Analysis |

Israel's Pillar of Defense Achieved Its Goals

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Aluf Benn
Aluf Benn

Operation Pillar of Defense had two strategic goals - one, to reinstate the Gaza cease-fire with Hamas, which had unraveled in recent months amid increasing hostilities, and two, to stabilize the peace with Egypt after the Muslim Brotherhood came to power.

Providing both sides now keep the truce, it seems from the agreements announced on Wednesday night that both these goals may have been achieved.

Israel expects Hamas to fulfill a role in Gaza analogous to Hezbollah's in Lebanon - protecting the border, stopping the firing and enforcing quiet on other armed organizations.

This agreement is not based on love, mutual recognition or joint ideology, but on joint interests backed by a balance of fear - the IDF's air firepower and threat of a ground invasion, versus the ability of Hezbollah and Hamas to launch rockets at Israel's home front.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared on Wednesday: "Hamas is responsible for enforcing the cease-fire." This means Israel expects Jabari's successor to serve as "sub-contractor" and ensure quiet on the border. If he is sloppy or refuses, he may expect the same fate that befell the Hamas chief of staff who was assassinated last week. This is what the political and military leaders mean when they use the term "renewing the deterrence."

According to the text released by the Egyptians, Israel has agreed to stop military activities and assassinations in the Gaza Strip, while Hamas has agreed to stop rocket fire into Israel and attacks along the border.

This means Israel will withdraw from the 300-meter-wide "safety belt" on the Hamas side of the border, in which the IDF acted against explosives and tunnels and fired at Palestinians who came near the border fence.

The current confrontation broke out after Hamas tried to create a counter-perimeter on the Israeli side, by shooting an anti-tank missile at an IDF jeep and wounding four soldiers. Hamas has succeeded, at least for now and at a heavy price, to rid its territory of the IDF patrols.

Israel's second goal was to examine the relations with Egypt under the Muslim Brotherhood's leadership in case of a confrontation with the Palestinians.

President Mohammed Morsi proved that he too prefers interests to ideology. He refuses to have open talks with Israel and intends to conduct relations with it via covert channels. But Morsi has made it clear the peace with Israel is an Egyptian interest and even serves Egypt's desire to resume a leadership position in the region.

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Israeli military ambulances drive outside the northern Gaza Strip (seen in the background) November 21, 2012.Credit: Reuters
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Police arriving on the scene on Nov. 21, 2012 after an attack on a bus in central Tel Aviv. The attacker disembarked, leaving behind a bag that later exploded.Credit: Daniel Bar-On
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A Palestinian walks past the Islamic National Bank after it was destroyed in what witnesses said was an Israeli air strike in Gaza City November 20, 2012. Credit: Reuters

Netanyahu showed it was possible to bomb Gaza and kill Hamas' chief of staff without harming the peace with Cairo. In the new strategic environment generated by the "Arab Spring," this is no mean feat.

Palestinians celebrate the cease-fire between Hamas and Israel in Gaza City, Nov. 21, 2012.Credit: AP

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