On Wednesday afternoon, the democratically elected government of the Gaza Strip — Hamas — and the State of Israel announced a ceasefire to the recent near-war.
Will this ceasefire fix anything? Other than in the most immediate sense, the answer is no. While the names and locations may be different, the story will always be the same.
Iron Dome, a series of defensive batteries that combine guided missiles and radar, was incredibly successful in knocking down Hamas rockets. This added safety offered to Israeli citizens made a settlement less pressing for Israel. The relative absence of Israeli casualties — five dead — in this recent conflict allowed Israel a little more breathing room in its ceasefire negotiations.
To clarify, consider what Iron Dome means to the everyday Israeli. Unless you’re in the direct line of Hamas rocket fire or about to be deployed on the ground, you may be less inclined to agree to a ceasefire. War is more pressing when one has a personal, life-and-death stake in its outcome.
I spoke with a close friend in Jerusalem on Wednesday. He told me the success of Iron Dome led some to actually stand on their stoops and watch the Israeli rockets destroy the Hamas missiles in mid-air. Several rubberneckers were injured by shrapnel while watching these missiles collide rather than hunker down in their bomb shelters. With respect, this is Darwinism at work.
A new term being used in Israel lately is "cutting the grass." That is, much like cutting the grass at your home, Israelis are growing accustomed to the idea that they will be required to regularly bomb or invade Gaza to put down the militant terror activities.
After the 2008 war, rocket fire from Gaza was virtually non-existent. It ramped up over time, modestly at first, until this year’s 700 rockets, many of which landed in the small community of Sderot, Israel. It was time to cut the grass.
Is there a long-term solution to the problems in Gaza? I certainly don’t see a realistic one. Moderate Palestinians are disregarded as "Uncle Toms" by more militant members of their community. Hamas terrorists hide among civilian populations and, by doing so, force Israeli reprisals to harm innocent lives while killing the terrorists themselves. This serves to further inflame the situation and radicalize Palestinians. The reasonable people are being marginalized by more radical factions.
As Hamas terrorists hide among ordinary people, Israel is forced to employ a strategy of targeted assassinations while also destroying Gaza’s institutions and infrastructure. This is not a case of two armies meeting on a battlefield. This is asymmetrical warfare in an urban environment.
I wonder how Egypt will fare in this most recent episode. Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood President Morsi played a significant role in the ceasefire negotiations, as did U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Will Morsi be viewed as weak and moderate by his own base? Will he become another Anwar Sadat, assassinated by extremists?
There are militant groups inside Gaza and the West Bank with the capacity to create additional conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Iran has smuggled weapons to a variety of groups in the region, including Hamas and Hezbollah. The presence of longer-range Iranian rockets has jeopardized the safety of Israeli citizens in the major cities of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
Israel cannot fail to defend the health and safety of its citizens. Prior to the outbreak of hostilities a week ago, the aforementioned 700 rockets had been fired into southern Israel. Israel simply had no choice but to respond militarily.
What happens now? Well, I anticipate witnessing the same things that always happen in the Middle East.
The polarized Israeli political scene ensures troublesome West Bank settlements will continue to be built. Secular and extremist Jewish groups will escalate their battles for control of Israel’s political landscape. Concurrently, extremist Palestinian groups will continue their militancy and terrorist activities. Rockets will fly into Israel. Suicide bombs will explode on buses and in restaurants in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
In a couple of years, the State of Israel will once again be forced to bomb and/or invade Gaza or southern Lebanon (or perhaps Syria) and the circle of terror, death and hopelessness will remain unbroken.
And so it goes ...
» Kerry Auriat is a lifelong Brandon resident and a partner in a local brokerage firm.