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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Israel won the Gaza war?

Yossi Melman argues that Israel won the Gaza war, and implies that Hamas' declarations of victory are the result of Hamas seeing Israelis criticize their government's conduct of the war.
Hamas’s highly publicized executions during the war, and in particular last week, of alleged traitors were not aimed at unveiling and disrupting Israeli intelligence operations. They were aimed at sending a clear message to the Gazans: We are Hamas and we are here to stay. Don’t dare revolt against us. 
But the locals have a long memory. They will remember who brought them the calamity.
In a sense, the Gaza war is reminiscent of what happened during the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Hezbollah was defeated. Its secretary-general admitted it in public. But then he heard Israeli defense commentators who criticized the war’s conduct by then-prime minister Ehud Olmert’s government. That made the Hezbollah leader regain his self-confidence.
Hassan Nasrallah told himself that if stupid Israel thought that it was defeated, so let it be – and he declared his false victory.
Eight years later, it is quite clear that “the Second Lebanon War” brought Israel significant gains at the strategic level. Northern Israel has enjoyed peace and tranquility. Hezbollah is deterred and doesn’t dare to initiate violent and aggressive actions against the Jewish state. Nasrallah himself is in hiding, fearing for his life.
As then, some of the veteran commentators in the 2006 war coverage now express the same criticism with the same weeping voices, claiming that Hamas defeated Israel.
Sooner or later it will emerge that as against Hezbollah, Israel will deter Hamas too.
I don't buy Melman's comments about the Second Lebanon War. The thing that is false about the results of that war is the quiet that followed it. We had six years of 'quiet' when Ehud Barak fled southern Lebanon in 2000 - would Melman also call that a victory?  Hezbullah has rearmed to become a far more formidable force than they were in 2006, and when they find an opportune moment they will strike. The reason that moment didn't arrive last month may be because Hezbullah is preoccupied with serving the interests of its Iranian masters in Syria. But that moment is likely to arrive eventually.

And the same goes for Hamas. The real test of whether this war (or 'operation' as the government insists on calling it) was a success is what happens going forward. How much of Israel's stated objectives were achieved? It's not just a question of whether Hamas will shoot off 50 rockets next week. It's also a question of whether they will rebuild their rocket supply, rebuild their tunnels, and sit and wait like Hezbullah is doing for an opportune moment to strike us. That moment could even - God Forbid - be coordinated between the two terror organizations.

The concept of deterrence requires rational actors. Hamas is not a rational actor. Think of Iran sending young boys to blow up mines in its war with Iraq in the 1980's. Could Iran be deterred? No. Because they were convinced that it was their duty to kill themselves and to send their children to their deaths. The same is true of Hamas - and by the way the same is true of Hebzullah. There is no such thing as deterring these people. They regard death as a reward and they don't care what happens to them until death.

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