August 29/14



Bible Quotation for today

Isaiah 9/12-20: "12 The Syrians in front, and the Philistines behind; and they will devour Israel with open mouth. For all this, his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still. Yet the people have not turned to him who struck them, neither have they sought Yahweh of Armies.  Therefore Yahweh will cut off from Israel head and tail, palm branch and reed, in one day.  The elder and the honorable man is the head,  and the prophet who teaches lies is the tail.  For those who lead this people lead them astray; and those who are led by them are destroyed.  Therefore the Lord will not rejoice over their young men, neither will he have compassion on their fatherless and widows; for everyone is profane and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.  For wickedness burns like a fire. It devours the briers and thorns; yes, it kindles in the thickets of the forest, and they roll upward in a column of smoke.  Through the wrath of Yahweh of Armies, the land is burnt up; and the people are the fuel for the fire. No one spares his brother.  One will devour on the right hand, and be hungry; and he will eat on the left hand, and they will not be satisfied. Everyone will eat the flesh of his own arm:  Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh; and they together shall be against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand is stretched out still.

Pope Francis's Tweet For Today
From the cross, Christ teaches us to love even those who do not love us
Pape François
Le Christ sur la croix nous enseigne à aimer aussi ceux qui ne nous aiment pas


Latest analysis, editorials from miscellaneous sources published on August 28 & 29/14

Who Won the Gaza War? Not Hamas/By: Neri Zilber/Politico/August 29/14

The Middle East faces an existential challenge/By: Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat/August 29/14

Obama’s Syria rationale: Bombing ISIS without helping Assad/By: Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya/August 28 & 29/14

From Saudi Arabia to the UK: They’re recruiting youths/By: Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat/August 29/14

ISIS wants a five-star ticket to publicity. It gets it/By: Chris Doyle/AlArabiya/August 29/14

Gaza ceasefire is too little, too late/Nahum Barnea/Ynetnews/August 29/14


Lebanese Related News published on August 28 & 29/14

Shin Bet arrests 16 Israeli Arabs allegedly linked to drug dealings with Hezbollah

ISIS said to behead Army soldier

Al-Rahi Heads to Vatican: Outgoing Presidents Should Continue Tasks Until Successor Elected
Candidates to submit nomination by Sept. 16

Lebanese Army: US military aid to be delivered Friday
Army: One missing after soldiers ambushed in Arsal

Passing certificates to be distributed next week
Arsal overrides Cabinet agenda

Lebanese Army: One missing after soldiers ambushed in Arsal
Road accidents kill 5, injure 34 in just 24 hours
Roads Blocked in Halba over Alleged Beheading of Army Soldier

Activists Demonstrate, Ask Judiciary for 'Historic Stance' against Parliament Term Extension

Army Arrests Terrorist Gang in Bekaa, Kills Syrian after Illegally Crossing to Lebanon

Army Arrests Brother of Defected Soldier

Bassil Says Attacks on Minorities Compelled Action against ISIL

Ali Blames Lebanon's Policy for Arsal Battles, Says Syria Proposed Military Assistance

Rafehi Negotiates Extension of Ultimatum Granted to Government by Arsal Gunmen
Salam Advocates 'Legitimate' Arms to Protect Lebanon

Hizbullah Mum over FPM Direct Elections Proposa

Deaths and Injuries in Several Traffic Accidents


Miscellaneous Reports And News published on August 28 & 29/14

Palestinians seek comprehensive deal with Israel: Fatah official

Heavy clashes in Syria's Golan Heights

Israeli forces caught up in Al Qaeda’s complex toils in both Golan and Gaza

Hamas leader Mashaal says latest Gaza conflict with Israel not the last

"We will not restrict

US seeks coalition against ISIS, but military partners no sure bet

ISIS burn 3 Iraq oil wells as Kurds attack

Report: Israeli drone crashes in Iraq

Yemeni president hits out at Houthis as protests continue
Saudi delegation discusses Qatar issue in Doha and Manama

Turkey's Erdogan sworn in as president, consolidates power

Maliki claims to have “Plan B” if government talks fail

Sinai group says it beheaded 4 'Mossad agents'

Egyptian parliamentary elections will be held on schedule: spokesman

Filipino bishops to counter ISIS  


Al-Rahi Heads to Vatican: Outgoing Presidents Should Continue Tasks Until Successor Elected
Naharnet/Maronite Patriarch Beshara al-Rahi proposed on Thursday that any future outgoing president should continue to carry out his tasks until the political arch-foes agree on his successor in order to avoid vacancy at the country's most important Christian post. “We have always said that the parliament must convene and elect a new head of state,” al-Rahi said from Beirut's Rafik Hariri International Airport ahead of his departure to the Vatican to discuss with Pope Francis and other senior officials the conditions of Iraqi Christians. The visit reportedly aims at briefing the pontiff and high-ranking officials on the visit of a delegation from the patriarchs of the Orient to the Iraqi Kurdish region of Erbil and the latest developments regarding the presidential impasse. Islamic State militants in Iraq have been waging a campaign against minorities in Iraq, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. Pope Francis called last week for collective action through the United Nations to "stop unjust aggression" in Iraq. Al-Rahi lamented the vacancy at the Baabda Palace, expressing hope that lawmakers would elect a new president during the upcoming session on September 2. “If a president was elected, I believe, a binding article must be added to avert any future vacancy at the helm of the presidency,” he told reporters. The Patriarch suggested that any outgoing president would carry out his tasks until the rival parties agree on his successor in order to avoid such a crisis. Lebanon's top Christian post was left vacant in May this year when the rival MPs failed to elect a successor to President Michel Suleiman over their differences on a compromise candidate. Media reports had said that the Vatican considers the presidential elections in Lebanon as a battle of existence that surpasses the Maronites and focuses on the active Christian role in state posts in the country and the Middle East. Al-Rahi was accompanied by Bkirki spokesperson Walid Ghayad.

Shin Bet arrests 16 Israeli Arabs allegedly linked to drug dealings with Hezbollah
The Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), in coordination with the police, has scored a major bust of an alleged joint Israeli-Arab –Lebanese-Hezbollah narcotics ring which was also trying to import weapons, possibly for a Hezbollah-sponsored attack during Operation Protective Edge. Authorities said the operation, which also included the Israeli Border Police and police narcotics specialists, led to the arrests of the suspects on July 27 for engaging "in terrorist activity at the behest of Hezbollah,” the military censor permitted the local press to report on Thursday.
The suspects have been identified as A-Khalim Abbas, a resident of Nahaf; his brother, Iz a-Din Abbas, also a resident of Nahaf; Ahmed Mazariv, a resident of Beit Zarzir; and Riyadh Marariv, also of Beit Zarzir. According to the Shin Bet, the above Israeli-Arabs, as well as 12 others whose identities have still not been revealed and who are known by authorities to be reputed drug dealers, were arrested for business ties to narcotics traffickers in Lebanon who are believed to be connected to the Shi’ite terrorist organization.
The Shin Bet, working in tandem with Israel Police, obtained information from the arrested Arabs during interrogations over the last month while their arrest was kept under wraps.
Crucially, the Shin Bet explicitly noted Hezbollah's statements during Operation Protective Edge of its intent to assist Hamas in fighting Israel and added that the drug operation could very well have also been an attempt to cover a broader goal of importing weapons and establishing a terror infrastructure to perpetrate terror attacks.
This point made the bust even more significant, the security agency said.
The Israeli-Arabs were linked by the Shin Bet to George Nemar, a Christian-Lebanese resident of Marj Iyun and a major player for Hezbollah's drug trade.
The Shin Bet said that those arrested were involved in clandestine communications with Nemar, transferring drugs to him and developing mechanisms for transporting weapons across the border.
The interrogation uncovered a suspected plan to transfer significant weapons to Israel along with the drugs, and the four performed reconnaissance of Israeli border patrols to best determine how to circumvent them.  Questioning the four also uncovered their alleged connections to several other major Lebanese drug figures with deep connections to Hezbollah, including: A'ssaf Elias Najib A'ssaf of Ramish, Khatam a-Rahman Sit of Kilah village, Kaid Muhammad Hasin Beru of Beirut, Nadim Marhaj Kassam Shahin, a Druse of Ein Girafa and Hatzbaiya.
A Shin Bet statement said that some of those being questioned had been in contact with Nemar even before the recent drug and weapons operations and that these contacts had likely led to prior weapons imports which were found in the possession of one of those questioned.
The bust follows a major July 2012 bust of a similar Hezbollah-Israel ring of around 20 people which involved the seizure of 20 kilograms of explosive material and several mechanisms for exploding the material. The explosive material had been packaged in an identical manner to the packaging of drugs and the illegal transferring of the drugs was performed using established platforms for the drug trade.
Most of the 20 arrested had believed they were running drugs and had no idea they were being used to import explosive material.
The Shin Bet mentioned that some of those involved have also been involved in trying to run drugs across Israel's border with Jordan and Syria.

ISIS said to behead Army soldier
The Daily Star
BEIRUT: The images of what appears to be the beheading of a Lebanese Army soldier, Ali Sayyed- one of eleven soldiers captured by ISIS militants was heavily circulated on social media Thursday evening. “Now you know who are the lions of ISIS,” tweeted Abou Misaab Hafid al-Baghdadi, linking a gruesome picture showing Sayyed’s beheading. The victim, Ali Sayyed, is an Army soldier originally from Akkar. He was among soldiers and Internal Security Forces personnel captured during clashes that pitted jihadists against the Lebanese Army in the border town of Arsal earlier this month. Abou Misaab Hafid al-Baghdadi claimed that he was a member of ISIS in his Twitter bio. A senior Army official said the military was investigating reports on the beheading of Ali Sayyed. “We can neither deny, nor confirm the report on the soldier’s beheading. We are still investigating the report,” the official told The Daily Star Thursday night.
He also denied that any soldier was killed in Thursday’s clash with the militants on the outskirts of Arsal. “Your brothers in ISIS behead an Army soldier after Hezbollah attempted to disrupt negotiations,” tweeted Baghdadi. “And if this [disruption] is happens again then another [soldier] will be beheaded” he continued.
The ISIS member said that either a statement or a video will be released by what he described as an “official institution" that would confirm the act. Sayyed’s father is a mukhtar of the village of Fneideq and that three of his brothers are currently enlisted in the Lebanese Army, a security source said.  A video which was released by ISIS, and aired by LBC last week, showed Sayyed alongside six other Army hostages held captive by ISIS.  In a statement released by ISIS last week, the group threatened to kill a Lebanese soldier if the government failed to meet its demands in 24 hours.
Among the demands was the release of ISIS-affiliated prisoners from Lebanese prisons as well as respecting the rights of Syrian refugees. ISIS also threatened to kill one soldier every three days starting Aug. 26, when the statement was issuedif its demands were not met.
The beheading of Sayyed draws down the total number of captives held by militant groups to twenty eight. Sayyed’s brutal murder also means that the number of Army hostages held by ISIS is now ten.
ISIS is now allegedly holding two corpses from the Lebanese Army, after earlier reports cited that one corpse was among the eleven hostages.  Al Nusra Front is said to be holding 15 ISF captives and three Army hostages. Meanwhile, one Lebanese soldier went missing Thursday after his four comrades were rescued from a militant ambush on the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal. In a statement, the Army said that the militants had ambushed a five-strong unit in the border village of Al-Rahwe, prompting other units to launch an offensive against the gunmen and rescue four.

Candidates For MP to submit nomination by Sept. 16
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Interior Minister Nouhad Mashnouk issued a notice Thursday detailing documents required for those intending on submitting their candidacies for the parliamentary elections on Nov. 16. The notice was based on decree 321 of Aug 19, which called on electoral bodies to elect Parliament members. The notice announced that whoever would like to be nominated for the general elections must present a signed and notarized statement, a police record no older than a month, two passport photos certified by a mukhtar, a receipt to prove a LL 2 million nomination deposit and LL 6 million electoral insurance, a bank certificate to prove an account has been opened for the campaign, among other documents. Nominations will be accepted from Aug. 28 to Sept. 16 at 11:59 p.m.

Arsal overrides Cabinet agenda
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Renewed fighting in Arsal and the crippling strike at EDL figured prominently in a six hour Cabinet session that convened Thursday morning.
Information Minister Ramzi Joreige said that Interior Minister Nouhad Machnouk had offered “a detailed overview of the security situation” and the threat of terrorist groups in Arsal. Education Minister Elias Bou Saab also spoke on Arsal following the meeting, telling reporters at the Grand Serail that “the situation in Arsal is the most dangerous case and the gunmen, estimated in their thousands, have crossed the border into [Lebanon]. They are well trained and well-armed.” During the meeting, Army Commander Gen. Jean Kahwagi spoke to Prime Minister Tammam Salam and the rest of the ministers via telephone about the latest clashes in Arsal. Joreige said the defense minister spoke on the security situation in Arsal and the needs of the Army, and Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil spoke on the international assistance needed to protect the country and reinforce the Army’s defense against terrorism. Prime Minister Tammam Salam reiterated the need for secrecy over negotiations to release 29 abducted security personnel captured by militant groups during clashes in Arsal earlier this month, Joreige told reporters after the session. Among the 62-item agenda, Cabinet approved the issuance of passing certificates to students who sat for official exams, saying that the Education Ministry would later announce the mechanism by which students could obtain the diploma. Cabinet also approved the request of the interior minister over the need to pay off charges levied by waste collection in the Jezzine municipality, directly from the Independent Municipal Fund. Cabinet also discussed the issue of contract workers, condemning their assault on state-affiliated institutions. Ministers accused EDL protesters of occupying a state-owned institution, saying that the condemnation was made irrespective of the protesters' cause.
The contract workers have been holding protests and preventing EDL employees from entering the firm's headquarters in Beirut, with the state-run company arguing the protests are disrupting much-needed maintenance work. Several ministers had said that the situation in Arsal would be a focus of the discussion in light of renewed clashes between the Lebanese Army and militants from Syria.
Clashes renewed Thursday between the Lebanese Army and militants from Syria in a remote border village after the gunmen ambushed a military unit. A soldier was taken captive and others were wounded in the clashes that also killed a number of militants.

Lebanese Army: US military aid to be delivered Friday
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army will receive U.S. arms and military equipment Friday as part of the assistance that Washington pledged to help Lebanon combat rampant terrorism from Syria, an Army statement said. The statement said that the shipment of military aid, including gear and ammunition, would be airlifted to Beirut’s airport and delivered to the Army at noon Friday.
The handover will take place in the presence of a U.S. Embassy delegation and a number of senior Army officers. The U.S., Britain, France and Saudi Arabia have made pledges to reinforce the Army’s capacities to fight terrorism, following a showdown that pitted troops against Islamist militants from Syria in the east Lebanon border town of Arsal in early August.

Lebanese Army: One missing after soldiers ambushed in Arsal
Nidal al-Solh/Rakan al-Fakih/The Daily Star
BAALBEK, Lebanon: One Lebanese soldier is missing after his four comrades were rescued from a militant ambush on the outskirts of the northeastern town of Arsal Thursday morning, according to the Army. In a statement, the Army said that the militants had ambushed a five-strong unit in the border village of Al-Rahwe, prompting other units to launch an offensive against the gunmen and rescue four.
The Army said its soldiers also destroyed an armored vehicle belonging to the militants that was equipped with an anti-aircraft missile and killed and wounded an unspecified number of gunmen.
However, a security source told The Daily Star that one soldier had died and three others were wounded in the clashes that ensued after an Army vehicle came under fire in the remote village.
The Army then rushed reinforcements to the village and Arsal to prevent a militant advance, the source added. Armored vehicles and military trucks, carrying dozens of soldiers, were seen driving through the main entrance of Arsal and heading toward its outskirts. According to the Turkish new agency Anadolu, ISIS and the Nusra Front, which are already holding 29 soldiers and policemen captured earlier this month in Arsal, have denied taking any soldier captive during Thursday’s clashes. The military was bombarding militant positions in Aqabat al-Jurd Thursday afternoon, hours after the military shelled hideouts in Wadi Hmeid, Wadi Zaarour and Aqabit Nouh, in the deep highlands of Arsal, security sources said.
The sources said Hezbollah also fired rockets from Miqraq and Zabboud, near the Bekaa Valley town of Labweh, on the same militant positions overnight. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Heavy clashes broke out after midnight between Hezbollah fighters backed by Syrian regime forces and rebels, according to the sources, who said the fighting centered in Lebanese territory facing the Syrian border town of Flita. Sources in the eastern town of Hermel said Syrian warplanes dropped barrel bombs on areas where many Syrian opposition fighters were entrenched, including the outskirts of Arsal, Wadi Hmeid and Ajram.  The overnight shelling was the first confrontation between the Army and militants since ISIS and Nusra Front retreated from Arsal following five days of deadly clashes earlier this month. The militants are holding 29 Lebanese soldiers and policemen captive. They are demanding that Lebanon release Islamist prisoners held in Lebanese jails in return for the soldiers' freedom.
Meanwhile, an armed Syrian was killed and two others were wounded after a van carrying 10 Syrians and three Lebanese crossed into Lebanon illegally through the Wadi Ata village in Rashaya, east of the country, according to a security source. Although the group failed to stop at a military checkpoint, it was not clear whether the Lebanese Army or a group of local gunmen fired at the van.
Army Intelligence arrested the wounded Syrians and Lebanese men.

Passing certificates to be distributed next week
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: Travelling students who need passing certificates to attend colleges abroad can obtain their diplomas on Aug. 30 and Sep. 1 from the Education Ministry, said Education Minister Elias Bou Saab Thursday. The minister’s announcement followed Cabinet’s approval of a decree containing extraordinary articles to account for the 2014 official exams.  Meanwhile, students who are not pursuing studies abroad, will receive their certificates from regional centers in their respective districts as of Sept. 2, according to a statement release by the education minister. Separately, candidates for vocational certificates can obtain their diplomas on Sep. 1, from the General Directorate of Vocational and Technical Education in Dikwaneh and regional departments across Lebanese districts, said Director General of Technical and Vocational Education Ahmad Diab. Among Thursday’s 62-item agenda, Cabinet approved the issuance of passing certificates to students who sat for official exams, saying that the Education Ministry would later announce the mechanism by which students could obtain the diploma. Education Minister Elias Bou Saab said his ministry would issue passing certificates for students who took the official exams, after efforts to convince teachers to back down on their boycott of correcting the tests for Brevet and Baccalaureate students failed. The Cabinet had supported Bou Saab’s decision to issue the certificates that would allow college-bound students to enroll in their universities on time.

Lebanese Army: US military aid to be delivered Friday
The Daily Star/BEIRUT: The Lebanese Army will receive U.S. arms and military equipment Friday as part of the assistance that Washington pledged to help Lebanon combat rampant terrorism from Syria, an Army statement said. The statement said that the shipment of military aid, including gear and ammunition, would be airlifted to Beirut’s airport and delivered to the Army at noon Friday.
The handover will take place in the presence of a U.S. Embassy delegation and a number of senior Army officers. The U.S., Britain, France and Saudi Arabia have made pledges to reinforce the Army’s capacities to fight terrorism, following a showdown that pitted troops against Islamist militants from Syria in the east Lebanon border town of Arsal in early August.

Who Won the Gaza War? Not Hamas
Neri Zilber /Politico
August 28, 2014
Hopefully, the latest ceasefire agreement will herald a new beginning for Gaza, liberating the innocent people of that shattered place from the dead-end ideology of a terrorist regime and any more of its "victories."
If the reported terms of the Gaza ceasefire agreement reached Tuesday are accurate, Hamas just spent nearly two months and more than 2,000 Palestinian lives fighting for three more nautical miles of fishing waters and 200 meters of additional border land. Hamas leaders may declare for the cameras that they achieved a great victory over Israel, but the details of the agreement -- and what it augurs for the possible future of Gaza -- should worry them.
It's not a coincidence that up to the end, Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's political chief sitting in the comfort of a Qatari hotel room, was reportedly fighting a rear-guard action inside his own movement -- against compromise, and against the Egyptian-brokered deal. Hamas officials in Gaza, sitting in rather less comfort in their underground bunkers, better understood the massive toll the war was exacting on the people of Gaza and on Hamas personnel and infrastructure. But Meshaal likely better understood the high politics of the ceasefire negotiations: The only leverage Hamas had was continuing to fire rockets, in the bitter hope of improving the terms offered it.
Hamas under Meshaal's guidance rejected numerous variations of the limited deal it eventually signed -- the latest instance being two weeks ago, when a nearly identical Egyptian proposal was also on the table. "Israel does not respond to our demands in the negotiations," Meshaal told an Iranian television station as recently as Sunday, "[therefore] we do not see a need for a ceasefire."
Two days later, and purportedly against Meshaal's wishes, Hamas agreed to a ceasefire deal that did not meet most of the demands the group had set forward during the conflict. The overarching demand for a lifting of the blockade around Gaza -- in place since Hamas's 2007 coup against the Palestinian Authority -- dissipated into an undefined Israeli commitment to increase the flow of humanitarian aid and reconstruction material into Gaza, an increase of the aforementioned fishing waters from 3 nautical miles to 6 (and not the 12 miles demanded), and a gradual reduction of Israel's security buffer zone along the Gaza border from 300 meters to 100 meters.
Egypt, in a separate deal, reportedly agreed to open its Rafah border crossing with Gaza, although even this concession has apparently not been guaranteed. Regardless, the opening of Rafah isn't expected to take place immediately since Cairo has conditioned the move on a return of Palestinian Authority security forces to the crossing. In this, Rafah isn't an outlier -- the ceasefire terms call for the PA to retake control of all of Gaza's border crossings from Hamas. Moreover, the PA will also coordinate and lead the much needed reconstruction of Gaza, with perhaps a role for Hamas on a committee tasked with humanitarian assistance.
As for many of Hamas's heavier demands -- a seaport, an airport, release of prisoners -- discussions will only begin in Cairo after a month of the ceasefire holding and with no public guarantees, either. Israel, in return, can be expected to then raise the issue of demilitarizing Gaza, an obvious non-starter for a militant group such as Hamas. Finally, salaries to Hamas' public sector workers -- a longstanding Hamas demand given that these 40,000 employees haven't drawn a paycheck in months -- will likely only take place once the PA completes a thorough vetting process.
Taken as a whole, Hamas was neither able to break the "siege" of Gaza (given continued Israeli and Egyptian conditions on access and movement into the coastal enclave) nor guarantee payment to its people. All the conflict did was invite death and destruction -- and pave the way for the PA's return to Gaza. The ceasefire agreement, however, is just vague enough for Hamas to hold up as a "victory" -- a message it has reinforced constantly since the deal was signed, with jubilant public rallies and bellicose official statements.
Tellingly, the lack of tangible gains for Hamas hasn't translated into a sense of triumphalism on the Israeli side. Seven weeks of war, 70 causalities and more than 4,000 rockets fired at its population centers have taken a toll on the Israeli national mood. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's cratering approval ratings over the past two weeks are one sign of the public's disenchantment with the lack of a clear-cut decision in the campaign. The economic costs to Israel of the conflict, measured in budgetary expenses and declining growth rates, are not insignificant either. Whole swathes of Israel's south bordering Gaza had to be evacuated on account of the incessant rocket and mortar fire, with Hamas rockets for the first time consistently reaching Tel Aviv and beyond -- even briefly shutting down foreign air travel into the country's only international airport.
Netanyahu is now likely banking on the short memory of the Israeli public working in his favor once life in the country returns to normal and children are able to start the school year next week, as planned. It's worth remembering that last time Netanyahu fought a war against Hamas, in November 2012, he similarly cut a deal and ended the conflict after eight days. Citizens in the south protested the move, as they are doing now, with a famous picture of army reservists spelling out "Bibi, Loser" published on the front pages of most newspapers. This time the backlash in the political arena, and particularly within his governing coalition, will be fiercer. Early elections were mooted even prior to the war. Now, rivals on the right, especially Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, are likely to use Netanyahu's indirect negotiations with Hamas as a launching pad for their respective campaigns.
For Netanyahu this was apparently a risk he was willing to take, probably because all the other options available to him vis-a-vis Hamas were extremely unpalatable. The Israeli premier consistently limited the objective of the campaign, sufficing with a simple "returning quiet to the citizens of Israel" -- which he has now achieved. Hamas has undeniably suffered a serious military blow, with most of its strategic arsenal (long-range rockets and offensive tunnels) destroyed. Coupled with the ceasefire agreement's allowance for a more rigorous inspection regime at Gaza's borders, Hamas' ability to re-arm is in serious question. The PA's return to Gaza will undoubtedly be difficult and uneven, but Netanyahu has shifted his tone in a positive way when publicly discussing the role his former bete noire, PA President Mahmoud Abbas, can play in Gaza.
And if the ceasefire framework and the PA security forces and the international inspection mechanism for Gaza were to fail? Even then, Israel and Egypt will retain the levers of control they had over the territory prior to the conflict. All this without the need for an expansive ground campaign into Gaza of unknown duration and cost (in Palestinian and Israeli lives as well as Israel's international standing), let alone a re-occupation of the territory that was called for by many on the Israeli right. Netanyahu didn't cave to populist pressure, and did the wise thing by agreeing to a deal that stops a war he very much didn't want.
Whether the ceasefire agreement holds and turns into a more durable solution for Gaza is at this point unclear. Standing on the cratered and rubble-strewn streets of Gaza City Tuesday, Hamas leaders who hadn't been seen in public for weeks ventured out of their bunkers and addressed their people, predictably declaring victory. "What has taken place is not the end," one prominent Hamas spokesman avowed, "but rather one round of many rounds of this conflict (with the permission of God, the almighty and exalted) with the Israeli enemy until we liberate our people, our land, and our holy sites." The ceasefire may collapse in a month or, as in previous rounds between Israel and Hamas, a few years. But there is a hope that this latest war and ceasefire agreement herald a new beginning for Gaza -- liberating the innocent people of that shattered place from the dead-end ideology of a terrorist regime, and any more of its "victories."
**Neri Zilber, a visiting scholar at The Washington Institute, is a journalist and researcher on Middle East politics and culture.

The Middle East faces an existential challenge

Eyad Abu Shakra/Asharq Alawsat
Thursday, 28 Aug, 2014
Many of my friends dislike the term “Arab Spring,” which was created and made famous by the Western media. The oldest “spring” I remember is the “Prague Spring” of 1968, when the then-leader of Czechoslovakia, Alexander Dubček—a Slovak—led a reformist wave that challenged the traditional communist line Czechoslovakia had followed since the Second World War, particularly that of the Antonín Novotný era between 1953 and 1968. However, after a brief reformist experiment, Warsaw Pact tanks rolled into Prague under the banner of the Brezhnev Doctrine, brought down Dubček, replaced him by Dr. Gustáv Husák, and killed off the buds of that spring.
Hopeful of a new reformist wave not unlike that witnessed in Czechoslovakia, the Western media rushed to label the reformist tendency shown by the Chinese leadership headed by Deng Xiaoping between 1977 and 1978 as the “Beijing Spring.” Later on, the groundswell of groups pushing for speedy liberalization alarmed the Chinese government, which ended the occupation of Tiananmen Square in the center of Beijing by force, and thus the reform movement was nipped in the bud.
What I intended to illustrate with this historical recollection is to explain that “Arab Spring,” as a term, describes a failed attempt to achieve change, one that failed because the circumstances were not right. In 1968 the Soviet leadership was still vigorous and dynamic, while during 1977–1978 the vast majority of China’s population was still living in remote rural areas, out of touch with the reform-minded urban dwellers who aspired to open up China to Western culture.
In the Arab world change was, indeed, vital. It was not logical to continue to have dynastic regimes that monopolized politics, the economy, and control of the security forces while claiming to be republics that conducted elections and governed through political parties and people’s committees. Some even went so far as to boast that they were ruling in the name of “resistance,” “steadfastness,” and revolutionary struggle—for more than four decades. Thus it was only natural that we were witness to the accumulation of grievances and aspirations for change. The problem, however, was that there were no alternative governments capable of inheriting these so-called “republican monarchies,” regimes which passed their sell-by dates, and were unable to renew themselves or didn’t have an answer to mounting economic problems and deteriorating living standards.
The death of Mohamed Bouazizi—whose suicide started the “Arab Spring”—in Tunisia was largely a protest against his awful living conditions, and was not directly connected to regional or international political issues. The same may also be said about the events that sparked the Syrian uprising, and while in Egypt there were additional sociopolitical elements, in both Yemen and Libya tribal factors played a major role along with the degradation of the state’s institution and the absence of true citizenship.
The only alternative that was ready to take over from the ruling elite in most cases was Political Islam. Why? There are actually several reasons, including the following: Islam is the religion of the vast majority of the Arabs, the Islamist parties and groups were the best organized, they were also the most experienced in clandestine politics, the best financed, and the least tarnished with the corruption that characterized the former ruling elites. Hence, the Islamist groups—in various forms—were able to play an influential role in the transitional period.
However, attempts to reform the countries of the Arab Spring quickly collided with the structural problems that are causing the rapid deterioration we see today, and which may result in either the creation of failed states, international protectorates, or both. Tunisia, thanks to what remains of its strong state structures, trade unions and institutions, as well as healthy social freedoms, has emerged from its “spring” with the fewest losses. Egypt, too, has survived the worst, helped by its centuries-old social cohesion under capable authorities that have ruled efficiently, whether democratically or undemocratically. In this instance its worth mentioning the great national popular leader Saad Zaghloul was in power for less than one year, while the unpopular and anti-Wafd politician Ismail Sidqi served as prime minister for an uninterrupted term of three years during the royalist period.
The situation in both Syria and Yemen is quite different, and is made more complicated and dangerous when the Iranian factor is taken into account. Libya, too, seems to be in deep trouble, and no internal player or faction seems capable of saving it from fragmentation and chaos.
Recently, Syria’s Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mouallem used a press conference in Damascus to announce that his government was ready to join a war against terrorist groups that the Syrian regime and its regional allies have helped create and sponsor, using these groups for their own purposes. His position did not surprise those familiar with the regime’s nature and antics, and its constant attempts—along with those of its regional allies—to exploit sectarian extremism, in order to portray itself as a bulwark against it. Indeed, Western ambassadors in Damascus, as well as their governments, were until recently convinced that the Syrian regime was “secular,” liberal, and a guarantor of ethnic, religious and sectarian diversity in the Middle East, in addition to being a trusted protector of peace on Israel’s northern border. Many Christian church leaders have also helped promote this false impression, and Israel in turn has been happy and reassured that the Golan Heights will remain quiet, as they have since 1974.
On the other hand, it was in the interests of several parties, including the Iraqi leadership, to ignore Damascus’s strong ties with terrorist organizations and its role in facilitating their infiltration of Iraq in order to harass American troops, expedite the US withdrawal, and leave the country under Iranian control.
Today we can see that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria is doing what was expected of it, ensuring that the West rehabilitates a murderous regime over the ruins of Syria and Iraq, and maybe even Lebanon too, in the future. Also, we can see how Iran, with Russian support, is benefiting massively from an American president whose top regional priority is an accord with Tehran. These Iranian victories include developments unfolding in Yemen, where the Houthis’ capital, Saada, has become a place where political deals are made.
In short, we are currently facing a truly existential challenge, but I very much doubt we realize it, or are handling it the way we should.

Obama’s Syria rationale: Bombing ISIS without helping Assad
Thursday, 28 August 2014
Joyce Karam/Al Arabiya
U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey did not mince his words last week, telling reporters that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) has to be defeated and such a goal cannot be achieved without dealing with its vast presence in Syria. Yet, targeting ISIS militarily in Syria if authorized by U.S. President Barack Obama will be aimed at dealing a blow to the terrorist group without lending advantage to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Walking this fine line will be debated in policy rooms inside the administration in anticipation of a presidential decision by the end of week, according to The Daily Beast. Key in this regard will be the kind of intelligence that U.S. surveillance planes already over Syria are able to collect on ISIS targets and finding a partner among the Syrian rebels and Kurdish forces to counter ISIS on the ground as it’s bombarded by the U.S. Air Force.
Scope of U.S. mission
If Obama gives the green light to expanding the air strikes into Syria, it is important to put such an operation in perspective recognizing its limitations and targeted objectives. The logic to go into Syria is mainly driven by hitting ISIS’ command and control that is more rooted today in eastern Syria, than western Iraq where Washington has been bombing the group since August 7. The operation, if authorized, will target on the border area between Syria and Iraq and will be very focused in nature, thus unlikely to target the Assad regime or other al-Qaeda affiliated groups inside Syria such as the al-Nusra Front which is fighting ISIS.
“The logic to go into Syria is mainly driven by hitting ISIS’ command and control that is more rooted today in eastern Syria, than western Iraq”
Joyce Karam
The U.S. rationale is based on Syria being the central stronghold of ISIS, and that its leadership and command including Abu Bakr Baghdadi are based in Syria and not Iraq. In essence, ISIS’ malignant growth in Syria in last two years has allowed it to make a comeback into Iraq and not vice versa. ISIS erased the Iraqi-Syrian border last June when it captured the Iraqi city of Mosul, and gained plenty of momentum helping in recruits and funding. The Obama administration has slowly realized that the group’s core strength and operation capability is unlikely to be massively hindered if it’s not struck in Syria. Today, ISIS enjoys full control of the Syrian province of Raqqa where it captured an airbase from the regime forces this week, and in Deir Azzor through nothing less than a campaign of terror, crucifying and beheading rebel commanders.
In such a mission, however, the U.S. will be careful not to do any favors for Assad, nor seek his help or permission in conducting the strikes. The mission, according to the Wall Street Journal, would be focused on Eastern Syria and American officials have told the paper that Assad’s air-defense systems “won’t pose a threat because sensors are either sparsely located or inoperable” in that region and the “drones would enter Syrian airspace without any Syrian regime approval or authorization.”
Politically, little has changed in Obama’s view of Assad since he called on him to step down in August of 2011. Back then, Assad was seen as a liability for lacking the ability to stabilize Syria and exit the political crisis, and today with him losing control of territories in the north and the east, and the number of casualties reaching 190,000, he is more so. White House Deputy National Security advisor Ben Rhodes told the New York Times this week that “joining forces with Assad would essentially permanently alienate the Sunni population in both Syria and Iraq, who are necessary to dislodging ISIS.” The State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki went a step further, accusing Assad of “helping ISIS recruit by refusing to deal with the Syrian people’s legitimate grievances, or to accept any willingness or openness for a real political solution.”
Finding a partner
In making the case for the strikes, the U.S. has been promoting the idea of strengthening the “moderate opposition.” A U.S. official tells Al Arabiya News that the “Assad regime actions has allowed ISIS to flourish, and the focus is on building capable partners in moderate opposition.” In this operation specifically, the U.S. could be looking at non-extremist elements in Deir Azzor such as the tribes and brigades loyal to the Free Syrian army (FSA).
Oubai Shahbandar a strategic communications advisor for the Syrian Coalition, the largest political opposition group, tells Al Arabiya News that the opposition leadership has “made clear to U.S. and Western officials that coordinating any possible future airstrikes with the FSA and opposition leadership will maximize their impact in degrading the ISIS threat.”
He says that “there has been some movement of U.S. military aid to help the FSA hold the line against ISIS in northern Aleppo” but warns that “an exponential increase of this support is needed in order to sustain an offensive campaign to liberate territory held by ISIS.”
In an event of U.S. strikes against ISIS, Shabandar hints the FSA can be the “eyes on the ground” and “alongside Kurdish forces, are the only force that can deny ISIS the ability to hold ground in Syria.” But even within the FSA, there are legitimate questions about its ability to push back ISIS, while the Kurds in Syria (PYD) have coordinated territory control with the Assad regime in the past.
If and when U.S. President Barack Obama approves air strikes within Syria, the indications point to a long and very focused operation. One that is unlikely to overhaul the conflict dynamics in Syria, but in best case scenarios cut the head of the ISIS snake and turn the tide against it in the heart of the Middle East.

 From Saudi Arabia to the UK: They’re recruiting youths!
Thursday, 28 August 2014
Abdulrahman al-Rashed/Asharq Alawsat
These are three stories from small, isolated towns in three different countries. Security forces in the town of Tamir, north of Saudi Arabia’s capital Riyadh, said they arrested eight citizens following appeals by locals to intervene and rid the town of them. The story is that more than 17 men from the town have disappeared and are believed to be fighting in Iraq and Syria with the terrorist organizations of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and the al-Nusra Front. This is significant considering the town’s population is no more than 10,000. These men reportedly ended up fighting alongside ISIS after they were incited to travel outside Saudi Arabia to fight alongside terrorist groups under the slogan of jihad. The townspeople sent letters to the king on the matter and informed security forces about eight people whom they believe lured their sons into leaving the country to join terrorist organizations.
In a similar town in Jordan, citizens beat up a preacher at a mosque following Friday prayers because he called on them and on their sons to fight alongside ISIS. The police had to intervene to save him but he was later arrested on charges of incitement.
In the Welsh city of Cardiff, a Muslim family was shocked when one of its sons appeared in an ISIS video talking about the virtues of jihad and urging viewers to join the organization in Syria and Iraq. Talking to BBC television, the father said he wanted to cry when he saw the video. He also said that his son, Nasser, who was a medical school student, disappeared in November. He added that his younger son Aseel, who is 17 years old, also disappeared in February.
Across the world
From the Saudi town of Tamir to the Welsh city of Cardiff, there is real fear and worry about inciters and about those who abduct youths by brainwashing them and instilling extremist religious ideas in them. Most of this incitement is practiced publicly at mosques and schools. But we can now say that the results of raising awareness of such incitement has begun to make its mark. News of the arrest of the inciters in Tamir spread hours before the Interior Ministry issued an official statement on the matter.
“Due to its massive victories and its publicized battles, ISIS has become a power that attracts youths”
Abdulrahman al-Rashed
This is one of the few times we learned that the police is pursuing inciters who had remained safe under the excuse that they are preachers and that they are preaching on the subject of jihad. It seems that citizens have become more aware than the government, and even braver, with regards to pursuing extremists. In Jordan, citizens did not wait for the police to arrive but took matters into their own hands and disciplined the inciter and prevented him from resuming his sermon. Jordan is in a high state of alert as ISIS is close, having gained strongholds in Iraq. There are also fears that ISIS may infiltrate the ranks of frustrated Syrian refugees who have been residing in Jordan in droves since the war erupted in Syria three years ago. Due to its massive victories and its publicized battles, ISIS has become a power that attracts youths. The incident in which Jordanian citizens beat up the extremist preacher reflects their fear for their children, particularly after learning that several preachers were behind the disappearance of many young men.
It is not only preachers at mosques or inciters at schools that cause fear. Online media outlets play the biggest role, and we can ascertain this from the story of the British Muslim family who did not know the fate of their son until he appeared in that inciting video. The grieving father said his sons didn’t socialize with others, but he didn’t know that solitude was worse than bad company as terrorist groups’ means of communication are more accessible on the Internet than they are in the city of Cardiff itself.

ISIS wants a five-star ticket to publicity. It gets it.
Wednesday, 27 August 2014
Chris Doyle/AlArabiya
Surf around the web and there is no shortage of charming decapitation videos. But you may or may not be surprised to learn that many of them have nothing to do with ISIS or al-Qaeda. The Setas and Sinaloa drug cartels behead each other’s members. There is one online video of a Mexican drugs cartel beheading two men with a chainsaw. Nigerian soldiers and Boko Haram have both traded online executions of each other’s members.
I write this because following the wall-to-wall front page media coverage of James’s Foley’s gory online end, you might be excused for thinking that this was unique, some sort of first. It was not even the first time an American journalist had been beheaded. That unwanted honor belongs to Daniel Pearl, killed by Pakistani extremists in 2002. Memories seem to be short.
And why do they do it? Because it works. It is shock and gore via You Tube! We watch – if not the whole videos – we see the images, not least on the front pages of newspapers. The world and his dog express their horror and outright rejection. Politicians engage in a global soundbite competition as to who can sound the most horrified. The end result is that far too much attention is paid to one killing, one atrocity. A grateful ISIS leapfrogs all other extremist groups at the top of the hate list.
“The whole kidnapping and execution cycle is a lucrative and profitable business just as piracy has been off the coast of Somalia”
Chris Dolye
Did ISIS execute anyone else in August? Many Yazidis were reportedly buried alive. ISIS also likes to crucify but I must have missed the global outcry when nine Syrians were crucified in Syria in June. Only one survived a marathon long eight hours nailed to a cross. There were unverified reports of beheadings of children in Mosul. How much media coverage did they get? I do not know their names or their life stories. Who remembers the video of the Syrian priest and another Christian man beheaded in June 2013? It is a long time since there has been genuine outrage over the brutal killings and decapitations of Syrians and Iraqis. How often did Twitter, Facebook and You Tube respond to their killings by taking down content or blocking accounts?
Platinum rated hostages
The reality is that American hostages are platinum rated, a guaranteed five-star ticket to publicity. Iraqis and Syrians barely rate a mention except as statistics. ISIS, as al-Qaeda has done in the past, has highlighted to its support base, that there is a hierarchy of victimhood, of those that matter and those who do not. This falls on fertile soil. Few in Iraq will ever forget the simply appalling words of former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright when asked: "We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that's more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?" and Albright coldly replied: "We think the price is worth it." This attitude of indifference to Arab and Muslim fatalities still prevails, not least in Syria where over 190,000 have been killed in three years.
Lucrative and profitable
And so American citizens including those already kidnapped at now even more at risk. Their captors expect maximum publicity or a huge ransom. Typically, we give too much media exposure attention to ISIS’ crime against westerners on the one hand whilst all too often many states cough up hefty ransoms. The whole kidnapping and execution cycle is a lucrative and profitable business just as piracy has been off the coast of Somalia. There are too many European states, despite a G8 commitment not to, which seem happy to pay up, thereby fuelling the whole kidnapping industry and war economies of Syria and Iraq. A New York Times investigation found that al-Qaeda and its affiliates have amassed $125m from ransom payments, $66m of which was paid just in the last year. European governments made almost all of these payments. It is still not clear whether a ransom was paid for the release of Peter Curtis handed over days after Foley was killed, but no group would have given him up for nothing. This is why the release of four French hostages in April triggers questions as to whether the French government paid or not, something it denies.
Frequently the ransom is not even paid to the original kidnappers. All too often a person is captured and then sold on to a series of other groups. The ransom may save one life but a ransom paid to violent militias can lead to hundreds or thousands being killed.
So what chance the West and others can stop playing these fanatics’ game? Do we continue to pay ISIS so much attention and so much money? The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, called for a global ban on paying ransoms but where is it? Should it not have some enforcement mechanism? We should demonstrate by words and actions that all victims matter. Above all those who wish to defeat ISIS and al-Qaeda should demonstrate just how much respect they have for all humanity and for Muslim lives, in contrast to these thugs who long ago ceased to deserve the description Muslim.
And finally whilst the threat is real and genuine and action must be taken, we must not do the third thing ISIS wants which is to panic. ISIS is neither run by idiots nor is it the greatest threat to mankind. Its members are neither dummies nor supermen. It may have enacted its own version of an “Islamic blitzkrieg” across large swathes of Iraq and Syria but militarily at least it is not invincible. Climate change, drugs and poverty kill far more for starters. There were 27,199 murders just across the border from the U.S. in Mexico in 2011, surely a much more significant threat to the average American even.
To defeat ISIS a coherent political, military, economic and communications strategy must be developed. It must be sober, not based on the hype of the last few weeks. We have to care about the other victims of ISIS and the conflicts in Syria and Iraq and show that they matter too. We have to stop fueling the war economy on which these groups thrive, stop buying their oil, and above all stop subsidizing them with lucrative ransoms.

Israeli forces caught up in Al Qaeda’s complex toils in both Golan and Gaza
DEBKAfile Exclusive Analysis August 28, 2014/The cross-border incident on the Golan Wednesday, Aug. 27, in which an Israeli officer was injured by stray fire from the fighting between Syrian army and rebel forces near Quneitra, put this battle zone on the front pages. However, debkafile’s military sources report that this incident, fought by only 300 combatants on each side backed by 10 tanks, had no real military importance for the Syrian conflict at large. The Syrian army, helped by Iran and Hizballah, is winning and the rebel side is crumbling.
The battle for Qoneitra, fought 200 meters from the Israeli border, is much more important as a touchstone in quite a different setting, that concerns not only Israel but the complicated US posture against the many-headed Al Qaeda peril in the Middle East.
The US, Jordan and Israel are quietly backing the mixed bag of some 30 Syrian rebel factions which Tuesday, Aug. 26, seized control of the Syrian side of the Quneitra crossing, the only transit point between Israeli and Syrian Golan. However – here comes the rub - Al Qaeda elements have permeated all those factions.
The crossing is foirmally under the control of UNDOF, an international peacekeeping force, which too is falling apart as contingents are recalled by their governments.
Damascus hit back at the rebels Thursday, Aug. 28, by sending the Syrian air force to destroy the new rebel positions. This was a flagrant contravention of Israel-Syrian armistice agreements. The Israeli air force might have been justified in scrambling to combat the Syrian air incursion, but was not ordered to do so.
This appeared to contradict a fact which Israel has kept very dark: The 30 or so Syrian rebel offensive to wrest Quneitra would have stood no chance without Israel’s aid - not just in medical care for their injured, but also in limited supplies of arms, intelligence and food. Israel acted as a member, along with the US and Jordan, of a support system for rebel groups fighting in southern Syria. Their efforts are coordinated through a war-room which the Pentagon established last year near Amman. The US, Jordanian and Israeli officers manning the facility determine in consultation which rebel factions are provided with reinforcements from the special training camps run for Syrian rebels in Jordan, and which will receive arms.
All three governments understand perfectly that, notwithstanding all their precautions, some of their military assistance is bound to percolate to Al Qaeda’s Syrian arm, Jabhat Al-Nusra, which is fighting in rebel ranks. Neither Washington or Jerusalem or Amman would be comfortable in admitting they are arming Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front in southern Syria.
And not only Nusra: It turned out in this week’s incident that some of the rebel fighters come from the terrorist group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, a coalition of Al Qaeda contingents based in the Egyptian Sinai Peninsula and Gaza Strip. Another piece of this dissonant jigsaw is Al Maqdis’ close alignment for its violent operations with the Palestinian Hamas ruling Gaza, with which Israel has just been locked in a deadly 50-day war.
Wednesday night, at his news conference to sum up that war, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu included in his list of Israel’s diplomatic successes, the winning over of world opinion to the perception that Hamas and Al Qaeda belong to the same family of terrorists and share the same fundamentalist ideology, which must be fought.
As he spoke, Al Qaeda fighters, intermingled with Syrian rebel factions, fetched up just yards from Israel’s northern border fence.
debkafile’s military sources say that Washington, Amman and Jerusalem can expect to keep the embarrassing fact fairly quiet only until the first black Al Qaeda flag is raised over a rebel position at the Quneitra crossing or a captured Syrian post opposite the line of Israeli positions on the Golan. Israel will then face a new dilemma on this sensitive front, which will take some explaining.

Gaza ceasefire is too little, too late
Nahum Barnea/Published: 08.28.14/Ynetnews
ANALYSIS: Operation Protective Edge has left behind several poisoned chalices: Israelis have discovered they have no leadership, no political trust, a tenuous grip on coexistence and democracy, and a downturn in relations with the US.
It isn't always the case that all's well that ends well. The fear is that instead of paving the way for removing the threat from Gaza, we are rather paving the way for the next round, either in Lebanon or in Gaza. But this is what our government has bestowed upon us, and we will have to live with it.
The final misstep was the failure to bring about a Security Council resolution before the ceasefire agreement. The draft resolution formulated in conjunction with the Americans focused on the reality in Gaza on the day after. It included a call for the demilitarization of Gaza and would have improved Israel's political situation, making it difficult for Turkey and Qatar to continue their support for Hamas. But Netanyahu balked at the political price, and by the time he was persuaded to go with, it was too late. If there is a Security Council resolution now, it will be less comfortable for Israel, and more suited to the fit of Mahmoud Abbas.
Abbas is the real winner of this war. Hamas given may have been given glory on the Palestinian street, but he and his Palestinian Authority have been given control over the process of rebuilding Gaza, a process that will involve channeling billions, as well as not inconsiderable corruption. Abbas has today won the status of positive leader and legitimate partner not only in the eyes of the Arab world and the international community, but also in the eyes of the Israeli public opinion. Perhaps Operation Protective Edge is the silver salver on which the State of Palestine is established.
Previous clashes with terrorist organizations ended with public international support for Israel. This was the case at the end of the Second Lebanon War, with Security Council resolution 1701, and at the end of Operation Cast Lead, with demonstrative visits to Israel by European foreign ministers.
Both of these events occurred during Ehud Olmert's tenure as prime minister. This time, the Israeli government has not initiated any steps: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman is focused on other issues, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not presented any initiative of his own.
What was achieved in Cairo is Pillar of Defense 2. It could have been considered as an achievement had it happened two weeks after the operation, when the price we paid was not so high. It could have been tolerated after a month, but after 50 days you can only feel regret for what has happened, and hope for better in the future.
Hamas political leader Khaled Mashal was reluctant to agree to the Cairo arrangement, and the assumption in Israel is that Hamas leaders in Gaza forced him to accept, due to the cumulative stress and the pressure from the Gazan population.
Israelis have discovered some uncomfortable truths during this period. First, despite the absolute operational freedom of the IDF in the air and at sea, despite the tremendous firepower on the ground, despite the almost hermetic protection from rocket fire, Israel still cannot defeat a terrorist organization that is relatively small in size and isolated in the Arab world.
Secondly, wars, even limited ones, demand a price that the Israeli public had not expected to pay and were not willing to pay. The price this time was paid primarily in the blood of Israeli warriors; the blood of civilians in the south, civilians abandoned by the government throughout the operation; disruptions to life in the center of the country and the loss of tens of billions to the economy; defense costs; physical damage; and a downturn in economic activity.
Thirdly, Israel discovered that they have no government. On the eve of the operation, the political echelon realized that if the stranglehold on Gaza continued, Hamas would start firing. If it had acted, the military conflict might have been avoided. In practice, it was the military that conducted this campaign.
The IDF top brass did not ask for the job itself. Quite the reverse, in fact, and entered into the conflict with a lack of enthusiasm for the vacuum created above it, at the political level. For Netanyahu it was the first real military conflict of all his periods of tenure as prime minister. To a great extent, this was his big test. Israelis expected a leader, a statesman who knew what he wanted to achieve, a decision-maker who would hold a sincere dialogue with the public. What they got was a slick spokesman, and very little more. Looking back over the 50 days of the operation, one can see numerous wordy discussions, but will find it hard to spot significant decision by Netanyahu, or a single move for which he can be credited.
He couldn’t muster the courage to tell the Israeli public: "My fellow citizens, I am sorry. For decades I have preached to you that there is only one way to handle a terrorist organization – and that is to eliminate it. We must not negotiate, we must not compromise. I was wrong. And therefore I am now, under fire, holding close talks with Hamas and striving to reach an agreement. I have no other suggestions." Such a speech would, of course, never happen.
Not only was there no Israeli leadership – there was no transparency or honesty either. There were only fiery speeches about the animals in human form in Gaza, even as he negotiated with those same beasts. At his side was Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, tight-lipped and mute. In a few years, one of the questions for trivia quizzes will be, "Who was defense minister during Operation Protective Edge?" And no one will be able to guess correctly, not for even for a million shekels.
And it is not only Israel's citizens who have discovered that they have no leadership, the Cabinet ministers have too. There has been friction in the upper echelons during every military confrontation, but the worst thing that stood out this time was that the rules of the game were broken. Cabinet ministers lost the last remnants of their faith in the prime minister, and the prime minister lost the last of his willingness to share details of what was happening. Ministers were informed of Israel's agreement to the ceasefire by telephone - a humiliating end to a shameful process.
The fourth uncomfortable truth that Israelis discovered during the operation was that it is more and more difficult for Jews and Arabs to enjoy a shared existence. The Jews became radicalized and the Arabs became radicalized. Racist expressions became legitimate. Threats on the lives of artists and journalists became routine. This perilous reality, which endangers the democratic discourse and endangers domestic coexistence, is one of the poisoned chalices that the Gaza conflict leaves behind.
And it leaves in its wake another trail: the bitter aftertaste it has created in Israel's relationship with the United States. Israel paid for the bombing of Gaza with stormy protests in Europe and a worrying expansion in the international boycott. This was expected, more or less. And while an investigation by the UN's anti-Israel Human Rights Council was inevitable, the row with the US government was utterly unnecessary.
Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement, Israel and the Palestinians are supposed to return to the negotiating table within one month. This was one of the perks received by Khaled Mashal, in exchange for his agreement to abandon his demand for a limited month-long ceasefire. The discussions on the reconstruction of Gaza will be held on the eve of the Jewish high holidays.
For the Israelis, this is extremely inconvenient timing. Let's see Israelis make plans for the holiday, with Hamas threatening to renew its fire.