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Ceasefire or ground operation? How to stop the rocket terror from Gaza

By Missing Peace

The Arab paper Al Arabiya reported on Monday morning that a cease fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza was imminent. Later, other media reported that both sides had agreed to stop the fighting at12.00 PM .

It didn’t happen until 9.00 PM on Wednesday.

Before the talks on the ceasefire were stalled Hamas escalated the conflict.

This was done by the firing of 20 Grad rockets at the Israeli city of Beersheva early on Monday morning. Hamas succeeded in bypassing the Iron Dome rocket shield that seemingly cannot deal with such a high number of incoming missiles. Four rockets landed in the city, one of them causing severe damage to a house.

Later on in the day a house in  Rishon LeTzion, a city close to Tel Aviv, was destroyed by a rocket fired from Gaza. This was the first time that the city absorbed a direct hit.

Jerusalem was also targeted again. An Iranian Fajr rocket landed in an open area close to Bethlehem. Palestinian sources reported that in total 140 rockets were fired from Gaza on Monday.

The rumors about an imminent ceasefire appeared to be premature, but after US secretary of state Hillary Clinton arrived in Israel the tide turned.

Before and after the announcement of the ceasefire Hamas again escalated the fighting. A bus in Tel Aviv was blown up and a record number of rockets were fired upon Israeli cities in the hours before the ceasefire took effect.

Both sides have an interest in a ceasefire agreement.

Hamas needs it because it was on the losing side in this war. The Israeli government thought it could obtain what it wanted from Hamas without launching a ground operation. The Israeli demands were a complete cessation of the rocket fire, a halt to the smuggling of arms from Sinai and a long term ceasefire. In the end Jerusalem accepted an agreement that contained less than was hoped for.

The Israeli public however is against a ceasefire at this stage. According to a Channel 2 poll 70 % of the Israeli’s oppose a ceasefire.  

Israelis are very skeptical about a truce with Hamas. After all Hamas has never abided by ceasefire agreements.

It remains to seen if the ceasefire will hold this time. In fact it was already breached by the Palestinians forty minutes after it took effect.

When it does not hold a ground operation by the IDF becomes inevitable.

In fact Avi Dichter the Israeli Minister of Internal Security, earlier said that a ground operation is the only way to stop the rocket terror emanating from Gaza.

He isn’t the only one who opposed a ceasefire at this moment.

According to some pundits it would be a strategic mistake for Israel not to launch a ground operation

Here is for example is Brad Stephens, former editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post, who is now working for The Wall Street Journal.

He wrote the following:

“Now Israel may be on the cusp of purchasing yet another long-term strategic failure for the sake of a short-term tactical success. The Israeli government wants to bomb Hamas into a cease-fire—hopefully lasting, probably orchestrated in Cairo. That way Israel gets the quiet it seeks, especially on the eve of elections in January, and the Egyptians get the responsibility for holding the leash on Hamas.

That is largely how it played out during Cast Lead. But as one leading Israeli political figure told me in January 2009, just as the last cease-fire had been declared, “Notwithstanding the blows to the Hamas, it’s still in Gaza, it’s still ruling Gaza, and the Philadelphi corridor [which runs along Gaza’s border with Egypt] is still porous, and … Hamas can smuggle new rockets unless [the corridor] is closed, to fire at Israel in the future.”

That leading political figure was Benjamin Netanyahu, just before he returned to office as prime minister. He might now consider taking his own advice. Israel can afford to watch only so many reruns of this same, sordid show.

Read the full article here:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424127887323852904578128783271088320.html?mod=ITP_opinion_0

Then there is Professor Efraim Inbar of the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He also advices against a ceasefire and wants the IDF to start a ground offensive.  

He wrote the following:

In our view, an armored push into Gaza in order to deal the Hamas military
wing a decisive blow is necessary. From a strategic, long-term perspective,
Israel cannot avoid confronting Hamas head-on, and must take action sooner
rather than later. For Israel to restore quiet to its borders and ensure its
survival in the new Middle East, Arab governments and terror organizations
must feel that it would be a mistake for them to militarily challenge
Israel. Israel must demonstrate that even in the face of great political
pressures it is strong enough and willing, when necessary, to take vigorous
action.

 Excerpts of Inbar’s article can be read below.

Blogger Israpundit wrote us the following about the dilemma Netanyahu is facing:

“Bibi is caught between a rock and a hard place. He doesn’t want to invade yet he can’t let Hamas dictate terms. Hamas want them to invade so that deaths go up on both sides. Israel’s greatest concern is international condemnation. So apparently Hamas has established deterrence, not Israel.

From Israel’s point of view either accept a ceasefire now that she doesn’t like or accept one after invading that she doesn’t like or going in to stay.

My suggestion to Bibi is to invade with the goal of occupying the northern part of Gaza and the Philidelphi Corridor rather than to destroy Hamas. This would greatly reduce the death toll on both sides and will not be seen as a humiliating defeat of Israel. Then Israel should demand an agreement to their liking as the cost of vacating. Res 242 all over again. ”

Apparently the Israeli public agrees with these experts. After eight years of incessant rocket fire and breached ceasefire agreements Israeli’s want other measures to restore quiet.

In Beer Sheva and other southern Israeli cities angry demonstrators demanded a complete elimination of Hamas