Thursday, November 22, 2012

How's the Israel and Hamas Ceasefire?

Naftali Bennett: Tear Gaza in two

Habayit Hayehudi chairman harshly criticizes government, advocates ground invasion into Gaza
Amid growing signs of a ceasefire, Habayit Hayehudi Chairman Naftali Bennett harshly criticized the government on Wednesday. "They've lost all common sense," he said on Ynet's TV studio.

The newly-elected chairman called on the government to expand Operation Pillar of Defense and "tear the Gaza Strip in two."

"We can postpone the elections if that's what it takes to protect the people of the south," Bennett said. He added that a "country that cannot protect its residents is degrading itself in the eyes of the world. A country that protects its residents is respected.

"I think there is weakness of spirit a loss of fighting spirit, Jewish spirit, Zionist spirit on the part of the government."
Asked what he would do in Benjamin Netanyahu's place he said, "I would seize an open strip of land, create a buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza and stay there to prevent launchers from entering. If we're not going for a decisive blow, I'm against deploying even one soldier."

The Habayit Hayehudi chairman stated that Israel faces an historic opportunity. "The people, the army, the reservists are all saying 'Netanyahu, give us the order.' We're right behind you.'"

IDF Spokesman Yoav Mordechai told Ynet that Hamas is stressed. "The organization has been very badly hit. All of its leaders are in a state of crisis.

"There are many terrorist groups in Gaza and Hamas has reached a crossroads and needs to make a decision." Mordechai said that if Hamas fails to impose its authority, the Gaza Strip may fall to pieces.

He said that 160 Palestinians were killed, including 30 in the past 24 hours. The Palestinians however reported that 140 were killed in Gaza.

Hamas emerges with major gains from hits bloodiest battle with Israel in 4 years

Israel Lauds Strikes as Hamas Says Invasion Threat Ended

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said its eight-day aerial campaign preceding the Gaza cease-fire destroyed all Hamas heavy rockets, as the Palestinian group said the truce had ended a threat of invasion.
The attacks also removed as many as 40 percent of Hamas’s medium-range projectiles, Barak told Israel’s Channel 2 television a day after the fighting ended. Some of the 75,000 reservists called up for a possible ground assault are gradually being released from duty, an army spokeswoman said by phone, speaking anonymously according to regulations.
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said in a televised speech that “the idea of invading Gaza after this victory has ended and will not return, God willing” according to a video posted on the Guardian website.
If it holds, the cease-fire will give Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is running for a third term in January, the success of stopping Hamas rockets targeted at Israeli civilians. It also will bolster Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi’s stature as a regional player and leave the moderate Palestinian Authority in the shadow of an ascendant Islamist Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the U.S. and the European Union.
“This operation’s targets have been accomplished,” Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor told journalists yesterday in Jerusalem. “Whether we have reached our goal of maintaining peace in our territory is yet to be seen. We hope that the lesson has been learned, and the price has been paid.”

Military Blockade

Announcing the truce in Cairo Nov. 21 alongside Egypt’s foreign minister, Secretary of StateHillary Clinton promised U.S. assistance in seeking to “improve conditions for the people of Gaza and provide security for the people of Israel.” Egypt and the U.S. helped to broker the agreement.
Hamas said the truce would result in the lifting of a military blockade of the territory, which it took control of in 2007. Israeli officials were vague about that part of the agreement, which says the issue will be “dealt with” 24 hours after the truce starts, according to a version published by the foreign ministries of Israel and Egypt.
The agreement halted Israeli air strikes that killed 163 people in Gaza, including 43 children, Ashraf al-Qedra, a spokesman for the Hamas-run Ministry of Health, said yesterday. More than 1,200 were wounded, about 70 percent of them civilians, he said. Palestinians launched more than 1,400 missiles during the conflict, killing five Israelis, while Israel hit more than 1,500 targets in Gaza and threatened a ground invasion.

‘Very Fragile’

The cease-fire reflects the willingness of both sides to impose restraints on themselves, Barak told Army Radio earlier yesterday, though he cautioned that previous accords have failed to hold.
“You should never be too optimistic about these types of cease-fires because they’re very fragile,” said Shadi Hamid, director of research at the Brookings Doha Center in Qatar. “The Israeli government is going to come under pressure to do more if there’s any resumption of rocket attacks.”
Palestinians danced in the streets in Gaza City and fired machine guns at the sky after the truce officially took effect at 9 p.m. local time on Nov. 21.
“Israel can only be dealt with through wars and they accept conditions by force, not by negotiations,” said Rafat Hijazi, 39, who joined the celebrations. “We’re so happy now.”
In the West Bank, the Israeli army arrested 55 people it described in an e-mailed statement as “terror operatives.” Suspects in the Nov. 21 bombing of a bus in Tel Aviv that injured 30 were also arrested, Haaaretz newspaper reported late yesterdat.

‘Right Step’

Israel’s shekel extended gains yesterday, strengthening 0.7 percent to 3.8767 per dollar at 9:24 p.m. local time. The benchmark stock index rose 0.2 percent.

Israel-Hamas talks leave future of Gaza blockade cloudy

Gaza residents and smugglers are left to ponder vague promises to discuss easing restrictions on the movement of goods and people at a later date.

Gaza Strip family assesses damage
Members of the Attar family, displaced during the Hamas-Israel conflict, return to the remains of their home in the northern Gaza Strip. (Marco Longari / AFP/Getty Images / November 22, 2012)

RAFAH, Gaza Strip — Seated on a muddy hill, Sulieman Masri glumly scanned the giant crater that was once a smuggling tunnel used to support his family.
After the Israeli airstrikes of the last week, Thursday morning was the first safe time to venture out. He discovered his tunnel was among 140 Israel destroyed. Now it's now a massive sand pit coated with gray explosives residue. It would take two months to rebuild at the cost of $20,000.
"But I've heard that they are going to open the borders, which could put the tunnels out of business," he said. "Now I don't know what to do."
Masri isn't the only one wondering what will happen next with Israel's 5-year-old blockade of the Gaza Strip's border and coastline.
Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the coastal strip, persuaded Gazans to support its confrontation with Israel in part by vowing repeatedly that it would keep fighting until the controversial blockade was lifted.
So many were surprised Wednesday night when the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire included only vague promises to discuss easing restrictions on goods and people at a later date.
A Hamas official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue, said the group received private assurances from Egypt that the Rafah crossing to the Sinai Peninsula, which currently permits limited movement of people, will be expanded to include goods, and that Israel agreed not to object.
Israelis, who are worried that opening the borders will allow Hamas to rearm itself, don't want to talk about the subject until after it's clear that the cease-fire is holding.

Cease-Fire Announced in Israel-Gaza Conflict

November 21, 2012 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr announced a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas during a Nov. 21 news conference in Cairo. The cease-fire is expected to begin at 9 p.m. local time. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly told U.S. President Barack Obama that he is willing to give the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire a chance. 

This cessation of violence is likely highly tenuous. Israel will only agree to a truce if it has guarantees from Egypt -- overseen by the United States -- that the Palestinian arsenal of Fajr-5 long-range rockets will be neutralized and that measures will be taken to prevent future weapons transfers to Gaza. It remains to be seen what details surface on this core Israeli demand, especially given its incompatability with Hamas' demand for the blockade on Gaza to be lifted. 

There is also the outstanding issue of Iran, which Israel has pointed to as the center of gravity in the conflict. The Fajr-5 rockets are Iranian-made, and Iran facilitated the movement of those weapons into Gaza. Iran may have an interest in prolonging the conflict and could try to use militant levers in Gaza to derail the truce. Israel must also contend with the broader dilemma of future Iranian attempts to smuggle advanced weaponry into Gaza. This is where Egyptian cooperation with Israel on border security becomes crucial. 

If the cease-fire holds, Hamas is within reach of a major symbolic victory. It will have avoided devastation of the group in Gaza and can claim a capability to strike the Israeli heartland. 

We must watch now if Hamas honors the cease-fire and if the organization will have the authority to enforce the cease-fire among other groups, namely the Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Until Israel has a guarantee on the Fajr-5s and a cessation of rocket fire, it is unlikely to forgo the option of a military ground operation. 


Ahmadinejad: Israel has 'childish' desire to attack Iran, Tehran can defend itself

Iranian president says Israel knows Iran won't 'attack anybody'; world powers agree to seek renewed talks with Iran as soon as possible.

By Reuters Nov.22, 2012

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after a meeting with Vietnam's National Assembly's Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung in Hanoi November 10, 2012. 

Israel has a "childish" desire to attack Iran and Tehran is capable of defending itself, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said on Thursday.

"They wish to hurt the Iranian nation. They are waiting for the chance. They know that Iran does not attack anybody and they know that Iran knows how to defend itself," he told a news conference in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

"We don't accept the hegemony of Israel. They wish to attack Iran but it is like a childish desire," the Iranian president said.

He was speaking after attending a summit of developing nations.

Six world powers agreed on Wednesday to seek renewed talks with Iran as soon as possible, reflecting a heightened sense of urgency to resolve a long rift over Tehran's disputed nuclear activity and avert the threat of war.

Their call coincided with growing evidence of Iran expanding nuclear capacity in an underground bunker virtually impervious to attack and follows the Nov. 6 re-election of U.S. President Barack Obama, which has cleared the way for new contacts.

Senior diplomats from the six countries - the United States, Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany - met in Brussels on Wednesday to consider new negotiating tactics despite abiding scepticism that a deal with Tehran can be reached.

Analysts warn that a window of opportunity for a negotiated solution is narrowing because of growing alarm over Tehran's nuclear course in Israel, the Middle East's only nuclear power which has threatened to bomb the atomic sites of its arch-enemy.


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