Cross posted from my blog at the Times of Israel
At the time of writing this the Israel Defence Force has expanded its operation in Gaza. There are already hundreds of Palestinian deaths and 18 Israeli. This isn’t going to end any time soon. Both sides were in Cairo for ceasefire negotiations prior to the outbreak of the ground war. In fact it was the Israeli impression from those talks that Hamas weren’t interested in a ceasefire which led to the ground operation the next day.
The objectives of the IDF were to destroy the tunnels Hamas has built into Israel and put an end to the rocket attacks being launched against the heart of the country from the Strip. The operation was quickly extended when it was understood the extent to which there exists an underground Gaza, where the rockets are stockpiled. An underground Gaza that is impervious to attack from the Israeli Air Force. Although the IDF had avoided entering the highly built up areas of Gaza and halted their advance 2 kilometres into Gaza that policy was abandoned and the IDF is now operating in urban territory.
But what everyone seems to have forgotten is what this fight is about in the first place. Israel is looking to destroy tunnels and stockpiles of weapons. These are tactical demands. The military operation is currently undertaking to achieve those objectives. Though there is widespread support from the Israeli public for a military operation there is also little doubt that in the long term the problems will remain. When the IDF withdraws from the Gaza Strip the tunnels will be rebuilt, as will the stockpiles of rockets.
In the long term there is nothing coming from the Israeli government as to what they wish to achieve.
On the other hand Hamas has been very clear on what they want from this war. The demands released by Qatar and Turkey made five clear points on the immediate future Hamas wants to see for the territory they control. Since their release very little mention has been made of them. The demands are the following;
- Free Hamas prisoners released in the Gilad Shalit deal and subsequently rearrested after the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers;
- Allow construction of a seaport or “sea crossing” in Gaza;
- Israel will fully open all crossings to Gaza;
- Egypt must open the Rafah border crossing into Egypt 24 hours a day;
- Israel must allow Gaza fisherman to sail 12 nautical miles from the Gaza coast.
When the shooting started these demands were largely forgotten. Both Egypt and the United States as well as Israel insisted that for any negotiations to take place there must be a ceasefire. Hamas rejected this and the rest is already history.
The point though is this. These demands may sound reasonable but it is very hard to take seriously even the most reasonable of demands when they are made by an organization whose raison d’etre is the death of the state of Israel. This is an organization which exists explicitly to destroy Israel and it can therefore come as no surprise that Israeli leaders view with infinite suspicion anything that comes from them. Furthermore Hamas haven’t given them, or anyone else, any good reason to believe that these requests are for any reason other than to bring in more weapons and continue the fight against Israel at a later date.