Commentary Magazine


Topic: Gaza blockade

Did Hamas Win the Last War?

Israel and its supporters have spent most of the weeks since the conclusion of the latest round of fighting with Hamas pointing to the great success of the Iron Dome missile defense system. The improved ability of Israel’s Defense Forces to render harmless the bulk of the rockets launched from the terrorist enclave in Gaza has enhanced the country’s security, even if the spectacle of a sizable portion of the population cowering in shelters cheered Palestinians. But the notion that the prolonged exchange of fire in November that saw hundreds of missiles fired into Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense was an unalloyed success is being undermined by the concessions that Israel has made since the cease-fire.

In the days following the dustup, it was clear that Gaza fishing craft were being allowed to sail further into the Mediterranean by the Israeli Navy, but this might have been dismissed as unimportant since the blockade of the region was still intact. However, the news that Israel is now allowing in construction materials that it had heretofore prevented from entering Gaza must be regarded as yet another indication that Hamas’s own claims of victory were not empty boasts. Though it may be argued that neither of these measures seriously degrades Israel’s security, they both make it clear that Israel paid a not insignificant price for the cease-fire brokered by the Obama administration and the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt.

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Israel and its supporters have spent most of the weeks since the conclusion of the latest round of fighting with Hamas pointing to the great success of the Iron Dome missile defense system. The improved ability of Israel’s Defense Forces to render harmless the bulk of the rockets launched from the terrorist enclave in Gaza has enhanced the country’s security, even if the spectacle of a sizable portion of the population cowering in shelters cheered Palestinians. But the notion that the prolonged exchange of fire in November that saw hundreds of missiles fired into Israel during Operation Pillar of Defense was an unalloyed success is being undermined by the concessions that Israel has made since the cease-fire.

In the days following the dustup, it was clear that Gaza fishing craft were being allowed to sail further into the Mediterranean by the Israeli Navy, but this might have been dismissed as unimportant since the blockade of the region was still intact. However, the news that Israel is now allowing in construction materials that it had heretofore prevented from entering Gaza must be regarded as yet another indication that Hamas’s own claims of victory were not empty boasts. Though it may be argued that neither of these measures seriously degrades Israel’s security, they both make it clear that Israel paid a not insignificant price for the cease-fire brokered by the Obama administration and the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt.

At the time the cease-fire was arranged, both the Israelis and the Americans issued statements that were aimed at making it seem as if the shooting was ended with no concessions made by either side. But the looser naval blockade and the end of the ban on construction material gives the lie to the notion that Israel didn’t pay a ransom in order to get the Islamist terrorist group to stop shooting.

Given the flow of all sorts of material into Gaza via smuggling tunnels linked to Egypt, it’s not clear that the ban on gravel and cement meant much anymore. The rationale for the measure was that Hamas was using these products to rebuild the reinforced tunnels and hardened bunkers that make up the warren of defensive positions that had been destroyed in the fighting during the last big Israeli counter-offensive in 2008. While Israel did great damage to Hamas’s arsenal of missiles imported from Iran during the recent fighting, the maze of terrorist hideouts appears to be still intact.

Seen in that light, these concessions may be dismissed as meaningless in a military context. But they are one more indication that Israel has conceded what became obvious a long time ago: The Hamas regime in Gaza is an independent Palestinian state in all but name that no IDF offensive or defensive measures are going to erase.

If Hamas really did win the last war, or at least didn’t lose it as Israel had claimed, it is understandable that there will be consequences from this that will affect Israeli policy as well as public opinion. It may be that Prime Minister Netanyahu had no choice but to accept the deal that called for these concessions if he was to stop the shooting. But these revelations help explain why so many Israelis have not only given up hope for peace with moderate Palestinians but are also prepared to vote for parties to Netanyahu’s right in this month’s Knesset election.

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Rockets Prove Hamas Hasn’t Changed

In just the last month, Israel’s partial blockade of Hamas-run Gaza was subjected to a new round of condemnations by Amnesty International and other groups purporting to speak on behalf of the cause of human rights that are supposedly being violated by the Jewish state. The fact that Israel has never halted the flow of food or medicine into the strip and has continued to allow it to be hooked up to the country’s electrical grid and only sought to hold back construction materials and armaments has not stopped Israel-haters from promoting the myth that there is a humanitarian disaster going on in Gaza. Despite the loosening of the already lax blockade in the last year and the steady flow of material into Gaza via the now open border with Egypt or the smuggling tunnels run by Hamas, the complaints about Israel continue. But unfortunately, so too does the barrage of terrorist missiles from Gaza into southern Israel.

In the first six months of 2011, in a time when there was supposedly a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, nearly 300 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza. That is a routine of terror that residents of the Jewish state have been accustomed to and which is met by silence from both the international community and the human rights crowd. But in the last day, the routine has escalated to the exceptional, as more than 40 missiles and mortar shells were launched from Gaza, resulting in a few casualties as well as frayed nerves throughout the affected area. Though Israel’s early warning system and missile defenses (as well as the poor aim of the Palestinians) prevented any fatalities, the latest surge of violence gives the lie both to the assertion that Hamas has adopted a policy of non-violence and the contention of Israel’s critics that its measures of self-defense against the terrorist army based there are unnecessary.

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In just the last month, Israel’s partial blockade of Hamas-run Gaza was subjected to a new round of condemnations by Amnesty International and other groups purporting to speak on behalf of the cause of human rights that are supposedly being violated by the Jewish state. The fact that Israel has never halted the flow of food or medicine into the strip and has continued to allow it to be hooked up to the country’s electrical grid and only sought to hold back construction materials and armaments has not stopped Israel-haters from promoting the myth that there is a humanitarian disaster going on in Gaza. Despite the loosening of the already lax blockade in the last year and the steady flow of material into Gaza via the now open border with Egypt or the smuggling tunnels run by Hamas, the complaints about Israel continue. But unfortunately, so too does the barrage of terrorist missiles from Gaza into southern Israel.

In the first six months of 2011, in a time when there was supposedly a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, nearly 300 rockets were fired into Israel from Gaza. That is a routine of terror that residents of the Jewish state have been accustomed to and which is met by silence from both the international community and the human rights crowd. But in the last day, the routine has escalated to the exceptional, as more than 40 missiles and mortar shells were launched from Gaza, resulting in a few casualties as well as frayed nerves throughout the affected area. Though Israel’s early warning system and missile defenses (as well as the poor aim of the Palestinians) prevented any fatalities, the latest surge of violence gives the lie both to the assertion that Hamas has adopted a policy of non-violence and the contention of Israel’s critics that its measures of self-defense against the terrorist army based there are unnecessary.

Lest there be any doubt about who is responsible for the rockets raining down on Israel, Hamas decided to claim responsibility for the escalation rather than to let some splinter group claim the glory of firing on the Jews. The attacks come only a day after a terror squad crossed from Gaza through Egyptian territory to hit Israel and kill one person (an Israeli Arab construction worker).

It’s not clear whether the proximate cause of the attacks was a desire to make a point about events in Egypt, where the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood — the group that spawned Hamas — won the presidency. Another possible theory is that it is related to internal Palestinian politics and reflects the justified concern on the part of Hamas that it is losing popularity because of the relative paucity of its attacks on Jewish targets in the last year.

But either way, the Kassam rockets, Grad missiles and mortar shells landing on Israeli buildings and fields are just the latest proof that the independent state that exists in all but name in Gaza is an armed camp whose main purpose is to continue the war on Israel’s existence. The idea that Gaza’s rulers should be trusted to join the government of the West Bank and then be granted the freedom to carry on their war on the Jews there is one that most Israelis regard as nothing short of insanity–even if it is what most of the international community ardently desires. Israel’s leaders will decide the nature and the timing of a response to the escalation. But the rockets are a reminder that the claims Hamas has reformed itself or that Israel need not fear the military buildup going on in Gaza are myths aimed at undermining the security of the Jewish state.

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