Avi — Gideon Levy — The cease-fire will go up in flames

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The cease-fire will go up in flames
By Gideon Levy
Here is the forecast: In a few days, there will be a targeted killing operation. The military correspondents will recite: “He was one of the senior operatives of Hamas (or Islamic Jihad), and was responsible for producing and smuggling large amounts of armaments.” In response, a barrage of Qassams will fall on Sderot. One of the residents might be injured. In the process of the targeted killing operation, some passersby might also be killed; the correspondents will then recite: “They were armed.”
Several days later, there might be a terror attack. The leaders of the right-wing parties and the Labor Party will be interviewed on television and will recite: “Abu Mazen has once again demonstrated that he is incapable and unwilling to fight terror. There is no one to talk to.” Public Security Minister Avi Dichter will propose turning Beit Hanun into a ghost town. Eli Yishai will suggest bombing from the air. The next day, Qassams will fall again, and the IDF will enter the northern Gaza Strip. The cease-fire will go up in flames.
This is not a bold wager. This is almost the exact series of events that occurred in previous cease-fires. What was is what will be. There are plenty of examples. In January 2002, after several months of quiet, the Tanzim activist Raed Karmi was assassinated in Tul Karm. Dichter, who was then the head of the Shin Bet, pushed for this action, of course. Immediately afterwards, Fatah began its suicide bombing attacks.
Several months later, the Tanzim announced a unilateral cease-fire. Shortly thereafter, in July 2002, Salah Shehadeh was assassinated in Gaza in a one-ton bombing, which also killed 15 innocent residents. That was the end of the cease-fire.
At the beginning of the summer of 2003, the hudna was declared. A week later, the police counter-terror unit targeted Mahmoud Shawer in Qalqiliyah. During the first week of the hudna, the IDF arrested 320 Palestinians. After two months of the hudna, Israel targeted Ismail Abu Shenab, 53. “He has been a wanted man for years,” the reporters recited. The next day, 15 mortar shells were fired at Gush Katif and three Qassams at Israel. In August, Israel also assassinated Mohammed Sidr, the head of the military branch of Islamic Jihad in Hebron, and that was the end of the hudna.
Several months later, in December 2003, the IDF embarked on a broad operation. The objective: Sheikh Ibrahim Hamed, head of the military branch of Hamas in Ramallah. The precise date: the day the Geneva Initiative was launched.
Coincidental timing? Doubtful. In April 2004, when negotiations between Yasser Arafat and Hamas were progressing, Israel assassinated Abed Aziz Rantisi. The negotiations stalled.
In July 2005, the tahadiya was also threatened: In a single day, Israel targeted seven in Salfit and in Gaza. A month later, another five in Tul Karm. In June 2006, just as Mahmoud Abbas was about to declare a referendum vote on the prisoners’ document, Israel targeted Jamal Abu Samhadana, the commander of the Popular Resistance Committees in Gaza. A few days later, the Ghaliya family was killed on the Gaza beach, whether by an IDF shell or “dud.” The referendum went up in smoke, together with the prisoners’ document. Hamas threatened to resume terror attacks after 17 quiet months. The Qassams started to fall on Sderot in frightening numbers. Thus, systematically: Every time a chance emerges, a liquidation is quick to follow. The IDF and Shin Bet, not the statesmen, dictate the developments.
The current cease-fire was achieved thanks to the U.S. president’s visit in Jordan. Israel responded to the Palestinian initiative – again it is a Palestinian initiative, there has never been an Israeli initiative – after the military operations were bitter failures. After “Summer Rains” and “Autumn Clouds,” after 80 were killed in one week in Beit Hanun, the firing of Qassams did not stop. The IDF hurried to respond with a typical sour countenance: Senior officers in the Southern Command expressed strong opposition in off-the-record conversations, the chief of staff was quick to declare that “the IDF was only a partially a partner in the decision” and the defense minister expressed reservations about expanding the cease-fire to the West Bank.
The IDF is not interested in the cease-fire. One can assume that neither is the Shin Bet. Reports on how the cease-fire is already being exploited for redeployment on the other side are flooding the media. And the end is known in advance. Instead of Israel promoting the cease-fire, it is acting to undermine it. A cease-fire is bad for the IDF, especially when it stems from its failures as in Lebanon and Gaza.
How intolerably easy it is for the IDF to undermine the relative quiet that has been achieved. One assassination is enough. A single soldier at a checkpoint is capable of igniting a conflagration. When the IDF wants it, every broom opens fire. And the IDF wants it, unfortunately.
Moreover, the IDF is now being asked not only to show restraint, but also to take a series of practical steps to make life easier for the Palestinians. In the meantime, how surprising, there is no sign of this. Anyone wishing to confirm this can drive to the Hawara checkpoint and see with his own eyes the transit of cattle there, which is called a human passageway. Another example? During a two-day period at the end of the week, the IDF arrested over 50 Palestinians in the West Bank. Why exactly now?
“I reach out my hand in peace to our Palestinian neighbors,” Ehud Olmert said in his Sde Boker speech, his most impressive speech, which promises the Palestinians half of heaven and earth. This speech is liable to be washed in blood. Perhaps the Palestinians will be to blame, but no less than this is the gnawing fear that the IDF and Shin Bet will return to their destructive patterns of action.
It is now not only a matter of the danger of renewed hostile activity, but a much more fateful question: Who rules in Israel and who is really dictating its path? During the coming weeks, Israelis should carefully monitor the developments. Let’s establish a “Cease-Fire Watch,” and watch to see who is once again maliciously undermining it.