By Larry Gordon
What is it with this number 72 that has peace negotiators, or at least cease-fire negotiators, so obsessed? If Hamas could not maintain a cease-fire for two hours of a 72-hour cease-fire proposal, perhaps the negotiators would have had better luck with a 24- or 48-hour cease-fire. If you violate one of those after an hour or two, you have achieved a greater proportion of success than with one of those multiple failed 72-hour varieties.
Whether it was Ban Ki-moon at the UN, Secretary of State John Kerry, the Egyptians, or anyone else who tried to get involved, all they ever talked about was a 72-hour cease-fire. The conventional, diplomatic, and perhaps psychological wisdom out there is that if you can get someone to commit to doing something or, for that matter, refrain from doing something for a full three days, that habit can become integrated into their regular routine.
And that was and is the hope here. If quiet in Gaza can be achieved for three days, the belief is that there is then a good chance that it might even hold for a longer period. So everyone seems to be on the same page for now, on these three-day experimental cease-fires.
There is an innate feeling that has been expressed by some about why the IDF could not be more decisive in the handling of the Hamas terrorists. And oddly enough, military commanders have been anonymously quoted as saying that they could have done away with the Hamas threat in less than 10 days, but, believe it or not, it is not in Israel’s interest to do so.
As we have seen these last few weeks, diplomacy is a strange endeavor, in a category all by itself. In addition, when it comes to Israel, there is a strict double standard that the so-called international community applies to the Jewish state and to no one else. As Bret Stephens pointed out in the Wall Street Journal this week, the government of Pakistan has been cracking down on terrorism there, and since mid-June, 1,500 Pakistani civilians have been killed. Not a sound from the UN.
In Iraq, over 1,600 civilians were killed in the month of July and there was not a peep from the UN. In Syria, over 1,800 civilians have been killed in the last ten days alone and there is not even a whisper emanating from the UN. But when Israel may have bombed a UN school (still under investigation) from which rockets were being fired into population centers in Israel, the Secretary General said that the bombing is a “moral outrage” and a “criminal act.” Where is there any one entity or individual interested in standing up and protesting?
And the media is relentless, paying no heed to Israeli officials’ explanations about the unfortunate matter of so many civilian casualties in Gaza. The problem here is that Israel in its pronouncements and statements is truthful, while its opponents in Hamas are devious, and most of the media covering the war is, to an extent, dishonest.
Israel’s forthright and honest approach to these matters makes it vulnerable to questions aimed at portraying the victims as the perpetrators and aggressors. But now the news is slowly emerging from reporters who were on the ground covering the war in Gaza. Just in the last day or so, reporters from both France and India who have left Gaza have recorded stories about Hamas terrorists setting up rocket launchers in densely populated areas. The sole purpose was to cause civilian deaths when Israel seeks to destroy the missile launchers. In addition, the French report showed the launchers placed as close as within 100 feet of a building flying a UN flag.
The media deck is stacked against Israel, but let’s pause for a moment and take a look at all the good that may have been accomplished here. While prior to the Gaza War the two-state solution was mortally wounded, it now seems that over a good stretch of the future the idea can be declared dead, even though Mr. Kerry would, in his special disconnected way, like to see it revived this week.
Somehow a mechanism in Gaza needs to be created that does not allow the terrorists to rearm or to rebuild the tunnels. At the same time, the remaining rockets and missiles in their arsenal have to be removed and destroyed. It is clear that the UN cannot be trusted to undertake this task. Who will do it, how they will do it, and whether or not Hamas will cooperate is still anyone’s guess.
Once things settle down, and hopefully they will soon, rest assured that Prime Minister Netanyahu will have his feet held to the fire. There were tough choices to make. We all wanted Israel to achieve a quick and resounding victory. There is triumph here, but it’s not the kind you are accustomed to seeing in the movies. Israel does not have to be in Gaza. It is a hellhole with the people who live there getting what they worked for and most likely deserve. Israel needs no part of that. But that will not stop the opposition in the Knesset from dissecting Netanyahu’s decision-making process. And that is not because it was wrong, but rather because they want to topple his coalition and get into power themselves.
And no, the number 72 has nothing to do with the reward in paradise that suicide bombers are promised as their prize for obeying an evil leadership. There is logic to this 72-hour cease-fire idea that will be coming to an end and will hopefully be extended just as this issue goes to press. And that logic contains deliberation and thoughtfulness that has been missing from most of this process to this point.
As recorded in the Chumash, on the third day after being commanded to sacrifice his son Yitzchak, our forefather Avraham acted upon the directive. Why the third day? Why after 72 hours? It is explained that the objective was not to act hastily but rather to have clarity of mind when deliberating such a momentous task.
Also, at the exodus from Egypt, G‑d ordered Moshe to tell the Jews to take the lamb, which was a deity in Egypt, on the 10th of Nissan and to sacrifice it as the Korban Pesach on the 14th of the month. They had a full three days in between during which to concentrate and focus on the meaning of the act.
And just prior to the Jewish nation receiving the Torah from G‑d at Sinai, they were told to separate from their wives and camp around the mountain for three full days before arriving at a proper mental and spiritual state to hear the word of G‑d.
So as you can see, there is something to nudging the parties in the direction of 72 hours of quiet. There is some kind of dynamic at play that increases the chances of a longer stretch of quiet if Hamas can manage to contain themselves for three days. These three days of complete silence demonstrate one other important point—that the breakdown of each of the first six cease-fires, when the terrorists fired missiles at Israel’s cities, were all orchestrated and choreographed by Hamas.
At the end of the day, if they would not conduct themselves so irresponsibly, they would not be terrorists, and we would have to find another name for them. At this point there is no rush to do so. ϖ
Comments for Larry Gordon are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org.