Wednesday, June 18, 2008

An Ill-Advised Temporary Cease Fire

Confirming long standing rumors, Israel and Hamas today announced a temporary ceasefire today that is due to go into effect at 0600 hours local time Thursday,June 19th.The agreement was midwifed by Egypt's Intelligence Chief Omar Suleiman, and is supposed to last for six months. So..let's see what we've got here...

The basic agreement goes as follows:

  • Hamas will end rocket fire and other attacks emanating from the Gaza Strip from all the various terrorist factions headquartered there. In exchange, Israel will end it's military operations within the Gaza Strip. There's been some noise about extending this to the West Bank, but since the IDF is the only thing keeping Fatah's Mahmoud Abbas safe from being toppled by Hamas, that won't happen unless the current negotiations between the two Palestinian terrorist factions bear fruit. Simple enough so far, a temporary agreement to end active hostilities on both sides.

  • Hamas is supposed to end the smuggling of weapons and military know-how into the Strip and stop sending people for training in Iran. In addition, the Israelis insist that Hamas stop making rockets, missiles, and sophisticated explosive devices, stop digging the arms smuggling tunnels , and end the building of Hezbollah-style military fortifications. I'd say the odds are roughly 150% that Hamas will violate this part of the deal out of hand.

  • Egypt will do its part to help implement item two by using its intelligence and operational forces all along the Sinai Peninsula and at sea in order to destroy smuggling tunnels and stop the smuggling of arms, explosives and trained terrorists into the Gaza Strip. Considering that Egypt was supposed to be doing this all along as part of the agreement whereby the Israelis left Gaza, I have my doubts about the Egyptians following through on this, even assuming they wanted to in the first place.

  • If the ceasefire holds for a decent interval of several days,Israel will gradually open the Gaza crossings to the transfer of goods. However, the main Rafah Crossing is only supposed to be opened after an agreement is made about some kind of 'monitoring mechanism' for the crossing between the Egyptians, the Palestinian Authority (Mahmoud Abbas' people,) and those wonderful EU international observers who ran to Israel at the first sign of problems instead of taking their chances with the Palestinians they're so supportive of.This will lead to the Karni and Sufa Crossings being opened upto traffic as well.

  • After the opening of the Karni and Sufa Crossings but before the Rafah Crossing is opened to Gaza residents, negotiations on freeing kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit will be `accelerated' - which means that the Palestinians will get a fair amount of murderers released from Israeli custody in exchange for Shalit, subject to haggling about whom and how many. Hamas currently wants 350 terrorists in exchange.

This truce is ill-advised on many levels from Israel's standpoint, most of which I've already pointed out. It's important, first of all, to realize that this is not a ceasefire agreement the two parties have actually signed with each other, it's a series of pledges they've each made to the Egyptians.There not a chance that Hamas will abide by the parts of the deal involving ending its military buildup or the smuggling and manufacture of heavy weapons, and the Egyptians will likely be as effective in enforcing it as they were before, which is to say hardly at all.

Egypt of course gets what it wants out of the deal,which was to head off an Israeli-Hamas war that could have involved Hamas blowing up Egypt's border wall again and sending thousands of Palestinians streaming into Egypt.

Hamas gets a desperately needed breather to regroup, retrain and replenish its arms supplies.

The Israelis get, essentially, a short period of quiet. Israel's inept leadership was unable to even get Gilad Shalit thrown into the deal as a condition...they'll still have to pay an obscene price for him they want him back,and a message has been sent to Hamas,Hezbollah and others that kidnapping operations like this can be profitable.

The Olmert/Livni/Barak government also gets the benefit of a short period of quiet, which they're hoping will benefit them politically, even if it's harmful for the country in the long term.

That in itself may be the best reason for Israel to go along with this.Th eKnesset meets next week to vote on dissolving itself to go toearly elections, an dthere's a fairly reasonable certainty it will pass.

A war with Hamas is just over the horizon, as sure as the sun rises. Costly as the delay will be, it would clearly be better for Israel to go to war with very different leadership than it has now.

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