There are reports about a cease fire, arranged by Egypt.
After the cease fire was said to go into effect, there continued some rockets and mortars fired from Gaza, but this was to be expected. Either groups are asserting their machismo and superiority, or there is a failure of whatever discipline can be exercised among them.
Israeli practice is to tolerate some firings, most of which do no damage, rather than to respond to every provocation.
It is said that Israel has agreed to stop targeted killings. Israelis officials have said they reserve the right to respond to attacks.
That means Israel can assassinate when it feels it appropriate, given that there will be occasional rockets fired from Gaza by one or another of several groups.
The score card of this recent episode is property damage in Israel, several Israelis with minor injuries, one Thai agricultural worker with serious injuries, numerous Israelis treated for anxiety, and thousands of Israelis made tense and kept away from school, work, and shopping. Officials are pondering appropriate compensation for individuals and business firms.
As many as 90 percent of missiles likely to hit populated areas were intercepted by Israeli missiles. As is typical, some of the missiles fired from Gaza fell in Gaza, and caused injuries and property damage. Israel's anti-missile missiles are expensive, and are programed to differentiate between missiles heading toward populated areas and those likely to hit empty fields or to not make it out of Gaza.
On the Gazan side, we've seen pictures of considerable damage to buildings. There were some 25 deaths, almost all of them fighters, and numerous injuries. News films showed at least as much tension among Gazans as among Israelis.
The heroes of Gaza can claim what they will.
Interpreting this is like finding meaning in an episode of the Hebrew Bible. Make your case and wait for an argument.
There are those who say that the IDF should not have killed the Palestinian who was planning a terror attack, but should have waited for the operation to begin, and then deal with it.
However, that argument assumes Israeli intelligence was complete enough to know all the details of the planned operation. And that Israeli officials were willing to risk civilians and soldiers when the Palestinian operation actually got underway.
Another view is that Israel had been waiting to strike Palestinian fighters hard, due to a gradual increase in their activities against Israel, and to send a severe message that would not only cause a temporary end of the missiles and mortars, but persuade the Gazans to stay out of any conflict with Iran.
Were the deaths, injuries and property damage, along with Israel's demonstration that it could deal with most missiles coming out of Gaza, enough of a lesson?
Here we are in the realm of fuzzy information. Intelligence personnel are likely to know more, but they aren't telling.
We heard that it was Israel's intention to send a message, or perhaps clean out Gaza's missile stockpiles, in advance of attacking Iran. If Israel's response to Gaza was limited, that would be an indication that it had no intention of attacking Iran.
Hamas stayed out of this fight, and the IDF was concerned not to attack its key personnel. Hamas has missiles that can reach further into Israel, and carry heavier warheads than those fired by various factions in this round of fighting.
It's usually best to keep as many Palestinians as quiet as possible, even while reminding them of what Israel is willing to do.
Israel imposed a heavy price on Gaza, but it came nowhere near to cleaning out the missile stockpiles accumulated in recent months. Many of them came from the weapons of Libya that were dispersed with the collapse of the Qaddafi regime, and passed through Egypt whose capacity to control its territory was weakened by its own domestic problems.
Those applauding the onset of Middle East democracy via Arab spring might take another look at the benefits and costs.
One of the questions we cannot answer is, was Israel's operation against Gaza sufficiently severe to serve as a lesson--even though considerably short of massive destruction--meant to keep Gaza quiet in the event of an attack on Iran.
And insofar as the leaders of Hizbollah know what happened in Gaza, will the lesson be enough to keep them quiet in the event of an Israeli attack on Iran.
Syria is part of the equation. It is now a doubtful asset in the Iran-Hizbollah-Hamas triangle.
In recent days we have heard Hamas and Hizbollah personnel say that they will not take part in any confrontation between Israel and Iran, and we have heard denials of those statements from other Hamas and Hizbollah personnel.
In other words, recent events were not so clear as to facilitate any assessment of Israel's intentions with respect to Iran, or what Israel can expect from Lebanon or Gaza in the event of an attack on Iran.
Again intelligence personnel may know more, but they don't tell us. They report to leading politicians, but we can't rely on them to tell us all they know.
And. as sceptics are saying, the Egyptian arranged cease fire may not be hold. IDF's spokesman has indicated that the military has plans and capacity to be much more severe, even without using ground troops against Gaza, and that it is prepared to use ground troops if it feels that appropriate.
So we'll have to want and see.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at March 13, 2012 05:16 AM