Israel achieved its tactical objectives while the Hamas scored a strategic victory
The current round of open warfare between Israel and the terror factions in Gaza, a round that started with an unprovoked bullet fired by an Islamic Jihad sniper on an Israeli officer standing deep in Israeli territory, is now over. A cease fire has been declared and it is a good time to ask: who won? It turns out, as it often does, that the answer depends on who you ask and what the objectives of each side may have been.
In the current round unlike in the previous ones, Israel set out to significantly degrade the terrorist infrastructure. While previous rounds were managed on the basis of “quiet for quiet”, with Israel “making noise” by bombing empty lots until the inevitable ceasefire could be negotiated, this time the IDF systematically demolished important pieces of terror infrastructure, constantly escalating the quality of the targets according to a predetermined plan until the terror factions begged for a cease fire. The goal was to ensure that the next tranches of Qatari money would be spent on rebuilding the demolished buildings, training facilities, weapons depots, etc., rather than building new ones and this goal was undoubtedly achieved. The second goal, the one involving filling up the ever leaking reservoir of “deterrence”, was also achieved, but only partially. Hamas and its terror siblings and underlings managed to demonstrate that even in the face of a significant attack by the IDF they could protect their command staff deep underground and continue to execute rocket fire deep into Israel in a manner that leaves no doubt of the fact that their control and command structure remained intact.
The biggest failure on Israel’s side in the current round was civilian defense. The Iron Dome system was fully deployed ahead of time in expectation of the coming escalation of hostilities, but it was too thinly spread to provide meaningful protection to Israeli civilians and infrastructure. The areas immediately adjacent to Gaza, the so-called Gaza envelope were not evacuated or placed under military curfew as they should have been, failing to prevent the death of a civilian due to an anti-tank missile attack on his vehicle. As I wrote yesterday, the performance of the Israeli air defense having allowed four fatalities and filled the hospitals with dozens of wounded with about 700 rockets fired was closely studied in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran. Linear extrapolation, which, if anything, is too kind to Israel, would suggest that 7,000 rockets would cause dozens of fatalities and 70,0000 – hundreds. It is far more likely that these numbers of rockets, numbers that the Hezbollah possesses, would cause much higher and thus utterly unacceptable levels of Israeli casualties, reducing the Israeli air defense capability in the deterrence equation to near zero .
The Hamas scored points when it demonstrated that massed rocket fire does indeed overwhelm Israeli air defenses. This means that faced with a simultaneous rocket barrage from the north and the south, Israel will have much less time in which to engage in a measured escalation via remote strikes by air and, sea, and ground and will need to almost immediately switch to massive airstrikes followed by a ground maneuver in force to deny the enemy the use of his launch sites. This will be warfare on a different level that will immediately result in mass Arab civilian casualties and force Israel off the battlefield on which it has the upper hand, the battlefield of measured escalation knocking off carefully prepared targets, to the two battlefields it always tries to avoid: the battlefields of international public opinion and of brutal urban warfare in a hellish landscape in which every family home and donkey shed sits on top of a booby-trapped tunnel filled with enemy combatants.
In essence, Hamas has proved its value to its Iranian masters and provided them with actionable military intelligence as to the real-world capabilities of Israeli air defenses. While the Memorial Day and Independence Day ceremonies followed by the Eurovision song contest will likely proceed as planned, the Hamas has unfortunately achieved its objective of adding four names, the names of Jews killed for the sole crime of being Jewish, to the list of those who gave their lives in defense of the homeland. It has accomplished its objective of adding a bitter dose of bile to the celebration of Israeli achievement that is about to happen over the next two weeks.
As it always does on the eve of Israel’s birthdays, the Israeli Bureau of Statistics has just now published the latest data on Israel’s population. It turns out that Israel is now home to 9,021,000 people, of whom 6.697 million (74%) are Jews, 1.89 million (21%) are Arabs ,and the rest are identified as “others”. It is projected that in 2048, when Israel celebrates it’s centennial, it will be home to 15.2 million people and if current ratios hold, more than 11 million of them will be Jews. Israelis enjoy one of the world’s highest life expectancies, with men expected to live on average 80.7 years and women 84.6. The fact thus remains that Israel is an incredible success story. It is the culmination in our own lifetime of the bi-millennial dream to gather the majority of the Jewish people back to their ancestral homeland and it is one of the most successful countries in the world.
Perversely, it is precisely this incredible success that makes me give the victory in the current round of fighting to the Arabs. Israel was founded with a singular purpose: establish one place on our planet in which Jews can live free of the fear of persecution; the one place where they would never be slaughtered just for who they are: Jews. It is one thing to die in the defense of your homeland wearing a uniform and carrying a weapon and quite another to be blown to pieces while watching TV with your family. Pregnant Israeli women should not be running to shelters with their toddlers in tow and yet this is what has just happened and will happen again. In recent decades, Israel has traded the safety of its citizens on the home front for the word-wide acceptance that was needed for economic and technological growth. Now that the existential threat is behind it, Israel must focus on completing its mission of becoming a true safe haven for all Jews.
In the recent round of fighting, when all is said and done, the Arabs in Gaza set out to show that Israel is yet far from achieving its primary mission and in that purpose they were successful, scoring a clear strategic victory. For now.
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