Hard Questions, Tough AnswersYossi Alpher is an independent security analyst. He is the former director of the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies at Tel Aviv University, a former senior official with the Mossad, and a former IDF intelligence officer. Views and positions expressed here are those of the writer, and do not necessarily represent APN's views and policy positions.
This week, Alpher discusses military stagnation and attrition, how the Israeli public is viewing Netanyahu and Yaalon's caution, last week's promise by Netanyahu of a "new political horizon" and his release of a report that Hamas had planned an intifada and a power grab on the West Bank, the talk of a new and dramatic proposal from Abu Mazen, and a UN option, and where this bewildering catalogue of diplomatic and military initiatives leaves us.
(Monday, August 25, day 49 of the Gaza conflict)
Q. Last week, Israelis appeared to think the Gaza war was over. Now we seem to have entered a cycle of
ceasefires and negotiations. Has a new dynamic emerged?
A. Yes. Roughly speaking, it breaks down as follows. Both sides are now completely dependent on Egyptian mediation: Israel willingly, because Egypt is more hostile than ever to Hamas and is strategically friendly to Israel; and Hamas unwillingly, having lost any capacity to recruit its supporters Turkey and Qatar to mediate and having accepted that the West Bank-based PLO and Palestinian Authority represent it.
The Gaza war, as of late Monday afternoon Israel time:
This week, Alpher discusses whether the latest ceasefire will last; whether Israel's war aims changed in the course of the fighting; if ignoring the strategic potential of the Hamas attack tunnels an Israeli intelligence failure; why is there such extraordinary solidarity among the normally divisive Israeli public during this war; regarding a ceasefire, what happened with the Egyptian agenda and a Turkish-Qatari agenda, and in between what appears to be a failed US mediation attempt; if all this means that Hamas has not, or not yet, registered a sufficiently significant accomplishment in this war to "declare victory;" whether Hamas is part of the regional and global militant Islamist movement currently led by ISIS/Islamic State and the likes of Boko Haram as Netanyahu argues, or if is it a faction of the Palestinian national liberation movement and in the long term, what this seeming Hamas membership in two such distinct Middle East groupings means for Israel.
This week Alpher discusses War in Gaza: as of Monday afternoon July 21 Israel time:
Was it necessary for the IDF's Golani brigade to go into Gaza's eastern district of Shejaiya and fight a battle that caused such heavy losses on both sides and if there is a broader meaning to all this death and destruction in and around Gaza; accusations that the IDF is perpetrating war crimes in Gaza; why Hamas' ceasefire conditions are outlandish; how will this end and some early strategic lessons learned.
This week, Alpher discusses whether Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza is winding down; what the two sides' conditions for a ceasefire are; why Israel doesn't want to remove Hamas from power; what are the alternative strategies that Israel could invoke; whether Hamas' strategic aim is to kill Israelis; and some perspective, looking back and looking forward on Operations Cast Lead in 2009-10, Pillar of Defense in 2012, and now Protective Edge.
Q. The past week has witnessed the discovery of the three yeshiva students' bodies near Hebron, their highly emotional funeral, the kidnapping and brutal murder of a Palestinian boy from Jerusalem, and the apprehension of his young Jewish murderers. Meanwhile, Arab citizens of Israel are rioting, while rockets from Gaza continue to hit as far as Beersheva. A new intifada?
A. No, or at least, not yet. There are a number of important factors that distinguish the current situation from the circumstances that led to the second intifada that erupted in the fall of 2000; they mitigate against a new one.
This week, Alpher discusses new policy departures, including in the Palestinian sphere, that Netanyahu has justified by citing events in Iraq that affect Israel (see also last week's Hard Questions, Tough Answers); Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's new "peace initiative," whereby a solution to the Palestinian issue would be part and parcel of broader Israel-Arab peace arrangements; Netanyahu's support for an independent Kurdistan, which contradicts US policy; and the continuing West Bank kidnap drama.