Holiday edition — take a break from turkey prep and enjoy some choice links (after the jump):
Inside the ‘Forum of Three’: Interesting tic-tock by Barak Ravid of Haaretz on the “fierce” debate that took place between Barak (pro), Lieberman (anti), and Netanyahu (swing) prior to Israel accepting the Morsi-brokered ceasefire with Hamas (h/t):
At Tuesday’s meeting, just before U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived, it became clear to Israel that the principles for a cease-fire being proposed by Egypt were much closer to Hamas’ positions than to its own. The assumption voiced by intelligence officials at the triumvirate meeting was that, contrary to the situation during Mubarak’s era, the Egyptians are aligning with Hamas and trying to provide it with achievements.
This triggered an acerbic dispute between Barak and Lieberman. The defense minister, opposed to an expansion of the operation, thought Israel should respond positively to Egypt’s proposal for a cease-fire and end the operation. Barak said at the meeting that the precise wording of the Egyptian draft is not important since the end of fighting and Israel’s power of deterrence would be tested by the reality on the ground.
“A day after the cease-fire, no one will remember what is written in that draft. The only thing that will be tested is the blow Hamas suffered,” Barak told Netanyahu and Lieberman. “We can put off the Egyptian proposal and go for a precarious ground incursion of Gaza, but at the end of the day, we may end up with the same exact result.”
Lieberman, on the other hand, presented a much harder stance, claiming that the operation until now did not sufficiently reinforce Israel’s power of deterrence. The foreign minister advocated for a ground incursion in Gaza, even if limited, in order to show Hamas that Israel is not fearful of entering the Strip.
Hold the hosannas: Some Israelis and Gazans are underwhelmed by — and skeptical of — the ceasefire deal that was reached:
“This is a pause, not a peace,” said Ya’ara Menachem, a 41-year-old resident of the southern Israeli city of Sderot. “We don’t believe in cease-fires anymore.”
In Gaza City, Samer Mazar said he was holding off on moving his family back to their home near the border with Israel.
“I want to see if the cease-fire holds up first,” he said. “We do not trust them when they say it is over. We have to see it first.”
Many pointed to the last 24 hours, when both Israel and militants in Gaza stepped up the intensity of their attacks. Iranian-made Fajr-5 missiles were fired deep into Israel’s densely populated center Tuesday night, hitting a building in Rishon LeZion.
Palestinians and Israelis alike were relieved that their eight-day conflict had come to an end without a bloody invasion of the Gaza Strip. But on both sides there was a foreboding that their ceasefire might not last very long.
“We are sceptical,” said a senior Israeli government official, who declined to be named. “But the Egyptians and Americans have backed this deal, so if it falls apart they know that we would have a legitimate reason to go in hard.”
Meanwhile, Nathan Jeffay looks at perhaps the biggest losers post-PoC/D, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority:
Many analysts have suggested that by putting Hamas center stage and making the Western-backed P.A. seem like a bystander, Israel is hastening the P.A.’s demise and emboldening Hamas. The operation began just two weeks before the planned start of the P.A.’s statehood bid, but that bid has now been overshadowed on the Palestinian public agenda by the situation in Gaza.
“The bottom line is that Hamas is more relevant,” said Yoram Meital of Ben-Gurion University’s Chaim Herzog Center for Middle East Studies and Diplomacy. “Israel’s image is as the side that refused to pay the price for peace, and most Palestinians see Hamas’s ‘resistance’ as more attractive and up to date, and the Palestinian authority as somewhat not relevant.”
But some observers contend that the Hamas bounce is likely to be short-lived — and is not representative of Palestinian opinion outside Gaza:
Walid Ladadweh, public opinion expert at the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, said that Hamas’s high popularity during the operation could decrease significantly in the weeks and months ahead if Abbas succeeds in his U.N. bid. “If Abbas has a good result, it will increase his strength,” Ladadweh said.
Eran Shayshon, senior analyst at the Israeli think tank the Reut Institute, conceded that Operation Pillar of Defense is causing an “expected short-term spike” in Hamas’s popularity. But this does not translate to a real shift toward Palestinian support for Hamas’s more violent path, he said, or to a desire to live under a more militant regime.
“Right now, West Bankers are sure they don’t want to become Gazans, because they saw where Hamas’s uncompromising attitude towards Israel got them,” he said.
Do you accept personal reality checks? Noam Sheizaf reminds us that, ceasefire or no, the situation on the ground in Gaza remains the same as it was pre-Pillar of Cloud/Defense:
Looking ahead, we should remember that the fundamentals of the situation in Gaza remain unchanged [emph. original]. The Strip is still under aerial and naval blockade, and movement of people is allowed only through the Rafah crossing to Egypt. Export is almost entirely forbidden, so the local economy cannot grow; the power grid is controlled by Israel, and frequent power failures result in sewage failures and a growing water crisis. Construction materials are not allowed in, so large-scale projects are impossible to carry out. The pressure on the civilian population is enormous, and its dependence on foreign aid is almost total.
All this has almost nothing to do with Israeli national security, since military supplies arrive through the tunnels. Israeli strategies and actions are directed at the civilian population, perhaps in the hopes that the people will blame Hamas for their problems and remove the organization from power, something that the Israeli army hasn’t been able to do, though it tried twice.
Steve appears to have taken care of the music today, so in lieu of our usual tuneful exit check out this timely discussion on the dominant US media narrative re: I-P and how it was impacted by increased journalistic access to Gaza during PoC/D, courtesy AJE: