The swift collapse of the 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire that was supposed to begin at 8am on Friday morning was presented by Israel as proof that it is impossible to make agreements with Hamas. In reality it is Netanyahu who has no appetite for negotiations or agreements because he has no intention of offering any concessions. The only form of reciprocity that he can entertain that if Palestinians keep “quiet” Israel will refrain from killing them. Whether Israel ever chooses to life the siege is a decision that will not be prompted by Palestinian demands.
The Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea writes: The press conference convened at the Kirya Base in Tel Aviv on Saturday night was meant to be a victory conference. We have been saved: The operation has ended. Hamas has been destroyed. Our forces have returned home safely.
A crowded lineup of State of Israel flags was placed behind Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon. The flags conveyed a sense of festivity. The two officials’ faces conveyed a sense of Tisha B’Av.
Netanyahu delayed his appearance by 20 minutes because of the comments made by the family members of kidnapped officer Hadar Goldin. The family demanded defiantly that the IDF avoid leaving the Strip as long as their son was in Hamas’ hands, dead or alive.
Netanyahu and Ya’alon did not accept the demand, but were forced to rewrite their speeches. From an announcement about a unilateral withdrawal of IDF forces from the Strip, Netanyahu moved to vague, unbinding sentences, such as “all options are on the table.” When the Americans say that about Iran, we know there are neither options nor a table, that it’s all talk. I doubt Netanyahu has any options.
While Netanyahu spoke, someone hung signs against abandoning captives along the Defense Ministry walls. Everything is immediate now, even the protest. The two will have to deal with harsh criticism from the right, which will use Second Lieutenant Goldin as a flag.
For Netanyahu this is quite a difficult test, versus both his audience and the storm of emotions in all parts of the Israeli society. No one wants to go back to the prices paid for Gilad Shalit‘s return or for the bodies of Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser.
The cabinet convened on Friday after the Rafah incident. There was a lot of anger, great frustration, but in the end the majority decided to contain the incident. The IDF would prepare for a unilateral pullout. There would be no agreement with Hamas: The calm would be based on deterrence.
This is exactly what I suggested that the cabinet should do 11 days ago, in my column published July 24. When I heard Netanyahu on Saturday night using the exact same words to describe the advantages of deterrence without an agreement, I thought about the 33 fighters, good Israelis, who could have still been alive today if Netanyahu hadn’t been so afraid of making a decision; I thought about the hundreds of Gazan residents killed in vain; and I thought about the damage inflicted on Israel in the international arena, which will continue to escort us even after the operation.