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Monday, August 04, 2014

What's the end game?

Unfortunately, it seems that Prime Minister Netanyahu isn't quite sure what the end game in Gaza will be.

On Sunday, Israel announced a seven-hour humanitarian cease fire starting at 10:00 am on Monday. Hamas has already rejected it.
In a statement quoted by AFP, the group’s spokesman said that the terrorist group “does not trust” the ceasefire.
"The unilateral ceasefire announced by Israel is an attempt to divert the attention from Israeli massacres," the spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri.
"We do not trust this ceasefire, and call on our people to be very cautious," he said, according to AFP.
A senior IDF source says that the IDF could have taken Gaza in a week, but that wasn't the mission.
“Had we been ordered to defeat Hamas, we would have done it. We would have drafted four divisions, evacuated the Gazan population from battlegrounds, conquered the area and scanned it thoroughly.

It would take a week to take Gaza, and up to two years to destroy terrorist infrastructure,” the source said.

In such a scenario, “A guerrilla war would have started. This was not the mission given to the IDF, and rightfully so,” the source said. “The IDF divided up Gaza dozens of times, most recently in Operation Cast Lead [in 2009]. Every brigade can do it. The question is, what is the aim?” The goal of the offensive was not to topple Hamas, but to create a better security environment for Israel, the source continued.

Maybe the goal should have been to topple Hamas - that's what most Israelis seem to think the mission was supposed to be.
“The Israeli interest is for there to be one address in Gaza,” the source said. “We want one element to control Gaza. That’s why toppling Hamas has not been set as a goal. Who would be responsible for Gaza on the day after? Hence, Israel hit very strongly, but not enough to topple Hamas.”
You mean that we want Hamas to control Gaza? You mean that Netanyahu has bought in to Michael Flynn's argument (on behalf of Obama and Kerry) that whatever follows Hamas would be worse? Please say it isn't so. Did anyone ask Amos Yadlin?
Nevertheless, if Hamas insists on continuing the conflict, the IDF is prepared to hit it “deep in its territory,” the source said.

Ground forces can be sent into Gaza to destroy a large portion of Hamas’s command and control sites, as well as weapons storage and production facilities.

The source added that Israel has replenished its deterrence against Hamas, but that an arrangement allowing Hamas to end the conflict has not yet been drawn up.

Hamas dearly wishes to see such an arrangement, he added.
Really? Hamas sure isn't acting that way. They reject (see above) or violate every cease fire that is offered to them.

In the meantime, the IDF has destroyed a lot less tunnels than most Israelis think according to Prime Minsiter Netanyahu's former National Security Adviser, Yaakov Amidror.
Amidror clarified that there are three different kinds of tunnel networks in Gaza. The first two - smuggling tunnels from the Sinai Peninsula into Gaza, and the vast "labyrinth" of tunnels under Gaza's urban population centers, meticulously constructed in preparation for any IDF ground operation - were not the target of Operation Protective Edge, although those discovered in the course of fighting were usually destroyed by IDF forces.
Only the limited number of tunnels leading into Israeli territory (several dozen - although the precise number may never be known), in preparation for deadly raids or kidnappings were actively targeted by Israel.
Echoing statements made earlier on Sunday to Arutz Sheva by a senior military official, Amidror said the IDF was close to completing that mission - although he suggested a post-operation committee of inquiry be set up to determine what gaps, if any, there were between the tunnels which were known about in advance, and those which were eventually discovered.
That being the case, there was therefore simply "no military logic" for forces to remain where they were once they had cleared the areas in question.
But if Israelis are anticipating complete quiet when and if the IDF leaves Gaza, they are in for a rude awakening.
But as for the still constant rocket-fire against Israel's civilian population, Amidror emphasized that there is "no way" for the current operation to succeed in physically putting an end to it once and for all. 
"No one promised or said that Israel can neutralize all of Hamas's rockets without gaining control of (all of) the ground in Gaza. There is no technical way to do it," he said.
What the current operation can achieve - and largely has - is "to destroy all the rockets and launchers that we know about," and then rely on the Iron Dome system to frustrate Hamas and Islamic Jihad's attempts to inflict significant harm on Israel's civilian population with what remains.
"You can't neutralize 10,000 rockets purely with air power," Amidror noted.
According to Amidror, Israel has two options, neither of which is very good.
The first would be to accept the aforementioned operational limitations and, once the tunnels had been destroyed along with what rockets and other terrorist infrastructure can be reached, to dig in for a long, attritional battle, in which both sides will slug it out for many more weeks or even months. (It is impossible to know precisely what remains of Gaza's arsenal of rockets, although Amidror estimates anything between 25-50% still remain out of approximately 10,000 rockets - enough to keep going for quite some time.)
The IDF could then choose to keep its forces where they are inside Gaza and engage with terrorist forces as they surface, or equally to withdraw altogether and exchange fire from Israeli territory, as it did during the initial phase of Operation Protective Edge.
Either way, says Amidror, Israel would eventually emerge the victor - at least in the short-term.
The second option - one advocated by several cabinet ministers, most notably Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman - would be to redeploy forces deeper inside Gaza, overthrowing Hamas and seizing complete control of the entire territory.
Clearing the Gaza Strip of all "weapons systems" and arresting or killing all terrorists there would take between 6-12 months in Amidror's estimation, and "cost us the lives of many soldiers and officers."
That option would provide a real and lasting solution to both the threat of rocket fire and "terror tunnels", rather than simply "postponing the next round with Hamas."
But such an operation would be "very costly, and very bloody." 
Although he refused to speculate on what kind of casualty figures he would expect Israel to endure in such an offensive, "you can see from the first stage, which only involved the outlying parts of Gaza, what kind of price" both sides would pay.
Apart from the Israeli casualties, many more Palestinians would be killed in such an operation as well, given that it would involve entering Gaza's most densely-populated areas, which ground forces have so far avoided - bringing to bear more international pressure on Israel.
It would also pose long-term problems; such as what to do with the roughly 1.8 million Arabs living in the Gaza Strip "who no one wants to take responsibility for."
"If you are ready to pay the price, you have a solution," Amidror notes dryly. He observed that both options were "logical" in their own right, despite each having their own distinct disadvantages: "Either to pay a high price but to solve the problem, or not to pay the price and to meet the problem every five years."
Amidror admits that most Israelis want the problem solved and want the second option. Amidror is not convinced that most Israelis understand the price that we would pay.

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