As Wednesday night’s cease-fire went into effect–amidst continuing rocket fire from Hamas–many Israeli reservists returned home disappointed that the government had not launched the ground attack for which they had been called up. One soldier, quoted by Ynetnews, said that “as a resident of Beersheba [which was hit by several rocket attacks] there is a sense of disappointment. (The violence) will repeat itself and we’ll find ourselves back here again and again. They (government) should have let us complete the mission.”
Much of the Israeli public agrees that a ground war would have been preferable to no war at all, given the continued threat of attacks from Gaza–and given that Hamas is declaring victory. A new poll suggests that support for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has fallen sharply, by as much as 25 percent, since he accepted the cease-fire, likely after intense pressure from the Obama administration. A poll prior to the cease-fire indicated that 70% of Israelis opposed it, and wanted to fight to remove Hamas from Gaza altogether.
Once a lock for re-election early next year, Netanyahu is now considered politically vulnerable. He is at pains to convince his own voters that Israel came out of the conflict as a winner by destroying much of Hamas’s rocket infrastructure–perhaps because Hamas was able to replenish and improve its arsenal with help from Iran since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009. He may draw some comfort from the fact that his left-wing opponents are split with the imminent return of former opposition leader Tzipi Livni to the scene.
When Netanyahu was elected in 2009, he ran on the promise that only he, of all Israel’s leaders, would be able to resist pressure from new U.S. President Barack Obama, whose intention to bully Israel was already clear. In this week’s cease-fire, however, Netanyahu is seen to have buckled to pressure from the Obama administration. Paradoxically, the Iron Dome missile defense system, which helped defend Israeli cities from rocket fire, has become a source of leverage for Obama, since U.S. military aid helps Israel defray its heavy cost.
Most Israelis–and even, apparently, the White House–believe that the cease-fire will not last. Hamas had already violated it by shooting dozens of rockets into Israel past the 9 p.m. deadline on Wednesday; now the Palestinian terror organization is accusing Israel of firing at Palestinians near the border fence (Israel says that they were trying to infiltrate, and that it fired warning shots first). Hamas says that it will approach Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood government–which has been newly-emboldened as regional mediator–with its complaints.
The reason peace is unstable is not because Israel wants war–which, absent Hamas’s repeated attacks, it would much prefer to avoid–but rather that Hamas’s very purpose is to attack Israel. In effect, Hamas is now the Sunni wing of Iran’s Shiite terror axis, and it attracts and maintains both political and financial support by attacking Israeli civilians, even though there are costs to Palestinian civilians (both from Hamas rockets and Israel’s responses). Until Hamas–and Iran–are no longer a threat, war will continue to fester and flare.
Photo credit: Reuters