Israel: A Pause Not A Ceasefire


November 30, 2012: Now that the UN has, for the third time, recognized “Palestine” as a state, nothing has really changed. It was mainly theater and posturing. Palestinians have more immediate problems that have little to do with Israel. Many Israeli Palestinians believe that the latest “war” between Hamas and Israel was intended to distract Palestinians from the poor performance of their leaders. Both Hamas and Fatah are facing more popular resistance to their rule. Neither group will allow fair elections. In effect, Fatah and Hamas are self-perpetuating political parties that live off the populations they control. This is the sort of thing that got the Arab Spring uprisings going last year. Fatah and Hamas felt they were immune to that sort of unrest because for decades Palestinians had been bombarded with "Israel must be destroyed before anything else" propaganda. A growing number of Palestinians are questioning these priorities. While most Palestinians still want to destroy Israel and kill a lot of Jews, they also feel that their leaders are corrupt and exploitative and holding them back more than the Israelis. Hamas and Fatah are fighting back, arresting and jailing political activists and accusing them of working for Israel. Meanwhile, the Arab states that provide most of the money to keep the Hamas and Fatah bureaucracies going are cutting back. The donor states are fed up with the self-destructive tendencies favored by Palestinians, as well as the corruption that sees so much of the aid money disappear into foreign bank accounts. This cash shortage is making Fatah and Hamas even more unpopular because one of their most effective ways of maintaining power was to carefully distribute government jobs to those best able to rally popular support (or at least suppress disruptive activity) for the corrupt leadership.  More Palestinians are recognizing that their support for terrorism is hurting their economic prospects. But so far there’s not a lot of enthusiasm to change anything, other than ineffective demands that corruption in Hamas and Fatah somehow disappear.

The problem with negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians is that the Palestinians give two different sets of goals. To the West and non-Moslems, they say that co-existence with Israel is acceptable and all that has to be done is to work out the details. But to Moslems and especially Palestinians, both Hamas and Fatah preach total destruction of Israel as the only acceptable goal, and anything short of that is just a bargaining tactic. The Palestinians, and Arabs in general, have been consistent in this respect. From the moment the UN approved the creation of Israel in 1947, the Arab world has rejected that and vowed to erase Israel no matter what it takes. Many in the West choose to ignore this and pretend that it’s all about Israeli refusal to negotiate.

In Egypt the constitutional assembly approved a new constitution, faster than expected. This speed was believed an effort to help president Morsi in a battle between supporters of the deposed dictatorship and the new government. Morsi must sign the new constitution into law before the courts (still full of Mubarak supporters) declare it illegal. All this is happening because while the protests quickly overthrew the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, Mubarak's many allies managed to save themselves by quickly siding with the rebellion. This means that many of the corrupt businessmen and officials that kept Mubarak in power are still operating. This resulted in a successful resistance to meaningful change. An example of this was the trial of Hosni Mubarak, who was convicted last June of failing to stop the fatal attacks on demonstrators. He (and his son) were found innocent of corruption charges and, most alarming to Egyptians, no one was found responsible for ordering the police to kill over 800 demonstrators. This led to large anti-government demonstrations, which continue. As long as Mubarak's cronies are still in power, the corrupt misrule is still in play and the revolution is not over. Israel is hoping that the rebels use their majority in parliament to enact reforms and force out the corrupt Mubarak supporters. Success is not assured, as the Mubarak forces are wealthy and threatened with heavy losses (including jail) if the reform politicians succeed in cleaning things up. So the reformers will be subject to bribes and threats and courts declaring any reform moves as illegal. The military is one of the most corrupt institutions and could attempt using violence to stop reformers. This is unlikely because most of the troops are conscripts, who identify more with their civilian family and friends. It's the officers and career soldiers who owe their wealth to corruption. But desperate men will do desperate things. Morsi’s recent attempt to simply grant himself the power to ignore the courts didn’t work, as it went against the spirit of the revolution. But that still leaves Egypt facing increasing unrest as the post-revolution economy continues to decline and a lot of unemployed Egyptians are more focused on where their next meal is coming from, rather than in who is running the government.

November 29, 2012: In a generally meaningless action, the UN General Assembly recognized “Palestine” as a state despite the lack of any peace deal with Israel. The vote was 138-9, with 41 abstentions and “no” votes from Israel, the U.S., Canada, Czech Republic, Panama, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, and Palau. Palestinian officials threatened retaliation against those states that voted against their statehood, especially Canada, which had often supported the Palestinians in the past. The new Palestinian status replaces their current nonmember observer state status in the UN.

November 25, 2012: Hamas is asking for donations to repair $550 million in damage from Israeli air strikes during the eight day war. Israel pointed out that most of the damage was to military facilities and storage sites for rockets to be fired at Israel.

The head of Hezbollah promised to open fire on Israel if Lebanon was attacked and declared the recent eight days of rocket attacks by Hamas against Israel a great victory. Six Israelis were killed and most Hezbollah rockets were intercepted before they could hit inhabited areas. Over a thousand smart bombs and missiles were used against Hamas personnel and weapons facilities in Gaza, killing 160 Palestinians (most of them Hamas members) and destroying most of the Hamas stockpile of 12,000 rockets. Israel has said it would attack Lebanon if Hezbollah attacked Israel. In response to that Lebanese troops and police constantly search for, and halt, any efforts by non-Hezbollah terrorist groups to launch rockets into Israel. Hezbollah fears that the non-Shia Lebanese politicians (particularly the Christians, who are over 40 percent of the population) are secretly in touch with Israel and will work with Israel if Hezbollah again launches rockets against Israel.

November 24, 2012: A bomb went off in an Egyptian military intelligence building in Sinai (the city of Rafah near Gaza), wounding four people. Another bomb went off in the same area early the next day. Local Islamic terrorists were suspected.

November 22, 2012: Hamas and Israel agreed to a ceasefire in their eight day war. This was brokered by the Egyptian government, which is run by Moslem Brotherhood politicians. Hamas began as a Palestinian branch of the Egyptian Moslem Brotherhood (a group that demands Islamic law be used and that Islamic lifestyle rules be enforced). To Hamas this is not a ceasefire but, in their terms, a “pause.” At least that’s what they tell Arabs (in Arabic). In Hebrew and English they call it a ceasefire and insist this includes many concessions from Israel. That quickly led to arguments as the Israelis pointed out that few terms were agreed to (including no more rockets fired at Israel and no more Israeli attacks on Hamas leaders) and these concessions are simply Hamas demands. In other words, this ceasefire is going to end up like all the others. Hamas promptly encouraged people to try and cross the security fence into Israel. One Palestinian was killed and several wounded, and Hamas called that a war crime.

Hamas declared the eight day war with Israel a great victory. Palestinians always declare victory after a major battle with Israel. They measure their military success by calling survival against Israel a victory. Arabs have long since given up any hope of defeating Israel in a war, so the only victories are those that do not result in total destruction of the Arab side. Hamas also counts (but does not speak publically) about how the eight day war was excellent propaganda and took the heat off Hamas for its incompetent and brutal rule in Gaza. On a practical level, the war killed several senior Hamas leaders and over a hundred lower ranking Hamas members. The war did not get many Palestinian civilians killed, which is a Hamas defeat few want to talk about. The Israelis also beat Hamas in the use of the media, by quickly releasing videos showing the precision of Israeli attacks and evidence of how Hamas had stored its rockets in residential areas and near mosques, schools, and hospitals. Hamas doesn’t like to talk about that either but it is a popular topic of discreet discussion among Arabs. Hamas also got an unpleasant surprise at how much the Israelis knew about where the rockets were hidden. This is a touchy subject in Gaza, where civilians know how Hezbollah forces civilians in southern Lebanon to allow rockets to be stored under, and next to, their homes. This encourages those civilians to flee their homes to escape getting bombed by the Israelis (who otherwise will see those rockets fired into Israel, something that is not acceptable to voters in a democracy) if there is another war. This last point is also lost on many Westerners. If someone fires 400 rockets at you in a month (as the Palestinians in Gaza did before the latest war) you expect something to be done about it.

Israel is apparently doing more than targeting rockets hidden in Gaza. Israel recently let it be known that their spy satellites had observed an Iranian cargo ship being loaded with weapons and heading off for the Red Sea. The implication was that Israel could sink that ship if they saw it approaching the Sudan coast (where, for years, Iran has been delivering rockets to be smuggled into Gaza via a number of bribed Egyptian officials). That’s how hundreds of longer range Fajr 3 (43 kilometers) and Fajr 5 (72 kilometers) rockets got into Gaza. Israeli anti-rocket missiles destroyed 85 percent of these rockets that were going to land in populated areas of Israel but five Israelis were killed by rockets that got through, and dozens more Israelis were wounded.  

Israeli police arrested an Israeli Arab, who admitted he had planted a bomb on a bus the day before, which was detonated remotely and wounded 27 people. The arrested man belonged to a Hamas terrorist cell in Israel.




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