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Monday, August 11, 2014

How Hamas beat Israel in Gaza

Ronen Bregman writes that Operation Protective Edge was a failure.
But 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.
Hamas 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.
Hamas 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.
Israeli 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.
Israel’s 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.
However, 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.
Israel’s 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.
Israel 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 attention.
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 not adopted.
Finally, 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.
For 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 deterrence.
And 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.
And 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 Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Read the whole thing.

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At 2:12 AM, Blogger Gershon said...

What's your take on this?


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