Israel’s Strategic Successes in the War with Hamas
Last week, while I was visiting communities struck by Gaza missiles throughout southern Israel, it was easy to discern the all-pervasive anger that Israeli citizens – from all walks of life – felt towards the Israeli Army for halting the attack on Hamas.
Civilians living under continual terror of aerial attacks find it hard to gain perspective on the achievements of a one-week battle with the Hamas regime in Gaza. Indeed, this was a battle. The war with Hamas is far from over.
Here are twenty conclusions from “Operation Pillar of Defense”:
1. The Israeli Air Force’s pinpointed “surgical attacks,” killed off Hamas leaders and deprived the Hamas regime of badly needed tactical and ideological leadership during the confrontation with the IDF- and Israel did so with a minimum cost to civilian casualties on either side. Meanwhile, massive IDF attacks on the Hamas regime’s munitions tunnels signaled that the tunnel supply game is over.
2. When the IDF held back on a land incursion into Gaza, the other side was deprived of “shahidim” – martyrs. Pupils in UN-supported schools in Gaza had been prepared by Hamas media professionals to make YouTube movies of themselves, which would be screened if they would become “shahidim” while attacking IDF troops during any IDF incursion into Gaza. Without available dead children in the form of Shahidim martyrs, it was hard for Israel’s adversaries to make the case of “Israeli war crimes.”
3. The IDF strike on Hamas TV antennas and the IDF bombing of the Hamas media center signaled that communications could now be a target of the IDF. The next step might be a cut off of all Gaza radio and TV frequencies, since these frequencies happen to be owned by Israel. These frequencies were leased by Israel to the newly-autonomous Palestinian Arab areas in Judea, Samaria and Gaza after the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, to communicate a message of peace.
4. A new unity of purpose swept Israel. Missile attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem have galvanized opposition in the center of the country to any possibility of a Palestinian Arab state in Judea and Samaria, which would place Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and, indeed, Israel’s only international airport, within ‘Sderot missile distance’ of any quasi independent Palestinian Authority entity. The Hamas regime in Gaza proved that it could indeed hit the center of the country – Tel Aviv and Rishon Letzion and Jerusalem. No longer would the people of Israel define the Hamas missile threat as limited or confined to Sderot and the Western Negev.
5. Daily praise heaped upon Hamas during its battle with the IDF by the official media outlets of the Palestinian Authority unveiled the informal alliance forged by the Fatah regime in Ramallah with the Hamas regime in Gaza. Since the EU, the U.S., Canada, Australia, Russia and even the UN define Hamas as a terrorist entity, the PA embrace of Hamas will place all future assistance to the PA in jeopardy. So much for the undeserved “moderate” image of the PA.
6. Vocal support from Israeli Arab citizens for the Gaza regime as it launched missiles on the center of Israel will also not be forgotten.
7. Israel’s surgical attacks took the wind out of the sails of anti Israel protest movements which had planned demonstrations to protest alleged Israeli “war crimes”.
8. The Israeli military campaign, unlike any other campaign since 1967, witnessed international support for the Israeli military initiative, since the IDF focused on targeted killings of Arab military leaders. On the diplomatic front, U.S. President Obama and virtually every European leader expressed support for Israel.
9. The battle did not conclude with a cease-fire, but, rather, with a “tahadia” – a respite before the resumption of hostilities – which holds no obligations for the Arabs, yet also holds no obligations for Israel. Israel can therefore demonstrate total freedom to respond when it feels like, with the precedent of explicit international support.
10. After the PLO had worked for a generation to redefine the situation as an “Israel-Palestinian conflict”, Israel faced an Iranian supported entity, which expanded the scope of the Gaza fighting into the international Islamic arena.
11. A key element in this battle involved a test of Tehran’s deterrent system – the threat of missiles launched from Gaza (and Lebanon). Iranians could now gauge the effect on Israel of, and the ability of Israel to respond to, intensive bombardment from Gaza in retaliation for any Israeli, U.S. or multinational attack on Iran. The Iron Dome anti-missile system was proven to be effective, which can’t be pleasing to Iran.
12. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, rather than visiting Gaza to demonstrate Egyptian solidarity with his fellow Muslim Brotherhood members (Hamas being the Palestinian branch of the MB), instead dispatched his prime minister Hesham Kandil, a minor figure, while Morsi frantically engaged in brokering an arrangement to stop the fighting. Morsi was shown to be far more concerned about keeping U.S. financial aid flowing to Egypt than he is about anything else – Gaza, Israel, or Iran.
13. The IDF executed a successful reserve call-up that was simultaneously huge in absolute terms (75,000 troops, compared to about 10,000 reservists mobilized before Operation Cast Lead in 12/08) yet relatively small (the total IDF head count being about 621,500), indicating that, though much of its population was under the psychological stress of bombardment, Israel was capable of fielding almost 8 times as much reserve manpower to threaten Gaza with invasion as was assembled on the Gaza border in 2008 (not counting any elements of the 177,000-strong regular army, which trains constantly and is thus better prepared for combat than the reserves) yet still managed to have five times as many yet-to-be-mobilized reserves as the 75,000 that have been called up.
14. The IDF killing of Hamas military chief, Ahmed Jabaari who masterminded Gilad Shalit’s abduction, Yahiya al-Abya, the head of Qassam’s rocket forces and Khamer Hamri, who commanded PIJ’s missile operation, were each significant accomplishments.
15. Israeli casualties, though remarkably few, were heart-rending: the horrific murder-by-missile of Mira Sharf, the 26-year-old pregnant wife of the rabbi of the Chabad House in New Delhi. She was visiting Israel to attend a commemoration of the 2008 butchering of the couple who ran the Chabad House in Mumbai. Her husband and one of her children, only 4 years old were seriously wounded in the attack that killed her.
16. In conclusion, the strategic position of Israel in the region has been bolstered by the relative impotence of the Hamas rocket barrage, the IDF’s surgical response, the prevention of most “media casualties,” and the enduring unity of Israel under fire.
17. It still remains for Israel to cope with the fact that 65% of the population of Gaza continueto wallow in Hamas-run UNRWA facilities under the promise of the “right of return” to “their” homes and villages which they left after the 1948 war.
18.While Gaza may has developed into a relatively prosperous entity, the one million descendants of the refugees from 1948 who live in UNRWA camps are indoctrinated to engage in an “armed struggle” to renew hostilities at any moment.
19. The Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which operates out of the Prime Minister’s Office, is now drawing up a comprehensive document on UNRWA, which includes recommendations regarding the financing of UNRWA and the UNRWA administered education system. The document will pay special attention to “the cultivation of the Palestinian ethos of struggle and resistance” in the UNRWA schools.
20. Hamas was elected to control the administrative union and the teachers union of UNRWA in Gaza. That means that humanitarian aid and education to UNRWA in Gaza falls under direct control of a terror organization. With the UNRWA demands for cash transfers, international accountability for cash in the hands of Hamas has become a critical issue. It will now behoove donor nations to UNRWA in Gaza to ensure that humanitarian aid is not bartered by the Hamas leadership for munitions or for incitement in the UNRWA schools.