How Hamas beat Israel in Gaza
Ronen Bregman writes that Operation Protective Edge was a failure
counting bodies is not the most important criterion in deciding who
should be declared the victor. Much more important is comparing each
side’s goals before the fighting and what they have achieved. Seen in
this light, Hamas won.
started the war because it was in dire straits; its relations with Iran
and Egypt were severed. But soon enough Hamas was dictating the
duration of the conflict by repeatedly refusing cease-fires.
Furthermore, it preserved its capability of firing rockets and missiles
at most of Israel’s territory, despite the immense effort the Israeli
Air Force invested in knocking out launch sites.
also waged an urban campaign against Israeli ground forces, inflicting
at least five times as many casualties as in the last conflict and
successfully used tunnels to penetrate Israeli territory and sow fear
and demoralization. It made Israel pay a heavy price and the I.D.F.
eventually withdrew its ground troops from Gaza without a cease-fire.
leaders have now set the demilitarization of Gaza as one of their
goals. But it’s difficult to picture how this could be achieved. Hamas
would never agree to disarm unless faced with a protracted Israeli
occupation of the Gaza Strip, which is something the Mr. Netanyahu has
declared he won’t undertake.
So how did a terrorist guerrilla organization overcome the strongest army in the Middle East?
Hamas’s achievements on the battlefield are the fruit of a concerted effort to draw lessons from previous Israeli defeats.
leaders are determined to represent Defensive Edge as a victory, and it
is therefore unlikely that public inquiry panels will be set up as they
were after the Lebanon war in 2006 or that heads will roll.
the I.D.F. will have to reinvent the way it counters guerrilla warfare.
It will once again have to try to recruit agents in Gaza, now that it
has become clear that electronic spying is insufficient because Hamas
has become more careful.
foreign intelligence agency, the Mossad, will now have to pay more
attention to Hamas operatives in Qatar and Turkey and intercept Hamas’s
communications from weapons suppliers, like North Korea.
may also decide to focus on striking Hamas personnel outside Gaza,
without taking responsibility. When the Mossad assassinated a top Hamas
official in 2010 in Dubai, the large amount of negative publicity led to
a cessation of such acts, but they may now be judged more effective
than massive military action. Likewise, special operations will get more
Hamas surprised Israel, but Israel has carried out almost no
imaginative or daring targeted operations in this latest war. Ehud
Barak, the most prominent commando fighter in Israel’s history, proposed
some such schemes when he was defense minister in 2010, but they were
the defense ministry will be given unlimited funding to devise an
underground electronic “fence” based on oil and gas prospecting
technology, that will be laid all along the border between Israel and
Gaza to detect tunnels as they are built.
Israel, this round of fighting will probably end politically more or
less at the point where it began but with significant damage to Israel’s
the feeble efforts at negotiation efforts between Mahmoud Abbas’s
Palestinian Authority and Israel now seem completely irrelevant, as
military commanders on both sides go back to their drawing boards to
plan the inevitable next round.
as much as Israel is seeking to marginalize Hamas and empower the
weakened Mr. Abbas, Hamas is, for the first time in its history, on the
verge of being internationally recognized as an equal party in the
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Labels: Gaza, Hamas, Hamas rockets, IDF, Operation Protective Edge, terror tunnels