By Ami Isseroff
For better or worse, today marks the start of a new era in Israeli-Palestinian relations. A truce has de facto legitimized the Hamas government in
Still, this deal seems to be very bad. If the Egyptians are not going to be active in suppressing smuggling, then their role in the negotiations was totally unjustified from the Israeli point of view - they won no real advantages for
What drives the decisions that the Israeli government has taken in the past few weeks? I have believed, and want to believe, that they are based on strategic, military and technical concerns. It is still too early to give up on a successful conclusion. The road to a successful military operation that eliminates the Hamas may indeed run through a cease fire, as Ehud Barak claims. But the Hamas would have to be incredibly stupid to give
The noted analysts Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff reach some of the same conclusions regarding the drawbacks of the truce. They claim that nonetheless, the truce was viewed as a lesser evil than a military operation at this point, because Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert believed they didn't have the political backing needed to carry out a military operation in
On the face of it, this is a very problematic claim. A recent poll found that Israelis are very dissatisfied with the security situation. Even though the poll asked a leading question designed to elicit support for lifting the closure of the
11. Do you agree or disagree with the following statement: "The closure creates hardships for the residents and drives them to desperation, which is likely to cause increased violence against
Strongly agree: 16%
Somewhat agree: 18%
Somewhat disagree: 22%
Strongly disagree: 41%
Total agree: 34%
Total disagree: 63%
A poll published June 12 by the "Hakol Diburim" radio program found that the Israeli public favored a military operation over a truce with Hamas. But examination of the June 12 poll may provide the light of understanding. The crucial question and the responses:
Do you today support signing a ceasefire agreement with Hamas or a large military operation in
Total: Ceasefire 33% Operation 44% Other 23%
Kadima voters: Ceasefire 33% Operation 38% Other 29%
Likud voters: Ceasefire 17% Operation 81% Other 2%
Labor voters: Ceasefire 64% Operation 21% Other 15%
Support for a military operation among Kadima voters was lukewarm, while Labor voters overwhelmingly favored a ceasefire. Of course, they didn't necessarily favor a ceasefire like the one that was actually achieved. However, one is led to the unpleasant suspicion that Olmert and Barak based their decision on political pressures within their own parties. Olmert's leadership is challenged by the more dovish Tzippi Livni and Barak's leadership is contested by dovish Ami Ayalon and Amir Peretz. If the decision was based on considerations of political survival, it is not an exemplary case of statesmanship to say the least.
A poll conducted one day before the "calm" went into effect yielded these results:
Do you support or oppose the calm agreement with Hamas?
Total: Support 40.6% Oppose 32.9% No position 26.5%
Kadima voters: Support 38.1% Oppose 31.8% No position 30.1%
Likud voters: Support 22.3% Oppose 60.4% No position 17.3%
Labor voters: Support 69.2% Oppose 10.1% No position 20.7%
You think that the calm will continue for a short time (days) or a long time (months)?
Total: Short 74.8% Long 17.1% Don't know 8.1%
Kadima voters: Short 81.5% Long 5.3% DK 13.2%
Likud voters:: Short 91.4% Long 2.2% DK 6.4%
Labor voters: Short 59.6% Long 12.8% DK 27.6%
A plurality of Israelis support the truce, but solid majorities of the entire political spectrum thing it won't last very long. In other words, many people buy into the argument that "we have to give peace a chance." It is also apparent that Ehud Barak was representing the sentiment of his party in supporting the truce over a military operation.
This deal should not have divided right and left in
We cannot ignore the question of the release of Gilad Shalit. The ethic of "leaving noone behind" is in itself admirable. It is enforced, in kidnapping cases, by the lobbying efforts organized by families of kidnapped soldiers and their attorneys. The desire to "bring our boys home" is a strong motivation for the prospective disastrous swap of murderer Samir Kuntar for captured Israeli soldiers Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, and the captivity of Gilad Shalit figured heavily in the Hamas truce negotiations. It was not an illegitimate concern, especially since a large scale military operation would probably mean death for Gilad Shalit. Ehud Olmert promised that the Shalit swap was part of the deal, while the Hamas insisted that it is not. For the moment, Hamas seems to be telling the truth. To redeem his "honor," Olmert is now committed to getting back Shalit at any price. The Shalit family is threatening to bring their case to the Israel Supreme Court in order to force the government not to open the
Original content is Copyright by the author 2008.