Jerusalem – As of 6 a.m. today, the truce agreement with Hamas goes into effect following months of Egyptian mediation.
Also today at 6 a.m., Israel is giving Hamas recognition as a legitimate player in Palestinian and regional politics.
The “tahdia” – the Islamic term for calm – involves a cessation of missile attacks from Gaza and counterattacks from the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). It applies only to Gaza Strip. It will not apply to Judea and Samaria, where the IDF and Israeli intelligence the GSS will continue to operate as usual in order to prevent terrorism.
The IDF Intelligence Research Department Director Brig. Gen. Yossi Baidatz reported on Tuesday at the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that “Hamas does not see itself as responsible for the other organizations honoring the truce, but puts the responsibility for that onto the Egyptians.” He believes that the organization’s leaders want the truce very much, which they will utilize to prepare the infrastructure for terrorism by digging tunnels and smuggling weapons.
This assessment is reminiscent of the cease-fire with Hamas between November 2006 and May 2007. While Hamas did not fire missiles during that period of time, other Palestinian terror groups fired 315 missiles during that period of time, from Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Yesterday morning, Hamas held a press conference, led by two of its high-ranking operatives, Mahmoud a-Zahar and Khalil el-Hiya, and confirmed their agreement for a temporary cessation of missile attacks. “On Friday the first stage of the agreement will begin,” Mr. a-Zahar said on live broadcast from his home. “It will include a reciprocal and immediate cease-fire, at first in the Gaza Strip, for six months.”
Despite Mr. a-Zahar’s statement about a half-year truce, the Israel security establishment’s upper echelon is skeptical and believes that it will be short-lived. “We need to give the truce a chance, but prepare for action. We are on a collision course,” Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi said yesterday to the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. Earlier Gaza Division Commander Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi also addressed the committee and said: “We understand that the truce will be short and fragile, and we are preparing for that.”
Israel Deputy Prime Minister Haim Ramon is not only pessimistic but also opposes the agreement. “The truce is a victory for extremist Islam,” he said at a conference at the University of Haifa.
The truce is built on the principle of “if they give, they will receive; if they don’t give, they won’t receive.” If there is quiet, then within three to four days, Israel will renew the passage of goods to the Gaza Strip, at a scope that will increase with time. The amount of goods that will already pass at the immediate stage will be one-third larger than its present level. As the calm continues, Israel will gradually release a greater variety of goods in comparison with what has entered Gaza in the past year.
Firing From Gaza
Shortly after Hamas officially announced the cease-fire, Islamic Jihad fired a volley of rockets at Israel. What followed was more than 30 missile attacks during yesterday alone.
Sources in Hamas also said yesterday that they believed the cease-fire had low chances of success. “Our experience with Israel shows that such things don’t last,” said one Hamas spokesman, who preferred to disregard the Palestinian infractions of the agreement.
Hamas believes that Israel will restrain itself if the rocket fire and terror attacks are limited to small doses.
Yaakov Amidror, a respected retired IDF major general, told the Israeli media yesterday that “Israel is breaking the isolation around Hamas. After the agreement, Israel will not be able to demand that others refrain from coming into contact with Hamas.” Mr. Amidror also made the following points:
* Such an agreement will greatly increased the risk of compromise between Fatah and Hamas. Israel will once again stand before a two-headed Palestinian administration, and will find itself in negotiations with Hamas on the final status arrangements – without it having backed down from its principles for Israel’s destruction.
* The quiet will enable Hamas to complete its takeover of Gaza, and will ensure its success in the elections in Judea and Samaria as well. Israel is putting the last nail into Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ coffin.
* After the truce – which Hamas will use for armament and training – it will be better prepared for war. True, this will be postponed, but when it breaks out, it will be far more brutal.
* On a strategic level, Israel will once again be perceived not as a country that can defend its citizens, but as one that fears warfare. Once again, the determination of a terror organization has defeated the state that presumes to be strong, and is exposed in the fullest of its weakness.
* The truce will enable Hamas to conduct the negotiations on POW Cpl. Gilad Shalit without any pressure, and will reduce the chances of returning him without accepting Hamas’ dictate in full. Therefore, it would be an error not to include his release in the truce agreement.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008