Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gaza Ceasefire - why Hamas's Celebrations Mask a Major Defeat.

I write this just 40 minutes after the 'ceasefire' between Israel & the Gaza terrorists and I do it with some haste, so apologies for the lack of finesse in the writing. My initial reaction was anger - this makes no sense, the job isn't done & Hamas will claim victory, but then I started to think: Netanyahu is nobody's fool, and neither is Egypt's Morsi, who has proven himself a skilled opportunist politician. So I ask myself, what has really happened tonight? What has Israel been promised?

Its no coincidence that Hillary Clinton has been shuttling between the two leaders all day. Whatever she has said to both men, and especially to Netanyahu, has been enough for him to call a ceasefire, so what could she offer him? Thats easy - Iran - Hamas is a distraction, they are merely Iran's proxies, therefore a symptom of the problem, which in Israel's mind has always been Iran. Clearly, Netanyahu has got the policy agreement with the Obama administration that he has craved for months - that's a big victory for him.

In addition, it is clear from the various leaders statements that Hamas has been placed on a very short leash. Netanyahu is not withdrawing his forces from Gaza's border and any infraction of the ceasefire, those men will be going in. Over the past few days, international support has largely been on Israel's side, but its been made clear that a ground incursion would seriously damage that support. Now, if Hamas & Islamic Jihad do not abide by a ceasefire that has essentially been forced on them by Egypt, Israel appears to have a clear green light from the US (and Egypt) to use ground forces. That's also a major victory, and in part is due to how successful Israel has been in getting its 'message' out.

So what's in it for Egypt's President Morsi, who after all, was not a combatant in this fracas.  I can only speculate, as probably much of what he will gain from this will not become apparent right away. However I do think he's a very clever man indeed. He steers a difficult path between being an Islamic Brotherhood president, and still seen as a man the west can deal with. The jury is still out as to who Morsi really is, but he certainly does not have an easy job: He leads a country with a deep rooted antisemitism and hatred of Israel, that is also at peace with Israel. He has been seen even by Israel as a someone who can act as a go between. Egypt used to be the leader of the arab world, and could well retake that position, but today there's another candidate for the role, and one that isnt even Arab - Iran! Morsi's role must have involved being rewarded by the US in some way, probably with promises of aid, sophisticated weapons etc. In addition, Hamas are a pain in the rear to him- entangling Egypt with Iran and agitating the Egyptian public  against Israel, which is the last thing he needs if he is to maintain a relationship with the US that Egypt needs, but that its people hate. Hamas's Gaza provides a base for the "Sinai terrorists" who are causing him headaches and have cost him a lucrative source of income supplying Israel and Jordan with gas. He has agreed to restrict Hamas's weapons supply routes through Egypt, and Hamas cannot be pleased about that. He is vital to the collar that has been placed on the neck of Hamas tonight.

In Gaza they will celebrate their 'victory' - this ceasefire allows them just enough to be able to spin it that way to Palestinians who want to believe they won, but Hamas has got little else from it. Hamas has lost key generals, international support, used up a huge quantity of its weapons, lost key infrastructure and helped give Israel the international support it needs for a ground op in Gaza if Hamas misbehave. In addition, Israel's Iron Dome has proven very successful, and the US has agreed to supply more, making Hamas's weapons of choice increasingly less effective as the days go by. Hamas has also probably not delighted its Iranian masters either, as this conflict has brought Israel and the US closer than it has been since Obama took office - good news for Israel, but bad news for Iran as the split between Israel and the US was primarily over Iran. In fact, other than a possible improvement in support from Palestinians and some bragging rights in the "we're nasty terrorist" society, it is hard to see what if anything Hamas got out of the past week.

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