A cease-fire not worth crowing about

A Kassam salvo at the beginning of the cease-fire illustrated the current state of affairs.

kassam crew 88 (photo credit: )
kassam crew 88
(photo credit: )
One day, and the cease-fire in Gaza seems to be holding for now. The cease-fire between the Palestinians, that is. As to the hostilities between the Palestinians and Israel, the situation is still murky. Officially, all the main organizations have given their agreement to the deal reached between Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), but the salvo of Kassam rockets fired towards Sderot a couple of hours after the cease-fire was supposed to be in force was more than just a childish gesture. It was the best illustration of the dismal state of affairs Israel has reached on the Gaza border. The harassed people of Sderot and neighboring communities might have a few days and nights of peace now, but they will remain in the intolerable position of being hostages to the Kassam gangs. Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Fatah breakaways and a plethora of other splinter groups can break the quiet at will and it might have nothing to do with retaliation to Israeli military actions. Like almost every terrorist act carried out from the start of the intifada in 2000, the Kassam firings have had a double motive. As much as the intention was to kill and maim Israeli citizens, the primitive, unguided explosive tubes were an expression of autonomy, not from Israeli rule, but a finger in the eye of collective wannabe Palestinian governments, both of Fatah and Hamas. That's why the most visible sign so far of the cease-fire is the deployment of 13,000 Palestinian troops, apparently loyal to Abu Mazen, in a desperate attempt to finally assert authority. But why should these ill-equipped, barely-motivated grunts succeed where the IDF failed? Does anyone seriously believe that they will shoot at fellow Palestinians just to stop them from launching more missiles at Sderot? Nonetheless, the IDF is now out of the Strip and on orders to remain on best behavior. From a tactical perspective, the battle against the Kassams was successful. The combination of intelligence, surveillance measures, UAVs, tank ambushes and special-ops teams not only eliminated hundreds of Kassam terrorists but managed to limit the operations of the surviving ones to such a limit that they never managed to effectively aim their rockets at Israeli targets. The limited number of serious casualties were achieved only by blindly firing thousands of rockets; some were going to eventually hit. However, the perception, due mainly to panicky politicians, sensationalist media, an ambitious mayor and an opportunistic millionaire, was one of crisis, anarchy and despair. This public feeling also pushed Olmert to reach an unsatisfactory, incomplete deal with Abu Mazen. From the outset of the Kassam threat it was clear that there were only two courses of action to achieve close to total elimination of the problem: either reoccupying large swathes of the Strip for a prolonged period by mobile forces with authorization to shoot at every suspicious movement, or to get down to serious comprehensive negotiations with the Palestinian side, including representatives of the Hamas government. Both options, of course, have serious downsides, so the government went for a little bit of both. Limited actions and short-term incursions, coupled with ineffectual talks in the form of occasional phone calls to Abu Mazen. The inability to choose a clear course of action cost Israel twice in the shape of heavy international criticism after dozens of Palestinian civilians were killed in Beit Hanun, and being forced to swallow an empty cease-fire deal with absolutely no firm assurances. And to make matters worse, Abu Mazen is just a fa ade. The deal is really with arch-enemy Khaled Mashaal, who still holds the fate of Gilad Shalit in his hands. The Palestinians have gained the breathing space necessary to replenish the Kassam stockpile, come closer to receiving international recognition of a Hamas-controlled government and a resumption of foreign aid, while the movement continues building its new Iranian-inspired army in preparation for the next round. In return Israel has gotten nothing, save for a shaky and uncertain respite. Confidence on the home front has been shaken once more, so shortly after the North was forsaken in the summer's war. The phone calls to Abu Mazen served to drive another wedge between the prime minster and defense minister, who had another skirmish on Sunday over who delivered the cease-fire. Right now they are the only ones who think that it's credit worth fighting over.