As the saying goes, “it ain’t over till it’s over,” and the current round of hostilities between Israel and the Hamas ain’t over yet.

I have no idea on what basis IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz announced last Thursday that all is quiet on the southern front, and that the inhabitants of the Gaza perimeter could safely return to their homes.

Cockiness? Wishful thinking? Poor intelligence? I am no military expert, nor am I an expert on Hamas, but pure feminine instinct told me last Thursday that in the absence of a long-term ceasefire agreement, the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip would resume by Friday morning. There was no reason why it shouldn’t, given the fact that both on the strategic and tactical levels Hamas has demonstrated that it does not mind extensive destruction, or the deaths of numerous hapless civilians in Gaza at the hands of Israel, as long as this appears to promote the attainment of its goals, both concrete and psychological.

The main long-term goal of Hamas – according to its 1988 charter – is the obliteration of Israel, which was established according to its belief on inalienable Wakf (holy Muslim endowment) land, by means of jihad (holy war). All peace initiatives, no matter what their origin, are totally rejected.

It is doubtful whether anyone in a position of power within Hamas believes that this goal will be achieved in the foreseeable future. So what are their interim goals? That is the $64,000 question, to which neither our political nor our military leaders seem to have a clear answer on which a solid and effective Israeli strategy may be based.

For example, should the declaration of Hamas spokesmen since Operation Protective Edge began, to the effect that Hamas will stop firing rockets at Israel only after the blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted, and the release of its men who were released by Israel in the Schalit deal but then incarcerated again by Israel following the murder of the three yeshiva students last June, be taken at face value? While Israel might agree to the latter condition, in return for the remains of our two killed officers – Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies were not recovered by our forces – the lifting of the blockade on Gaza, and especially the construction of a harbor in Gaza, and the rehabilitation of the Dahaniya International Airport, simply aren’t on the cards, unless they are accompanied by a complete demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, which the US, Canada and the EU verbally support, but are unlikely to do anything concrete to implement. The UN as an organization has kept mum on the subject.

Hamas spokesmen, as well as Palestinian Authority spokesmen have stated that Israel is bound by the Oslo Accords (which the Hamas rejects ab initio) to agree to the construction of a port and an airport in the Gaza Strip. What they forget to mention is that according to article XIV of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, except for the arms of the Palestinian police and those of the Israel Defense Forces, “no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment.”

It was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who mentioned this article to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a conversation he held with him on July 28.

It is rather strange that both Israel and the Palestinians have been referring to the Oslo Accords as a basis for their demands, given the fact that these accords have been declared either dead or irrelevant on both sides.

So will a cadaver save us all from ourselves? This leaves us with the question whether the relevant Hamas leaders understand that even a partial lifting of the blockade will only take place if they will be willing to offer Israel a more concrete concession a mere temporary cease-fire, or whether their main goal at this stage is simply to wage a psychological war against Israel, and cause it as much damage as possible on the diplomatic and world public opinion levels.

So far it has been pretty successful in this endeavor, thanks at least in part to the disinclination of the representatives of the world media in Gaza to show a more balanced picture. This is probably because most of the photographers are Palestinians, the reporters are disinclined to endanger their lives by venturing to the populated locations where the rockets are allegedly hidden or fired from, Hamas is using a heavy hand against those inclined to show anything but destruction and the bodies of children, or because destruction and death simply produce better news and visuals than a highly complex reality.

Nevertheless, when I watch how Israel uses its moments of exposure on foreign TV networks, I get the feeling that an effective propaganda campaign is not one of Israel’s goals in this war. For example, hasn’t it occurred to anyone that Netanyahu’s self-righteous statements might impress some Israeli voters during election time, and elicit applause from American Congressmen, but leave those who are critical of Israel absolutely cold? In general, while the way the Hamas defines and advocates its goals is hardly conducive to a rapid winding up of the current war, the way Israel presents its goals isn’t very helpful either. One set of declared Israeli goals doesn’t require any cooperation from the other side (e.g. destruction of all the tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip to Israel), while another set of goals requires either full international cooperation or full Hamas cooperation – neither of which is available (e.g. eliminating the stockpiles of rockets that Hamas, and the other organizations, hold).

But beyond the self-attainable and the non-attainable goals, what are Israel’s goals? Is it simply “quiet in return for quiet” – which is a sure recipe for a new outbreak of hostilities before long, or is there a real desire to use the current fluidity in the situation to try and bring about a shift in the equation? This might involve Israel agreeing to implement a gradual and incremental lifting of the blockade, permitting carefully screened workers from Gaza to seek employment in Israel, and willingness to truck with the technocratic government established by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, in return for quiet, with at least some elements of normalization. This might not work, but is worth a try, and is certainly preferable to Israel reoccupying the Gaza Strip, and trying to impose an impossible pax Israeliana, as some of our leaders believe should be done.

Of course, there is another possible scenario: that no cease-fire will be attained, rockets will continue to be launched from the Gaza Strip to Israel, and Israel will continue to retaliate, with greater or lesser force. And then one day it will all stop, because the Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations in Gaza will simply run out of rockets.

In the meantime, I read somewhere that last week 27 persons were killed in Israel in traffic accidents – more than were killed in the fighting. According to official statistics, since 1949 4,000 more people were killed in Israel in traffic accidents than as a result of hostilities (including terrorist attacks).

Something to think about.

The writer is a retired Knesset employee.As the saying goes, “it ain’t over till it’s over,” and the current round of hostilities between Israel and the Hamas ain’t over yet.

I have no idea on what basis IDF Chief of Staff Benny Gantz announced last Thursday that all is quiet on the southern front, and that the inhabitants of the Gaza perimeter could safely return to their homes.

Cockiness? Wishful thinking? Poor intelligence? I am no military expert, nor am I an expert on Hamas, but pure feminine instinct told me last Thursday that in the absence of a long-term ceasefire agreement, the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip would resume by Friday morning. There was no reason why it shouldn’t, given the fact that both on the strategic and tactical levels Hamas has demonstrated that it does not mind extensive destruction, or the deaths of numerous hapless civilians in Gaza at the hands of Israel, as long as this appears to promote the attainment of its goals, both concrete and psychological.

The main long-term goal of Hamas – according to its 1988 charter – is the obliteration of Israel, which was established according to its belief on inalienable Wakf (holy Muslim endowment) land, by means of jihad (holy war). All peace initiatives, no matter what their origin, are totally rejected.

It is doubtful whether anyone in a position of power within Hamas believes that this goal will be achieved in the foreseeable future. So what are their interim goals? That is the $64,000 question, to which neither our political nor our military leaders seem to have a clear answer on which a solid and effective Israeli strategy may be based.

For example, should the declaration of Hamas spokesmen since Operation Protective Edge began, to the effect that Hamas will stop firing rockets at Israel only after the blockade on the Gaza Strip is lifted, and the release of its men who were released by Israel in the Schalit deal but then incarcerated again by Israel following the murder of the three yeshiva students last June, be taken at face value? While Israel might agree to the latter condition, in return for the remains of our two killed officers – Oron Shaul and Hadar Goldin, whose bodies were not recovered by our forces – the lifting of the blockade on Gaza, and especially the construction of a harbor in Gaza, and the rehabilitation of the Dahaniya International Airport, simply aren’t on the cards, unless they are accompanied by a complete demilitarization of the Gaza Strip, which the US, Canada and the EU verbally support, but are unlikely to do anything concrete to implement. The UN as an organization has kept mum on the subject.

Hamas spokesmen, as well as Palestinian Authority spokesmen have stated that Israel is bound by the Oslo Accords (which the Hamas rejects ab initio) to agree to the construction of a port and an airport in the Gaza Strip. What they forget to mention is that according to article XIV of the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, except for the arms of the Palestinian police and those of the Israel Defense Forces, “no organization, group or individual in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip shall manufacture, sell, acquire, possess, import or otherwise introduce into the West Bank or the Gaza Strip any firearms, ammunition, weapons, explosives, gunpowder or any related equipment.”

It was Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu who mentioned this article to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in a conversation he held with him on July 28.

It is rather strange that both Israel and the Palestinians have been referring to the Oslo Accords as a basis for their demands, given the fact that these accords have been declared either dead or irrelevant on both sides.

So will a cadaver save us all from ourselves? This leaves us with the question whether the relevant Hamas leaders understand that even a partial lifting of the blockade will only take place if they will be willing to offer Israel a more concrete concession a mere temporary cease-fire, or whether their main goal at this stage is simply to wage a psychological war against Israel, and cause it as much damage as possible on the diplomatic and world public opinion levels.

So far it has been pretty successful in this endeavor, thanks at least in part to the disinclination of the representatives of the world media in Gaza to show a more balanced picture. This is probably because most of the photographers are Palestinians, the reporters are disinclined to endanger their lives by venturing to the populated locations where the rockets are allegedly hidden or fired from, Hamas is using a heavy hand against those inclined to show anything but destruction and the bodies of children, or because destruction and death simply produce better news and visuals than a highly complex reality.

Nevertheless, when I watch how Israel uses its moments of exposure on foreign TV networks, I get the feeling that an effective propaganda campaign is not one of Israel’s goals in this war. For example, hasn’t it occurred to anyone that Netanyahu’s self-righteous statements might impress some Israeli voters during election time, and elicit applause from American Congressmen, but leave those who are critical of Israel absolutely cold? In general, while the way the Hamas defines and advocates its goals is hardly conducive to a rapid winding up of the current war, the way Israel presents its goals isn’t very helpful either. One set of declared Israeli goals doesn’t require any cooperation from the other side (e.g. destruction of all the tunnels leading from the Gaza Strip to Israel), while another set of goals requires either full international cooperation or full Hamas cooperation – neither of which is available (e.g. eliminating the stockpiles of rockets that Hamas, and the other organizations, hold).

But beyond the self-attainable and the non-attainable goals, what are Israel’s goals? Is it simply “quiet in return for quiet” – which is a sure recipe for a new outbreak of hostilities before long, or is there a real desire to use the current fluidity in the situation to try and bring about a shift in the equation? This might involve Israel agreeing to implement a gradual and incremental lifting of the blockade, permitting carefully screened workers from Gaza to seek employment in Israel, and willingness to truck with the technocratic government established by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, in return for quiet, with at least some elements of normalization. This might not work, but is worth a try, and is certainly preferable to Israel reoccupying the Gaza Strip, and trying to impose an impossible pax Israeliana, as some of our leaders believe should be done.

Of course, there is another possible scenario: that no cease-fire will be attained, rockets will continue to be launched from the Gaza Strip to Israel, and Israel will continue to retaliate, with greater or lesser force. And then one day it will all stop, because the Hamas and the other Palestinian organizations in Gaza will simply run out of rockets.

In the meantime, I read somewhere that last week 27 persons were killed in Israel in traffic accidents – more than were killed in the fighting. According to official statistics, since 1949 4,000 more people were killed in Israel in traffic accidents than as a result of hostilities (including terrorist attacks).

Something to think about.

The writer is a retired Knesset employee.

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