Israel will decide within the next 24 to 48 hours whether to accept a cease-fire deal brokered by pro-Palestinian governments in Egypt and Turkey or launch a ground incursion into Gaza, former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Harel said on a conference call today.
“Basically we are moving with the Palestinians straight into a [juncture],” said Harel, who served as deputy chief of staff from 2007 to 2009, and also led Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005. “There are two basic alternatives. One is an agreement, which is cooked in Cairo, apparently. And the other one is escalating the situation and move forward into the Gaza strip with a land effort, which is going to be bad for both sides.”
Harel said that there are two conditions Israel believes must be met before a deal is reached. First, there must be guarantees that the cease-fire will be long-term. Second, there must be an end to weapons smuggling into Gaza. Harel didn’t specifically mention the one-kilometer buffer zone on the Gaza border, which the Times of Israel reported was also an Israeli condition.
“If both conditions [are] answered…then the Israelis, as far as I understand, will sign the agreement,” said Harel. “So basically we are about 24 to 48 hours from this [juncture], and we will have to see which direction each side will take.”
Harel also said that Hamas’s infrastructure has been severely degraded by air attacks. The IDF has hit nearly every launching pad that it was aware of — numbering from several hundred to one thousand — as well as Hamas government infrastructure, he said.
Though Israel has successfully targeted Hamas leadership since the operation began, many remain underground. “They are not being attacked because of the places they are hiding,” said Harel. “We are not going to attack a hospital or mosque, and so forth.”
But if Israel is drawn into a ground war, the Obama administration might not necessarily receive warning notice beforehand, Harel added.
“It might, it might not. I really can’t call it,” he said. “Basically, it’s not something you hide from the Americans, and I guess if they ask, they’ll be answered.”