Are these guys nuts?

According to the New York Times’ Ethan Bronner, most Israelis, even residents of Sderot, reacted with fury to last week’s announcement of a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas. (Well, not actually a ceasefire (hudna), as Hamas political head Khaled Mashaal helpfully explained, since that would have implied a recognition of Israel, something Hamas will never grant, but rather a tadhiya, or informal cessation of hostilities.) Israelis were right to be outraged.

Even the United States State Department, which is pressuring Israel to conclude some form of final status agreement with the Palestinians this year , even if it is wholly incapable of being implemented, expressed muted displeasure at the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire agreement. State Department spokesman Tom Casey noted, “Saying that you’ve got a loaded gun to my head but you are not going to fire today is far different from taking the gun down, locking it up, and saying you are not going to use it ever again.”

Once again Israeli leaders have negotiated as if Israel they were suing for peace because her situation is desperate and no alternatives exist to the acceptance of any kind of accord, no matter how temporary the respite it might offer. Prime Minister Olmert resembles nothing so much as a man conducting a clearance sale of the assets
In one week, he offered to give Mt. Dov to Lebanon in return for the Lebanese government’s agreement to negotiate a peace treaty with Israel – an offer that was summarily rejected. And he practically begged Syrian dictator Bashar Assad to meet with him face-to-face a few weeks hence in Paris – an offer that Assad haughtily disdained.

Even former U.N. Special Envoy to the Middle East Terje Roed-Larsen, normally a reliable critic of Israel – Larsen was one of those who falsely informed the world that a terrible stench of death permeated the air in Jenin during Operation Defensive Shield – expressed amazement at Olmert’s generosity towards Syria. He accused Israel of having provided Syria with legitimacy absolutely for free. Europe was once again courting, rather than isolating Syria, precisely because of its indirect negotiations with Israel via Turkey, Larsen charged.

Finally Olmert appears ready to exchange Samir Kuntar, the brutal murderer of 4 Israelis in Nahariya in 1979, and other prisoners, for the two Israeli reservists being held by Hizbullah, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, though no sign of life has been received of either since their capture. For Israel to once again exchange live prisoners for dead bodies would only endanger future Israeli captives by demonstrating to their captors that their value in subsequent prisoner exchanges does not decrease with their death.

NEARLY TWO DECADES after Oslo, our leaders still cannot get beyond their fixation with negotiations and written agreements and recognize that in our rough neck of the woods the key to the game is the image one conveys: Are you projecting strength or desperation?

Last week’s tahdiya only bolstered Hamas’ confidence that it confronts a faltering, uncertain opponent. In the wake of more than two years of constant missile attacks from Gaza, Israel still could not bring itself to undertake a major ground action in Gaza. It blinked first at the prospect of military confrontation, despite its overwhelming superiority in arms.

The cease-fire provided Hamas with a number of significant gains as well. In continuation of the pattern established long ago at Oslo and entrenched since then, Israel gave away tangible assets for nothing more than future promises. Indeed Hamas offered nothing at all. Rather it received an option, if it so chooses, to stop missiles attacks on Israel for the next sixth months.

Israel failed to gain even the one benefit that might perhaps have softened the blow of the cease-fire in most Israelis’ eyes; the return of IDF captive Gilad Schalit, who was kidnapped by Hamas more than two years ago. Prime Minister Olmert proclaimed on many previous occasions that there would be no cease-fire without the return of Schalit.

Olmert negotiated as if Hamas had no interest in a cease-fire and the cease-fire were purely to Israel’s benefit. Just the opposite is closer to the truth.

The closure of Gaza, in the aftermath of repeated Hamas attacks in or near the major checkpoints, had rendered life very difficult for the vast majority of the Gazan population. And those difficulties were reflected in declining popularity for Hamas. But now Israel has crowned Hamas with new heroic status for having stood strong in the face of nearly daily threats from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak and others that a major ground operation was imminent.

By negotiating with Hamas and holding out the possibility that Hamas will be responsible for largest terminal between Gaza and Egypt, Israel effectively crowned Hamas as the legitimate rulers of the Gaza Strip, and conferred upon them heightened status internationally.

Well into the Oslo process, Shimon Peres continued to provide full-time public relations for Yasir Arafat and the Palestinian Authority. Those pro-Israeli groups who attempted to circulate evidence of Arafat’s duplicity by showing the contrast between his Arabic and English statements, or who highlighted the impact of ongoing Palestinian terrorism on Israeli life often found their efforts deliberately undermined by the Israeli Foreign Ministry under Shimon Peres.

The legitimacy conferred upon both Hamas and Syria by Israel’s engagement is of a piece with the earlier defenses of Arafat and the PA. We cannot expect the rest of the world to isolate states and other entities as rogue states, if we are simultaneously conducting diplomatic negotiations with them. Thus in the wake of the announcement of the cease-fire agreement the EU immediately issued a call for Israel to lift the blockades of Gaza and France opened up secret bilateral negotiations with Hamas.

If there is anything to the notion that Fatah is more “pragmatic” or “moderate” than Hamas, then Israel has only succeeded in strengthening Hamas vis-a-vis rival Palestinian factions. Not coincidentally did Mahmoud Abbas, who once described Hamas control of Gaza as totally illegal, respond to news of the cease-fire by traveling hat in hand to Gaza for reconciliation talks with Hamas.
Above all, Israel gave Hamas time – as much or as little as it needs. Time to prepare for the upcoming Paletinian Authority elections. And time to prepare for the next round of hostilities with Israel. Though the cease-fire agreement also proscribes weapons smuggling into Gaza, it is extremely unlikely that Israel would ever declare the cease-fire abrogated because of weapons smuggling in the absence of missile fire from Gaza. The determination of large-scale weapons smuggling by Israeli intelligence would not likely convince the Europeans, or even the Americans, that it was of a sufficient magnitude to justify military action by Israel.

So we can be confident that Hamas will continue to smuggle weapons into Gaza and train in preparation for a military confrontation with Israel. The longer that confrontation is postponed, the stronger Hamas will be and the higher the Israeli casualties.

Finally, the biggest winner from the cease-fire, argued historian Michael Oren in the Wall Street Journal, is Iran. Iranian proxies already threaten Israel from the North and South. And the cease-fire agreement, by allowing the travel of Gazans to the West Bank and holding out the possibility of extending the cease-fire to Judea and Samaria as well, only hastens the day when Israel faces another Iranian proxy to the East. The mocking Iranian response to the European-American offer of a package of incentives last week – we will gladly accept your assistance in building nuclear plants but not at the cost of the cessation of our own enrichment efforts – reflects the Iranians confidence that things are going their way.

This article appeared in the Yated Ne’eman on 25th of June, 2008

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5 comments to Are these guys nuts?

  • Miriam Shear

    Can Cross-Currents extend a leave of absence to Jonathan Rosenblum so he can acquire the Ministry of Defense position?

    Hamas et al understand only one thing: Relentless, uncompromising force. This “hudna” or “tadhiyah” – whatever whitewash one chooses to throw on it – is simply an opportunity for regrouping.

    ANY negotiation or compromise confers legitimacy on the enemy. It’s like trying to negotiate with a fatal disease.

  • Chaim Fisher

    All these things are true.

    Actually I think the situation is even worse than Rosenblum says.

    Sarkozy, our “close friend”, criticized building in Shufat as “occupied territory”, and stood in the Knesset last week and demanded a Palestinian state and the division of Jerusalem.

    And our other dearest “friend” Bush’s policies are, as stated by him himself and carried out by Condi, even worse: no building in Shufat, a return to the ’67 borders, a Palestinian state, divided Jerusalem, and even an answer to the “refugee” problem!

    With friends like these, we truly don’t need any enemies.

    It may have been these developments that was behind Ulmert’s decision no longer to “project strength.” There’s nobody backing it up any more…

  • Ori

    Chaim Fisher: With friends like these, we truly don’t need any enemies.

    Ori: The US is still financing a large part of Israel’s military budget. Any “pressure” that does not involve cutting that aid is empty words, uttered for PR purposes elsewhere.

  • Garnel Ironheart

    Remember the summer of 2000 – Ehud Barak, another lame-duck prime minister intent on giving away as much of Israel as possible travelled to the U.S. and, in front of Bill Clinton, offered Yassir Arafat, y”sh, 99% of what he had always claimed was the “historic right of the Palestinian people”.
    And the Lord hardened Arafat’s heart and he said “no”. Or something like that.
    Since then, other than the withdrawal from ‘Aza which was for reasons outside Oslo, the Arabs have failed to take advantage of any of Israel’s stupidest moves. And considering the list RYR notes, some of them are mind-bogglingly stupid. Imagine, agreeing to unilaterally hand over territory in exchange for a promise to engage in future negotiations! I mean, competent people simply wouldn’t do such a thing.
    And if there’s one thing Olmert has shown, he’s uncannily competent. After all, he’s still the prime minister and leading a viable coalition, isn’t he?
    Now, I’m not Olmert-booster. But I have to wonder. Is it possible that the government of Israel hasn’t suddenly lost its senses but that it is trying to convince the world it has? Is it possible they know something of the security situation that we in the blogosphere just might not be aware of? That perhaps Olmert is trying certain diplomatic tactics towards a higher end?
    Because if he’s as dumb as he comes off in public, oyyyyyyy!

  • Don't Free Samir Kuntar

    PA leaders: Quntar a hero
    by Itamar Marcus and Barbara Crook

    According to the Palestinian Authority leadership, Samir Quntar epitomizes the ideal Palestinian prisoner. Quntar, who crushed the head of four-year-old Eynat Haran with his rifle, is serving four life sentences for murder in an Israeli prison, but is almost certain to be freed in a prisoner swap with Hizbullah this week.

    On one hand, Quntar embodies what the PA considers the “heroism” of terrorists fighting Israel. On the other hand, he’s the ultimate symbol of all terrorist prisoners who have murdered Israelis and will eventually be freed as a result of future kidnappings or through some other means.

    PA TV, controlled by Mahmoud Abbas, broadcast the following picture honoring Quntar. He is depicted beside a map of Israel completely covered by the Palestinian flag.

    According to Smadar Haran, her last memories of Danny and Einat, that day, were when they were being led away at gun point by Kuntar. She could hear from her closet space Danny telling Einat, “Don’t be scared, my baby, it will be alright” and Einat replied to him in her little voice, “Dad, where is Mommy? I want Mommy.” Smadar’s last memory of her 2-year-old daughter, Yael, was when her little daughter was taken to the apartment hiding space. Right before Yael had her mouth covered by her mother, she asked her mother “Where is my little pacifier.” There was no time to search for the pacifier. Minutes later Smadar covered Yael’s mouth to keep her from revealing the hiding space. Smadar soon felt her daughter’s tiny tongue licks and lip sucking on the palm of her hand. She didn’t know what to make of it at first but hours later was told by doctors and paramedics that the reason Yael was licking her palm while she covered her mouth was because she was gasping for air.

    After drowning Danny in the sea in front of little Einat, Kuntar, the brave Lebanese freedom fighter, then turned his attention towards the frightened little 4-year old. He took his rifle and then swung it across the little toddler’s head, knocking her to the ground. As little Einat was knocked to the ground, she was screaming and crying hysterically “mommy daddy help me,” while thrashing her little legs around in the sand. But unfortunately Einat was alone, and no one was there to save her. Kuntar then dragged the little toddler a couple of feet to the closest rock he could find, this was while she was begging him not to hurt her. Kuntar, then laid her head down on a rock, with the intention of crushing it with the butt of his rifle. Einat, instinctively covered her head with her little arms, Kuntar struggled with the little toddler until he finally managed to clear her arms out of the way so that he could aim for her head. Once her arms were out of the way, Kuntar proceeded on beating her on the head over and over with the butt of his rifle, and repeatedly stomping on her little body as hard as he could as well, until blood rushed out of her ears and mouth, and her little cries faded away as she was knocked into unconsciousness. Then, to ensure she was dead, Kuntar continued on beating her over the head, as hard as he could, several more times until her skull was crushed and she was dead.
    http://SamirKuntar.net

    Following are several recent quotes from PA leaders since April 2008, describing Quntar:
    “Samir Quntar, the warrior from Lebanon.”
    “The brave warrior, Samir Quntar.”
    “The Palestinian people and the Palestinian leadership are standing behind you (Quntar).”
    “You (Quntar) are an inseparable part of the action to free our homeland.”
    “Your (Quntar) patience and strength are a lesson for us.”

    Besides bludgeoning Eynat Haran to death with rocks and his rifle, Quntar killed her father and was responsible for the death of her infant sister. He also killed two policemen in the 1979 attack in Naharia. The Israeli cabinet today approved a prisoner exchange that would free Quntar and several other prisoners in exchange for Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser, who were kidnapped by Hizbullah in 2006. The exchange could happen within the next few days.