If our suspicions about today’s events are accurate, Hamas took advantage of the latest ceasefire in order to kidnap an IDF soldier.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) August 1, 2014
Hamas claims captured IDF soldier b4 ceasefire, Kerry says “abduction” was “outrageous violation of ceasefire & of assurances given to UN/US
— Matthew Levitt (@Levitt_Matt) August 1, 2014
Since when can a soldier captured by the enemy while fighting in a war be considered “kidnapped?”
— Reza Aslan (@rezaaslan) August 1, 2014
What was supposed to be a 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza was broken almost as soon as it started. Haaretz has live updates on the status of 2nd Lt. Hadar Goldin. Goldblog fears the conflict is about to get worse:
It is too early to say anything definitive about the Hamas decision to apparently break the ceasefire and attack an Israeli position, except that if it is true, as reports indicate, that Hamas militants came through a tunnel and carried underground and back into Gaza a live Israeli captive, then this moment could represent not another terrible, dispiriting incident in a terrible, dispiriting mini-war, but a fairly decisive turning point in which all swords are unsheathed.
This is assuming—as seems probable, but not 100 percent certain—that this raid is even what the Hamas leadership wanted (for what it’s worth, its leaders, at the moment, seem to be owning this raid, suggesting that they are indeed doubling down in their war on Israel). If the events of earlier today happened as initial reports depict, then Israel will consider this incident an engraved invitation from Hamas to launch something close to a full-scale invasion of Gaza.
Keating also sees the soldier’s capture as a potential game changer:
A few days ago, it seemed possible that Israel might be on the verge of simply declaring its military goals accomplished and pulling out. But rescuing a prisoner likely being held somewhere underground in Gaza is going to take a lot longer than simply destroying tunnels. The violence seems likely to continue for some time now, and a long-term reoccupation of Gaza—a scenario called for by some senior Israeli officials—now seems a lot more likely than it did a few days ago.
This iteration of the long-running Israel-Hamas conflict seemed as if it was likely to end with cease-fires and a return to the grim status quo after a few weeks, like previous iterations in 2008 and 2012 had. But it’s starting to look like we’re witnessing something much worse.
Furthermore, holding a prisoner gives Hamas newfound leverage:
[F]or militant groups like Hamas, one captured Israeli soldier is vital currency. Israel rebukes Hamas for not accepting the offer of ceasefires brokered by outside parties, but the ceasefires on offer did nothing to satisfy Hamas’s longstanding demands regarding the release of Palestinian prisoners (including some who were re-arrested after being freed in the exchange for Shalit), the loosening of border controls in heavily blockaded Gaza and the payment of salaries to some 40,000 public employees in Gaza. … Hamas was not in a particularly strong position to win any of its demands — that is, until it claimed to have captured another Israeli soldier.
But Saletan senses that Israeli mission creep was already underway:
First the IDF was just going to hit Gaza from the air. Then it went in on the ground, but Israel assured everyone that the target was just the tunnels. Then Hamas killed a bunch of Israeli soldiers in a surprise attack, and Israel retaliated with widespread shelling. This week, the Israeli air force has been hitting 100 to 200 targets a day. How does that fit a campaign against tunnels? The strikes are on suspected weapon storage sites and “homes of terrorists.” Israel keeps moving the goal post, redefining the conditions that would meet its vague objective of “sustainable quiet.” That’s the beginning of mission creep. Where does it end?
Of course, Netanyahu can do more or less whatever he wants, considering that support for the war among Israeli Jews is practically unanimous:
The Israel Democracy Institute, a non-partisan Israeli think tank and polling outfit, conducts a monthly poll of Israelis on peace and security issues. Unsurprisingly, July’s poll focused on the war in Gaza. It asked Jewish Israelis (Israeli Arabs were not polled), during both the air and ground phases of the campaign, whether they thought the Israeli operation was justified. It also asked whether they thought the Israeli Defense Forcers were using too much, too little, or the right amount of force.
The results are staggering. An average of 95 percent of Israeli respondents say they think the operation is “completely” or “moderately” justified. About 80 percent say it is “completely” justified. For some perspective, about 72 percent of Americans supported the 2003 Iraq invasion when it was launched. Israeli discontent “spiked” — to about 7 percent — just before and at the launch of the ground invasion, on July 16–17. After the ground invasion was underway, on July 23rd, Israelis supported the war by a 97 to 2 margin.
That’s almost as unanimous as the US Congress.
(Update: This tweet that was originally embedded above indicated that the Israeli soldier is the grandson of the defense minister’s uncle, something reported by Channel 4 and passed along by Newsweek. But the Channel 4 piece now has no mention of the alleged familial tie, so we removed the tweet.)