Many fear quiet is merely a lull in fighting before invasion
ISRAELI REACTION: To a collective sigh of relief, Day One of the ceasefire held.
Although some 20 projectiles were fired on Wednesday night after the truce went into effect, it was quiet after that, and the country slowly started getting back to normal. The first of the reservists drafted to the Gaza border were ordered home.
Despite the relief that the latest round of fighting was over, many believe the quiet is merely a lull in the fighting, and next time round the leadership will have no choice but to order a ground offensive.
While Israel’s leaders and top generals yesterday played up the military achievements of operation Pillar of Defence, many openly questioned whether it had all been worthwhile. A Channel 2 television poll on Wednesday night showed that 70 per cent of Israelis opposed the ceasefire, with only 24 percent in favour.
Some reservists, still in uniform, explained in TV interviews that they felt let down by the political echelon that had “backed down” instead of “finishing the job”.
Two orders to invade
They explained that the response to the call-up was almost 100 per cent, morale was high and twice orders had been received to invade, but at the last minute the orders were rescinded and in the end the troops were ordered home.
The military spokesman’s office said it was investigating a photograph that quickly went viral on Facebook showing 16 soldiers lying on the sand to spell out the Hebrew words “Bibi [is a] loser.”
Some users posted support for the protest, others called for the dissenting soldiers to be court-martialled.
Mayors of towns in the south of the country, which bore the brunt of the militant rocket fire, also expressed frustration with the outcome of the campaign.
Ashdod’s mayor Yehiel Lasri said this wasn’t the conclusion residents had prayed for.
“I am afraid this lull will last for only a short while, and I hope that at least we have garnered international support for a harsh response that will become necessary when the fire is renewed.”
Dozens of residents of Sderot, the Israeli town closest to the Gaza border, protested against the government’s acceptance of the truce and Sderot’s mayor, David Buskila, said the fighting should have been concluded with an accord indicating Israel’s supremacy.
If the truce holds, Israel and Hamas representatives are expected to negotiate separately with Egypt long-term arrangements to ease Israel’s blockade on Gaza and address Israeli demands to stop Hamas and other militant groups re-arming.
While Israel has indicated a willingness to reopen its land crossings for humanitarian aid convoys, it seeks international guarantees that weapons will not reach Gaza if the maritime restrictions are removed.
Gaza’s economy has become heavily reliant on the vast network of smuggling tunnels used to import a vast array of goods, as well as weapons for militants, and it is doubtful that Hamas will agree to the tunnels being closed.
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi proved an able diplomat in mediating the ceasefire, winning praise from all sides, and underscoring the fact that Cairo’s pivotal role in the region will continue in the post-Arab spring era.
The conflict undoubtedly cemented Hamas rule in Gaza, ending the isolation of the Islamic group. The visit of Arab foreign ministers and the Turkish foreign minister to Gaza highlighted the fact that Palestine is composed of two separate entities ruled by rival governments.
And Hamas’s gain was president Mahmoud Abbas’s loss. Observing events unfold, the Palestinian Authority president looked increasingly isolated and irrelevant.