As you may know, both Hamas and Israel are now observing a 72-hour truce and Israel has pulled most of its ground troops out of Gaza. There was obviously a huge amount of U.S. pressure on Israeli PM Netanyahu by the Obama Administration.The Iron Dome missile defense system was developed by Israel's Rafael and is made there, but the U.S. partially funded it and shared the technology. As an additional quid pro quo Israel is required to obtain the missiles from an American defense contractor, Raytheon. Netanyahu was almost certainly faced with the Israeli people being held hostage if President Obama decided not to sign the bi-partisan bill passed by congress authorizing funding to replenish Israel's Iron Dome missiles in a timely manner..especially with Iran and Hezbollah making threatening sounds to the north. Hezbollah could enter this war if Iran decides to order them in.
At any rate, Israel acceded to a ceasefire and the withdrawal of most of its ground troops from Gaza. And the bill was signed by the president just after the ceasefire was announced.
I see this as a serious mistake on Israel's part. Hamas is already crowing about their 'victory', Netanyahu's poll ratings have declined, largely because the Israeli public wanted the job finished and the Army has even been vocal about being called back prior to the finish of a war they knew they could win.
While the IDF's mission was to destroy the network of terrorist tunnels, the main damage was to the exits inside the Israeli border, at least the ones that could be found thus far. Without taking out the main nexus under the Hamas headquarters in and under Shifa Hospital, that mission simply can't be said to be accomplished.Also, we've seen a couple of instances where tunnels were thought to have been destroyed, and weren't.
However, as it turns out, Israel, (most likely with the aid of the Egyptians) has pulled off a quiet but effective diplomatic coup that has frustrated and isolated Hamas to the point that they're mouth frothing furious and have refused to extend the ceasefire past 72 hours after Israel agreed to. That also shows you the tender regard Hamas has for Gaza's civilians.
The first hint of what's going on is that the IDF hasn't entirely pulled out. Instead, they have set up a buffer zone between Gaza and the Israeli towns that border the strip that extends just inside the Gaza border,1/2-2 miles (1 to 3 KM) from the Hamas lines and extends from Nahal Oz about forty miles down the entire length of the strip to Kerem Shalom and the Egyptian border.
That line is manned by tanks and special forces on full combat alert and supplemented with drones, sensors and heavy weapons.Because of the way the forces are laid out, the troops are in position to carve up the strip with a rapid response and isolate the Hamas contingents if necessary, and there's full coordination with air cover and reserves who still haven't been demobilized yet. They're far enough away from the Hamas lines to make a Hamas attack difficult, but close enough to move in quickly, especially since there's a high percentage of mechanized units.
The next part of the story is what happened in Cairo at the truce negotiations.
After multiple ceasefire violations by Hamas, the Israeli had originally declined to send a delegation to Cairo. But they changed their minds, likely after a conversation with the Egyptians and sent one headed by Shin Bet Director Yoram Cohen that includes Yitzhak Molcho, personal adviser to Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Amos Gilead, political coordinator at the Defense Ministry.
The Hamas delegation included Khalil al-Haya and Imad al-Alami from Hamas and Khaled al-Batsh from Islamic Jihad. They were assured that they were going to get most if not all of the demands U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had put in his 'draft', especially after Abbas and the Palestinian Authority endorsed them. Kerry's presumptive agreement, put together with the aid of Hamas allies Qatar and Turkey included the following: the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza would be opened as well as all of the Israeli Gaza crossings and would be policed by Mahmoud Abbas's forces under his security chief, Majid Faraj ; The Israeli forces were to be completely removed from Gaza and the blockade ended by Egypt and Israel; Hamas would receive billions in 'reconstruction aid' from President Obama,the EU, UNRWA and Qatar directly; Hamas was not to be disarmed; an airport and seaport would be built, and the range of fishing boats into the Mediterranean would be extended.
The first hit to Hamas came from Egypt. The Egyptians told Hamas and the Palestinians that the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza was going to remain closed and under Egyptian control, and that Egypt would never OK a seaport or airport in Gaza.If fact, the Egyptians said plainly that this wouldn't even be allowed to come up for discussion, and emphasized this with a firefight involving the Egyptian Army on the Gaza-Egypt border that killed an estimated 11 fighters and ended up with the destruction of three tunnels going from Sinai into Gaza.
The second hit was a master stroke by Israel that forced both the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority to distance themselves from Hamas's demands.
The Israelis cited Oslo II and the Wye Accords, both of which were signed by the U.S. and the Palestinian Authority. They restrict Palestinian security forces in Gaza to light firearms as stated:
1. 7,000 light personal weapons;
2. up to 120 machine guns of 0.3″ or 0.5″ caliber;
3. up to 45 wheeled armored vehicles of a type to be agreed on between the two sides, and of which 22 will be deployed in protecting Council installations. The use of wheeled armored vehicles in the Security Perimeter, on the Lateral Roads and on their adjacent sides, or in the vicinity of the Settlements shall be approved through the relevant DCO. Movement of such vehicles along the central North-South road (Road No. 4) in the Gaza Strip may take place only after providing notification to the relevant DCO.
4. All weapons must be listed in a register in the possession of the Palestinian police.
Not only that, but the Israelis noted that in the 2011 unity plan that Hamas had agreed to, the Palestinian Authority’s security service would be the only armed force in Gaza. This was based on Abbas’s insistence on “one government, one law, one gun.”
Similarly, the 1998 Wye River Accords requires the Palestinian Authority to seize all illegal weapons in Gaza and the territories the PA occupies in Judea and Samaria and to provide to the Israelis with a list of all PA policemen.
The Israelis also finessed this by insisting that Gaza revert to the control of the Palestinian Authority and also threw Abbas a fairly juicy bone by insisting that all reconstruction monies be channeled through the Palestinian Authority Chairman.
The Israelis added stipulations agreeing with the Egyptians that no airport or sea port would be built in Gaza, and that some kind of inspection mechanism to be determined would need to be set up to monitor the security zone Israel is establishing inside the Gaza Strip to insure that no military activity takes place.There were no concessions by Israel or Egypt about lifting the blockade.
This put the Palestinian Authority and the Obama Administration in a quandary.After all, what could they say? The Israelis were merely stipulating that the PA and the United States abide by treaties it had already signed, and that Hamas abide by the unity agreement!
The Palestinian Authority was the first to cave, with visions of control of Gaza and all that lovely aid money dancing in front of them. Head PA negotiator Assam Ahmed agreed with the Israeli stipulations about PA control and about arms in Gaza, which sent the Hamas delegates into a shouting match according to my source. They threatened to walk out if all of their demands weren't met. For starters, they have rejected the extension of the cease fire Israel had already agreed to, so the shooting - as always, started by Hamas - is scheduled to start again Friday morning at 8 AM local time.
The Israelis have to know that the inept PA has no ability to disarm Hamas or take away Hamas's heavy weapons or missiles, but this puts the PA and the United States on record that this is exactly what they previously agreed to. They can hardly demand that Israel honor the stipulations in these agreements if the PA fails to do so. And that is already having repercussions, particularly for the Obama Administration.
If the PA fails to disarm Hamas, than the hammer could drop on the PA's funding.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee is one of th emost influential Democrats in the House.She has long been critical of the Obama Administration's stance on Hamas, especially since the unity agreement was signed and has been insistent that this course of action will result in cutting the PA's funding:
Lowey’s personal and legislative feelings have been made abundantly clear. “At this point, the law is clear, their actions are clear, and the path forward is clear,” Rep. Nita Lowey told the JTA news service immediately after news of the Hamas union became known in late April. Monday, June 2, after the unification ceremony finished in Ramallah, Lowey issued this short warning: “I am deeply disappointed with the announcement today of a Palestinian government that includes the terrorist organization Hamas. As long as Hamas rejects the Quartet principles and the existence of the State of Israel, United States funding for this unity government is in jeopardy.”
Early June 4, 2014, a source close to Lowey confirmed her feelings remain unchanged, Indeed, within 10 seconds of asking, he emailed this reporter the relevant section of one of several key legal bars to continued funding. The Consolidated Appropriations Act, in Section 7020, Subsection F, entitled Prohibition to Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organization, unambiguously declares: “None of the funds appropriated … may be obligated or expended for assistance to Hamas or any entity effectively controlled by Hamas, any power-sharing government of which Hamas is a member, or that results from an agreement with Hamas and over which Hamas exercises undue influence.”
And it gets even better, as the GOP mobilizes:
House lawmakers are currently pushing a resolution to classify the newly formed Palestinian unity government as a foreign terrorist organization and cut off U.S. aid following the formation of a new ruling body that includes the terror group Hamas, according to a copy of the draft resolution obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The new resolution, sponsored by Reps. Michele Bachmann (R., Minn.) and Trent Franks (R., Ariz.), calls on the State Department to designate the Palestinian Authority (PA) and its new Hamas-backed unity government as a terrorist organization. The resolution is expected to be introduced Monday.
It additionally calls for the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) to be reclassified as a terror group and for the U.S. government to fully cut aid to the Palestinians, who have received around $5 billion in bilateral assistance since the 1990s.
“The Palestinian Authority has shown its true colors by forming a unity government with the terrorist organization Hamas,” Bachmann told the Free Beacon. “This nightmare scenario for the peace process means that Congress must reassert its constitutional authority and suspend foreign aid to the PA. We cannot continue to assist our enemies at the expense of our ally, Israel.”
U.S. lawmakers and Israeli officials have expressed shock in recent days that the Obama administration is willing to work with the new Palestinian unity government, which united the ruling Fatah party with the Hamas terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip.
With the midterms coming up and bi-partisan support for Israel in Congress remaining high, we could see a hold on funds for the PA, something Lowey has done before.
Since Hamas is never going to give up its Gaza reichlet and the PA lacks the ability to push them out, Abbas and his friends would be faced with either swallowing Hamas control of Gaza or losing their funding...and they certainly can't blame the Israelis, since Israel has already said they want the PA to control Gaza again and merely want Hamas and the PA to abide by what they agreed to, not only with Israel but with the U.S. and each other.
As for President Obama and Secretary Kerry, it's likewise going to be difficult for them if not impossible to justify funding Hamas under these conditions.
Hamas's only recourse at this point is to start firing rockets again at Israel, hope for more photogenic martyrs and sycophantic press coverage, and see if they can 'win' again by surviving.They have little choice, since they have to please their puppet masters in Iran.
You have to wonder, however how ordinary Gazans feel these days about paying the price to distract the world from Iran's rogue nuclear program.