Today is a day ending in Y, meaning according to ancient Hamas and Israeli tradition, a ceasefire has either just started, was just agreed upon, was just broken or is being furiously negotiated.
In this case, the first choice is correct, after the sides decided to give the classic three-day truce the ol’ college try once again late last night, with the timeout starting at midnight. Considering recent history, though, Israel’s major daily papers are forgiven for seeing this latest iteration of truce or dare through two thoroughly jaundiced eyes.
Yedioth Ahronoth paints the situation as something of a Mexican standoff, with the entertaining but wholly uninformative A1 headline, “Who will blink first,” calling the 72-hour truce a “test.” Points, though, for not just recycling a headline from a few days ago, the last time a ceasefire was agreed to.
The paper’s Alex Fishman describes the complicated talks in Cairo as a “three-ring circus.” “So, while the Israeli-Egyptian-Hamas ring is running in a circle chasing its tail practically pointlessly, a second ring enters the circus, this one with the Arab League, in order to give Hamas a chance to do a backflip: Hamas will ‘grant [a concession],’ supposedly at the request of the Arab League, and will agree to another 72-hour truce so Israel can come with better suggestions than last time. Everything is as-if. As if Hamas is doing a favor for the Arab countries and isn’t really happy to have a ceasefire. Hamas actually really wants to stay in Cairo and continue talking. What would kill it is humiliation.”
Israel Hayom seems no more convinced that this truce will yield results, as evidenced by its massive page 2 headline “Maybe this time?” Perhaps the pessimism stems from the popular idea articulated by the paper’s commentator Dan Margalit, calling for Israel not to show up in Cairo with a better offer, but rather to say take the offer to stop fighting or leave it and watch Gaza become an ordnance proving ground.
“The alternative to Israel’s refusal to engage in time-bound ceasefires written by Hamas isn’t to expand the operation but to persist with it. Air operations and specialized ground actions at certain times, and of course targeted assassinations according to need – and not letting the terrorists rearm. If a Jewish citizen can’t live happily in Kfar Aza [a kibbutz near Gaza] – his Palestinian counterpart can’t enjoy a peaceful life in the actual Gaza. This is the other side of the slogan ‘quiet will be answered with quiet.’”
Whatever path Israel does choose, it may be done without the sage counsel of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s round table of ministers. Haaretz reports that despite an official recommendation made after the Second Lebanon War to bring ministers into the decision-making fold, most are being left in the dark regarding Israel’s course of action in Protective Edge. The paper reports that when the last ceasefire was declared last week, Israeli ministers, including top dogs Tzipi Livni and Naftali Bennett, were surprised to get a phone call telling them it was a done deal and they had no say.
“Last night, when Israel agreed to another 72-hour ceasefire proposed by Egypt, the same telephone calls were made, with no debate about the move,” the paper reports. “We are almost completely blind when it comes to the Egyptian-brokered negotiations,” a minister is quoted telling the paper. “Since last Tuesday evening, I have no idea what’s happening. Netanyahu works alone with [Defense Minister Moshe] Ya’alon and a few advisers, and does not consult the ministers.”
Yedioth reports that one of them men behind the Winograd Commission, which authored a report of takeaways from the 2006 Second Lebanon War, Prof. Yehezkel Dror, is calling for a similar commission to be set up to examine this round of hostilities.
“There is doubt that when the current fighting ends, there needs to be a panel to look into all the incidents of Protective Edge, from the first day to the last,” Dror tells Yedioth. “The commission needs to deal with a not-small number of questions: Why didn’t we understand beforehand the nature of tunnels, why did we declare it over when above nothing had changed, how was the interaction between the army and politicians? This is a neverending competition between us and Hamas, and we need to improve our abilities to learn from it.”
One of the biggest questions on everyone’s minds is why the battle was declared all but over last week, leading southerners to return home, when it was liable to go FUBAR again at any time, as it did on Friday. As ire has risen to a head, Israel Hayom reports that IDF chief Benny Gantz, Southern Commander Sami Turgeman and Public Security Minister Yitzhak Ahanrovitch offered themselves up to southern leaders Sunday, hearing out their sundry complaints over the snafu.
“We made mistakes in some of our assessments,” Turgeman is quoted saying in the closest thing to an apology. While Gantz, who made the boldest pronouncements last week, has no words, Aharonovitch declares that despite the anger, there is no loss of faith in the army among residents of the Gaza periphery.
That is certainly believable, given the seemingly united front Israelis have shown during the war, putting political differences aside, at least for the time being. Haaretz’s Oudeh Basharat, for one, is unhappy at that particular turn of events, penning an op-ed castigating the political opposition in the Knesset for acting as Netanyahu’s lap poodle.
“During the current war, the opposition has had nothing to say, even as the number of Palestinian dead approaches 2,000. It hasn’t said anything about the destruction of whole neighborhoods in Gaza. On the contrary, Labor chief [Isaac] Herzog is astounded by Netanyahu’s moderateness. How many Gazans must be killed to stir the conscience of a Labor Party member,” he writes. “In the days before the storm, the opposition didn’t ask tough questions. There were no demands, for example, for proof of Hamas’s involvement in the abduction and murder of the three teens in the West Bank. And the Gaza operation, with all its dead on the Israeli and Palestinian sides, is the outcome of that dubious accusation.”