By RYAN JONES, ISRAEL TODAY—
The government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday baffled many Israelis by bringing a sudden end to the military campaign to end the Hamas missile threat against southern Israel.
To demonstrate that Israel had not met that overriding goal, Hamas and its allied terror groups continued firing missiles into southern Israel long past the 9 PM start of the ceasefire. At least 20 missiles hit southern Israel overnight, though by morning a tense calm had settled over the region.
Just two days earlier, Netanyahu had issued an ultimatum that Hamas either cease the rocket fire, or face a ground invasion. IDF soldiers told Israel’s Ma’ariv newspaper that they were twice ordered to march on Gaza this week, only to be turned around at the last second both times.
Despite the fact that this conflict saw many red lines crossed – including the targeting of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem – Netanyahu insisted that Israel does not seek violence, and would therefore give the truce a chance.
Netanyahu warned that if Hamas did not keep its end of the bargain, Israel would respond more harshly than before. (Despite Hamas continuing to fire after 9 PM, the ceasefire was purportedly bilateral, having been brokered by Egypt.)
But with Netanyahu’s earlier ultimatum being so easily flaunted, most Israelis, and certainly all of Hamas, were unconvinced by the Israeli leader’s new threat.
In fact, many Israelis were furious. Though Netanyahu and the IDF touted the number of terrorist missiles destroyed during the campaign, Israelis know the entire situation is going to repeat itself a few years down the road.
Seventy percent of Israelis polled by Channel 2 News said they oppose the ceasefire, and want the IDF to finish the job of removing the Hamas threat.
Residents of southern Israel were even more irate, noting that in the intermittent years between now and the next war, they will continue to sustain a steady stream of rocket attacks on their communities. Over 12,000 rockets have hit southern Israel over the past nine years.
Another concern is that the way this war ended has drastically altered the dynamics of the region. There are reports that Netanyahu agreed to the unfavorable ceasefire under pressure from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who convinced the Israeli leadership that a ground invasion of Gaza would result in a mobilization of Egypt’s army.
In other words, Hamas now has its own “Iron Dome” against future destruction in the form of Egypt’s new Muslim Brotherhood regime.
Meanwhile, the international community lavished praise on Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi for his role in brokering the ceasefire. Israel’s willingness to step down before ending the threat to its people for the sake of peace and quiet was hardly mentioned.
The threat of a broader war, whether it came from Egypt or Lebanon or Syria, might have been very real. Days before the ceasefire, three US Navy amphibious assault ships were turned around on the western end of the Mediterranean and sent to Israel for a possible evacuation of American citizens.
There would be no need to evacuate Americans if the fighting was contained to Gaza and the surrounding areas.