Gaza ceasefire-what comes next?
As expected Hamas and Israel claim victory in the Gaza war for themselves. Netanjahu claimed that Israel achieved its goal to liquidate many Hamas cadres, destroy the tunnel system and infrastructure of Hamas that the terrorist party won´t be able to start new attacks on Israel for the coming 5-7 years. Similar Yaakov Katz euphorically comments in the Jerusalem Post that Israel´s victory is outstanding,” like no other military operation in history” and would serve West Point and other military academies around the world as role model for successful warfare in future.
“Israel’s Gaza war is like no other military operation in history – opinion
In the 16 years since Israel withdrew from the entire Strip, the region has changed dramatically. But Gaza remains stuck in place.
By YAAKOV KATZ
May 21, 2021 15:58
Summer Rains, Cast Lead, Pillar of Defense, Protective Edge, Black Belt, and now, Guardian of the Walls. Each one was an IDF operation in the Gaza Strip. Summer Rains (2006) went on for four months; Cast Lead (2009) three weeks; Pillar of Defense (2012) a week; Protective Edge (2014) 50 days; Black Belt (2019) less than 72 hours; and now, Guardian of the Walls, 11 days.
In the 16 years since Israel withdrew unilaterally from the Gaza Strip, we’ve had six large-scale operations, an average of one every two and a half years.
Each one had its trigger, each its objective. But fundamentally, none were different from the one that preceded it or came after it. Change the names of the IDF chief of staff, the defense minister and the top Hamas commanders, and the stories pretty much write themselves.
Yes, some details might change, but not the overall picture. Summer Rains was sparked by the abduction of Gilad Schalit; Cast Lead came after thousands of rockets; Black Belt started with the targeted killing of a top Islamic Jihad commander; and Guardian of the Walls kicked off with a Hamas rocket barrage on Jerusalem.
In earlier wars the rockets flew as far as Ashdod; now they get as far as Tel Aviv. Ashkelon and Beersheba don’t even count. And while the missile range might vary as well as the nature of the threat, the overall challenge remains the same: Israel and Hamas are launching missiles at one another again.
In the years in between the six named military operations, Hamas improved its capabilities. It now has more rockets with longer ranges and larger warheads, more tunnels, more fighters, and more sophisticated electronic warfare. All true. But for the most part, Gaza is a place stuck in time.
In the 16 years since Israel withdrew from the entire Strip, the region has changed dramatically. Wars have been fought, superpowers have come and gone, and borders have shifted like the proverbial sand of the Middle East.
But Gaza remains stuck in place.
Hamas improved its military capabilities and its prized and well-fortified “metro,” the underground tunnel network diligently built in the seven years since the last Gaza War. But for the citizens of Gaza, the story remains the same: they are living under the control of a terrorist group, bent on Israel’s destruction, determined to sacrifice its own people, in an unwinnable war, against the IDF.
Like the five before it, the latest operation has had its unique traits and surprises. Hamas, for example, surprised the IDF with its ability to fire non-stop barrages. In one day it managed to launch 170 rockets into Ashkelon within a matter of hours. That was impressive. The terror group’s ability to fire rockets whenever it wanted, wherever it wanted, and how many it wanted also showed that it has sophisticated command-and-control systems that remain undamaged despite the heavy IDF bombardment of Gaza.
If this is what Hamas has now, the understanding is that in any future war in Lebanon with Hezbollah – which has been watching this war carefully – the ability to stop rocket fire will be even harder.
Israel did exceptionally well during this operation. There was, for example, the intelligence coup of discovering the route of the Metro, and its destruction that will set back Hamas for some time.
Most impressive however, was Israel’s aerial assault.
While the world tends to look at this conflict through dry and simple numbers like a scorecard – how many are dead in Gaza (more) compared with how many are dead in Israel (less) – this is a distorted perspective.
It should instead evaluate what exactly has happened during Guardian of the Walls (yes, it is a terrible name for an operation), which is shaping up to be the most accurate and precise military operation in modern military history.
Here are the numbers: the IDF bombed over 1,000 targets in Gaza, many of them homes, buildings, tunnels and Hamas positions. The number of dead according to Hamas’s official numbers – which sadly includes civilians – is about 230.
The IDF says that at least 160 of those are targeted terrorists, and they have most of the names to prove it. That means approximately 60 of the dead are civilians. Some of them were likely killed by Hamas’s own rockets, as a third of the missiles shot landed inside the Gaza Strip.
Every life lost is a tragedy. We know that. But think about this: over 1,000 bombs were dropped in Gaza, on over 1,000 targets – and 60 civilians were killed. Never been done.
But to listen to John Oliver or any similar critic who says that the IDF is disproportionate shows a complete ignorance of asymmetric conflict, especially a war against a cynical enemy that embeds itself within a civilian population and hides behind human shields.
This does not mean the IDF did not make mistakes. Just as all wars include collateral damage, all wars include mistakes. But if you’re looking at the dry numbers as the international community likes to do, then what the IDF has done is astounding, an accomplishment never achieved by any other military in world history.
While Oliver and others will continue to attack Israel, I have little doubt that this operation will be studied at West Point and the National War College. Just extraordinary.”
After the initially euphoria about the alleged victory, the question arises:
“WHAT COMES next? Will this latest round of war prevent the next one? Israel’s hope for after this operation ends is to achieve quiet for at least five years. That is what senior IDF generals are openly saying.
Five years would be nice. But maybe Israel needs to change the way it thinks about Gaza.
Instead of looking at the strip of land as enemy territory, maybe Israel needs a shift in the paradigm: does Israel simply accept the reality that there is another round of violence every few years, or is there a possible alternative?
No one knows. But after 16 years (since the disengagement in 2005) of managing Gaza one way, maybe it is worth trying something else. In most likelihood, the answer will be: nothing else will work, because as long as Hamas rules Gaza, it will seek Israel’s destruction. It is possible that this reality is something we Israelis simply have to accept.
But maybe there is something else. One of the explanations why Hezbollah is currently deterred from a conflict with Israel is because it understands that if there is war, it will be blamed for the inevitable destruction of Lebanon, and specifically and more importantly, the Lebanese national infrastructure. Hezbollah runs Lebanon, and Israel has already stated that in any future war, it would attack Beirut’s national infrastructure as part of its target bank.
In Gaza, however, there is no infrastructure, beside what Hamas has built for itself. In an effort to put pressure on Hamas, Israel tried to send a message this past week to Gaza’s elite through its attacks on the upscale neighborhood of Rimal, but that is nothing like the threat of losing industrial zones, power plants, ports, permits to work in Israel, and more.
The thing is that none of these assets exist when it comes to Gaza, and despite numerous ideas over the years – from docking a ship off Gaza’s coast with a generator to provide electricity, to establishing industrial zones or ports for Gaza in Cyprus or on an artificial island – nothing has moved ahead.
It is important to remember that Israel is not responsible for the situation in Gaza. What happens there is because of Hamas. One of the criticisms of Israel this week was that while Israelis have the Iron Dome and bomb shelters to protect them, Gazans have nothing.
This is false. Gazans have the simplest, cheapest and most effective Iron Dome in the world – it is called Stop Shooting. If Hamas stopped attacking, Israel would not have to fire a single missile into Gaza.
But that does not mean that we should accept this cycle of war. After 16 years of doing it one way, is it not time to try something else?
But what should be the “something else”? There are now at least two major factions in the Israeli elites . One who thinks that Israel´s blocade and isolation of Hamas- Gaza was not tough and hard enough, tha tIsrael made a mistake to allow Qatar to give Hamas billions of economic aid to prevent an implosion of Gaza while Hamas use the funds and the soft blocade to build its terror network, tunnels, rockets and to weaken the PLO. Therefore there should be a stricter blocade and isolation of Hamas-Gaza allwing only food and medical aid, but nott he import of construction building material which could be misused for tunnels or other goods to build rockets and other terror infrastructure.
“Did Mossad, IDF intelligence failure lead to Gaza war?
The basis of the policy has been to prevent an economic implosion in Gaza following the PA cutting off its funding to Hamas due to ongoing strife between the groups. (…)
“vOn Wednesday, former Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency) director Yoram Cohen strongly criticized the Netanyahu-Cohen policy to facilitate Qatar bringing funds to Hamas.
Hamas must be isolated much more aggressively than it was after the 2014 Gaza war when he was in the security cabinet, he said in an interview with KAN Radio.
Assuming that a “quiet-for-quiet” ceasefire occurs on Thursday or soon after, Yoram Cohen said that only very strictly defined humanitarian assistance, such as food and medicine, should be allowed into Gaza.
In contrast, he said facilitating funds from Qatar gave Hamas too much breathing room and relieved the stress on it, which might otherwise have forced it to change its approach toward Israel.
If Hamas has no Qatari funds and no building materials to rehabilitate Gaza, the endless rounds of fighting to a stalemate might finally be broken, he said.
LIKEWISE, BRIG.-GEN. (ret.) Udi Dekel, managing director of the Institute for National Security Studies, wrote last week: “First and foremost, the current round of escalation illustrates the problematic nature of the current dealings with Hamas – the transfer of money from Qatar, which, along with allowing relief for residents of the Gaza Strip, enables Hamas to strengthen its control and terror-military power, and conduct defiant policies.”
This policy also weakens “the Palestinian Authority, inter alia, by undermining its status as a partner for a deal with Israel,” he said.
“Hamas’s brazenness and our inability to understand its rationale illustrate why Israel should strive for a stable, long-term settlement in Gaza that is not based on blackmail and the actual strengthening of Hamas, but on strengthening the Palestinian Authority,” Dekel wrote.
“In Gaza, dependence on Qatari money has been shown not to be a stable, long-term solution,” he added. “It is better to find other tools to restrain Hamas and allow normal life for the population of the Gaza Strip.”
The other main faction is represented by former prime minister Ehud Olmert who also in the Jerusalem Post thinks about ways how to weaken or even to topple Hamas in Gaza .After rejecting the idea of a final ground offensive and renewed occupation of Gaza and final military liquidation of Hamas because it would produce a bloodbath and carnage and loss of human lives and soldiers a democratic society like Israel would never accept at the moment , he proposes that Israel is giving and organizing aid for the reconstruction of Gaza to win the hearts and minds of the Palestinians and separate Hamas from its people and supporters while also executing a soft blocade.
“What’s next for Israel in the Gaza Strip? – opinion
At a time when millions of citizens just want to live in safety and not to be targets of rocket fire, our country’s leaders must be willing to make decisions.
By Ehud Olmert
May 21, 2021 21:13
After the ceasefire, the Gaza Strip will not look like it did before Hamas dared to send missiles toward Jerusalem, and then to other areas, including Tel Aviv and central Israel.
The Israeli response was inevitable. No country in the world would sit back and watch as rockets rain down on civilian targets, and certainly not on the country’s capital city. Israel has had no choice but to retaliate and deal a crushing blow upon those who are threatening its safety.
This is how we have acted – and rightfully so. We can hold endless discussions in TV studios about the targets in Gaza we’ve chosen to attack. Was it necessary to demolish high-rise buildings and destroy buildings that housed international media agencies in Gaza? Was the briefing given by the IDF Spokesman’s Office about the upcoming entry of Israeli ground forces into Gaza that didn’t take place in the end acceptable according to the rules of the game in such situations?
Some people said that Israel failed to display the proper sensitivity in this case, but I happen to agree with others who believe that when an entire urban compound has been turned into a base for cruel and violent activity, then no holds are barred, no moral restrictions remain in place and there’s no choice but to hit back with full force.
At a time when millions of citizens just want to live in safety and not to be targets of rocket fire, our country’s leaders must be willing to make decisions. This is not a time to be holding symposia.
According to data published in the last few days, the IDF has taken all possible precautions and tried to reduce to a minimum the collateral damage caused by the engagement of our sophisticated air force. Innocent people have unfortunately become casualties of this war, and I share the grief and distress caused to the people of Gaza. There are times when this is the inevitable consequence.
Now that this round of warfare on both sides is winding down, we have to assess the balance of the outcome.
I will say from the outset: The State of Israel knows exactly what needs to be done in order to overthrow the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip and to alter the balance of force that will bring about a new, different reality. That will offer a completely new horizon and different chance of a better life for the people of Israel and the 2.5 million Gazans who are living in distress and pain, and suffering so much bloodshed at the hands of the Hamas regime.
The only way to bring about change is for the IDF to enter the Gaza Strip with all of the forces at its disposal: infantry, the armored corps, and special elite units, and using precision weapons, drones, fighter jets and of course the Iron Dome (the construction of which I ordered as prime minister, with the aid and support of then defense minister Amir Peretz). There is no other way.
We are not prepared to carry out such a step, since it would incur too heavy a price in the number of casualties among our soldiers, as well as among the residents of Gaza. The result of such a measure would be so devastating that we would not be prepared for it. We are not ready for such a move, and at the end of the day we do not want to carry out such an act. In fact, in 2009, when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that he would overthrow the Hamas regime, this was only a show that was designed to influence the outcome of the forthcoming election.
Netanyahu knows that he is not ready, and he’s not prepared to lead such a complex and charged decision for which we would pay an unbearable price. Similarly, the words he said this week – about dealing Hamas a lethal blow – are nothing more than a well-staged theatrical performance.
WE ARE JUDGING the results of this campaign by the number of buildings, tunnels and bunkers that have been demolished, and by the number of casualties on the Palestinian side. They view this phase as another round in which we’ve failed to stop them from shooting rockets over the border into Israel.
While Israel’s roads are empty of cars, not because of a COVID-19 lockdown, but because of Muhammad Deif’s threats of blowing up Tel Aviv; while Israeli citizens are running for cover in bomb shelters not only in Sderot, but also in central Israel; and while hundreds of young Israeli Arabs are clashing with their Jewish neighbors in what appears to be an unprecedented rift in Israeli society, Hamas is celebrating a tremendous achievement, the implications of which are so much more extensive than the numbers might lead us to believe.
This is another step in the expanding internal rift in Israeli society and the loss of ability of the country which Hamas hates so much to dictate the agenda of the region. When the current round of violence dissipates, all of us will need to admit that the way things were will remain the same.
There are two winners in this confrontation: Hamas, which has instilled a dimension of fear and insecurity among many Israelis; and Bibi Netanyahu, who knew from the first moment that Hamas would not collapse, but wanted the confrontation since it would change his own personal agenda.
For Bibi, the greatest achievement of this violent episode is that the Balfour Fortress did not fall. And as his wife said once, everything else can burn.
But not everything else has burned; only the thousands of rockets that have flown over Israelis’ homes in southern Israel, the center, the coastal area and the outskirts of Jerusalem. The house where the Netanyahu family wants to continue living forever has remained in their hands.
The next expected move is the renewal of Netanyahu’s affair with Hamas, an event that has been taking place regularly for more than 12 years. Israel will continue to line the terrorist organization’s coffers with millions of dollars each month that come from Qatar and perhaps also from other Muslim countries. It is Israel, however, that is performing as the banker paying Hamas leaders with the clear knowledge that this money will be used to bolster the terrorist organization’s military force, to repair the rubble created during the current round and to prepare for the next round of confrontation.
We could, however, follow a different path. We could bypass Hamas and find a direct route to the residents of the Gaza Strip. They are victims of this war who have no chance of living a different life, unless they can distance themselves from the murderers who are in control of their lives. We must stop the civil siege on the Gaza Strip and allow its residents to build civil infrastructure that is essential for achieving an improved quality of life.
It’s impossible for millions of people to live under such terrible conditions, where they have electricity for only four to five hours a day, water is limited, and the transportation of goods is entirely controlled by the Israeli authorities, making the chances for economic rehabilitation almost non-existent.
We must look at the Gaza Strip differently – not only as an existing danger, but also as a possibility for change. But for this to happen, the State of Israel must have a leader who has the courage not just to send in planes with accurate bombs, but also packages of COVID-19 vaccines and products that can improve Gazans’ quality of life, and to build a deep-water port that would enable Gaza to develop a commercial relationship with the international community. The claim that altering this approach would expose us to a security threat belittles our power and our military capabilities that are obviously superior to theirs.
The time has come to change direction and prevent the next round of rocket fire that might reach northern Israel, too.
It’s now clear to everyone that the current wave of terrorist activity was the inevitable result of the common interest of, first and foremost, Hamas, and also the prime minister, who lit a fire in Jerusalem that has continued on to burn down the human and moral fiber of Israeli society.
However, in the case of a hard blocade the question arises, how a reconstruction of Gaza could occur as there was only food and medical aid, but no construction building material for houses. In the case of a soft blocade and a reconstruction of Gaza, the question is if Hamas would allow foreign forces, especially Israel to organize and control this reconstruction while it is likely that it would reject this offer as inner interference in inner affairs and the national sovereignity of a non-existing Palestine. Would Hamas Israel, the USA, China, Russia, Turkey Egypt or another Arab state to oversee the reconstruction? And wouldn´t Hamas use the soft blocade again to restructure its terror structure, production and modernization of rockets and wouldthis really split Hamas and the Palestine people as Hamas could also claim that the reconstruction and soft blocade was a political victory of the latest rocket attacks and make it look as a political reward?
In this context the Egyptian position is interesting which is articulated in a programmatic article in Al Ahram by General Al Sissi´s think tank Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies (ECSS):
“Gaza ceasefire: The day after, what comes next?
General Mohamed Ibrahim , Friday 21 May 2021
Please allow me to begin my article with asking a general question. A question aimed at the international community with all its different institutions and its big powers that have interests in the Middle East region. My question is as follows: Are the problems, disputes and conflicts witnessed among these countries no longer a threat to this strategic region, hence it’s been treated with such a limited amount of attention that does not commensurate to the danger of these problems? If we don’t find an effective intervention to prevent the entire region from slipping into a state of instability soon then it might be even more difficult containing the situation in the future.
Undoubtedly, what drove me to raise this question is the international handling of Israel’s fourth war on the Gaza Strip, which was, to a great extent, just a routine. It didn’t engage with the required seriousness that was to stop this unprecedented destructive war. This war, that started on 11th May, witnessed forced displacement attempts of Palestinian families who had been living in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood in East Jerusalem for decades. In addition to Israeli troops’ storming into the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
In this article, I won’t tackle the nature of this war, the reasons or the results, for these were quite obvious and the operations were going on-air. As for stopping the war and reaching a ceasefire between the two sides, whether partial or total, is a matter of time no matter how little delayed. Both sides will agree in the end – through Egyptian efforts as well as regional and international help – on stopping the operations and reaching a set of consensual understandings, like in every previous confrontation between Israel and Gaza since 2009.
Thus, to be practical, we must draw lessons not only from this war but from the entire standpoints throughout the past years. Standpoints that had witnessed stalemate in the peace process as well as the results of three previous wars and ceasefires that were so easily violated. Thus, the ceasefire that will be reached should prevent a fifth or a sixth war from breaking out. This requires that we think about how to start bringing in real change in a way that prevents these events from recurring.
We can say that the Israeli war on the Gaza Strip revealed five main points, which are:
-The solution for the Palestinian cause, in a way that fulfils the aspirations of Palestinian people, is considered the foundation for real stability in the region and without this solution the probabilities that the situation might explode is possible at any time.
– Jerusalem is considered a redline within this cause. The Palestinians, Arabs as well as the Islamic world won’t accept absolutely any infringement on Islamic holy sites no matter what the cost of the confrontation might be or even how Israeli measures are incessant in the Judaising, displacing and the imposing of a fait accompli.
– The Palestinian people won’t accept the current situation to continue forever. Israel is mistaken if it thinks that they are safe and secure while Palestinians, whose lands remain under occupation and settlements, won’t make an uprising to extract its legitimate rights in the way it deems appropriate.
– The Israeli security theory is a relative theory for Israel can’t achieve its security through advanced military and security means only. The only way for it to keep its external security and the integrity of its internal composition represents itself in giving the Palestinians an independent state to live in securely and peacefully on the basis of the two-state solution, which is adopted by the entire international community except the Israeli government.
-The Palestinian side is in dire need to unify its standpoint to be able to move strongly on the political path, where the military operations, whatever their results, move the situation but aren’t decisive in any battle.
In the light of the aforementioned, there is a necessity to move from the current events towards crystallising a real action plan that can change the present reality for the better. In this area, after reaching ceasefire, I suggest that the next move should be made in the following quartet frame:
– Holding an international conference in Egypt for the reconstruction of Gaza and trying to raise funds for this purpose. Perhaps the decision made by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, during the trilateral summit, that took place on 18th May in Paris, with the French president and the Jordanian monarch, to allocate $500 million for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip is a positive beginning for holding this conference.
– Egypt is to lead a regional and an international move aiming at paving the way for Palestinian/Israeli negotiations in order to implement the two-state solution. These negotiations are to start on an agreed upon early date, which I hope won’t be later than next September. I suggest that the opening session of the negotiations be held in Sharm El-Sheikh and be followed by direct negotiation sessions as according to what the two parties agree upon.
– The Palestinian Authorities should take necessary measures in order to end the division with Egyptian assistance; especially that it isn’t just one of the options but it is the only option to return the compass of the Palestinian situation to the right direction.
– Coordinating with the US Administration to practically bring forth its vision for the solution of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict based on its positive stand towards the two-state solution, especially after the collapse of the deal of the century which was refused by Palestinians, Arabs and the international community.“
Deputy Director of the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies (ECSS).
The Egyptian position clarifies the political demands for a two state solution and the Arab position. Egypt was also intermediator between Israel and Hamas to come to a ceasefire.However, there won´t be any two state solution as Netanjahu, Gantz and Hamas don´t want it and Hamas doesn´t reckognize Israel´s right to exist and wants to destroy and occupy it in the end. While Israel was the military winner, Hamas was the political winner. Hamas demonstrated that Israel can be attacked in its centers,is vulnerable weakened the PLO and united Palestinians in Gaza, the Westbank, Lebanon and in Israel. Netanyahu and Gantz and Hamas do not want a two-state solution. Only the PLO and Israel’s left, which has been marginalized since Rabin’s assassination by Israel’s right-wing extremists wanted it and maybe Sharon´s Kadima, but they are weakened and Kadima became unimportant after Sharon had a stroke. The Israelis only talk about Gaza, while the next big task was preventing Hamas also seizing power in the West Bank and building a fourth front next to Gaza, Lebanon’s Hezbollah and the Golan Heights. The minimum requirement would be a freeze on settlements in the West Bank and Jerusalem by Israel and sanctions also against Israel if it does not change its expansion policy.. But that seems not feasible in the West or Germany because there is uncritical and unconditional support for Israel and nobody dares to say that Israel’s right to exist only means its right to exist within the borders before 1967 as such positions then would be denounced as anti-Semitic, even though it would be in Israel’s own interest. So there will be no solution and not a two state solution if no other new moderate political forces come to power .And with 750 000 illegal settlers in the West Bank which make look a Palestinian state like a cheese, any Israeli government would have problems to convince or force the settlers to withdraw as easy as Sharon did in Gaza. And Likud and Blue and White might also wait for a reelection of Trump or a new elected Pompeoin 2024 who might cancel Biden´s more Israel- critical positions and demand for a two state solution.