Retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Elihu Ben-Onn says Israelis welcome a long-term cease-fire with Hamas even though the major objectives were not achieved and that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is paying the political price for failing to achieve a quick, clear-cut victory.
In addition, Ben-Onn said the United States is seen as a diminished player in Middle Eastern affairs. The Obama administration repeatedly spoke up for Israel’s right to defend itself but also regularly expressed outrage over the civilian deaths in Gaza.
“We really appreciate the Americans for their support for the state of Israel, but it is clear that President Obama is not as strong as other presidents were before,” he said. “So there’s a feeling that’s in the Middle East now that the United States is not such a strong figure as it used to be in the past. I hope the United States will be able to rebuke this image.”
Listen to the WND/Radio America interview with retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Elihu Ben-Onn:
On Tuesday, Israel and the Palestinians agreed to a long-term cease-fire brokered by Egypt. Israel’s stated goal heading into the 50-day conflict was to deny Hamas the ability to threaten Israeli citizens with rockets. As the ink dries on the cease-fire, Hamas still has rockets capable of hitting Israel.
Ben-Onn said the Israeli people are relieved to see a possible end to the fighting at least for a time. However, he said there is also a clear understanding of the results of the operation.
“It is clear that after 50 days, we haven’t reached the goal we planned,” he said.
That performance is unacceptable to the Israeli people and Prime Minister Netanyahu is already paying a political price for it. In the early days of the conflict, Netanyahu’s approval rating stood at 82 percent. Fifty days later, a new survey from Channel 2 in Israel shows the him with just 38 percent approving of him and 50 percent actively disapproving.
Ben-Onn is not surprised.
“Fifty days, that’s the reason, that’s the answer. The Israelis have a history and legacy that when you have an enemy like Hamas, we can stop the hostility and fire within a couple of days,” said Ben-Onn, referring to very quick military victories in the 1967 Six Day War and the 1973 Yom Kippur War.
“They believe the government and the prime minister can deliver the goods in one week or two weeks, but after 40 days or 50 days and Hamas can still target Israeli cities and villages, not only near the border but far away near Tel Aviv. It is clear that the popularity of the prime minister will go down because the people are used to having a very clear and clean victory. In this case, that’s not the situation,” he said.
Instead of forcibly disarming Hamas, Ben-Onn said there are now a series of questions left unanswered about the future of Gaza and what lies ahead for Israel and Hamas. When it comes to Gaza, he said there are several possibilities moving forward.
“What will be the future with these people? Can Israel leave after one week or two weeks or six months? Will Egypt go back and take responsibility in the Gaza Strip as it used to be until 1967? This question, I must tell you, is still unsolved,” said Ben-Onn, noting Hamas has big decisions to make as well.
“Does the Hamas regime understand that after such a war they will never try again to attack Israel, and that now, after a big and hard lesson that the Israel Defense Forces taught them, with so many casualties and so much damage, they will not dare to shoot again? Or will they try to do it once more?” asked Ben-Onn.
The general admits the region could return to the cycle of rocket launches that triggered Operation Protective Edge, but he said there is a possibility of some peace and quiet on the border for awhile, and he points to the aftermath of Israel’s 2006 war against Hezbollah in Lebanon as proof.
“We have more than eight years of cease-fire and a balance of deterrence between us and Hezbollah on the Lebanon border,” he said. “They don’t dare to shoot. I believe that’s what will happen now with Hamas. When they understand they are short of ammunition, short on supplies, short on cash money and the people are not happy with this regime, they will not start firing again.”