The other night, outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert addressed the nation and world. It was the moment that the embattled politician had been waiting since arriving in office: Victory.
After so many corruption charges had been laid upon his door and after being saddled with the blame of the military failure in Lebanon in 2006, Ehud probably did not think he was ever going to deliver any news to the Israeli public that he could be proud of.
He took to the stage as if he had finally won his first Emmy - eager to recount his military success, announce a unilateral ceasing of hostilities, and thank his many supporters – including outgoing Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice whom he quite recently insulted.
Israel has won. We are united and We are powerful. We have achieved our objectives. Blah. Blah. Blah.
But one should look a little closer at what is being called a ceasefire, and why it has been declared before they judge whether it was either wise or merciful.
Ceasefires are typically brokered between those fighting or by a third party. This is not the case here. This is a unilateral ceasefire in which Israel simply decided to stop shooting (which is not entirely true by the way) without any discussions with Hamas and without laying down any agreed upon terms by which the ceasefire would be maintained or monitored.
Hamas retains the capability - and certainly the motivation - to fire rockets into Israel, and though they too have declared a week-long ceasefire, they are under no obligation to hold to it, even if Israel were to begin pulling out tomorrow as promised.
Meanwhile Israel’s military has nearly fully reoccupied the Gaza Strip and is now being told to ‘wait and see’, or in the words of Israeli Spokesman Mark Regev, making sure Gazans ‘remain quiet’.
The IDF, though they have clearly not halted operations in Gaza completely, is now largely sitting idle amidst 1.5 million furious people who want revenge. Even if the ‘quiet’ holds through Obama’s inauguration, it seems difficult to imagine the IDF not coming under increased fire as Hamas resurfaces, and it is even more difficult to imagine them not returning fire or instigating the fighting in the first place.
This is not a ceasefire; it is a recipe for renewed violence and reoccupation of the Gaza Strip..
The Politics of War and Peace
From the outset it was clear that this entire operation has been launched based upon political considerations rather than security. Livni and Barack have significantly improved their electoral chances next month by proving to Israel that they are ‘tough enough’ to lead, and proving once more to the region that they will respond like wild animals if provoked.
Besides Israel’s internal politics, the timing of the onset and halt of this war are deeply entangled in American political considerations as well. Their attack – in response to ‘eight years of rocket attacks’ – just happened to occur in the final days of the Bush Administration who many believe is far more accepting of Israeli belligerency than the incoming president will be. With less than a month left before the change of guard in Washington, Israel attacked fiercely - only days after Christmas - knowing that their time would be limited.
The ceasefire just happened to be declared while Barack Obama boarded his inaugural train. This is not even hidden by Israeli policy makers who claimed that Israel’s soldiers would be ‘out before the inauguration’ - apparently so that Obama’s big day would not be spoiled by pictures of dead children
This despicable war on the people of Gaza will be remembered as one of the most sadistic political ploys in the sad history of this region. Books will be written on this topic now and in the future as the world analyzes just how far Israel’s leaders were willing to go to prove their ‘credibility’ at home and abroad.
However, the ceasefire declared in Ehud’s Emmy winning speech will not be remembered or analyzed, because it is neither real nor durable.
There is no ceasefire, just a pause for political commercials … after which the bloodletting will surely continue.