The decision, or at least recommendation, whether it would be good for Israel to go for a ceasefire agreement with Hamas in Gaza is supposed to be taken Wednesday in a meeting between the prime minister, defense minister, and foreign minister ahead of the cabinet meeting.
This trio was referred to as a “winning forum” six months ago exactly. Today, regrettably, not much has been left of the forum, and nothing has been left of the “winning.”
What has remained is exactly what we had six months ago or a year ago. These people are still faced with the big question – what should we do about Gaza: A lull, or a wide-scale ground operation? What should we do about Gilad Shalit who is waiting to be released and the little that was published of the latest letter he sent to his family is heartbreaking enough?
Now, what can we do, it all depends on us again. The defense minister, so it seems, does not back a large-scale military operation. Neither does the chief of staff and most generals. Neither does the prime minister, who has enough to deal with even without soldiers stuck in Gaza’s alleyways. On the other hand, they don’t really support an agreement with Hamas; neither they nor the security cabinet.
And so, how unsurprising, we see the old-new proposal back on the agenda, more sophisticated than ever: Deliver one decisive blow, and then get out; a unique Israeli patent that has been duplicating itself time and again in the past decade.
It started before the withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 – “hit them, and then withdraw,” said well-known security experts once it turned out that the decision on withdrawal was irreversible. The idea returned in discussions ahead of the disengagement in 2005, and is again on the Israeli government’s agenda today; the ultimate default option.
What’s behind this idea? The opportunity to gain twice. Do little and feel as if we’re doing a lot. First, we won’t come off as suckers, ones who shy away from confrontation and withdraw with their tails between their legs. Secondly, at the same time we’ll also restore Israeli deterrence and settle the score the way we understand such scores should be settled.
Both sides speak same language
The problem, as always, to paraphrase the well-know cliché, this tango has two sides to it; two sides that over the years have learned to speak the same language. Both sides hold an affection for one big bang a moment before the agreement: We want one last military operation before the agreement that would produce heavy pressure on Hamas and the other groups in Gaza.
They want to fire one last Grad rocket at Ashkelon. We want the other side to understand they need this deal like oxygen? So do they. We think that at the end of the day they only understand force? Surprisingly enough, they think the same thing.
So what are we left with? Just like in a typical street brawl, the big question is who will deliver the last blow. It didn’t work before, and it won’t work this time either. It is merely an attempt to buy time that won’t lead us anywhere.
The proposal for one decisive blow should be replaced with creative ideas that would bring Gilad Shalit back home and expand the lull agreement, so it will have the potential of creating dramatic change in the region.