Gaza Aftershocks: Hamas fires 460 rockets. Netanyahu chooses cease-fire rather than invasion. Israeli Defense Minister resigns. Now, early elections look imminent. Here’s the latest.

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(Jerusalem, Israel) — It’s been a dramatic week here in the Holy Land. But buckle up. Far more drama lies ahead. Here are the highlights, followed by some analysis.

MONDAY:

TUESDAY

  • The terrorist group, the Palestinian arm of the Muslim Brotherhood, fires 460 rockets at Jewish civilians in southern Israel in less than 24 hours.
  • Never have so many rockets been fired at Israel in a single day — at times, they are being fired one per minute.
  • Thankfully, the Iron Dome system shoots down many of the incoming rockets. Others fall harmlessly in empty fields, but some do real damage.
  • By God’s grace, no Israelis are killed.
  • However, 108 Israelis are hospitalized due to injuries, anxiety and shock.
  • The IDF retaliates with air strikes, hitting 160 Hamas targets.
  • Then, to everyone’s surprise, both sides accept a cease-fire that was negotiated behind the scenes by the Egyptians and the United Nations.
  • The rockets stop falling. The IDF stops retaliating.
  • Hundreds of thousands of Israeli parents, children and elderly re-emerge from bomb shelters, and “normal” life slowly begins again.

WEDNESDAY

  • Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman resigns from the government to protest Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to accept the cease-fire.
  • “What happened yesterday, the ceasefire, together with the deal with Hamas, is a capitulation to terror. There is no other way of explaining it,” Liberman says. “What we are doing right now is buying quiet for a heavy price with no long-term plan to reduce violence toward us….Our response was drastically lacking to the 500 rockets fired at us.”
  • Netanyahu in not apologetic for accepting the cease-fire, saying Hamas “begged for a cease-fire, and they know very well why.” 
  • “Leadership is not doing the easy thing,” Netanyahu says. “Leadership is doing the right thing, even if it’s difficult.”
  • Right-wing Education Minister Naftali Bennett demands to be named Defense Minister, saying if he does not receive this position he and his political party will also resign the government.
  • At present, elections aren’t scheduled until November 2019. But speculation is now rampant throughout the Israeli media that early elections are all but inevitable.
  • With the departure of Liberman and his party, Netanyahu has a coalition of only 61 of the 120 seats in the Knesset (parliament). If Bennett leaves, and Netanyahu cannot find a party in the opposition to join his coalition, the government will fall and snap elections will be triggered. 

ANALYSIS

  • Many Israelis — especially those who live in the south near the Gaza border — are angry at Netanyahu and the government for agreeing to a cease-fire too quickly. They want the IDF to bombard Hamas far more heavily. Some are calling for the IDF to invade the Gaza Strip and crush Hamas once and for all.
  • My heart goes out to all those in the south who are exhausted by the Hamas attacks and want this conflict to be over and done with. I’m praying that a true and lasting calm and stability can be established for them, as well as for the Palestinians in Gaza who are suffering terribly under the wicked tyranny of Hamas.
  • That said, let’s keep a few things in mind:
  • First: Despite 460 rockets, not a single Israeli died in the attacks. (Sadly — and ironically — a Palestinian from the West Bank who was working in Ashkelon was killed by one of the rockets.)
  • Second: Hamas knows they cannot defeat the IDF via conventional warfare. Instead, they are trying to use rocket fire to lure the IDF into a bloody ground war in the Gaza Strip. During such a war, many Palestinians would die. This would make headlines around the world. Israel would be roundly condemned and Hamas hopes to win the war for public opinion.
  • Third: An invasion of Gaza would lead to the death of many Israeli soldiers. To what end? Having evacuated from Gaza in 2005, Israel does not want to re-occupy the Strip. Should Israel lose Jewish lives, and suffer international condemnation, in order to help the Palestinian Authority re-take control of the Strip? Is that in Israel’s interest? 
  • Fourth: True, there are no easy, simple answers here. But getting lured into a ground war in Gaza under the current circumstances is unwise. Could circumstances change, necessitating a ground war? Yes. But we’re not there now. Yes, Hamas is a problem. But they are not an existential threat. Iran, however, does pose such a threat. Israel would be wise to keep our eye on the Iran threat and build a regional security alliance with our Arab neighbors capable of protecting us and them. This — not another Gaza war — could bring real peace and security.

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