Israel appears to be rejecting the latest efforts by Hamas and Egypt to impose a cease-fire after several days of intense fighting.
Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton told WND’s Greg Corombos Israel has no appealing options right now but may be choosing the least objectionable course for the moment. He said a cease-fire now solves almost nothing.
“If Israel actually does stop its response before it eliminates those missiles and arrives at some kind of mechanism to keep replacements from coming into the Gaza Strip, we’re either going to see this past week repeated or Israel will face a real threat from Iran (through Hamas) being able to hit Israel from its own backyard,” said Bolton.
But while Bolton fears a cessation of hostilities now would not accomplish much in dismantling the threat posed by Hamas, proceeding with a ground campaign carries obvious risks of its own.
“Although Israel’s air force was successful in destroying a fair number of the rocket-launching sites and maybe some of the storage facilities and the like, they’re clearly concerned that they were unable to find all of the sources of rockets both short range and long range,” Bolton said. “That’s why they’re contemplating going in on the ground. That is something that will cost them politically. It could be substantial casualties for the Israeli ground forces. They’ll get publicity about innocent Palestinians being killed, and they still might not be able to get all the rockets. On the other hand, if they leave Hamas in possession of the longer range missiles that can hit Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Iran and Hamas have really moved to a new strategic plateau that leaves Israel more vulnerable the next time around.”
A new wrinkle in this latest conflict is the role of Egypt. Bolton said former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak hated Hamas just about as much as Israel does, but new President Mohammed Morsi is far more sympathetic. But while Morsi may feel solidarity with Hamas, Bolton said other realities greatly limit Egypt’s options.
“No. 1, I think the Egyptian military still thinks pretty much the same way Mubarak did, so they’ve got disagreement within the government of Egypt over that,” he said. ”And Egypt is in very desperate straits financially. They’ve just signed a new deal with the International Monetary Fund. They desperately need more debt relief. If the U.S. and Europeans were to cut them off from the financial aid spigot, they’d be in real trouble.”
Bolton said the long-term prognosis of a Muslim Brotherhood-brokered cease-fire is a terrible prospect for Israel. He added that a more radical and financially stable Egypt could provide major headaches for the Israelis in the years ahead, so it makes even less sense for Israel to postpone military action now that will be inevitable down the road.
The former ambassador also offered some frank analysis of the Obama administration’s policy on the conflict. Bolton said there is a significant difference between the public statements and the private arm twisting.
“President Obama has given rhetorical support for Israel, said that Israel obviously has a right to self-defense,” Bolton said. ”Behind the scenes, my understanding is the president’s putting unbelievable pressure on Israel not to go in on the ground. If he succeeds, and that may be the message that Hillary Clinton is carrying, a cease-fire here doesn’t resolve anything. It merely postpones another clash.”
Bolton isn’t sure what the Israeli government will decide. He believes Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu knows a cease-fire only delays the obvious. He also said a ground campaign would be very thorough.
“If they decide to go in on the ground, I think it will be a very sustained operation,” said Bolton. ”I think as you and I are talking, this is very much in the balance in the security cabinet of Prime Minister Netanyahu.”