As Israeli and Palestinian representatives negotiate an extension to a 72-hour ceasefire, Hamas has vowed to target Ben Gurion Airport if Israeli incursions into Gaza resume.
The fact that Israel is talking, albeit indirectly, with a Palestinian ceasefire negotiating team comprised of the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and Islamic Jihad bespeaks an Israeli government in the throes of a crisis of confidence.
So desperate is the Israeli leadership for diplomatic closure to what has become known as the Gaza War, that Jerusalem has reneged on its stated goal of “restoring quiet and security to Israeli citizens for an extended period, with significant damage to the terrorist infrastructure.”
‘Ceasefire’, defined as “an agreement between belligerent parties, by which they mutually engage to forbear all acts of hostility for some time, the war still continuing“, has been accepted and promoted by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu as not the means to a just, comprehensive resolution to the conflict, but an end in and of itself.
The result: over the weekend, the sixth Israeli-Hamas ceasefire was violated when rockets from Gaza started hitting Israel’s southern region, forcing men, women and children to flee to nearby bomb shelters.
Yet Netanyahu claims a partial victory, with the IDF having destroyed close to three dozen ‘terrorist tunnels’, killed hundreds of terrorists and bombed close to 5,000 terror sites across the Gaza Strip.
And that is where the Israeli premier’s plan for keeping Israel free ends. While paying lip service to ‘keeping all options’ on the table, the Israeli government has effectively washed its hands of any far-reaching, permanent solution to the Gaza conflict.
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s vision for long-term quiet to Israel is based on a mirage: that Hamas’s Qatari and Turkish paymasters will pressure it into agreeing to a long-term ceasefire.
Conventional wisdom maintains that no harm can come from a temporary suspension of hostilities. After all, the worst thing about ceasefires is that they end.
However, such logic holds sway only if the parties build trust by not violating the terms of the ceasefire. If a ceasefire collapses and full-scale fighting resumes, the prospects for quiet are not just halted, but reversed.
By grabbing defeat from the jaws of victory, Prime Minister Netanyahu is choosing shame over war against Hamas.
The way Hamas sees it; it has defeated Israel simply by remaining in power.
Why should the warped outlook of a few thousand bearded psychopaths be of any relevance to how Israel conducts its foreign policy?
By not being decapitated, Hamas’s once depleted coffers are now overflowing. Cashing in on their guerilla chic appeal, Hamas members have become media darlings.
In contrast, Israel has relied on the rightness of its cause being sufficient to sway the international community.
However, in this digital age, the story that grabs is the story that sticks.
Israel’s laundry list of documented facts crumbles into insignificance when held up next to the image of poor Gazans fleeing, or UN schools being bombed from above.
Israel’s milquetoast leaders have proven incapable of backing up their lofty rhetoric and high-minded ideals with a resolve to fight for them.
In boxing parlance, Israel had Hamas on the ropes. Yet, by deliberately pulling its punches, the Israeli government has allowed Hamas to stagger back to its corner:
hurt, bloodied, but unbowed.
The message of Israel’s ceasefire diplomacy – as pushed for by the United States, United Nations and Western Europe – to Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, Boko Haram and the rest of the rogue’s gallery of terrorist groups around the world is clear:
‘If you bomb us, we will run. If you bomb us again, we will initiate a ceasefire.’
View other essays by Gidon Ben-Zvi that have been published by United with Israel here.