Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why Israel Agreed to a Truce and Why It's Not Over

Israel agreed to terms with Hamas, brokered by Egypt, for a cease-fire, ending the latest round of fighting between the two entities.  PM Netanyahu declared victory, as did Hamas, but the fighting is far from over and Israel knows it.

What's behind the hasty agreement and what's looming in the near future?

Israel's stated goal of destroyed the tunnels and reducing or eliminating Hamas's ability to launch rockets was largely accomplished, or so we have been led to believe.  It was clear, however, a rising international pressure was against Israel and any further progress in rooting out Hamas would require a ground invasion--and likely occupation of Gaza.

There's a lot more going on with this situation requiring scrutiny.  Several events, changes, and new key players are coming onto the scene (or we're learning about things slowly) and Israel isn't foolish enough to pit itself against innumerable enemies.

Israel is concerned about something in Iran.

The recent reports of an Israeli drone shot down and captured by Iran is intriguing, because it indicates Israel is keeping tabs on nuclear-related activity in Iran (something which they have done in the past, including bombing an Iranian reactor in 1981).  Surrounded by enemies, Israel wouldn't risk such an incursion if the situation wasn't dire enough; why provoke an enemy when surrounded by friends of said enemy, unless there is some imminent danger?

The West Bank is a simmering cauldron.

Reports from the West Bank were concerning, especially during the latest round of Israeli assaults on Gaza.  There were protests, sometimes violent, and the use of riot gear by PA police was common.  Recent intelligence reports and analysis indicate a spike in "terrorist activity" in the West Bank, likely spurred by the Gaza operations.  Plenty of moderate Palestinians don't want another uprising (intifada) for fear of resulting destruction crippling infrastructure, an example openly displayed in Gaza.

With Israel and PA "peace-keepers" cracking down on activity, the West Bank economy is collapsing.  How long before the heavy policing, rising poverty, and innate resentment spill over into violent unrest?  Add in the recent promises by Iran to re-arm Palestinians and there's plenty for Israel to worry about right in their own backyard.

The Islamic State / ISIS / ISIL / QSIS / Islamic Caliphate problem

Aside from a ridiculous assortment of acronyms, abbreviations, and self-aggrandizing titles, these guys aren't screwing around.  They have equipment, training, and money to carry out some potentially devastating attacks against Israel--and they're right next door in Syria and Iraq.  Nobody knows for certain if ISIS operatives were part of Hamas attacks or have infiltrated many other regions (even Israel itself) in preparation for more attacks.  If ISIS brings down Baghdad, Israel's posture will become far more aggressive than it is right now.

ISIS is making money, too, and this only serves to strengthen their resolve, increasing tension in the region.  European countries are buying back hostages for millions of dollars a head--MILLIONS per person!  In addition to increasing oil revenues (two million bucks a day), ISIS is raking in tens of millions of dollars.  Israel is smart enough to know the money is going to affiliated organization in their neck of the woods.  More money means more fighters, more weapons, and more conflict.

Syrian civil war is spilling over the border

An Israeli soldier was wounded by "errant" gunfire coming from the Syrian border following reports of a border crossing overrun by rebel elements.  I'd be surprised if these rebel elements didn't include fighters from Hamas, Hezbollah, or ISIS--or support, weapons, and money from said groups.  Israel responded with artillery strikes, claiming to have destroyed the source of attacks.

Syria is a nightmare land right now with multiple Islamic insurgent groups battling the dictatorial government and its military.  Known terrorist groups are right on Israel's doorstep and now, it seems, the fighting is spilling over the border into the Golan Heights.  UN peace-keeping forces are on the border with more being deployed.  If Israel recognized an impending threat from Syria, the intelligence may have led to PM Netanyahu being more agreeable to a truce with the bruised and relatively ineffective Hamas.

What to watch for in the coming weeks

  • Syrian civil war spilling into Israel and infiltration of terrorist agents through the border
  • Islamic State supporting or directly engaging Israel through proxy groups
  • Iran equipping and sending supplies to Iraq (where is it going, exactly?)
  • The West Bank situation and elements trying to stir it up
  • International support for Israel following the "humanitarian" crisis in Gaza

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