At outset of Operation Pillar of Defense, here at the Lighthouse we voiced our support for the IDF’s operation and highlighted the dangers and opportunities present in the new realities of the region, brought on by a weak and misguided Western World. Chief among these changes was that a group almost indistinguishable from Hamas (they have a rather intertwined history), is actually in control of Egypt.
The first article’s headline, -Gilad Shalit and many more Avenged today – Egypt is Not the Same was repeated nearly verbatim a few days later by Egypt’s new Islamist President Mohammed Morsi:
Cairo would not leave Gaza alone as I tell them on behalf of the Egyptian people that Egypt today is different from Egypt yesterday and Arabs today are different from the Arabs yesterday.
He went on to say that:
if I see that the homeland is in danger, I won’t hesitate.
Earlier on Friday he was quoted as:
Gaza will not remain alone as it was…the aggressors know they will pay a heavy price is they continue their aggression.
These words were accompanied by the Egyptian Ambassador’s recall to Cairo, and visit of solidarity to Gaza by the Egyptian PM. As we warned at the outset, Egypt was different, yet thankfully not fully confident since Morsi still rules in a tentative truce with the largely secular army who may not be too happy about an order to go fight and die helping Morsi’s fellow trouble-making jihadists in Gaza.
Our second article correctly pointed out that the instant Tel-Aviv was hit by missiles (now along with Jerusalem), Israel would have to escalate its response. It is sad that Israel’s southern residents have to contend with years of shelling, while a real IDF response is only catalyzed by the first attack on Tel-Aviv. Such are democracies, and the pressures that steer them, Israel’s voter base is not in the south.
In any event, whether catalyzed by attacks on Tel-Aviv or not, it will be great news to all of Israel’s citizens if the IDF is ordered to finally put an end to the constant fire that rains down on her from Hamas controlled Gaza.
The trick is now to proceed intelligently. There must be two critical guiding principles.
Staying the Course
Firstly, as G W Bush would say, Israel must “stay the course”. Israel must not (as is most often case unfortunately) waste this opportunity and her soldier’s lives when having right on her side, has convinced the world of her right to self defense and that Hamas is nothing more than a terrorist organization bent on death and destruction, only to then sign a truce or worse (peace treaty?) with them. Israel must persist until victory.
It is sad that in Israeli politics, what would be unimaginable in many countries, is perfectly commonplace. Would the US sign a peace treaty with Al-Qaeda? For Israeli officials, to sit across the table from Hamas leaders who according to law should be arrested on sight, negotiate with them and then sign a treaty with them is as absurd as it is shameful. Israel cannot expect to be surprised when other nations deal with Hamas and other terrorist groups (like Fatah), when Israel herself does so as well.
Does Israel expect the world to be more pro-Israel than she herself is? Only the GOP in the US can do that (and ironically gain few Jewish votes by doing so).
Therefore, the slow pace thus far of the operation is of some concern. Though there was great big headlines about 75 thousand reserve troops being called up, few of those have actually been called up (the IDF only announced an initial 16 thousand at the outset of the Operation). Without getting into any operational details, Israel must maintain the pace of its call ups (though not necessarily announce them) and launch a ground operation soon before inertia itself will pressure Israel to that shameful ceasefire.
During the last incarnation of the current events, in 2009 Prime Minister Olmert stopped Operation Cast Lead dead in its tracks before a knockout blow could be dealt on Hamas. The IDF performed outstandingly, 13 IDF soldiers gave their lives (10 due to friendly fire), many more were wounded, and with Hamas broken and on the run (suffering mass desertions as its fighters did not prove to be all they were cracked up to be), and the last built up areas cut off and surrounded, Olmert called the IDF out.
Weary citizen soldiers, family men who left their civilian jobs and their loved ones, marched out still carrying a disturbing stabbing feeling. These men not only loyally showed up when called but performed professionally and heroically, and at the brink of victory after all their sacrifice, they were ordered out by a leadership who unlike them, had lost its nerve.
As happy as they were to stop fighting, to come back to their families, and as far as they had pushed themselves physically and emotionally after weeks of stressful and complex urban warfare, they could not help but feel that they would soon be called back into that hell, having let that victory so close at hand slip away. To do that to them yet again, requires talents hard to describe in words.
Let me be clear about their feat… let not the military gap between the IDF and the Gaza terror groups fool you. It is well known that the most powerful and advanced armies have nightmares, and they are always bout urban warfare. Insurgencies, terrorism and guerrilla warfare in dense urban cities remain the most difficult enemies for modern armies.
Ask the United States. Successful in Iraq only after nearly a decade of war, a massive cost and effort, and the most stubborn of leadership under George W Bush. Many others would have failed. In Afghanistan, well past a decade later, victory not only remains as elusive, but under the Obama administration, already just a dream – the surrender and withdrawal date already set.
During the first Battle of Fallujah in 2004 for example, the 1st Marine Division, with what amounts to at least 3 brigades in addition to many other elements (including special forces teams, a tank battalion, elements from other divisions, and close Air Support) failed to take Fallujah, a small city of 250,000 people (pre-invasion) whose residents had largely fled before the assault.
The residents of Fallujah (and Iraq in general) were not experienced militants nor soldiers. The Iraqi army was in neglected shape due to sanctions and budgetary constraints. It had been largely destroyed by the US in the 1st Gulf War in 1991. There was little if any training and no combat experience since 1991. Even prior to the gulf war, whenever they had sent “elite” units as symbolic help to the Arab cause during Israel’s wars (a brigade here and there), the Iraqis had performed far worse than their Syrian and Jordanian counterparts (more used to warfare with Israel), and were easily identified by the Israeli soldiers due to their inexperience in movement and tactics.
The Arabs in Gaza on the other hand, caught up in the “palestinian” movements, are professional militants. Youngsters in the street learn to throw rocks at IDF checkpoints before they learn to read. From there, firebombs, shootings, and terrorism follow. Fatah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the PLO, PFLP, the DFLP, the PLF and a score of other terror and/or guerrilla groups have led life in the West Bank and Gaza for decades.
Gaza is the most densely populated place on earth. The strip has 1.7 million people, 7 times the population of Fallujah, and unlike in that city, they cannot flee anywhere during an assault. Gaza city alone has half a million people. Unlike other areas with terrorist insurgencies, in Gaza the terrorists are not the few hiding among the many, but rather in complete control of the land. Hamas in fact, is Gaza’s government and rules Gaza autocratically (democratically elected). Gaza is therefore the most densely populated place on earth with what amounts to the most militant population in the world. It has been booby-trapped, and prepared for invasion by the IDF for years, well armed by Arab oil wealth, Iran and Egypt.
Simply to win in Gaza is an achievement few if any modern armies could match, let alone win without any civilian casualties and collateral damage which Hamas does its best to produce.
Such operation should not be taken without the clearest of goals, and this is precisely the second principle which must guide Israel’s policy.
Clear Objectives and Goals
As it is crucial to stay the course, until the goals are achieved, the operation must obviously have goals to begin with. And the goals, must be in effect “consequences”. Israel’s foreign policy has for too long taken consequences out of the equation; rather replaced them with incentives.
The Unspoken Difference in the two Population’s Fears
Media outlets busy making a moral equivalence in this conflict, completely avoid an otherwise obvious phenomena. Is the people’s reaction not interesting here?? The contrast is striking. The civilian population of Israel, especially in Tel-Aviv, is pretty worried. Panicked is not the right word, but definitely very stressed and concerned, and many are most definitely scared. Across cities, sirens are going off and rockets are landing, with bright flashes seen and loud booms heard by citizens, young and old. Parents do not know what to tell their children, the elderly cannot run into bunkers in time.
But for the time being, that is all that the Israeli population expects, being bombarded by missiles. Yes there are casualties but it is thankfully no massacre at this point. If instead of rockets, on its way from Gaza would be thousands of Hamas “troops”, it is hard to imagine what the feeling would be. Panic does not do it justice. If thousands of armed Hamas terrorists were to spread across Israel’s cities, having defeated the IDF (let the heavens never permit it), the civilian reaction would be sheer maddening terror. Obviously, the Hamasniks would bring with them indescribable horror, pillage, rape, torture and murder.
Ironically, the Gaza population knows there is a very good chance it will see the IDF on their doorstep. Despite the fact that Hamas has the ability to inflict casualties on the IDF as mentioned above, they can neither invade Israel themselves nor stop the IDF from entering Gaza. They have seen them before. Thousands of IDF troops and tanks along the Gazan streets. For all the propaganda and pretense, this evokes no such terror. If it did, they obviously would stop shooting rockets at Israel!
The fact that the IDF will be forced into a ground operation in Gaza scares them little. Hamas’ real concern is only to be able to avoid a complete takeover where the leaders themselves are captured.
Sure, individual Hamas members who resist with a weapon run the danger of being killed, but the population at large has nothing to really to fear other than some unpleasantries (as I know from personal experience). It is fascinating that the weaker party (Gaza) is instigating the stronger party (Israel) into invasion by choice and without much fear. The fear is at the personal level only, each Hamas leader will do his best to hide while the incursion goes on, but other than what can amount to a few hundred casualties, made up largely of militants who chose to resist or suicide (instead of dropping their weapons and hiding dressing as civilians as most will do), and a smaller part of unfortunate civilian casualties, nothing will happen to the massive population of 1.7 million.
The opposite scenario is unimaginable by Israel, which is why her IDF would fight to the very last man before letting any of her barbaric enemies near Israel’s cities. In this interesting quirk that is never discussed lies the folly of Israel’s policy. Terrorism against Jews and Israelis in general, carries no real consequences. No bad ones anyways… it just might get Israel’s PM to come discuss a ceasefire with you or offer you “land for peace” but no negative consequences.
There are two reasons why Gaza shows no fear of an IDF incursion, not in the population in general, nor in its Hamas government.
- First, because of the IDF’s chivalrous and moral behavior. The population knows the IDF soldiers will conduct no murder, theft nor rape. No pillage and plunder. An IDF platoon might enter into an apartment and search for hidden cache of weapons. None found, it will then leave with the Arab family left unmolested.
- Secondly, the Arab enemy sees no political consequence. The IDF might come into Gaza, score some blows against the organization true, but also suffer casualties and world condemnation. Afterwards, it will simply leave and Gaza will be exactly where it is now. Hamas will have years more of propaganda material. Economic hardships can be blamed on the incursion, and they can portray themselves as valiant protectors who stood up the IDF might, even if all most of them did was lob rockets at Israel to anger her to incursion, and then run and hide until she exists once again. Israel, tired of incursions that have no long lasting effect, will once again be tempted to bribe them with more “land for peace”.
It stands to reason that a weaker entity, would be terrified of provoking a neighboring larger one to invasion, and yet Gaza is not. Israel must change that. Gazans should be most definitely terrified of launching rockets at Israel’s cities. They are not. They cheer them instead.
One of the above must change. I would argue that the first should not, and that our IDF should remain a moral and chivalrous army. This leaves us with the second option. There must be political consequences to attacking us, and I do not mean offerings of “land for peace” which amounts to tribute (usually historically paid by the weaker party to the stronger, and not vice versa).
At the opening of Operation Pillar of Defense, I ventured briefly into such a consequence:
Gush Katif’s forceful evacuation was a shameful blot on our history, and given as a token of great goodwill to our enemies. The IDF would do well to re-establish these legally Jewish lands (many purchased by Jews during the British mandate period) , and declare them never to be handed over again. Further Arab aggression should have a similar response.
If it is land that the Arab enemies want so badly, then they must realize killing Jews will make them lose more of it, and not vice versa as is the current policy. The Arab world must be given a very simple choice; to accept the tiny single Jewish state on earth that is not even visible on a world map in peace and tranquility which we welcome, or face its expansion. If that was the choice given, the outcome would be no worse than Israel having to accept it will remain rather small.
The last two decades however, have seen Israel pushed on by a foolish Western World, offer quite the opposite choice… the more Jews you kill, the more land you get. It has led us to this point, after withdrawing from Lebanon, from the Sinai, from Zone A (PA), from Samaria, from Gaza, from Gush Katif, our enemies under the cloud of Iran terrify the world and engulf us from every side.
It is also critically important to not simply momentary retake Gaza to topple Hamas and then hand it over to Abu Mazen (here and here is some info on him) and Fatah. It cannot be that Israeli soldiers do the bleeding for Arafat’s own Fatah. This more “moderate” Fatah government will only make it easier for the Israeli left backed by immense world pressure to push Israel into further territorial concessions. In any case, Western leaders who give so much lip service to democracy, should take note that Hamas was elected democratically. Abu Mazen on the other hand, is constitutionally far passed his term of office (not that it matters to me in the least).
Another useful consequence would be to permanently retake the Philadelphia crossing along with the Rafiah crossing. This is in effect the current border between Gaza and Egypt. The original Oslo accords that had Israel pull out of Gaza in the 90s, left Israel firmly in control of the international borders, since it was well known since than that handing them over would only lead to a massively armed terrorist infrastructure. Giving it up was part of 2005’s Disengagement plan under Sharon. His elusive reasons, he took to his subsequent living grave (he remains in a coma).
At the time, I theorized that Sharon meant to make Gaza slowly integrate with Egypt by giving up the crossing. Crowded Gazans would slowly drift across the border, and likewise lose their artificial “palestinian” identity. At the time, I also theorized it was folly, and that there was no brilliance needed to give land away. Egypt was not being tricked, only given an excuse it needed to control more territory as it now does.
Since Egypt is Gaza’s lifeline to the outside world, it carries huge weight with Hamas and Gaza. Iran may wish to arm Hamas all it wants, but it cannot do so without Egypt’s approval since weapons must cross at its border. Losing control of the crossing has many more ramifications. Any brief perusing of the headlines since the operation began has seen an endless parade of Arab diplomats visiting Gaza – in effect making a comical celebrity “human shield”.
The first was of course, Egypt’s Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, sent by Morsi to show that Egypt was indeed behind Hamas post-Mubarak. Israel was forced into complex diplomatic and military maneuvering to stop its assault (that had just only started) while the PM was there. He was followed by the Tunisian Foreign Minister (another post-Arab spring government), delegates from the Arab league and a whole other collection of dignitaries. These officials are openly meeting with Hamas’ political and military wings, though Israel of course does not wish to accidentally kill a foreign diplomat.
The reason for this circus of visitors who not only give a PR boost to Hamas, but also literally provide human shield cover, is that Egypt controls the Philadelphia crossing. While Israel controlled the passage between Gaza and Egypt, obviously it could control who comes in and out. This is just another simple way Egypt is inhibiting Israel’s ability to defend itself.
Egyptian control over Philadelphia also means that while Israel suffers all the negative public relations ramifications of having a “blockade” around Gaza, in effect it has no such thing. While Egypt has controls at least one border with Gaza, any Israeli blockade is only symbolic. All the Iranian weaponry being fired into Israel is proof enough of this. Egypt’s Morsi, who as much as he would like to is not yet ready for a confrontation with Israel deeply worries about this possibility.
No one is trying harder for a ceasefire (backed by the intrigue-loving Emir of Qatar) than Egypt. A ceasefire now for all the reasons thus shown, would be a defeat for Israel. An incursion might be a victory for Israel that leaves Egypt unable to stop her (Morsi loses face with the Islamists and perhaps in control of the Philadelphia crossing, one of Egypt’s greatest strategic assets in the region (second only to the Suez Canal).
It is truly inspiring to be in Israel’s streets on days like these. In 2012, with the rampant reality TV culture, money worship (while at the same time condemnation of those who earn it without acting in feature films), the self-indulgent and self-righteous air-headedness, the rampant hedonism, and modern life’s dilution of values and cynicism prevailing in much of the world, the scenes here are of a time thought long gone.
Everywhere men (not all in the best of shape!) of all ages betray their membership of the reserves by their loosely fitting un-tucked not-to-code sloppy military fatigues as they hustle to and from buses heeding the call to arms. Those (like the author) who eagerly await their own call-up that has not yet come shake their hand and wish them well.
In typical Israeli fashion, they reply as if it is no big deal and that they will be right back, but they fail to hide the feelings in their eyes; worry about their families, hoping that they will in fact come back for them, worry about their family and friends also called up, worry that they will do right by their brothers-in-arms and be as brave as they will undoubtedly be, and a sparkle of pride, proud of facing the adventure and daunting task ahead, proud of themselves and of the nation they are part of, and a knowledge that the Rock of Israel will see us through this one as well.
It is difficult to witness this immensely humbling glory clear-eyed, and one is doubtful that ancient Athens’ citizen-soldiers were any more impressive, or even that those of her neighbor who stood at the beginning of Westerndom at Thermopylae against the tyrannical slavery of the East, the few against the very many were any more noble.
This is the asset and weapon Israel counts on. No other nation on earth today has the privilege to do so. A weapon that prefers to not be unsheathed, but unbreakable once it has been, it only requires a skillful warrior to wield it.
There must be long-lasting consequences for firing missiles into Israel. There must be consequences for funding terrorists networks that murder her citizens indiscriminately. There must be consequences for trying to obtain nuclear weapons while preaching for the annihilation of Israel. If Israel cannot make those exist, she loses her innate historical right to do so herself. The entropy and vacuum of oblivion call for those too weak to hang on.
If the governments of the free world try to deny those consequences upon Israel’s enemies, they are guilty of weakness and hypocrisy and will soon next stand at the cross-hairs.
And if Israel’s government will not call for these consequences, then it most definitely has no right to command the unbreakable citizen army that now stands ready at the gates. Bibi, we await your command.