The Ceasefire Understandings
1. At 2100 hours on November 21 understandings went into effect regarding a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas (and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip). The understandings were brokered by Egypt with American intervention. After 2100 hours ten rocket hits were identified in Israeli territory, but since 2300 hours there has been quiet.
2. The understandings were announced by Mohamed Kamel Amro, the Egyptian foreign minister, at a press conference held jointly with American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. According to the secretary’s statement and the text of the understandings posted on Mohamed Morsi’s Facebook page, the two sides agreed to stop all offensive activities and within 24 hours deliberations would begin about broader issues.
3. Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) announced that they agreed to the ceasefire and praised what they considered their achievements in the fighting. “Victory parades” were held in the Gaza Strip, attended by thousands of participants, and Hamas announced a national holiday to celebrate the alleged “victory.”
The text of the announcement (Mohamed Morsi’s Facebook page, November 21, 2012).
Israel’s Response to the Agreement
4. On the night of November 21 Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu announced that Operation Pillar of Defense had ended. He reviewed the events leading to the operations and listed Israel’s achievements: strikes on the terrorist organizations’ high-ranking commanders, the destruction of thousands of rockets aimed at Israel’s south and most of the rockets aimed at its center, the destruction of Hamas’ command facilities, and the firm support of the United States and leading authorities in the international community (According to Israeli prime minister’s website). Israeli Minister of Defense Ehud Barak told a press conference that the objectives of the operation had been fully achieved and that Hamas and the PIJ had been dealt painful blows.
5. The prime minister added that he had spoken on the phone to President Obama, agreeing with him that the ceasefire should be given a chance to allow Israel’s civilians to return to routine.
He added that he and the president had agreed to work together to fight the smuggling of weapons to the terrorist organizations, most of which came from Iran.
The United States Response to the Agreement
6. President Obama issued a statement expressing his appreciation for the efforts made by the Israeli prime minister and the Egyptian government to achieve a sustainable ceasefire. The President said that the United States would use the opportunity offered by a ceasefire to intensify efforts to help Israel address its security needs, especially the issue of the smuggling of weapons and explosives into Gaza.
He also said that he was committed to seeking additional funding for the Iron Dome and other US-Israel missile defense programs.
The President also spoke to Mohamed Morsi, thanking him for his efforts to achieve a sustainable ceasefire. Both agreed on the importance of working toward a more durable solution to the situation in Gaza.
The Terrorist Organizations Reaction to the Agreement
7. After Egypt announced that a ceasefire had been reached, Khaled Mashal, head of Hamas’ political bureau, held a joint press conference in Cairo with Ramadan Shallah, head of the PIJ (both presented as representing the terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip). The main points were the following (Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV, November 21, 2012):
1) Honoring the agreement: “If Israel honors the agreement, we will honor it as well, and if Israel returns to the Gaza Strip, we will go into action again.”
2) Reinforcing the “victory narrative:” The enemy (Israel) was defeated and in the end surrendered to the conditions of the “resistance” [i.e., terrorist organizations].
3) Praise for Egypt: Egypt acted responsibly and professionally to achieve a ceasefire but “did not forget or betray its affiliation to the Arab nation.”
4) Praise for Iran (apparently the result of Iranian criticism): Iran provided Hamas funding and some of its weapons. The rest were manufactured in the Gaza Strip. The disagreement between Hamas and Iran over Syria did not prevent [the Iranians] from collaborating [with Hamas] when it came to resistance to Israel.
5) Appeal to Mahmoud Abbas: The lesson learned from the current fighting was that “resistance” [i.e., terrorism and violence] was the correct path. Khaled Mashal appealed to Mahmoud Abbas for a reconciliation between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA).
The Palestinian Islamic Jihad Narrative
8. Ramadan Shallah, PIJ secretary general, said at the press conference that the results of the fighting showed that Israel (“that entity”) had completely failed [to achieve what it wanted]. He gloated over the rocket fire on Tel Aviv (“the fictitious capital called Tel Aviv”) and thanked the Egyptian president and Egyptian General Intelligence for their efforts to broker the agreement.
9. Asked whether the ceasefire would survive, he said that they “assured Egypt that we were committed to the understandings reached. We are certain that our fighters will uphold the agreement but we say this to the enemy: ‘We are committed as the enemy is committed, and we will not hesitate to defend ourselves against any evil. Today the resistance [i.e., terrorist organizations] speaks from a position of strength.’“
The Battle for Hearts and Minds
10. The main themes discussed by the Hamas and PIJ spokesmen were the following:
- Hamas and the PIJ accept the agreement as a package deal.
- Hamas and the other terrorist organizations were victorious in the fight against Israel.
- The de-facto Hamas administration in the Gaza Strip, headed by Ismail Haniya, functioned “excellently” and met its obligation to protect civilian security.
- Hamas and the PIJ praise Egypt for its role in brokering the understandings.
- Praise for the “courageous attack” [i.e., placing a bomb under a seat in a bus full of unsuspecting civilians and fleeing the scene] in Tel Aviv, which was a consequence of the “Israeli aggression” in the Gaza Strip.
11. Once the understandings had been reached “victory celebrations” began in the Gaza Strip, part of constructing narrative of “victory” fabricated by Hamas and the other terrorist organizations. Parades were held throughout the Gaza Strip to celebrate whose theme was “Gaza erupts with joy over the victory of the resistance” (Filastin al-‘Aan, November 22, 2012). Throughout Judea and Samaria as well Palestinians celebrated the end of Operation Pillar of Defense. The de-facto Hamas administration declared Thursday, November 22, a national holiday.
Implementing the Ceasefire
12. At 2100 hours the ceasefire went into effect, and the IDF stopped all its activities in the Gaza Strip. Sporadic rocket fire from the Gaza Strip into Israeli territory continued for approximately two hours, and ceased at 2300 hours. According to the IDF Spokesman, the IDF received the ceasefire as an order from the highest political level and began gradually dispersing the assembled reserve forces. According to the Spokesman, after eight days the IDF had achieved the objectives of Operation Pillar of Defense, inflicting a severe blow on Hamas and the other terrorist organizations operating in the Gaza Strip (IDF Spokesman, November 21, 2012).
The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center (ITIC) opened in 2002. It is part of the Israel Intelligence Heritage & Commemoration Center (IICC), a national site dedicated to the memory of fallen of the Israeli intelligence community. The ITIC is located near Gelilot, north of Tel Aviv, and is directed by (Col. Ret.) Dr. Reuven Erlich. The objective of the ITIC is to collect, study and disseminate information about terrorism.