TRNN Middle East correspondent Lia Tarachansky discusses Operation Protective Edge after Hamas rejected the Egyptian ceasefire proposal
ANTON WORONCZUK, TRNN PRODUCER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Anton Woronczuk in Baltimore.
A ceasefire proposed by the Egyptian state has come and gone in a matter of hours, with Israel re-escalating airstrikes over the Gaza Strip after Hamas rejected the proposal and continued rocket fire. Hamas says it was not consulted on the plan or on the terms for a ceasefire by the time it was accepted by Israel, though Hamas had previously stated its key demands for ending rocket fire, which included the lifting of the eight-year blockade on the Gaza Strip, the opening of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, and the release of Palestinian prisoners who were rearrested during IDF raids throughout the West Bank last month. And although the Israeli Security Cabinet approved the Egyptian ceasefire, many high-ranking Israeli officials, including Foreign Minister Avidgor Lieberman and Economy Minister Naftali Bennett, had voted against it, with Lieberman calling again for the reoccupation of Gaza.
At least 185 Palestinians have been killed, and the first Israeli, a civilian, died on Tuesday from shrapnel released by a rocket at the Israeli border with Gaza. The most recent update from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory stated that at least 77 percent of those killed in Gaza were civilians, that tens of thousands have fled their homes following warnings of Israeli bombardment, and that a third of the population in Gaza now risks losing access to water due to the deterioration of services since Operation Protective Edge began last week.
Now joining us to give an update on the situation is our Middle East correspondent Lia Tarachansky.
Thanks for joining us, Lia.
So, Lia, can you give us an update on what has happened since the ceasefire failed?
LIA TARACHANSKY, TRNN CORRESPONDENT: So late last night there were rumors that a ceasefire was going to be proposed in the coming hours, brokered by the Egyptian government, the Israeli government, and the self-appointed envoy for the Middle East, Tony Blair, who has even less credibility here than even Hamas. And it was supposed to take into effect either at six or at nine a.m.–there were conflicting reports. And last-minute, the conditions of the ceasefire, which [incompr.] just that, the end of fire, were given to the Hamas leadership. Immediately, the Islamic Jihad, Hamas’s biggest political opposition in the Gaza Strip, rejected it. Half of Hamas voted in support, the other half against, and they were pressured into rejecting the ceasefire as well.
Since then and leading up to the ceasefire deadline, we’ve seen an intensification of Israeli aerial and naval bombardment of the Gaza Strip and an intensification of rockets flying out of the Gaza Strip towards all areas of Israel. There’s also been a rocket fired at southern Israel from Egypt; yesterday also, by accident, from Syria–it looks like a byproduct of the civil war there. And two days ago there were two rockets fired from Lebanon.
WORONCZUK: So I mentioned earlier that the Israeli Security Cabinet had approved the ceasefire but that Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett had voted against it. Do you think that the Israeli state was serious about this ceasefire proposal?
TARACHANSKY: Well, it’s got nothing to lose with it just ending the fire. It’s already bombed the Gaza Strip for eight days, causing serious infrastructural damage to the government there. What its stated goals were, they achieved them.
At the same time, Hamas proposed a ceasefire on the second day of the war and was ignored. It was followed by Israeli government repeated announcements that they are not interested in a ceasefire. Following eight days of war, finally, when they reached more than 190 deaths and severe infrastructural damage in the Gaza Strip, they had nothing to lose with a ceasefire. On the other hand, if Hamas was to agree to this ceasefire, the only thing that would have been achieved is that they’ve now demonstrated to the Israeli government and to the Israeli people that they have the military capacity to cause serious damage and, of course, threaten civilians all over the country, which is not enough.
The conditions, as you said in the introduction, that Hamas is willing to sign on to are fairly straightforward: the release of the prisoners that were rearrested in the last month, prisoners that the Israeli government agreed to release but then rearrested during Operation Bring Back Our Boys; and the end of the siege on the Gaza Strip.
Now, all of us who have been covering this conflict not long enough know that if there was a ceasefire, the next day the world would stop paying attention to the Gaza Strip, meaning that the siege that has been waging since 2005 would simply continue as is–nothing would change for the civilians in the Gaza Strip, something that most civilians in the Gaza Strip are not willing to accept.
WORONCZUK: And how much support is there within the state or the population for Lieberman’s calls to reoccupy the Gaza Strip?
TARACHANSKY: Well, we saw that only minutes after the rumors about a ceasefire were released, there were already petitions all over the country calling to reject it. Just today, the deputy defense minister spoke against the prime minister’s decision, and summarily he was fired. This was a very right-wing deputy of defense. This is someone who is by no means, you know, a peacenik. And he was simply fired for expressing his opinion in an interview. So we’ve seen here that the Netanyahu government is very well aware of how it will be perceived abroad if Israel was to reject the ceasefire.
Already criticism is mounting all over Europe and the United States. We’ve seen protests in major cities all over the world. If Israel was to reject the ceasefire, it would look as if Israel wants to continue killing Palestinians. But when Hamas rejects the ceasefire, despite the fact that it was given only minutes to look over the draft and it was a draft that was put forward by a government that is currently closing the Rafah crossing, where civilian and refugees are trying to get out of the Gaza Strip to safety–they’re being blockaded not by Israel but by the Egyptian government that wrote this ceasefire proposal. Of course they couldn’t possibly accept it.
WORONCZUK: Do you think that a ceasefire, terms of a ceasefire would be enough to prevent a re-escalation of conflict between the Gaza Strip and Israel, as we’ve seen numerous conflicts break out in the past six years?
TARACHANSKY: Well, most of the conflicts that have broken out in the last six years–in November 2008 and in November 2012, and now here in July 2014–they’ve all been about basically the same point. If there is a political agreement that is reached between any kind of Palestinian leadership, regardless of how much credibility it has on the street in Palestine, and the Israeli government, it would be very difficult for any militant or jihadist wing to continue fighting. And it would also be very difficult for the extreme right elements in the Israeli government to continue bombarding the Gaza Strip as they’ve done in the past. And so all of this hinges on the lifting of the siege on the Gaza Strip and a peaceful agreement. We’ve seen before this escalation five years of the quietest time in the country’s history, and the Israeli prime minister refused to take advantage of this quiet and reach a political agreement with the Palestinians. And so we’ve seen here over and over again that the Israeli government is not interested in ending these cycles of escalations.
WORONCZUK: And so what looks like the next steps that Israeli officials will make in regards to the battling with Hamas?
TARACHANSKY: So we’ve seen now that Hamas, by rejecting the ceasefire proposed by the Egyptian government, has dragged the Israeli government into a continuation of the current military status quo, which is more aerial bombardments from the Israeli Air Force and naval force and more rockets out of Gaza. But this can’t continue forever. The military ability of Hamas is just not comparable to the Israeli army, and eventually they will run out of rockets. At the same time, the Iron Dome is not as equipped as the Israeli government has been telling its people, and eventually will not have the capacity to shoot those rockets down, at which point the Israeli prime minister would have to decide whether or not to launch a ground invasion, something which is seen here in Israel as political suicide, because as soon as soldiers start dying, as soon as the casualties [incompr.] there is now pressure on the prime minister.
At this point, as you’ve seen in my report, life in Israel more or less continues as usual. We have several sirens a day. In the south of the country there are sirens about once an hour. There’s rockets that explode all the time. But life continues. People still go to bars. They are still going and watching the mondials and so on. The war hasn’t reached us the way that it has Gaza from the first moment. As soon as soldiers start dying in a ground invasion, the prime minister is going to see opposition not only from the more right-wing elements in his government, but also from the street, which might signal the end of his reign.
WORONCZUK: Okay. Lia Tarachansky, reporting to us from Israel.
Thank you for joining us.
TARACHANSKY: Thank you so much for having me.
WORONCZUK: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
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