ISRAEL'S GAZA NIGHTMARE: A COMMENT
"Nonstate actors such as Hamas and many of its peer organizations, of course, need some ability to exert force if they are to influence the actions of a state whose imperatives run counter to their own. The Gaza Strip is small and its resource base is limited, reducing the options for force. This makes cheap asymmetric tactics and strategies ideal. For Gaza and its militants, terrorizing the Israeli population through limited force often has previously influenced, constrained or forced the hand of the Israeli government and its subsequent policies. It accomplished this with assassinations, ambushes or suicide bombings targeting security forces or Israeli citizens. A confluence of events later led to a gradual evolution in the conflict. By 2006, the security wall that surrounds and contains the Gaza Strip had eliminated militants' ability to directly engage the Israeli populace and security personnel, and Israel Defense Forces had completely withdrawn from the territory. Meanwhile, Hezbollah had demonstrated the effectiveness of relatively cheap artillery rockets volleyed into Israel in a high enough volume to seriously disrupt the daily life of Israeli life. While artillery rockets were not new to Gaza, the conditions were ripe for this tactic's adoption. The intent was to build up a substantial arsenal of the weapons and increase their range to threaten Israel's entire population as much as possible. (Increased range was also needed to overcome Israel's growing defensive capabilities.) This would be the asymmetric threat that could be used to project force, albeit limited force, from Gaza. This threat has framed the Israel-Gaza conflict ever since. On one side are Gaza militants constantly working to smuggle rockets of ever-increasing ability and range into the strip while expanding their stockpiles out of direct reach of Israel Defense Forces, and simultaneously preparing launch sites to strike from when needed. On the other side, Israeli forces are constantly gathering intelligence and using targeted operations in an effort to keep rockets from entering Gaza, prevent the stockpiles of rockets from growing and destroy launch sites. Since 2006, this dynamic has come to a head three times, with serious escalation from both sides and resulting Israel Defense Forces operations. The first was Operation Cast Lead in 2008, which included a limited ground incursion. Next came Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012, and now there is Operation Protective Edge. Though separated in time, in many ways they are a continuation of the same security dynamic.".Stratfor, "Geopolitical Diary: The Military Reality of Israel's Operation in Gaza Sets In". Stratfor: global intelligence. 15 July 2014 in www.stratfor.com.
"The fact is that on any except an intellectual reckoning, the Palestine policy is infinitely shame-making compared with the refusal to go to war over Czechoslovakia. In Palestine we, with our own hands, are having to burn and explode villagers out of their villages for the sake of what is, as usual a theoretical obligation, an interpreted, often misinterpreted, text of twenty years ago, of which on one knows the meaning. And why are we doing it, considering that even the Cabinet know it unjust and suicidal".Sir Charles Arthur Evelyn Shuckburgh, quoted in a letter to Lord Esher, circa November 1938, in: Descent to Suez: diaries 1951-1956. Edited by John Charmley. (1986), pp. 212-213. With the American Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry in Paris endeavoring to extend the now temporary cease-fire over the conflict in the Gaza Strip, it is worthwhile asking what have the Israelis achieved in the eighteen days that the conflict has lasted 1? According to the Financial Times, foreign affairs commentator, Gideon Rachman, the answer appears to be nil or next to nil:
"Israel set itself clear goals when it launched its assault on Gaza. Stop the rocket fire into Israel and close the tunnels that might allow Hamas to infiltrate fighters into Israel. Some 18 days into the offensive, and these goals have not yet been achieved. But that is not the only sign that Israel’s Gaza offensive is going wrong. On the contrary, there are multiple signs that Israel is losing control of the situation: 1. After a slow start, international outrage about the Gaza offensive is building. The international reaction had been relatively muted – perhaps because there are so many other competing horrors in the Middle East. (Some 700 people were killed in just two days fighting in Syria, last week.) As my colleague Roula Khalaf points out, Hamas has also lost crucial political support across the Arab world. The coincidence of the Gaza and Ukraine crises also probably took the pressure off Israel, briefly. But the shelling of the UN school in Gaza yesterday may mark some form of tipping point – with much stronger statements coming from the UN Secretary-General and Gaza dominating the headlines in Europe. 2. Unrest has spread to the West Bank. If the riots last night are repeated, then Israel risks facing a third intifada. The Gazan offensive will then have comprehensively back-fired, by ending a prolonged period of relative calm enjoyed by Israel. 3. The revival of Hamas: At the start of the Gaza offensive, Hamas was in an extremely weak position. It had lost vital support from Egypt and Iran, and enjoyed little sympathy in the west. But by successfully prolonging the fight with Israel – and even briefly all-but closing Ben Gurion airport – Hamas has chalked up some important propaganda victories. If it can get some sort of lifting of the Gaza blockade agreed – as part of the cease-fire negotiations – it will certainly be able to claim some sort of victory 2".Per se, almost anyone would and can sympathize with the aspirations of the Israeli government as per its desiderata in Gaza: stop the militants of Hamas from raining down missiles on Israel proper and endeavoring to infiltrate militants into Israel to commit terrorist outrages. Any sovereign government, I repeat any sovereign government would au fond endeavor to stop these types of activities from a neighboring power, state or territory. The question however which can be raised is: has the Israeli government gone about its current military offensive in the correct way? Judging from the results, particularly given the almost public, 'green light' given to its military activity by much of the Arab World got about two weeks, the answer must be no. In fact, it appears that once again, as in the Lebanon War of 2006, Israel has to unfortunate extent relied unnecessarily upon air, sea and missile power to try to achieve its military goals. And as in 2006, these three linchpins of its military arsenal have singularly failed to achieve said goals. Once again as in the Lebanon War, by unnecessarily failing to use until it was too late, its ground forces, Israel has squandered its political opening to achieve its military goals. While perhaps eighteen days could be considered too small a window to achieve the goals outlined by Rachman above, in 1967, Israel managed to defeat three Arab countries (in admittedly a conventional war) in seven-days. And in 1956, Israel managed to destroy the Egyptian army in the Sinai peninsula in less than a week's time. If as appears likely the major fighting in the Gaza Strip has ended, it will appear to be the case that Israel has come out of this round of its conflict with Hamas the losers, by virtue of the fact of not winning the conflict. Indeed, it appears in retrospect, that Premier Netanyahu, et. al., would have been better off, not to have begun major operations in the first place rather than to allow Hamas to claim (as it inevitably will) a political victory by holding Israel to a draw. 1. "Israel agrees to extend pause". Haaretz. 26 July 2014 in www.haartez.com. 2. Gideon Rachman, "Israel loses control in Gaza". The Financial Times. 25 July 2014, in www.ft.com. See also for a similar analysis: Ariel Ilan Roth, "How Hamas Won: Israel's Tactical Success and Strategic Failure". Foreign Affairs. 25 July 2014 in www.foreignaffairs.com.