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Fire in an open field outside one of the southern Israeli communites near Gaza after Palestinians flew a kite laden with a Molotov cocktail over the border on May 2, 2018. (Screen capture/Rafi Bavian)

"All quiet on the Isreali-Gaza front," at least, for the time being. After seven consecutive months of the continual firebombing of Israeli civilians, Hamas has reigned in tens of thousands of rioters, who also tried to break through the border fence and enter Israel. Hamas accepted an Egyptian cease-fire proposal based on a 30 million dollar payoff (in two installments) from the oil-rich Gulf State of Qatar. This eleventh-hour solution prevented another all-out war between Gaza and Israel after Hamas launched nearly 500 rockets at Israel within 24 hours.

Amidst this escalation, a covert Israeli unit was spotted by Hamas during an operation deep inside Gaza. The small Israeli team was apparently on a mission to bug Hamas communications, an attempt to cope with the fire-bombing. In the ensuing firefight, the Israeli commander was killed, as well as the Hamas commander in the area, and six other Hamas militants. It was a very close call for the Israeli unit that had to be extricated in a very risky helicopter operation. At this point, Gaza and Israel were on the brink, apparently about to take the next fatal step to all-out war.

What happened then?

In Israel, there was an angry backlash to Bibi's agreeing to the deal. Allegations within his own Likud party, as well as other coalition members, and the Opposition. They charged that Bibi had gone soft on Hamas and that "terrorism pays!" His own coalition partner, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, hit the roof and handed in his resignation. That was just for starters. Another angry coalition partner, Education Minister Naftali Bennet, demanded that he take over the Defense Ministry, contending that unlike Bibi, he would teach Hamas a lesson. If not, Bennet also threatened to quit the coalition government and force an early election. For a few days it looked as if Bibi was on the ropes politically, but not for long. It's fair to say that he pulled through with flying colors. The Prime Minister drew upon all his considerable oratorical skills, and, in a dramatic speech to the nation he won over Bennet and public opinion. The Prime Minister called Bennet's bluff by declaring that he himself would take over the defense portfolio. Bennet backed down and decided to remain in the coalition government, explaining that on second thought he would not give the Palestinians the ability to claim they had forced Israel to go to elections.

Fallout ...

An opinion poll soon after this rumpus indicated that despite all the slings and arrows hurled at the Prime Minister, he would still win an early election if it were held before the scheduled date of November 2019.

How did Netanyahu, with the reputation of a tough guy, survive this political firestorm that involved seven months of Hamas firebombing Israeli citizens? Putting together the pieces of this political puzzle, it would be fair to say that Netanyahu favored coming to terms with Hamas in Gaza because the more dangerous enemy is Iran, which is now building its military power to the north in neighboring Syria. In other words, Hamas terrorists were a dangerous irritant, but Israel had to keep its eye on the ball, ie. Iran. It was best not to risk war on two fronts if the IDF were ordered to go all out against Hamas at this time.

But, unfortunately for the Israeli leader, he overlooked the mounting rage not only by the several thousand Israelis who live near Gaza but also by the Israeli public at large. in doing so, the Prime Minister's fixation on Iran prevented him from foreseeing that the Israeli public had had more than enough of Hamas.

Hamas celebrates what it views as a victory ...

Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza have been celebrating and their leader, Yehia Sinwar, is claiming victory.

And this curious footnote: Years ago, Sinwar's life was actually saved by Israeli doctors. Sinwar was serving time in an Israeli prison for his terrorist atrocities, which included torturing and executing Palestinians who were suspected of working undercover for Israel. While he was behind bars, Sinwar became critically ill with cancer and feared for his life. Israeli cancer specialists stepped in and conducted an emergency operation that saved his life! Sinwar was later released in a prisoner exchange with Hamas and returned to Gaza to take command of the firebombing from across the Gaza border.

And now some advice for Sinwar - he would do well to consider that Netanyahu has learned a lesson, and next time Hamas launches another major campaign of terrorism against Israel the IDF will be given orders to take off the gloves!

Now let's consider what has recently transpired from the aspect of how other nations would react to their civilians being firebombed for seven months from across a neighboring territory. Let's take, for example, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council. In alphabetical order, let's consider the situation and how these five nations would react.

  • China - firebombed from Tibet
  • France - firebombed from Spain
  • Russia - firebombed from Ukraine
  • The United Kingdom - firebombed from Ireland
  • The United States - Firebombed from Mexico

I rest my case.

The Saudi atrocity ...

US President Donald Trump has recognized the horrific torture/execution of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul will not hamper the strong ties between Riyad and Washington. Nevermind that the Saudi Crown Prince Muhamad Salmon gave the order. Again, let's consider how many other world leaders deal with their critics, in particular, with journalists. When it comes to Saudi Arabia, that's the way they do things there - like chopping off the hands of pickpockets and lashing people in public if they run afoul of the strict Islamic code. Our international yardstick actually indicates that Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, bumps off a critical journalist just about every month or so. In one case, a critic who aroused Putin's ire was shot dead outside the Kremlin, one of the most protected and most photographed sites in the world. However, the assassins were never caught. In Turkey, President Recip Erdogan is understandably very upset about how Saudia Arabia deals with its critical journalists, however, Erdogan himself has seen to the sentencing of hundreds of Turkish journalists and other critics to prison. Trump had a point when he justified his position on Saudia Arabia, "The fact is that Saudi Arabia is tremendously helpful in the Middle East. [Without them] We wouldn't have a big base there. If we go by certain standards we wouldn't be able to be allied with almost any country"

But, I beg to differ with Trump's statement, "Israel would be in big trouble without Saudi Arabia".

There is no question that Jerusalem and Rihad have been quietly building their strategic ties. On this score, Saudi Arabia is interested in having the Israeli air force on its side in the mounting confrontation with Iran in the Gulf. And this also holds true for Israel in the regional showdown with Iran, that is bent on expanding its power and influence.

Political Analyst David Essing


David Essing

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