Pondering amidst uncertainties


We went to bed with the rain of missiles from Gaza and the operation of the IDF in full tilt. We woke to a media blitz focused on a cease fire-then-negotiations proposed by Egypt.

Hamas initially rejected the idea, but observers should view any of its statements with considerable salt. 
Israel''s right wing, including its representatives in the government joined that rejection. 
But both sides were declaiming to continue the fight until achieving their goals. Hamas spoke about its power, and is demanding an end to the blockades on Gaza. The Israeli right wing spoke about the complete destruction of Hamas.
Israel''s government, led by the Prime Minister and the Defense Minister, accepted the Egyptian proposal, with the reservation of continuing to operate in response to Gazan aggression. The government majority sees saw an opportunity to avoid a costly ground operation. It is satisfied with the destruction achieved and its message sent to Hamas. It desires that Hamas stay in control, while knowing quietly that it lost badly, but willing and  able to control those even more intense about killing Jews in order to avoid yet another round of Israeli destruction.
No one would be able to declare victory in the style of V-E or V-J days. 
However, no other government has been justified in claiming anything like that since 1945.
Opponents to both Hamas and the centrist Israeli government will declare something like shameful defeat.
I''ve heard from critics that any acceptance of an imperfect cease fire would be appeasement.
Such people should learn the languages and culture of this region, as well as how the US and other great powers have ratcheted down from imperfect endings to their wars.
Realities are imperfect.
It is not likely to be a smooth transition. Missile attacks and the IDF may peter out. There have been missiles fired since the cease fire deadline. 
We have been in this performance numerous times. Involved in the frictions are the pride of the weak party, the willingness of the strong to let them score a few points for the sake of quiet, but a limited tolerance of any serious continuation of the missile rain.
It won''t be neat, and many will not understand the logic, or the elements of political theater involved.
The background includes what follows. Nothing is close to certain, but these are among the considerations relevant to understanding what has happened.

Hamas is isolated amidst the chaos that has erupted throughout the Middle East. One can argue to what extent that chaos resulted from the Arab Spring, is the birth pangs of democracy, or is a product of Barack Obama Cairo''s speech that won a Nobel Peace prize, but was widely received with wonder and ridicule throughout the Middle East.

Egypt is the closest geographically to Hamas, and perhaps the most intense antagonist/enemy, leaving aside the animosity expressed by Hamas'' Palestinian rivals.
We should view Egyptian expressions of support for their Palestinian brothers as the lip service obligatory among Muslims, who hate one another no less than they distrust others. Look again at Syria, Libya, and Iraq for current examples.
Egyptian media have accused Hamas of responsibility for attacks against Egyptians in the Sinai, and have expressed an understanding of Israel''s attacks against Gaza.
Saudi Arabia is busier elsewhere. Likewise Iran and Hezbollah. All those former suppliers of money, technology, and political support are involved in their own problems, most prominently on the territory of Syria and Iraq.
The Fatah regime of the West Bank is getting the humanitarian mileage out of the suffering in Gaza, but one can doubt its concern for Hamas.
US is close to a laughing stock. The style of Obama and Kerry, in particular, is widely derided, and seen as reducing whatever was left of American leverage after the presidency of George W. Bush. See this as an example.
Turkey''s offer to mediate is easy to dismiss, given its anti-Israel postures.
Qatar remains Hamas'' principal supporter and provider of money. Qatar''s al-Jezeera has some weight in international politics, but the news media and the Qatar leadership is on the outs with Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Moreover, its money does not come as promised. A Gazan health official has complained that international medical suppliers have stopped shipping due to debts that remain unpaid on account of donations waiting delivery. 
Israelis are tired of partial solution, and want more than achieved by earlier rounds of conflict. The second Lebanon War (2006) is mentioned as an example. With all the criticism of details of Israel''s management of that war, the considerable destruction of Hezbollah areas of Lebanon are thought to have contributed to 8 years of relative quiet on Israel''s northern border.
Optimists see a repeat of that model in what Israel has done to Gaza.
Hamas bet a great deal on this round, and lost badly. Its escalation of missile attacks on Israel recalls the image of a Hail Mary pass in American football, going for the all in a desperate effort to turn aside an impending loss. Against Gazan deaths approaching two hundred and more than a thousand wounded, most Israeli casualties have been defined as stress, or injuries caused by tripping on the way to shelter. The majority of Gazan missiles land on nothing; some do not make it out of Gaza; and most of those calculated as likely to land on populated areas have been destroyed by Israel''s Iron Dome. 
Two of the missiles sent toward Jerusalem landed in or near Arab areas of Bethlehem and Hebron. Perhaps Iron Dome is not programmed to deal with what is seen as overflying Israel''s population.
Hamas is left with the public relations asset of one sided international media. We''ve seen fiercely anti-Israel clips from CNN and BBS, meant to generate pathos or anger about civilian suffering without questioning Hamas policy of storing munitions in or alongside hospitals, mosques, or housing, its opposition to people leaving areas in response to IDF warnings, or the source of the conflict in Gazan missiles fired in the direction of Israeli civilians. For some, alas, the source of the conflict is Israel''s existence.
UN sources report the percentage of children among the dead. IDF sources report the percentage of fighters.
Compared to animosity from international media, Israeli observers have noted relatively little pressure from western governments that Israel must stop the operation.
While Hamas has sought to keep its people near targets in order to protect them or embarrass Israel, Israel has provided layers of warning and protection. Several times while writing this note my computer has signaled me with a warning sound and message. My cell phone is has an IDF-supplied application that lets me know when something is headed my way.
There have been protests of Israeli actions in the West Bank and among Israeli Arabs, but the larger picture may be persuading many to keep a low profile.
Some Israeli commentators see an Israelization of Israel''s Arabs, perhaps set back by recent events. There are signs of accommodation is the language of Israeli Arabs, whose Hebrew is in many cases better than their Arabic,with many reading and listing to Hebrew more often than Arabic language media. Israeli Arabs recognize their advantages from Israeli education, other public services and economic opportunities, despite complaints that they receive lesser shares than the Jews of Israel. Public opinion polls show support for Palestine among Israeli Arabs (and the Arabs of Jerusalem), but a preference for remaining Israeli.,
Against those signs are what appears to be an increase in the religiously promoted, modest dress of young Arab women.
There is talk of cease fire, but it''s a time for pondering, rather than predicting.