ITEM 9a: Aaron David Miller: How Hamas Won the War. It Doesn’t Really Matter If
> Israel Wins the Battle
> [] > NOVEMBER 19, 2012
> Cruel Middle East ironies abound. And here’s a doozy for you.
> Why is it that Hamas — purveyor of terror, launcher of Iranian-supplied rockets,
> and source of “death to the Jews” tropes — is getting more attention, traction,
> legitimacy and support than the “good” Palestinian, the reasonable and grandfatherly
> Mahmoud Abbas, who has foresworn violence in favor of negotiations? Since the crisis
> began, President Obama seems to have talked to every other Middle Eastern leader > except Abbas.
> The Israeli operation against Hamas may yet take a large bite out of the Palestinian
> Islamist organization in Gaza, but the “Hamas trumps Abbas” dynamic has been underway > for some time now and is likely to continue. I’d offer four reasons why. > Feckless Fatah
> Abbas’s party is in disarray. The Islamists’ victory in the 2006 Palestinian legislative
> elections, its takeover of Gaza in 2007, Fatah’s own sense of political drift, and
> the absence of a credible peace process created an opening for Hamas — the religious
> manifestation of Palestinian nationalism. Had Yasir Arafat still been alive, Hamas > would never have come as far as it has.
> Arafat’s death left a huge leadership vacuum in a political culture where persona,
> not institutions, figures prominently. Abbas had electoral legitimacy but he lacked
> the authority, street cred, and elan of the historical struggle. And in a Palestinian
> national movement without direction and strategy, it didn’t take much to create > an alternative to a tired, divided, corrupt, and ineffective Fatah. > Hawks Rule the Roost
> We don’t like to admit it, but Middle East politics is the domain not of the doves
> but of hard men who can sometimes be pragmatists — but certainly not in response > to sentimental or idealized desires.
> Peacemaking on the Israeli side has never been — and is likely never to be — owned
> by the left. From Israeli premiers Menachem Begin to Yitzhak Rabin (breaker of bones
> during the first Intifada) to Ariel Sharon and Benjamin Netanyahu, the story of
> the Arab-Israeli negotiations is one of tough guys whose calculations were reshaped
> by necessity and self-interest, and who could deliver something tangible to the > other side while getting away with it politically at home.
> Abbas may well be the best Palestinian partner Israel has ever had. But if he can’t > deliver, well, Houston we have a problem.
> Being the darling of the West counts for something. For good reason, Abbas and his
> reality-based prime minister, Salam Fayyad, emerged as the great hope among the
> peace-making set: Here were reasonable, moderate men who eschewed violence and were
> actually interested in state-building. But could they actually deliver what various > Israeli governments wanted?
> Irony of ironies, it was Hamas that emerged as the object of Israel’s real attentions
> — the Islamist nationalists, it turned out, had what Israel needed and could deliver
> it. When Israel wanted a ceasefire, who did it negotiate with? Hamas, not Abbas.
> When Israel wanted Gilad Shalit back, who did it negotiate with? Hamas, not Abbas.
> Indeed, the astute Israel journalist Aluf Benn wrote last week that Israel killed
> the de facto head of Hamas’s military wing — Ahmad al-Jaabari — because he was
> no longer willing or able to play the role of Israel’s policeman, squelching Hamas
> and jihadi rocket fire into Israel. In exchange for doing so, Benn posits, Israel
> shipped in shekels for Gaza’s banks and support for Gaza’s infrastructure. Jaabari > had street cred and delivered for four years — Abbas has little and couldn’t. > Netanyahu’s Comfort Zone
> Bibi is who he is. Right now, he’s a legitimate Israeli leader who may well be the
> only political figure capable of leading the country. Whether he can lead Israel > to real peace with the Palestinians is another matter entirely.
> It’s politically inconvenient to admit it, but given Bibi’s world view — which
> is profoundly shaped by suspicion and mistrust of the Arabs and Palestinians —
> he’s more comfortable in the world of Hamas than of Abbas. This is a world of toughness,
> of security, and of defending the Jewish state against Hamas rockets, incitement,
> and anti-Semitism. Hamas’s behavior merely validates Netanyahu’s view of reality > — and it empowers him to rise to the role of heroic defender of Israel.
> Netanyahu didn’t seek out a war over Hamas’s rockets, which threaten an increasing
> number of Israeli towns and cities. But he is truly in his element in dealing with
> it. Sure he’d like to destroy Hamas and negotiate with Abbas — but on his terms.
> Indeed, the world of a negotiation over borders, refugees, Jerusalem is a world
> of great discomfort for Netanyahu, because it will force choices that run against > his nature, his politics, and his ideology.
> Hamas isn’t a cheap excuse conjured up to avoid negotiating with the Palestinians,
> of course. But the fact that Abbas can’t control Hamas and that Arab states, particularly
> Egypt, now embrace it openly is precisely why Bibi believes he must be cautious
> in any negotiations. He may intellectually accept the possibility that the absence
> of meaningful negotiations actually empowers Hamas. But never emotionally. If you
> see the world through an us vs. them filter, you’re rarely responsible for the problem > — it’s almost always the other guy’s fault.
> The Islamist Spring
> Even while their publics identified with the Palestinian cause, the Arab states
> never really trusted the Palestinian national movement and its organizational embodiment, > the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
> With the exception of Egypt, every Arab state bordering Israel had a bloody conflict
> with the PLO. For these states, Palestinians represented a threat either from refugee
> populations or from the possibility that the Palestinian armed struggle would drag > the Arabs into an unwanted or untimely war.
> Tensions and differences still persist. But the Arab — really Islamist — Spring > has created a major new realignment.
> The real diplomatic coup for the Palestinians isn’t Abbas’s effort toward winning
> statehood recognition at the United Nations. It’s the victories and growing influence
> of Islamists in Arab politics, which have given Hamas greater respectability and
> support. Two of Israel’s most important Middle East friends — Turkey and Egypt
> — are now running interference for Hamas as their own ties with the Israelis have
> gotten colder. And these new allies aren’t outliers like Iran and Syria. They are
> friends of the United States and very much in the center of the international community. > Where’s Waldo?
> It’s testament to the weakness of Abbas and the PLO that it is Hamas’s rockets,
> not Abbas’s diplomacy, that has placed the Palestinian issue once again on center > stage. The Palestinian president is nowhere to be found.
> For all the attention paid to Abbas’s statehood initiative this month at the U.N.
> General Assembly, it seems truly irrelevant now. And once again, this is confirmation
> of the fact that events on the ground determine what’s up and down in Israel and
> Palestine. And Hamas is getting all the attention. Within the last month, the Qatari
> emir traveled to Gaza bearing gifts and cash, the Egyptian prime minister visited,
> and an Arab League delegation is planning to arrive soon. Turkey’s foreign minister > is also talking about a visit of his own.
> So where does all of this go? The Middle East is notorious for rapid reversals of
> fortunes. Hamas is hardly 10 feet tall and a master of strategic planning. It can
> no more liberate Palestine or turn Gaza into Singapore than Abbas could. And maybe
> the Israelis will succeed in delivering it a significant blow in the coming days. > You have to believe that Abbas hopes so and is feeding them targeting info.
> And since so many people have a stake in the idea of the two-state solution, Abbas
> will continue to play a key role. It would be nice to imagine that somehow, in some
> way, Fatah and Hamas would unify — with Abbas in the driver’s seat — producing
> a national movement that had one gun and one negotiating position, instead of a
> dysfunctional polity that resembles Noah’s Ark, with two of everything. And it
> is a wonderful thought that the so-called Islamist centrists would lean on Hamas > to do precisely that.
> But this isn’t some parallel universe of truth, brotherhood, and light that offers
> up clear and decisive Hollywood endings. It’s the muddle of the Middle East, where
> risk-aversion and the need to keep all your options open all too often substitutes
> for bold, clear-headed thinking — guaranteeing gray rather than black and white > outcomes.
> Hamas and Fatah will survive, even as they both remain dysfunctional and divided.
> Both serve a perverse purpose — keeping resistance and diplomacy alive, respectively,
> but not effectively enough to gain statehood. Israel will continue to play its own
> unhelpful role in this enterprise. And for the time being neither Palestinian movement > is likely to give the Israelis any reason to change their minds.
> The conundrum is crystal clear: Hamas won’t make peace with Israel, and Abbas can’t. > The way forward is much less so.
> Aaron David Miller is a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International
> Center for Scholars. His forthcoming book is titled Can America Have Another Great > President?. “Reality Check,” his column for, runs weekly.