DEBKAfile’s quick guide to the perplexed reader: Israel, Gaza, the US and the faux-ceasefire

After a month of fighting and at the onset of another surreal ceasefire, debkafile offers some clues to those readers who, understandably, find themselves a bit baffled about the status of the war in Gaza and where Israel stands. Here’s a brief guide to the goings-on:

Is there a ceasefire?
Senior Fatah and Egyptian officials said late Wednesday, Aug. 14, that negotiators in Cairo had agreed to a five-day truce, extending the previous 72-hour ceasefire. But neither Hamas nor Israeli officials themselves have formally acknowledged this deal, nor do they seem inclined to do so. In short, no, there is no truce.

What’s with the split between Obama and Netanyahu?
The dispute between US President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is nothing new: it has been bubbling since Obama took office in 2009. As reports emerge that the White House blocked a transfer of Hellfire missiles to the IDF during Gaza operations, Obama is accusing Netanyahu of attempting to bypass his office by looking to allies in Congress for support. This, too, is old news, as Netanyahu’s predecessors also used the US legislature to circumvent the will of US presidents.

But the Netanyahu-Obama split has taken on a novel spin in that, only twice before, was Washington denied a say in an Israeli military campaign.

In 1956, Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion teamed up with Britain and France for an attack on Egypt behind the US’ back. In 1981, it was Menachem Begin who defied Washington when he ordered the successful bombardment of an Iraqi nuclear reactor near Baghdad.

So who are Israel’s allies for the Gaza operation?
Now it is Netanyahu’s turn to swim against the American tide. His actions have a more comprehensive impact than those of prime ministers’ past. Not only is he standing in opposition to the Obama administration’s ingrained  policy of avoiding military force, he’s also working closely with Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi to counter the US Mid East policy departure that hinges on Obama’s understanding with Iran. This new Israel-Saudi-Egypt alliance has pushed US off the regional center stage and sidelined its efforts to bring the Gaza conflict to an end.

Why doesn’t’ Washington go for Egypt and Saudi Arabia?
For the US, crossing Saudi Arabia and Egypt is tricky. But publicly lambasting Netanyahu and Israel is par for the course. Viewed through this lens, the press “leak” to the Wall Street Journal on the blocked missile supply makes perfect sense.

At the same time, Israel, Saudi Arabia and Egypt share the same beef against the administration for working closely with Iran. Obama’s cohorts in Baghdad are colluding with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei under the guise of battling the extremist Islamic State (IS, formerly IS) slashing its way through Iraq. The two powers plan to resolve Iraq’s crisis to their own benefit. To this end, Obama has granted Iran its rubber stamp and the status of a regional superpower – even before it inks a deal on a nuclear accord, which

Saudi Arabia and Israel, in particular, fear will turn out to be inimical to their strategic interests and national security.

Egypt and Saudi Arabia hit back by sending Sisi to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin Tuesday August 12 in Sochi. They are inviting him to join the new alliance. It is too soon to say how far Netanyahu is willing to go in this direction.

Is Operation Protective Edge Over?
The answer is a resounding “no!” Netanyahu and his Defense Minister, Moshe Ya’alon, would be content to end the war. They've been trying to do this from the operation’s second day, July 8, but are finding that an exit strategy keeps on slipping ever further from their grasp. The two Israeli leaders got themselves into a mess by taking it for granted that they could reap the success of a war against terrorists with a deal at the negotiating table, so falling into the same error as Obama.

Thanks to these early missteps, the fighting is sliding into an on-again, off-again war of attrition, with scattered occasional rocket fire from Gaza and Israeli reprisals. We haven’t yet seen the end of this war, and it will change form as time goes on.

 Meanwhile, Thursday, 500 trucks loaded with food, medicines and other essentials rolled through the Kerem Shalom crossing into the Gaza Strip, continuing the supplies that never faltered in the course of the month-long IDF operation. This fits the general ambivalence of the Netanyahu government’s style of warfare.
Another round of talks has been scheduled to take place in Cairo next week.

When is a red alert the real thing?
This week saw three grades of rocket alert: Red Alert, False Alarm and No Alert. We propose this key to set minds at rest within the radius of Hamas rockets: The first signifies an authentic rocket attack in response to which everyone should take shelter; the second attests to wishful thinking that a ceasefire may actually hold and so you must pretend you didn’t hear the explosion; and the alarm system is silenced when the government is determined to convince everyone that peace is at hand. So now you know you were dreaming when your home is blasted.

 

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