Israel was ready to accept a cease fire after a week of destroying enough of Hamas'' assets from the air. At the time, the death toll was less than 50.

 
Israel is still ready to accept a cease fire, while suffering its own casualties from the ground assault, numbered as I write at five soldiers killed and about 30 injured, two civilian deaths and a number injured. The Palestinian death toll is climbing toward 400, and the physical destruction a great deal more extensive than when Hamas rejected the first call for a cease fire. More than 60,000 Gazan civilians have responded to Israel''s warnings and left their homes for shelter in UN schools and other facilities.
 
Hamas is claiming that it has the upper hand, sifting competing invitations from aspiring peace mediators to discuss a cease fire, and rejecting them all.
 
Israel is responding by continuing to escalate. The IDF has called up 50,000 reservists, and is moving further into Gaza. We hear of bodies lying in the streets, and Palestinians demanding that the UN stop the slaughter.
 
It is not easy to understand Hamas'' refusal to accept mediation. What is happening is on the other side of cultural boundaries that are damn near impenetrable.
 
Among the explanations are Hamas'' insistence on improving the economic situation in Gaza in order to strengthen its rule. It is demanding open borders as well as agreements to develop air and sea ports as its price for a cease fire.
 
How much is it willing to see destroyed in order to enhance its economy?
 
Israeli leftists see reasons to accommodate. Shouldn''t everyone have the right to live well?
 
Against this is the record that inflows in building materials and other economic assets go to facilities that will be used in attacking Israeli civilians. So far the IDF has uncovered more than 30 tunnels, some of which have brought fighters to Israeli homes near Gaza. Each is estimated to have required a year of work and cost one million US dollars.
 
Islam plays a role in Hamas'' rejection of a cease fire. Politically correct westerners blind themselves by rejecting any condemnation of a respectable religion. It is permitted only to condemn Islamic extremism.
 
Maybe, but how many of the 1.8 million Gazans are not extreme? Or unwilling to bend to the demands of their extremist leaders?
 
Islam''s doctrines are as complex as those of any other faith, but the practice in several sectors, including Gaza, emphasizes the most aggressive toward infidels, among whom us Jews rank as having to be kept subordinate to Islamic rule. Christians who have not already left the Middle East are probably thinking about it.
 
Also associated with Islam is a glorification of death. Suicide bombers and children who aspire to martyrdom are the ugliest examples.
 
Hamas leaders are glorify the death of others, while they remain in shelters under schools or hospitals. If Israel were intent on neutralizing the peak leadership of Hamas, it would have to destroy the main hospital of Gaza. The operation would not play well on CNN or BBC.
 
Prominent in the tactics of the weak is a campaign fought with the help of international media. What sells is human interest. The suffering of civilians has brought pathos from broadcasters and produced rallies in European cities. Palestinians and other Muslims are prominent in the demonstrations, but they are joined by large numbers of others.
 
So far the important governments of the world are preserving a balanced concern for Israeli as well as Palestinian civilians, and expressing support for Israel''s actions against a regime that initiated all of this with its attacks against civilians.
 
Turkey''s Prime MInister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has isolated himself even further from Israelis, and perhaps from others, by proclaiming that Israel''s leadership is even more barbaric than Hitler. 
 
An item heard once on Israel radio was that someone speaking for the White House said that Barack Obama would insist on a cease fire when the Palestinian death toll reached 1,000.
 
If that came from anyone more senior than a janitor, we can hope that the implementation will be more successful than recent efforts with respect to Israel-Palestine, Syria, Ukraine, and Iran.
 
Israel''s democracy is more vulnerable to political pressures than the heavy handed control of Gaza by Hamas.
 
So far the major sources of likely opposition are muted. Jewish Knesset Members outside of the government are speaking in support of the ground action, praise the Prime Minister for his willingness to accept a cease fire and his gradual increase of the pressure. Reports of Palestinian casualties are given considerable attention in the media, but their impact on the left has been lessened by the suffering of Israelis, and especially the more vulnerable of Israelis who live closest to Gaza.
 
A missile aimed at Israel''s nuclear facility in Dimona killed a Bedouin and injure several of his family members living in a flimsy structure with no shelter nearby. Then came demands from Bedouin and Israelis to improve facilities. Not so long ago, however, several thousand Bedouin demonstrated against a government proposal to relocate them from scattered tents and shanties to established towns.
 
The spread of Islamic extremism is, in a paradoxical manner, one of the factors isolating Hamas in its refusal to accept a cease fire that would not amount to its victory.
 
Established Muslim regimes are dithering about Islamic extremism, and acting forcefully against it. The picture is complex, and we can only guess about the thinking of elites. Sunni extremists who delight in broadcasting their killing of prisoners taken in warfare and their destruction of Christian churches have been too much for those ruling Iran. Iran itself is viewed as a threat by Saudi Arabia and Egypt. 
 
Turkey and Qatar, lined up behind Hamas, are engaged in a war of words with the Egyptian leadership. Egypt and Saudi Arabia have targeted the Muslim Brotherhood and its Hamas offshoot, as well as various smaller Jihadist gangs as movements to be repressed if not destroyed altogether.
 
Egypt is currently in the lead of the competition to broker a deal between Israel and the Palestinians, but has not offered anything close to what Hamas wants. Comments of prominent Egyptians with respect to the cease fire offered to Hamas are translated as "take it or leave it." And saying that Hamas may have to sweat some more before coming to the table.
 
Someone in the White House is being quoted as saying that Qatar would be an appropriate mediator. 
 
We can hope that such sentiments come from the same janitor who said that Obama will step in once Israel kills 1,000 Palestinians.
 
Hamas'' leaders remain in their bunkers, still refusing to consider a cease fire, while their constituents huddle in crowded UN facilities, or join the martyrs who have died for the cause.
 
Israelis suffer in their own way, hearing descriptions of each person who has died,  wondering when this round will end, and how much time will pass until the next one.
 

 

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