The rush to impose a cease-fire is creating an unavoidable conflict between the government of Israel and the administration of US President Joe Biden. The Americans, pushed by several heads of government in Europe and by Arab countries, have decided to get involved, and announced the dispatch of a special envoy to the region yesterday, although at a low level, followed by telephone calls between Israel's Minister of Foreign Affairs Gabi Ashkenazi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and, more importantly, between Biden and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Biden, who it will be recalled did not hurry to be in touch with Netanyahu after he was elected, initiated the call, and, according to his announcement, called for a quick cease-fire. While Biden stressed that he hoped that the escalation in the Gaza Strip would end as soon as possible, he stated that Israel had the right to defend itself when missiles were being fired at it. Netanyahu thanked Biden for US backing for Israel's right to self-defense, but also said that Israel would continue to act to destroy the military capabilities of Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip. In other words, Netanyahu rejected the American demand.
According to diplomatic sources, heavy pressure is being brought to bear on Israel to hold its fire. The pressure is mainly on Ashkenazi and Minister of Defense Benny Gantz, and stems mainly from Hamas's cries of distress. Netanyahu, Ashkenazi and Gantz are presenting a united front opposed to a cease-fire. A senior diplomatic source said that the opposition would last until "Hamas sustains an especially heavy blow, understands that each and every one of the heads of its military arms is a target, all the time, and not just during a general round of fighting, and that Israel will reserve the right to attack any weaponry of any kind, even after the battle is over." The source thereby outlined the condition Israel will present in negotiations, which may already have begun: no limitation on Israeli attacks on armaments.
The goal: A severe hit to the rocket arsenal
Several news media in Arab countries have reported that an Egyptian delegation is already in Israel. This information has not been verified and is probably incorrect. Nevertheless, there is close, direct communication between the bureaus of the minister of foreign affairs and the prime minister with their counterparts in Egypt over the issue.
The admirable united front is, however, liable to fall apart, and the question is whether this will happen within two days or a week. The military objectives are to strike as hard a blow as possible against Hamas's rocket arsenal, which is in the thousands. So far, about 1,600 rockets have been launched, and a few hundred have been destroyed. The objective is not the destruction of the entire stockpile, but to strike hard at the production sites and at the senior people who run them, and this operation is indeed at its height. The killing of the top echelon of Hamas's R&D operation yesterday, together with several senior commanders, was a severe blow to the organization, although far from critical. Another IDF objective is the highly dangerous Kornet anti-tank missiles that Hamas holds, and that are not manufactured in the Gaza Strip. The goal is to destroy as many as possible of these systems.
An important point is that the IDF is attacking the heads of Hamas's military wing with all its might, particularly Mohammed Deif, who is responsible for the current flare-up and who changed the direction of the Hamas leadership, which in the past two years has acted to improve the economic situation. Several sites of the Hamas military wing were shelled this morning, including safe-houses, and the view in Gaza is that the target was Deif.
This military solution is intended to cover up for the lack of a decision by Israel's political leadership to topple the Hamas regime in the Gaza Strip, even though all Israel's intelligence services are unanimous that as long as Hamas is in power, Israel is under a strategic threat to considerable parts of its territory, and that Hamas can disrupt life in Israel as much as it wants. The Iron Dome system provides excellent protection, if not hermetic, but the day-to-day life of Israel's citizens depends on the whim of Hamas.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on May 13, 2021
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