1) The ceasefire
Armin Rosen writes in An alternative timeline of the Gaza escalation:
Since the Israeli operation began, Hamas has hardly been shy about admitting to its use of Iranian weapons--the Al Qassam Brigade's Twitter has announced its use of Fajr-5s on several occasions, including in an attack on "homes" in the Beersheva area (an Israeli tweeted pictures of Fajr-5 components at the site of a direct hit on an apartment complex Rison L'Tziyon, a suburb of Tel Aviv). And after the ceasefire was announced on Wedensday, Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal went so far as to "[praise] Iran for financing and arming Gazans," according to Sky News. Meanwhile, the Israelis have made a point of explaining that the Fajr-5s were one of the targets of their ongoing operation in the Gaza Strip. Both Avital Leibovitch, the oft-quoted IDF spokesperson, and Israeli ambassador to the US Michael Oren, assured conference calls of journalists that much of Hamas's long-range capacity has been destroyed.Rosen quoted "Michael Ross," whose thoughts were fleshed out in Egypt has some explaining to do:
But it's worth wondering how long it will take for Hamas to recover its supply of long-range rockets.
In a conventional military environment, Fajr-5s are fired from bulky truck-mounted rocket launchers. As Herzog explains, the rockets that Hamas uses are modified so that they can be fired using improvised delivery systems. "They don't' need trucks for launching them," he says. "They just need a tube, and it can be located anywhere." Even underground, he added.
The Gaza escalation might have been an attempt to forestall a reality where militant groups on Israel's northern and southern border possess missiles capable of hitting the country's largest civilian areas. But even if many of them have been destroyed, these missiles are replaceable, easily-hidden, and easily fired. That reality has already arrived.
Under Mubarak, Israel and Egypt traditionally enjoyed maintaining a very substantive and cordial bilateral intelligence sharing relationship geared at mutually foiling radical elements posing a threat to regional security. The current state of affairs under Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood rule of President Morsi is probably seeing a very diminished version of that former relationship and this is to the detriment of all concerned – including Egypt. In good faith, Israel’s secret intelligence service, the Mossad, has shared a significant amount of intelligence on arms transfers with Egypt and that will soon come to an end if this intelligence is not used as intended.Charles Krauthammer's Why was there a war in Gaza? is similar to Rosen:
True to form, there’s a lot of media scrutiny on this conflict including the various commentary on HAMAS’ use of indiscriminate rockets versus Israel’s attempts to respond while minimizing civilian casualties. There’s plenty of criticism available to both sides to go around but what is really lacking in the discussion are questions about what precipitated this conflict and how measures could have been taken to stem the arms flow to Gaza.
When the smoke clears, Egypt has some explaining to do.
Hamas’s objective was to guarantee no further attacks on its leaders or on its weaponry, launch sites and other terror and rocket infrastructure. And the lifting of Israel’s military blockade, which would allow a flood of new and even more deadly weapons. In other words, immunity and inviolability during which time Hamas could build unmolested its arsenal of missiles — until it is ready to restart the war on more favorable terms.
Yet another hudna, this one brokered and guaranteed by Egypt and Turkey, regional powers Israel has to be careful not to offend. A respite for rebuilding, until Hamas’s Gaza becomes Hezbollah South, counterpart to the terror group to Israel’s north, with 50,000 Iranian- and Syrian-supplied rockets that effectively deter any Israeli preemptive attack.
With the declaration of a cease-fire Wednesday, Israel seems to have successfully resisted these demands, although there may be some cosmetic changes to the embargo. Which means that in any future fighting, Israel will retain the upper hand.Eyal Zisser observes that Hamas chose survival:
One cannot manage the Hamas state from a bunker, or while constantly looking to find cover from Israel's air force. The Hamas state cannot be managed while its military commanders need to be replaced on a daily basis. These commanders are needed by Hamas to provide stability and protect it, first and foremost from the more radical Islamist groups, and even from Fatah.
At the moment of truth, when Hamas had to choose between preserving and establishing its rule over the Gaza Strip or forfeiting the banner of struggle against Israel, Hamas made the pragmatic choice. This choice allows it to survive and to benefit in the political, as opposed to the military sphere.
The methodical targeting of Hamas' military infrastructure over the past week is difficult for Israel to translate into one image of victory, similar to the complete destruction of Hezbollah's Dahiyeh neighborhood in southern Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, or even the destruction suffered by Hamas in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9.Similarly, Barry Rubin writes:
On Hamas’s side, the decision to reach a ceasefire was motivated by the damage the organization was suffering and fear of a massive Israeli ground attack. Perhaps most important, however, was that Hamas found it was not receiving strong support from Egypt and other states, especially because Cairo is now ruled by a Muslim Brotherhood government. Hamas is an independent branch of the Muslim Brotherhood movement. Apparently, Hamas did not consult with Egypt before escalating attacks against Israel, the factor that set off large-scale Israeli retaliation. In turn, Egypt, along with Qatar, the Hamas regime’s main Arab funder, pressured the regime to stop the fighting.David Sanger and Thom Shanker write in Gaza conflict as Trial Run:
But in the Israeli and American contingency planning, Israel would face three tiers of threat in a conflict with Iran: the short-range missiles that have been lobbed in this campaign, medium-range rockets fielded by Hezbollah in Lebanon and long-range missiles from Iran.
The last of those three could include the Shahab-3, the missile Israeli and American intelligence believe could someday be fitted with a nuclear weapon if Iran ever succeeded in developing one and — the harder task — shrinking it to fit a warhead.
A United States Army air defense officer said that the American and Israeli militaries were “absolutely learning a lot” from this campaign that may contribute to a more effective “integration of all those tiered systems into a layered approach.”2) More, more, Morsi
A day after the New York Times ran an uncritical account of Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi's importance in arranging a ceasefire and praising his pragamatism, the paper reportsCiting Deadlock, Egypt’s Leader Seizes New Power and Plans Mubarak Retrial:
Mr. Morsi, an Islamist and Egypt’s first elected president, portrayed his decree as an attempt to fulfill popular demands for justice and protect the transition to a constitutional democracy. But the unexpected breadth of the powers he seized raised immediate fears that he might become a new strongman. Seldom in history has a postrevolutionary leader amassed so much personal power only to relinquish it swiftly.
“An absolute presidential tyranny,” Amr Hamzawy, a liberal member of the dissolved Parliament and prominent political scientist, wrote in an online commentary. “Egypt is facing a horrifying coup against legitimacy and the rule of law and a complete assassination of the democratic transition.”
Mr. Morsi issued the decree at a high point in his five-month-old presidency, when he was basking in praise from the White House and around the world for his central role in negotiating a cease-fire that the previous night had stopped the fighting in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas.Morsi's been engaged in power grabs for months now. He's remade the Egyptian military and cracked down on the press. Still it's curious that he'd take another step in consolidating his power so soon after being praised for his pragmatism. Maybe all that praise emboldened him.
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