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August 27, 2014 The Day After

by Marc Schulman

Today was, without question, a day I had not planned to write an article. After 50 days of war, it was clear that the war was over – certainly, for the moment. This ceasefire will most likely hold at least until the Cairo talks fail. I felt it was too soon to write the "day after" article. The real "day after" will only be written after the fact – "How long will there be peace?" Alas, my hopes to take a break, and not write today, were dashed. They ended when I went to the bank with my daughter and as I was waiting, an alert message went off on my phone. The banker turned to me with a look of concern and asked: "That's not a Red Alert, is it?". No, it was not a red alert. Rather, it was a notification that an Israeli officer had been wounded on the Syrian border. This is not the first time that the civil war in Syria spread into Israel. It turned out that the Syrian rebels had surprised the Syrian army, and after a day long battle, the rebels had seized the border crossing at Qunetra. A few hours later, an Israeli civilian on one of the Kibbutzim in the Golan was also wounded. In the meantime, the mortar shells that landed in the Golan have started a number of fires that are being put out. At the moment the border crossing was captured by the more moderate of the rebels. The concern, of course, is that ISIS might replace the moderate rebels now on the borders, at some time in the future. The Israeli news media led their evening broadcasts with the question: "Now that the southern border has become silent, is the North now becoming a problem?"

The funeral of one of the two members of Kibbutz Nirim who was killed last night (an hour before the entry of the ceasefire) was held today. Beyond the expected sadness these deaths brought, a certain level of anger was palpable at the Kibbutz – anger that know one told them a ceasefire was about to go into effect. Those killed were working to fix electricity in the Kibbutz that had been damaged by an earlier attack. These men would have waited until the ceasefire went into effect to begin their work. They certainly would not have gone out during the hour before the planned ceasefire – when Hamas has the habit of firing barrages of missiles, full force.

From my viewpoint only history will be able to tell us if we have achieved a significant period of quiet on the South. While, I still believe it is way too early for an analysis of this war, I can still report the views of others. First, the IDF believes it achieved a significant victory and that Hamas in Gaza begged Hamas in Qatar to accept the ceasefire agreement. The Israeli army believes they inflicted terrible damage on Hamas, and of course destroyed their tunnels. Iron Dome proved itself stellar – and with the exception of the mistake that allowed a missile to land near Ben-Gurion airport, (and caused foreign airlines to briefly interrupt their service), Hamas achieved no strategic victory. The open question is what will happen in a month, when negotiations resume in Cairo and Hamas does not achieve its goals. The Israeli military believes that Hamas will not resume fighting (though the IDF did not think Hamas wanted a war in the first place.)

Netanyahu has been hit with criticism from all sides today – on the right, from Foreign Minister Lieberman, claiming any agreement with Hamas is wrong, along with Minister Naftali Bennet, who said pretty much the same. However, disapproval was not only leveled at Netanyahu from the right. The head of the Labor party, Isaac "Bogey" Herzog said that Netanyahu was strengthening Hamas.

The Israeli public is no longer on Netanyahu's side. 75% of the Israeli public believes that the government's goal should have been to bring down the Hamas government. Over 50% of the Israelis believe that a war will resume in less than a year.

Tonight, Netanyahu responded to difficult questions during a press conference he held, with Defense Minister Yaalon and Chief of Staff Gantz. Together the three claimed that Israel achieved a significant victory against Hamas– who according to Netanyahu was hit harder than ever before. They said Israel had significant international support because it acted responsibly. Furthermore, Netanyahu stated that Israel pulled its troops out of Gaza, since in Gaza the troops were targets to be killed or kidnaped. On the other hand, as long as Israel acted from the air the troops were safe. Therefore, made sense to pull out. Netanyahu was honest when he said that he cannot guarantee that the ceasefire will continue once Hamas realizes that Israel will not agree to any of its demands. Moreover, Netanyahu went on to say that “Israel will hit back twice as hard if Hamas resumes fire”. During the question and answer period Netanyahu made some news by saying he hopes that Abu Mazen will take over the Gaza Strip, and that as long as Abu Mazen was committed to peace, he saw him as a partner for peace. Netanyahu was asked – "Why not accept the Saudi peace initiative now?". He answered: "It is too early. The war just ended and we are looking into possibilities."

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