Monday, November 19, 2012

Israel - Hamas conflict - What Israel expects from a cease fire

The conflict between Israel and Hamas shows few indications of de-escalation. From my perspective, the Israelis are conducting an effective campaign against Hamas. The IDF is weakening Hamas military infrastructure, degrading Hamas command and control apparatus and exerting huge pressure on the group's fighters. As a result of these successes, the Israeli Government believes that it has the power to impose a tough price tag on Hamas demands for a cease fire. This was evident in yesterday's failed talks in Egypt. At the discussions, in addition to requiring that Hamas end their rocket fire as a prerequisite for a reciprocal halt to IDF operations, Israel also demanded a longer term Hamas pledge to disavow violence and accept that Israel would have the enduring right to launch pre-emptive attacks in case of 'imminent' threat intelligence. In essence, the Israeli leadership made demands that would fundamentally alter the status quo. Why? Israel does not want a cease fire which only allows Hamas time to regroup and reconstitute for future attacks. I'm sympathetic to this approach. A cease fire is supposed to be an agreed termination of combat, designed to provide political space for a broader negotiation framework. A cease fire is not supposed to exist as a tactical retreat which services the pursuit of Hamas broader strategic end; the destruction of Israel. This distinction is fundamentally important in driving Israel's perspective on when Operation Pillar of Defense can end. Put simply, Israel wants a cease fire that portends a more durable peaceful reliability.

As a side note, it is crucial to remember that Hamas and their allies are extremely astute to the regional and international political environment. They understand that media reporting of Palestinian casualties in Gaza produces diplomatic difficulties for Israel. They understand that engaging Egyptian and Turkish Government anger over Gaza, in turn increases pressure on the US/EU to then pressure Israel for a quick cease fire. This dynamic informs why Hamas and the PIJ use Gaza's civilian infrastructure for cover. For these groups, Gaza civilians are little more than a shield and a propaganda tool. Fortunately, even amidst Hamas efforts to immerse themselves among the people, Israel has been effective in their clinical application of force. For an example, see this morning's highly discriminate attack on an Islamic Jihad leader who was operating out of one floor of a media building.*

It is my opinion that until Israel believes a cease fire will be durable and will lead to a real rather than fake peace, the state will not accede to Hamas demands to end the violence.
*Contrary to what some might say, if an enemy agent is operating in a media capacity that focuses on the command and control and mobilization of his forces, then that agent is not a journalist protected under international law. He is an enemy combatant and a justified military target.

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