The message that emerged from Wednesday’s security cabinet meeting on the Gaza situation is that Hamas quiet will be met by Israeli quiet – essentially a return to the arrangement between Israel and Hamas that existed following Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
Because of the relative quiet of the last few days, Israel opened up Kerem Shalom on Wednesday to trucks bringing supplies into Gaza. That crossing has been largely closed since mid-July, as a response to the wave of incendiary balloons and kites that set alight thousands of dunams around the Gaza Strip.Following the security cabinet meeting – the fourth meeting held on Gaza over the last 10 days – one diplomatic official said there would not be a “true arrangement” with Hamas without the return to Israel of the bodies of the two IDF soldiers and the two Israeli citizens being held in the Strip. “The current quiet is a result of the aggressive actions of the IDF, which will continue as needed,” the official said.The official added that the current quiet was a result of understandings brokered by Egypt and the UN. “In light of this, the Kerem Shalom Crossing was opened and the area of fishing rights around Gaza was widened,” he said.The official said that if the commitments under the arrangement are honored, it would be possible to deal with other humanitarian issues, “including the return of our soldiers and citizens.”Regional Cooperation Minister Tzachi Hanegbi – who is a member of the security cabinet – said that there would not be any wide-ranging easements on Gaza – such as a green light for constructing significant infrastructure projects there – without the return of the soldiers’ bodies and the Israeli citizens.At the same time, he said in a Kan Bet radio interview, Israel has an interest in preventing a humanitarian crisis in the Strip. If the quiet is strictly enforced, Israel is expected to increase the supply of fuel into Gaza, which today only has about five hours of electricity a day. Hanegbi said that Israel would “be happy” if the hours of electricity in Gaza would increase.Hanegbi said that in the “quiet for quiet” equation, Israel did not need to respond militarily to every inflammable balloon coming from Gaza, such as one balloon that caused a fire on Wednesday. “We don’t have to wail about every balloon,” he said. “We are in a strategically sensitive situation; we have considerations well beyond only one front, and have to take a wider perspective.”In addition to Gaza, the security cabinet also held the first of what is to be a number of discussions on Israel’s security doctrine for the next decade.Netanyahu, according to his office, presented the ministers with the expected threats Israel will face over the next decade, and the forces that will be needed to meet them.As a result, the prime minister plans to increase the defense budget to fully 6% of the country’s GDP.By comparison, according to World Bank Statistics, 3.1% of the US GDP went to defense in 2017, compared with 1.2% in Germany, 2.2% in France, and 10.2% in Saudi Arabia.“Because of our small size, the concentration of the population, and the multitude of threats around us, Israel’s security needs will always be much larger than those of any country of the same size,” Netanyahu said. “In the last two decades, we have cultivated a free economy to serve the needs of the state, especially security. In the face of the current threats, we are at the opposite point. Today, we need to invest more in security to protect our achievements and ensure continued economic growth.”
Israel lets food, goods back into Gaza as Egypt pushes truce, August 15, 2018 (Reuters)