Friday, August 1, 2014

Hamas Breaks Cease Fire

Less than three hours after a three-day humanitarian cease-fire between Israel and Hamas went into effect Friday, the truce broke down when clashes between Israeli forces and Hamas fighters erupted and militants fired rockets into Israel. 
Gaza militants captured an Israeli officer in the southern Gaza Strip just as the cease-fire was falling apart, said a senior Israeli military spokesman. Two other Israeli soldiers were reported killed. 
A top Hamas official in Cairo confirmed the abduction but said it was carried out before the truce began. 
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Secretary of State John F. Kerry in telephone call Friday afternoon that the cease-fire was broken by Hamas and that the Islamist group and other Palestinian militant factions “will bear the consequences of their actions,” according to Netanyahu’s office. 
“The cease-fire is over,” said Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, a senior spokesman for the Israel Defense Forces. Ground operations will continue, he said, “and our aircraft are in the sky as we speak.”
Anyone familiar with Islamic warfare would not be surprised. Muslims view truces merely as time to re-arm and prepare for the next battle or war. In this case, it apparently provided them the cover to prepare to kidnap an IDF officer.
Israel said the capture took place an hour and a half after the truce began Friday morning. It said the officer was taken in the no man’s land in the southern Gaza Strip east of the city of Rafah. 
According to a preliminary account by Lerner, the Israeli military spokesman, the officer was abducted while Israeli troops were preparing to destroy a Hamas tunnel. Several Gaza militants emerged from a shaft, including a suicide bomber, who detonated his explosive device, Lerner said. 
“They took him back through the tunnel,” Lerner said.
 CNN has an article/op-ed about why the Hamas-Israeli conflict is different this time. The author views this current conflict as a proxy war between the "radical" and "moderate" wings of Islam:
"This is unprecedented in the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict," says CNN's Ali Younes, an analyst who has covered the region for decades. "Most Arab states are actively supporting Israel against the Palestinians -- and not even shy about it or doing it discreetly." 
It's a "joint Arab-Israeli war consisting of Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia against other Arabs -- the Palestinians as represented by Hamas." 
As the New York Times put it, "Arab leaders, viewing Hamas as worse than Israel, stay silent." 
One of the outcomes of the fighting will likely be "the end of the old Arab alliance system that has, even nominally, supported the Palestinians and their goal of establishing a Palestinian state," Younes says. 
"The Israel-Hamas conflict has laid bare the new divides of the Middle East," says Danielle Pletka, vice president of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. "It's no longer the Muslims against the Jews. Now it's the extremists -- the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Hezbollah, and their backers Iran, Qatar and Turkey -- against Israel and the more moderate Muslims including Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia." 
"It's a proxy war for control or dominance in the Middle East," says CNN's Fareed Zakaria.
Unfortunately, it is not as simple as that. Hezbollah, for instance, has taken sides with Assad in Syria, against Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Iran backs Assad, while Qatar backs the Syrian rebels (and, presumably, ISIS). In my mind, this indicates that the talking heads don't actually know what they are talking about.

Daniel Greenfield has a more nuanced understanding of the situation, including the Obama's hostility toward Israel. He writes:
Israel is just the means; the Muslim Brotherhood and political Islam are the objective. That objective may mean the end of the West, but those striding boldly through the halls of diplomacy are not worried. 
The real target of the Hamas campaign wasn’t Israel; it was Egypt.  
Egypt’s crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood had included Hamas. That crackdown worried Hamas far more than anything that Israel was doing. Meanwhile the Muslim Brotherhood’s loss of power meant a major setback for the sugar daddies of the Arab Spring; Qatar, Turkey and their Western allies. 
The new alignment had placed Qatar, Turkey, Obama and the EU in one row, while Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the PLO were in another row. The latest phase of the Gaza War between Israel and Hamas was meant to break apart that alignment.
Obama’s tilt toward Iran had encouraged Sunni Muslims to throw their backing behind ISIS leading to significant gains in Iraq. Qatar and Turkey, backers of both Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, then used ISIS to push the myth that the only counter to Al Qaeda was the Brotherhood’s political Islam. 
Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood, political Islam and the Jihadist bands, have always been two sides of the same coin, but the argument remains a persuasive one in the great halls of diplomacy.  
Egypt had bottled up Hamas to avoid a repetition of the jailbreaks, terrorist attacks and street violence that had freed Morsi and Brotherhood leaders and later enabled Morsi to attempt a takeover of the Egyptian military.  
The path to putting the Muslim Brotherhood back in power in Egypt runs through Hamas. 
Hamas attacked Israel. There was enough backing for Israel’s attack on Hamas to get it to the negotiating table. But once a ceasefire offer was on the table, Egypt would no longer be calling the shots. Instead the deal would come through two of Hamas’ state sponsors; Qatar and Turkey. 
For this to work, Obama had to keep a leash on Israel, giving it permission to fight and then pulling it back at the critical moment. Meanwhile Egypt would be surprised to learn that it was no longer setting the terms of the ceasefire based on the same old arrangement, but that its place would be filled by Qatar and Turkey. Their ceasefire terms, approved by the US, would loosen the blockade around Hamas.
 Unfortunately for Obama (and fortunately for the rest of us), Israel and Egypt are not playing ball.
The real objective of this war was to undermine Egypt. Egypt was supposed to scramble into the new alignment by developing closer ties with Hamas and cutting a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood. 
And if Egypt’s government wouldn’t cooperate, the Muslim Brotherhood might be able to tap into enough of the anti-Israel and pro-Hamas sentiment to topple the government a second time. But if Egypt remains opposed to Hamas and Israel pushes forward with a plan to demilitarize Gaza, then the goals of those in the great halls of diplomacy who are behind this war will fail.
 Read the whole thing.

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