US-Israel split emerging in cease-fire talks?

As of now, the two sides in the Gaza war are observing the 12-hour humanitarian cease fire arranged to get aid to civilians in the combat zones, and Israel at least is leaning toward adding another four hours to it.  Little other progress has been made in ending the fight, however. The Associated Press report from Gaza notes the tensions, but at least thus far neither side has attacked the other during the lull:

As noted, Kerry failed to negotiate a truce, and the Times of Israel reports why. A dangerous split has emerged between Israel and the US in cease-fire talks, which is what led the security cabinet in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government to reject outright the Kerry truce proposal yesterday:

Israel and its key ally the United States were in open disagreement Friday night, after the Israeli cabinet unanimously rejected a ceasefire offer drawn up by Secretary of State John Kerry to halt 18 days of Israeli-Hamas conflict.

Kerry, speaking in Cairo, vowed to keep working on a ceasefire, and said Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “committed” to working to narrow the gaps that were preventing a seven-day humanitarian ceasefire intended to lead to a longer-term deal. He also said Netanyahu had accepted an idea, proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, of a 12-hour humanitarian time out. Israeli sources said the idea was under consideration.

Kerry had claimed that the new cease-fire proposal was built on the framework of an earlier proposal from Egypt, which Israel had accepted. The Israeli government said that wasn’t true, and the differences made it impossible to accept:

But Israeli government sources told Army Radio the ceasefire terms proposed by Kerry were “completely unreasonable.” An unnamed senior Israeli government official flatly disputed Kerry’s assertion that his offer was “built on the Egyptian initiative” – which Israel accepted last week and Hamas rejected. In fact, the official was quoted saying, the Kerry offer is not built on the Egyptian proposal and tilts heavily toward Hamas.

Army Radio sources also suggested that a recent $11 billion arms deal with Qatar — friendly to both the US and Hamas — might be turning America’s head in this crisis. That’s a rather pointed allegation, and one that doesn’t sound like two close allies working closely together. It sounds more like one longtime ally getting very concerned that the other is about to throw them under the bus.

One issue that Israel cannot ignore any longer is the tunnels. After the exposure of a Mumbai-style plot in the works for Rosh Hashana, Israel cannot stop its efforts to destroy the tunnels and end that threat against its communities near Gaza. The Kerry proposal apparently would have forced Israel into ending its anti-tunnel operations, which the US had to understand would be a no-go under the circumstances. Even Egypt understood that much in its status quo proposals, which Hamas refused.

The Jerusalem Post had more yesterday on tunnels and the threat they represent to Israel:

Hamas has built “defensive layers around the tunnels. They have attack positions in mosques, in the homes of operatives, and tunnels that allow terrorists to approach our forces,” he said. “That requires very accurate and sometimes aggressive counter-measures by us. I know that all of the IDF’s units are accomplishing this mission, even though there are casualties. We understand that if we do not deal with these threats, they will come to our home front. If you talk to members of our unit, it is clear to all of us that we don’t take care of this, if we don’t destroy these threats and thwart them, they will reach us in a much more aggressive way, and they will harm Israeli civilians and soldiers.”

Additionally, the source said, it is “impossible” to demolish the threats via long-range firepower. Only a ground offensive that reaches the tunnel shafts can get the job done, he said. “This shows that despite intelligence, there is no alternative to getting there and destroying targets from up close,” the source said.

Hamas has adapted well to Israel’s air power by going underground, but “it does not know how to deal with ground units that are storming its assets. We have the upper hand, and this is showing results,” he added.

The Post also explains why this is a strange time to be giving concessions to Hamas, although as Joel Pollak noted last night, they buried the lede:

The source added that in recent days, a recognizable wave of demoralization has washed over Hamas’s combat battalions. “They simply escape, leaving behind weapons and suicide bomb vests that were laid out for battle. This morning we stormed a position, and they just weren’t there. I don’t see a determined enemy. We have encountered stronger pockets of fighting in the past. But now, I would not give them a high grade for fighting spirit.”

The only way to resolve the situation in Gaza is to destroy Hamas’ credibility with Gazans and force them into collapse. Hamas started this war, and they’ve refused all other cease-fire proposals until now because they keep expecting the world to intervene and restrain Israel while they still fire rockets from behind the skirts of civilians. Perhaps this time, the world should leave Hamas to deal with the consequences of the wars they start, and let Israel finish the job in dismantling their terror infrastructure for good.