.Most Israelis were stunned Tuesday afternoon, Aug. 19, when rocket fire suddenly erupted from the Gaza Strip against Beersheba and Netivot, after they had been lulled into a sense of false security by the suspension of Hamas attacks for 135 hours. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon sent the air force straight back into action to bomb “terror targets’ across the Gaza Strip, and recalled Israel’s negotiators from the indirect talks taking place with Hamas in Cairo through Egyptian intermediaries.
After a month of tough fighting and painful losses, Israelis were aghast to find themselves dumped back in the same old routine, which their leaders had vowed Operation Defensive Edge would end once and for all.
By midnight Hamas had fired around 50 rockets in a steady stream across most of Israel, including Greater Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
So what went wrong?
debkafile reports that, as recently as Monday, Aug. 18, a senior intelligence source asserted that Netanyahu and Ya’alon were satisfied with the Cairo talks, because their outcome would refute their critics, ministers and security chiefs alike, by bringing Hamas to its knees.
Asked how this would come about, the source repeated the mantra heard day after day during the fighting: Hamas is looking for a way out of the conflict and wants to end hostilities, he explained. That is what we are banking on.
AMAN chief Maj.Gen. Aviv Kochavi is believed by some cabinet sources to be the author of this prescription, to which the prime minister and defense minister have stubbornly adhered, against all the evidence to the contrary. They therefore held back from inflicting a final defeat on the Palestinian fundamentalists.
Even the pro-diplomacy Justice Minister Tzipi Livni faulted them by warning repeatedly that negotiating with terrorists was a bad mistake. You have to fight them and beat them hollow, she said.
Yet each time Hamas violated a ceasefire – and it happened six times in all – there was the excuse that its leaders were divided against themselves, and the heads of the Gaza faction were reasonable and logical individuals who would prefer to stop firing rockets at the Israeli population – if only it was only up to them.
Even when the rockets started falling Tuesday around Beersheba, Netivot, Ashkelon, Shear Hanegev and the Eshkol district, some knowledgeable Israelis were still saying that Hamas knew nothing about it.
However, Netanyahu and Ya’alon are not about to change course, athough it is obvious even to them that they have led the country into the blind alley of a war of attrition. They seem to be operating on a different level from Hamas – and even from the general Israeli population, which is sick and tired of the uncertainty and on the verge of kicking back at its leaders.
Last Saturday, 30,000 demonstrators from southern Israel and their many sympathizers turned out in Rabin Square, Tel Aviv, to make sure the government understood that their tolerance for the same old routine was at an end and the military must be allowed to root out the Hamas peril once and for all.
A sense of defiance is palpable in the streets of towns within regular rocket range from the Gaza Strip and even farther afield. Contrary to orders from the IDF Home Command, directions to open shelters have been issued by the mayors of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Rehovot, Rishon Lezion, Tel Aviv, Ramat Gan, Gedera, Kiryat Malachi, Sderot, Netivot and Beersheba. Some have cancelled public events and entertaiments.
Parents of places next door to the Gaza Strip, who spent the summer holidays holed up indoors or away from home, now say they will not send their children to school at the start of the term in two weeks, if the present situation does not change radically.