Shalom Life | October 21, 2014

Op-Ed: Operation Protective Edge - An Exit Strategy

Following the Hamas refusal of a ceasefire, the Israelis have two different avenues to pursue to restore quiet and stability to its citizens

By: Simon Aaron

Published: July 15th, 2014 in News » Israel

Op-Ed: Operation Protective Edge - An Exit Strategy

According to news reports from the evening of July 14, the Egyptian Government organized a ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas which was to have taken place this morning at 9:00 AM Israel Time.

To no surprise, Hamas categorically rejected the Egyptian initiative, while the Israeli Cabinet accepted the ceasefire proposal. After holding fire for six hours while being pounded by over 50 Hamas rocket attacks, the IDF announced that it was resuming its operations against Hamas. This was a critical error for the Hamas Leadership, for Israel now has the legitimacy to continue its offensive with newfound legitimacy, while Hamas is seen as the culprit – responsible for the continuation of hostilities. In this regard, it was very strategic for the Israelis to have agreed to the cease fire, knowing full well that Hamas would never have accepted it. The question is – what should Israel do with this opportunity?

After being pummeled by the IDF’s aerial and naval surgical strikes for more than a week, Hamas continue to shoot dozens of long and short range rockets on a daily basis. It is clear therefore that despite Hamas’ infrastructure being severely weakened by Israel, its weapons stash remains significant in number, and well protected from attacks from the sea and air. As such, the Israelis have reached a fork in the road, with two different avenues to pursue to restore quiet and stability to its citizens.

Option A) The Diplomatic Route: The international community could pressure Hamas into agreeing to a very different but more sustainable cease fire agreement. As Israel’s Former Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, recently penned in an op ed to CNN, a ceasefire agreement with Hamas should require the terrorist group to abandon its use of rockets and disarm itself of its rocket arsenal. Oren cites US and Russian efforts in abandoning Hamas' arsenal of chemical weapons, with international inspectors observing each step of the way as precedent.

A similar agreement could be reached with Hamas via Egypt and the United States, incorporating international inspectors to monitor the process. In return, Israel could reduce its blockade on Gaza, allowing Gaza’s economy to develop and for trade to ensue, without having to be concerned about illegal weapon shipments to Gaza. Such a scenario can be reached with a combination of Israel stepping up its operations against Hamas, targeting its leadership, while back channel negotiations and pressure vis-à-vis the US and EU to come to the negotiating table. This is far from a perfect deal, however, it is a significant improvement to the status quo, and would bring a long period of quiet and stability to Israel’s border with Gaza, while also strengthening moderate Palestinians.

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