Fighting for a Ceasefire

JERUSALEM, Israel — In conversations with those working in Israeli politics, as well as reporters covering it, I have been hearing that the primary goal of the current Israeli offensive against Hamas is not regime change but rather to force a medium- to long-term ceasefire with the hostile neighbor that brings an end to the nearly continuous stream of rocket fire into the country.

While a belief that a return of Fatah power over Gaza, as was previously the case and as is the case in the West Bank, is no doubt a desire of Israelis, it does not appear to be the primary goal of the country's air strikes and subsequent ground operation into Gaza. Rhetoric from Israeli leadership aside, an understanding that regime change is not likely or even more than a remote possibility has permeated my conversations in the country thus far.

Instead, the desired outcome from the current conflict, which many seem to believe will last for a week to ten days, is a meaningful ceasefire that brings with it the type of quiet seen in Israel's north for the past two and a half years since the cessation of violence between Israel and Lebanon-based Hezbollah. Indeed, although Hezbollah has the capacity to hit Israel's largest population center, Tel Aviv, with it's missiles, the militant group has not actively targeted Israeli cities since its conflict with Israel ended in the summer of 2006. The same cannot be said of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza, which have continued to rain on Israel, both during and since the six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that the Palestinian group let lapse last month despite Israeli desires for the agreement to be continued.

Ceasefires between Israel and its Arab neighbors have a long history. Israel's ceasefires with Egypt and Jordan eventually turned into peace treaties, and the ceasefire between Israel and Syria agreed to at the termination of the 1973 war endures today more or less intact. The devil, of course, would be in the details of a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas -- whether, and to what extent, Israel would be willing to lift its blockade of Gaza; what mechanisms would be put in place, and what monitors involved, to ensure against violations of an agreement; etc. Moreover, despite the fact that previous wars between Israel and its neighbors have yielded longer lasting ceasefires does not mean that a meaningful ceasefire is a certain outcome of the current conflict.

This leaves aside longer-term questions, but by and large long-term visions -- the kinds of those heard on both sides during the peace process of the 1990s -- have been noticeably absent from my conversations, aside from an espoused hope for the presumed panacea of regime change in Iran that most understand is not on the horizon. Rather, Israelis appear resigned to getting through today, and perhaps tomorrow, while leaving concerns about the day after for another time.

Tags: Israel, Palestine (all tags)

Comments

42 Comments

Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire
There will never be a ceasefire after this massacre, this slaughter of life.  Never.  I wouldn't agree to one after this, no one would.  Everything I have been reading says the same thing.  If that is Israel's goal, they have totally and completely effed it up.
I would vow to end Israel myself if I lived in Gaza, at this point.  This is evil incarnate.
Have you seen photos by any chance?
by shellius 2009-01-05 06:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

Just to elaborate a little, the infrastructure of northern Gaza is being completely destroyed.  And Israel has been using white phosphorus shells which burns the skin right off people.  It was used extensively in Fallujah.  This does not lead to a ceasefire, this leads to everlasting hatred.  What Israel wants is the end of the Palestinians. Tzipi Livni's remarks this weekend were racist and she indicated that she even wants the Arabs living in Israel to leave Israel when this is over.
Olmert and Barak are the same. Utterly racist and evil.

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/wo rld/middle_east/article5447590.ece

by shellius 2009-01-05 06:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

makes one start to believe that there's a serious desire on part of some political parties in Israel to NEVER have peace --- the wingnuts over there would just be putting themselves out of office if the problem really was solved. It's about the only rational explanation I can see for the ridiculous path they're taking in Gaza.

by swissffun 2009-01-05 07:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire
Political parties?
Imagine 50 rockets rain over a city in the US every day.
What would you have done?
How many of us complained over casualties in Afghanistan right after 9/11, even though the Taliban never attacked us.
by rolnitzky 2009-01-05 12:31PM | 0 recs
Hizballah is a defacto government within

Lebanon. Hamas does not have such status within Palestine. Neither does Fatah. Those are first steps. You cannot negotiate with non-state, either defacto or dejure organizations if they do not exist. Hamas is trying to get to that point. But when you kill their police then there are no police to police the radicals sending rockets into Sedrot. So Israel is being counter productive to peace at the moment.

Unless you count the theory that one goal is to keep the current, less militant Israeli government from falling into the more militant Netanyahu as a way towards peace.

But there is also the underlying point of do the recent (back to 1967?) authoritarian Isreali governments really want peace or do they want domain over all they occupy?

Let Hamas develop into a Hizballah and then there will be a group who can enforce peace and have a stake in that peace working. It totally matters not what Hamas is saying now about totally destroying Israel. It's all rhetoric. Allow them to develop into a defacto government in Gaza and that rhetoric will change even if only subtlely.

by Jeff Wegerson 2009-01-05 07:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Hizballah is a defacto government within

ummm, Hamas was elected in democratic elections as the party to lead Palestine. it's Israel that refused to accept the democratic election.

by swissffun 2009-01-05 07:10AM | 0 recs
Re: Hizballah is a defacto government within

Most gov'ts refused to accept the election because Hamas' charter calls for the destruction of Israel

by kydem 2009-01-05 10:35AM | 0 recs
So Hamas is sort of dejure

and not sufficiently defacto. But I really shouldn't comment on what their status actually is as I really don't know. But the point remains in spite of whatever their actual status is.

by Jeff Wegerson 2009-01-05 10:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

sorry, I think the official rhetoric from Israel is just bogus - Netanyahu has come out honestly and stated the objective is 'regime change' which makes Israel's government, what, no better than the Bush administration in Iraq. stating that this is anything but a regime change effort is just insulting to world observers. and if that's any indication of the news Israeli citizens are being fed, well - then they aren't aware of the precipitous loss in world support Israel is risking.

by swissffun 2009-01-05 07:06AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

If you are an Israeli and for 8 months you live in a shelter, you don't care one bit about world opinion.

by rolnitzky 2009-01-05 12:39PM | 0 recs
and if you're a Palestinian

living under siege in a Bantustan, being treated as a subhuman, you don't care one whit about Israel's theoretical right to exist.

by JJE 2009-01-05 02:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

'The same cannot be said of Hamas rockets fired from Gaza, which have continued to rain on Israel, both during and since the six-month ceasefire between Israel and Hamas that the Palestinian group let lapse last month despite Israeli desires for the agreement to be continued.'

Singer, that is just WRONG! WRONG! Hamas asked that the Gazans not be f'ing starved to death, and Israel wouldn't hear of it - so technically Hamas broke the cease-fire, but Israel in fact broke it by not negotiating in good faith. Would YOU lob a rocket if that was the only way to get people to pay attention to the strangling of your homeland? betchur ass you would. So don't put this situation in such simplistic phrasing - as if Hamas was the only 'bad guy'. give it a break!

by swissffun 2009-01-05 07:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

The Qassams began eight years ago -- years before the blockade.

by Jonathan Singer 2009-01-05 07:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

ah, but the current IDF was supposedly a response to the current rocket attacks, not those from 8 years ago. following the chicken-egg logic back to when this all started isn't where Israel would be wise to go. Give back the land, let non-Jewish residents of Israel have equal say in the government, evict West Bank squatters and welll.....

no, i was referring just to the current rocket attacks, and the current Israeli atrocity.

by swissffun 2009-01-05 08:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

Israel did give back Gaza.

by Jonathan Singer 2009-01-05 08:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

and the rest of the Palestinian territories? or will they only give up land that doesn't have water?

by swissffun 2009-01-05 08:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

This battle will never be about peace, no matter what you read.  It's about the fact that Jews have a state in an area dominated by Arabs.

As for Palestinian territories, they only called themselves Palestinians in 1967.  In fact, none of the Arab countries wanted to let in these "refugees."

I can go on and on if I want.

by kydem 2009-01-05 10:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

the land is called Palestine. they come from there. hmmmmm....

by swissffun 2009-01-05 11:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

It was historically Jewish land!  We were exiled by many rulers over time.  It was only in 1948 that we were given a nation to move to after WW2

by kydem 2009-01-05 04:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

what a fantastic example Israel has been showing by still not giving back the Golan Heights - some reward for Syria's efforts at peace negotiations. How many years has that been? Will Israel ever give that area back? or is the water there just too valuable to trade for peace? it's hard not to become cynical with this entire situation.

by swissffun 2009-01-05 12:01PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

When will we give back Texas to Mexico?
rotten tomatoes.
Stick to the current situation.

Israel never started any war, Syria started a war and lost the Golan heights, Egypt started a war and lost Gaza, Jordan started it's war and lost the West Bank.

by rolnitzky 2009-01-05 12:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

Israel did give back Gaza.

Hey Jonathan, did you ever see Escape from New York?

by Winston Smith 2009-01-05 03:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

your comparison between cease-fires with governments and the breaking of a cease-fire from a rogue faction of the non-governmental wing of Hamas simply destroys the credibility of this argument. if Hamas as the government of Gaza declared war on Israel, one thing - still in no way justifying the war crimes being committed by Israel in retaliation. but it didn't.

just as a freeko west bank squater killing a palestinian does not justify war on Israel, neither does the jerry-rigged lobbing of rockets that killed no one in Israel before the IDF justify blanket bombing citizens, women, children, hospitals etc. in Gaza.

maybe the public in Israel isn't thinking of anything beyond tomorrow on this one because they realise deep down their government is on the wrong side of human rights, the wrong side of history, and they're just setting themselves up for an obvious backlash in world opinion. Hopefully, the US and Europe will FINALLY stop subsidizing Israel's aggression with our tax dollars.

by swissffun 2009-01-05 08:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

Hamas is a governmental actor. I'm not sure what you mean by "declared war", but it's clear that the military wing of the government in Gaza is firing rockets at Israel or condoning the firing of rockets in Israel. If that's not a hostile act, I'm not sure what is.

by Jonathan Singer 2009-01-05 08:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

This characterization of the Palestinian rockets as 'jerry-rigged' and 'home-made' simply has to stop.

These are military-grade weapons, designed to kill people and destroy property.

In my basement, I have a complete machine shop and electronics lab. You could, I guess, characterize the products I build as 'home-made', but I (and my customers) do not.

I know many people who produce their own rifle and handgun ammunition from scratch (google "handloading" for examples). You could call their bullets 'home-made' but that wouldn't stop you from dying if you were hit by one.

So let's cut this out. The thousands of Palestinian rockets falling on residential neighborhoods have in no way been cute, quaint or home-made.

by NJ Liberal 2009-01-05 12:55PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

"This leaves aside longer-term questions, but by and large long-term visions -- the kinds of those heard on both sides during the peace process of the 1990s -- have been noticeably absent from my conversations..."

Why would you claim that Oslo period was ever anything more than cover for a land grab in the Palestinian territories? There is reason why Palestinian intellectual claim that Clinton did more to undermine the peace process than any other president, including Bush. During Oslo, the rate and number of settlers moving onto the Palestinian territories DOUBLED! During Camp David, another apparent ruse, there were at least 150 Israeli-only villages, towns, and cities built in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and barak was unable to remove even one of them. Israel controlled 40% of the West Bank alone, which included the Jordan Valley, which was also ethnically cleansed of Palestinians. The "generous offer" was nothing more than a propaganda effort by Dennis Ross and Clinton to blame Arafat for refusing something that could never be, 97% of the West Bank (Taba). Gaza was relinquished because Israel could not sustain a few settlements surrounded by 1.5 million Palestinians.

There is a false perception that because Israel withdrew from Gaza that it had given the Palestinians freedom and self-determination. False. And equally false is the notion that Palestinians living in Gaza are somehow independent of Palestinians living in the other territories.

So ask while you are there: when will the Israelis desist in the military occupation, whose sole purpose is obviously to colonize the remaining portions of historical Palestine. And why are they continuing, even during this strife, to expand settlements, if they are sincerely interested in peace. It would help to get answers to these question.

by MainStreet 2009-01-05 08:54AM | 0 recs
Jonathan, any news from your conversations . . .

. . . with people working in Palestinian politics?  Or with reporters covering it?

I'm not sure why you are only discussing views of people on one side of the conflict.  Or, I would note, the views of people on that side who support what their government is doing.

Curiosity only about the views and experiences of one faction on one side of a conflict is what got us into the mess in Iraq, with all its disastrous consequences.

by DFLer 2009-01-05 09:40AM | 0 recs
Re: Jonathan, any news...

Jonathan is in Israel, no reporter is allowed into Gaza, he can't report from Gaza.

by rolnitzky 2009-01-05 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Jonathan, any news...

I didn't ask him to report from Gaza.

I asked him to talk with a broader array of people, including Palestinians and Israelis who think these attacks are a bad idea.  He can do those things from within Israel.

We in the US are doing ourselves no favors by only listening to one faction from one side of this conflict.  That is one of the lessons of Iraq, if we could stand to learn it.

(BTW, rather than "no reporter is allowed into Gaza," it would be more accurate to say "the IDF is defying the Israeli Supreme Court by refusing to allow reporters into Gaza."  Maybe the IDF could "embed" reporters.  That worked out so well for informing the US public about what was really going on in Iraq, right?  I'm sure FOXNews would be happy to do it.)

by DFLer 2009-01-05 01:52PM | 0 recs
Arabs live in Israel

much as some would prefer it otherwise.

by JJE 2009-01-05 02:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

any and all credibility is lost for Israel in this IDF. White Phosporus? Cluster bombs in one of the most densely populated areas on Earth? Uranium?!!!!

http://www.presstv.ir/detail.aspx?id=804 43&sectionid=351020202

Are you kidding me with this neocon-esque justifying the IDF? if anything this constitutes war crimes.

by swissffun 2009-01-05 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

I can't condone the rocketing of Israel, but I damn sure understand it.

Gaza is under blockade by Israel.  It is not receiving anywhere near enough food.  Hungry people will fight,no matter the consequences.  Israel humiliates Palestinians on a daily basis, in addition to the near starvation of Gaza.  Of course they fight.  Why do people keep insisting that the Palestineans do things they would not expect Americans to do?  

Even the head of Shin Bet told the Israeli Congress that Hamas wanted to continue the cease-fire, but that it wanted the blockade to end.  

I could argue that Israel broke the cease-fire, since blockades are customarily considered to be an act of war.  

Israel is losing its edge. Hezbollah stung Israel badly in the last Lebanon invasion.  Hamas may not have that cabability, but it demonstrated that 4G warfare is closing the gap between the sides. And the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts have produced a lot of fighters with the skills to challenge Israeli technology.  

I believe a solution is possible.  If Israel stops building settlements and "outposts", if Israel allows the occupied territories to develop an economic base and if Israel stops humiliating people at checkpoints, I believe people will choose opportunity over warfare.  They'll start businesses, work in other peoples businesses and in general lead normal lives.  They won't love Israel, but they will have something to do for a living other than joining a militia to earn a paycheck and to get health care for their families.  My plan is based on the belief that people would rather do almost anything than go to war, if they have a decent choice.  

It offers a better chance than this round of "let's blow up Gaza".  That approach has been tried and found to be badly wanting.  Where's the sense in pursuing an approach that hasn't worked in over 50 years?

by zak822 2009-01-05 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

For a more comprehensive view of Israel's goals in this war, see this article by Martin Kramer in Ha'aretz.

To summarize, while the minimal goal is to punish Hamas so as to deter future rocket attacks, and the maximal goal is to outright depose Hamas, the intermediate and most important achievable goal between these (at least of Kadima and Likud, who are actually running the government and war, though not necessarily Likud, which is not in the government) is to set up a structure for monitoring compliance of a ceasefire that will undermine Hamas control over Gaza and help over time put the Palestinian Authority back in control, thus making a negotiated settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict possible (in a way that could never be achieved with Hamas in power).  This can be accomplished, for example, by re-establishing PA control over the Gaza-Egypt border crossing (which is also a demand of Egypt), or giving the PA exclusive control over reconstruction funding from international groups to rebuild Gaza.  Kramer's article also points out some of the challenges in accomplishing this goal.

by markjay 2009-01-05 10:02AM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire
What should Israel have done in response to 5000 rockets?
It was stupid of Hamas to rocket Israel, their government is now detroyed.
by rolnitzky 2009-01-05 10:35AM | 0 recs
just like Hezbollah was destroyed?

Hamas baited Israel and Israel fell for it.  Israel is run by idiots.

by JJE 2009-01-05 11:05AM | 0 recs
Re: just like Hezbollah was destroyed?
I know, the Israelis are so stupid, now they will have to suffer 600 deaths (with 500 of them from their millitary) and every single building of theirs destroyed, with Hamas suffering ONE casualty.
Stupid Israelis, now you lose.
by rolnitzky 2009-01-05 11:17AM | 0 recs
Hamas will be stronger

just as Hezbollah was.  Kadima's attempt to improve its chances in next month's election has come at the cost of strengthening Hamas.  Any fool can see this, but alas you cannot.

by JJE 2009-01-05 11:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Hamas will be stronger

This is not about strengthenning or weakenning Hamas, it's about stopping the non-stop rocketing.

Most believe that the final agreement will be that Hamas has to stop rocketing Israel, just like Hezbollah had to sign and they dman sure followed up on their word.

by rolnitzky 2009-01-05 11:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Hamas will be stronger

The rocketing from Gaza has not been non-stop, not until Israel began its offensive.  

Stick to the facts, please.  Hyperbole only makes it harder to sort through things.

by zak822 2009-01-05 12:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Hamas will be stronger

Jonathan linked to the Wikipedia page documenting the attacks, the didn't stop for even one month.

by rolnitzky 2009-01-05 01:10PM | 0 recs
Re: For a more balanced view

For a more balanced view see

Daniel Levy's post

by BluePearl 2009-01-05 04:49PM | 0 recs
Re: Fighting for a Ceasefire

I'm sick and tired of Israel the State as are pretty much people all over the world..

their problem is they don't seem to understand the concept of proportionality...much like the United States.. funny how the US is also pretty much hated by people all over the world.

This behavior by Israel is no surprise to anyone who has been alive for a few decades..every few years they go on a violence bender....They kill hundreds of innocent civilians, destroy infrastructure galore and then they wonder why they are hated the world over..

When you read the newspapers of the world its amazing to see how different the picture painted is to that we get from the US media..

by obama4presidente 2009-01-05 07:58PM | 0 recs

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