Israel’s Defense Forces have, by all accounts, performed well during Operation Pillar of Defense. In the wake of the massive bombardment of southern Israel by Hamas, the IDF carried out a deft targeted assassination of the head of the group’s military wing and carried out a wave of pinpoint bombings of terrorist missile caches and arms factories inside Gaza. The leadership of the terrorist movement that governs Gaza with an iron fist is cowering in the bunkers. Though there have been some unfortunate civilian casualties, they have been kept to a minimum despite the fact that Hamas has tried to hide its armaments and its personnel among noncombatants.
But these achievements should not obscure the fact that although Israel’s military is doing everything it can to suppress the missile fire, the terrorists have still managed to launch hundreds in the last two days, with a few even penetrating as far as the greater Tel Aviv area. Just as troubling is the heavy-duty diplomatic support the group has received from its regional allies Egypt and Turkey in addition to Russia’s refusal to join the West in supporting Israel’s right to self-defense.
Though the group has taken a pounding from the IDF, it may well have achieved the objectives it had in mind when it decided to use the aftermath of the U.S. presidential election to escalate the conflict with Israel. Whatever else has happened in the last week, Hamas has demonstrated the irrelevance of the Palestinian Authority and made clear that it, and not PA head Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party, is the face of Palestinian nationalism. By slamming hundreds of missiles in the last week into Israel it may have squandered part of the arsenal of more than 10,000 rockets it has amassed in the last four years and suffered a blow to its leadership. But it has also illustrated that the independent Palestinian state it has erected in Gaza is supported by the Arab and Muslim world and is, for all intents and purposes, invulnerable to international pressure or Israeli attacks. If that isn’t a victory for terrorism, I don’t know what else you could call it.
The Camp David Accords aren’t even 35 years old, but the latest violence between Hamas and Israel shows the fallacy underlying the principle of land for peace. Bluntly speaking, “land for peace” is dead; any diplomatic effort to revive it is likely doomed to fail. That does not mean that there cannot one day be peace, but Hamas’s actions—long planned for with equipment acquired even under the embargo—show how territory ceded brings not peace, but greater violence and vulnerability.
Just a back of a napkin sketch:
Given the brazen nature of Hamas’s decision to provoke the latest round of fighting in and around Gaza, it’s difficult for Israel’s critics to claim that it was not justified in seeking to halt a barrage that sent more than 150 missiles into the south of the country. Nor could they claim with a straight face that Ahmed al-Jabari, the head of Hamas’s so-called military wing and a man responsible for numerous terrorists attacks and murders, is an innocent victim after the Israel Defense Forces took out his car in a deft targeted attack yesterday. But the naysayers are claiming that in opting to defend Israeli citizens and hopefully making it more difficult for Hamas to resume its terrorist offensive, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu is effectively destroying his nation’s peace treaty with Egypt.
That’s the conceit of this New York Times article that depicts Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi as being forced into a difficult position by Israel. He is, we are told, trying to maintain the peace treaty in order to appease Western aid donors like the United States, but is still obligated by Egyptian public opinion to denounce Israel. The implication of all this is that if the treaty, which is despised by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and extremely unpopular with the Egyptian public, is scrapped, it will be because Netanyahu has chosen to be provocative.
This video of the Israeli strike on Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari was temporarily removed from the IDF’s YouTube page this morning for supposedly violating its “terms of service.” A short time later, it was put back up. My multiple emails to YouTube’s press office have been ignored, but All Things Digital managed to get this email response from a spokesperson:
“With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it’s brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it.”
This shows just how worried anti-Israel activists are about the online response to Operation Pillar of Defense, by far Israel’s most muscular and carefully-honed social media effort yet. Enough Israel detractors “flagged” the YouTube video as “inappropriate” yesterday that YouTube put up a note warning viewers that the clip might be considered offensive.
That attempt to censor the video — as well as the IDF’s Twitter account and websites — is a sign of panic. Israel has finally found a way to circumvent the pernicious media bias that has always favored anti-Israel groups, and it has these groups terrified and scrambling.
Is this the future of warfare? While rockets continue falling across Israel, with air raid sirens being sounded in Tel Aviv for the first time since the 1991 Gulf War, Israel is fighting back in more ways than one. Operation Pillar of Defense is ongoing, and now that citizens of Tel Aviv have found themselves in stairwells and basements, it is likely that the possibility of a ground invasion just increased exponentially. The second front in the offensive against Hamas’s aggression has formed on the web. This is the first time a war has been live-tweeted.
It began with an IDF tweet yesterday, soon after the targeted assassination of Ahmed al-Jabari, the military commander of Hamas. The IDF’s official account tweeted:
The Washington Post’s front page this morning:
In the photo, a Palestinian stringer for BBC cradles his son, who was reportedly killed during Operation Pillar of Defense. The corresponding story briefly mentions the Hamas rocket attacks, but focuses mainly on Israel’s “intense air offensive” that could “paralyze the Gaza Strip” and result in “all-out conflict.”
Innocent casualties of war are a tragedy, and this is especially true when they are children.
But what the Washington Post doesn’t emphasize in its corresponding story is that the Israeli military launched this operation specifically because its citizens in the south, including children, live under constant threat from Hamas rocket fire — hundreds can rain down in a single day. These attacks regularly result in injuries and deaths, and recently forced more than a million Israelis into bomb shelters. While these stories may get a blurb on page three or four, they are rarely given front page coverage.
In my earlier post on Israel’s efforts to halt Hamas’s terrorist missile offensive against southern Israel, I alluded to the claim put forward by peace activist Gershon Baskin that Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s military commander, was willing to accept a cease-fire before he was killed yesterday. In doing so, I referred to the tale as “farcical.” I should clarify that. I was not stating a belief that Baskin made up the story. Baskin, an Israeli who has been in continuous contact with Hamas over the last several years, is probably merely repeating what he was told by his interlocutors in Gaza. So in that sense he was telling the truth as far as he knew it. What was farcical about the story, which is probably on its way to becoming one of the top talking points for critics of Israel, is that the entire premise of Baskin’s ongoing efforts to try and broker agreements with Hamas serves the interests of the terrorist group, not that of Israel or of peace.
Baskin is claiming that killing al-Jabari spiked chances for a return to the relative calm that prevailed along the border with Gaza until last week as well as angering Egypt mediators. Even worse, he asserts that in doing so, Israel made a deliberate decision to reject a peace feeler. But even if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak really were aware of the messages that he was relaying to al-Jabari’s people, their decision to make Hamas pay a price for its terrorism was correct. Though few in Israel want to send troops back into Gaza, the status quo Baskin was helping Hamas preserve was an invitation to more terrorism, not a pathway to peace.
To its credit, yesterday the State Department rightly declared that Hamas was responsible for the latest round of violence along the Gaza border and that Israel had the right to defend itself. Even the New York Times editorial page affirmed that Israel had that right this morning. But the Times, speaking as it does for liberal conventional wisdom, claimed that Israel’s government was wrong to exercise that right. Rather than taking out the head of the terrorist group’s military wing, it “could have responded as it usually has in recent years, avoiding high-profile assassinations while attacking rocket-launching squads, empty training sites and weapons manufacturing plants.” The Times also suggested Israel could have implored the Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt to intervene on its behalf with its Hamas ally. It concluded by saying that an even better idea would have been to conduct peace negotiations with Hamas’s Fatah rivals.
This risible list of suggestions provides the background to the debate that will, no doubt, soon ensue as inevitably the discussion about what has happened begins to revolve around how zealously Israel should defend itself. Farcical stories, such as those claiming Hamas was willing to make peace or at least agree to a permanent cease-fire, and that this was only prevented by a cynical decision by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to launch a counter-attack, will be told and believed by those who always buy into the lies of the terrorists. It will be argued that Israel needn’t have treated the latest massive barrage of rockets on its southern region as a big deal. But all this will be merely a cover for what is really at stake: the right of the Jewish state to live in peace, irrespective of where its borders are drawn.
The problem with all of the helpful suggestions that Israel is getting this week is that these suggestions treat the basic premise of Hamas’s strategic plan as either normal or reasonable. What’s wrong with the calls for restraint or the barbed comments about better alternatives to retaliation is that they are based on the idea that Israel ought to be willing to tolerate a “normal” amount of terrorism emanating from Gaza.
In response to months of sustained Hamas rocket attacks, the IDF kicked off its Gaza military operation this morning by dropping a missile onto Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari’s car. From the Israel Defense Forces Twitter feed, a fair warning to any of the late Jabari’s comrades who may have been thinking about taking a drive later today:
We recommend that no Hamas operatives, whether low level or senior leaders, show their faces above ground in the days ahead.
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) November 14, 2012
For days, southern Israel was pounded by close to 200 rockets fired from Hamas-controlled Gaza. This morning, the Islamist terrorist group got its answer when the Israel Defense Forces launched a series of retaliatory strikes on its military leadership. Ahmed al-Jabari, the group’s top commander, was killed in an airstrike on his car as it drove down a Gaza street. The killing of al-Jabari was just one of 20 different attacks on Hamas operatives in an effort intended to both decapitate its terrorist hierarchy as well as to send a message to the Gaza regime that if it thinks it can rain down missiles on Israel with impunity, it has made a terrible miscalculation.
The Israeli counter-attack after the days of Hamas missile fire is clearly an attempt by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu to halt the assaults on his country without having to resort to an invasion of Gaza. While Israel can expect the world to condemn its measures of self-defense, Netanyahu cannot allow a return to the situation prior to the last IDF offensive into Gaza four years ago, when Hamas acted as if it thought there was no way for Israel to stop the missile fire on its borders. It remains to be seen whether, after another surge of rocket fire today following al-Jabari’s death, Hamas will take the hint and stand down.
But either way, these events effectively debunk the idea that Hamas has embraced non-violence and that the United States should reach out to it to join peace negotiations. That’s a narrative that was increasingly being promoted by those who sought to use the Obama administration’s decision to treat the new Muslim Brotherhood government of Egypt with kid gloves. The decision over the past weekend by the Brotherhood’s Hamas allies to set in motion the events that threaten to plunge the region into a new round of deadly violence is also a reminder to Washington that it should be paying more attention to the security needs of its Israeli ally and less to what its new friends in Cairo are saying.
Over the weekend, provocations on two of Israel’s borders presented the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu with new challenges. In the Golan Heights, what was described in reports as “erratic mortar fire” from Syrian army positions brought a sharp, though limited, response from the Israel Defense Forces. In the south, Hamas launched a rocket offensive aimed at Israeli civilian targets. But while the Syrian incident made headlines in the international press since it threatened to drag Israel into the Syrian civil war, it was the situation in Gaza that was the more troubling.
As troubling as the possibility that Israel could be dragged into the ongoing chaos of Syria is, the country’s Gaza dilemma is far more worrisome. Rockets continued to fall on Israel Monday as the Hamas rulers of Gaza continued their own attempt to provoke Israel into an offensive. While both Israel and neighboring Egypt have little to gain from either a repeat of the 2008 Operation Cast Lead, in which Israel knocked out terrorist positions inside Gaza, or a more far-reaching offensive, in which the Islamist terrorist group would actually be deposed, the possibility that at some point Netanyahu will have to do something to stop the rain of fire on his country is very real.
It’s fair to say that an underappreciated obstacle to a two-state solution between Israel and the Palestinians is Hamas’s rule of Gaza. For such an agreement to take shape, Hamas would have to either consent or not be in charge of the strip. Though a Hamas-Fatah reconciliation is unlikely, even if it were to happen, it might only bring about Hamas’s conquest of the West Bank, thereby doubling, rather than solving, the problem posed by Hamas. And since Hamas won’t abide a true peace with Israel, it’s difficult to solve the conflict under current conditions.
With that in mind, those who seek to end the isolation of Hamas are strengthening the terrorist group’s hand against Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah and the Palestinian Authority’s main governing structure. In this scenario, it isn’t Israel that loses nearly as much as Abbas and Salam Fayyad, in whose corner the West claims to be. So while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pleads with the international community to help strengthen the PA’s balance sheet, the opponents of Palestinian reconciliation are helping Hamas, at Fatah’s expense. The latest such actor is the government of Qatar.
Two years ago, intellectuals went into an uproar when the state of Israel barred linguist Noam Chomsky from entering the West Bank. Leftists howled when the decision to bar the octogenarian and asked what harm he could have done the Jewish state. It was arguable that Israel did itself more harm than good by keeping the icon of anti-American and anti-Israel thought out of the country since it gave the impression that it was suppressing his ideas. That was, of course, nonsense, since free expression of all kinds, including some of the most virulent anti-Zionist agitation, is permitted throughout Israel. But whether it was wise or not, Israel was fully within its rights to keep out a foreign individual who has spent much of his career seeking the country’s destruction.
That decision was brought to mind today as the 83-year-old Chomsky returned to the Middle East, this time to visit the independent Palestinian state in all but name that exists in Gaza. Chomsky crossed from Egypt into the strip and will speak at the Islamic University there. We don’t doubt that he will get a warm welcome from the Islamists at the school as well as from the Hamas tyrants who rule the area with an iron hand. But this episode is a reminder of the double standards and hypocrisy that passes for principle on the intellectual left.
Two recent news items tell you almost everything you need to know about the Gaza Strip, but usually won’t hear. First, the new iPhone 5 – which isn’t even available in Israel yet – is selling like hotcakes in Gaza, despite prices ranging from $1,170 to $1,480, roughly double what they are in the U.S. This, you’ll recall, is the same Gaza that UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon characterized in an address to the UN Human Rights Council last month as suffering “unremitting poverty” due to Israel’s “harsh” blockade, a humanitarian crisis so grave that he devoted more of his speech to Gaza and the Palestinians than he did to the slaughter in Syria, where the death toll is over 30,000 and rising daily. It’s also the same Gaza that a UN report in August said would be “unlivable” by 2020 if the blockade continued.
Second, Palestinian doctors recently opened a cystic fibrosis clinic in Gaza that now treats 80 Palestinian children – thanks to Israel. The story began a few years ago, when an Israeli doctor, Eitan Kerem, saw a Palestinian cri de coeur on the Internet: After Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, it began strongly discouraging Gazans from seeking treatment in nearby Israel, sending them instead to Egyptian clinics located much farther away, and cystic fibrosis patients were finding the 24-hour journey unbearable. Kerem promptly joined forces with an Israeli nonprofit to organize a program to train Gazan specialists at Israel’s Hadassah Hospital, thereby enabling them to start treating cystic fibrosis patients in Gaza instead.
The first obvious lesson of these stories is that Gaza’s “humanitarian crisis” is a fiction propagated by UN bureaucrats, “human rights” organizations and complicit journalists.
The World Bank issued another report on the Palestinian economy yesterday, and its conclusions were utterly predictable: The Palestinian Authority faces a fiscal crisis, and desperately needs additional handouts on top of the $1.14 billion it’s already getting this year; and the crisis is mostly Israel’s fault. But while blaming Israel is always easy, the truth is the PA hasn’t a prayer of ever resolving its fiscal crisis without addressing the real elephant in the room: Gaza.
According to PA Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, Gaza accounts for fully 48 percent of the PA’s expenditures. But since Hamas took over the territory in 2007, revenues received from Gaza have plummeted from 28 percent to a mere 4 percent of the PA’s budget. In other words, the PA has a hole equal to 44 percent of its budget due solely to its unbalanced income and outlays on Gaza. Nothing Israel does will be able to compensate for that.
The outcome of the latest terrorist attack along the Egyptian-Israeli border leaves the two nations with a confusing situation. Masked Palestinian gunmen from the Gaza Strip entered Egyptian territory at sundown from the smuggling tunnels run by Hamas and then proceeded to attack an Egyptian military post. They killed 16 Egyptian soldiers who were settling down to their Ramadan feast, stole vehicles which they then loaded with explosives, and headed to the Israeli border with the apparent goal of kidnapping and/or killing Israeli soldiers and civilians. Fortunately, the Israel army reacted swiftly, blowing up one vehicle, killing several of the terrorists and forcing the others to flee into the Sinai. No Israelis were harmed.
The attack is an embarrassment in more than one way for the Egyptian government that is now dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is allied with Hamas, which along with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, condemned the incident. But the lax security in the Sinai since the fall of the Mubarak regime has led not only to Sinai becoming a lawless region where terrorists roam freely. Even more important, the attack, which is just the latest attempt by Gaza-based Palestinians to assault Israel via the Sinai, makes it clear the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza has made it a terrorist enclave that presents a danger to Egypt as well as Israel. Though Israel is the boogeyman of Egyptian popular culture and the focus of a relentless hate campaign in the media there, it may turn out that the Palestinians are the real threat. The question is whether the slaughter of their soldiers — a crime that cannot be blamed on Israel — willl motivate the Egyptian army and the government in Cairo to crack down on both Sinai and Hamas-run Gaza.
The indefatigable Tom Gross highlights this story compiled from the Palestinian press:
Ma’an and other Palestinian news agencies report that the Hamas government in Gaza has renewed its policy of demolishing the homes of Palestinian families in order to seize land for government use. 120 families are to lose their homes in the latest round of demolitions – a far greater number than the number of illegally built Palestinian homes Israel has demolished in recent years – and unlike Israeli authorities, Hamas doesn’t even claim these homes were built illegally or with dangerous structures. Yet western media and human rights groups have been virtually silent about these destructions of Palestinian homes by Hamas.
For several years, the international human rights “community” has been claiming the situation in Hamas-run Gaza is a humanitarian catastrophe. This is a lie, because the flow of food and medicine into Gaza has not been halted by Israel and residents of the terrorist enclave are not in danger of perishing for lack of essential materials (unless you think the munitions and construction materials needed for Hamas fortifications qualify under that category). But there is a human rights crisis in the Strip, although it is not the result of any Israeli action. Rather, it is the mass child abuse going under the guise of a summer camp program being run by Hamas.
As the Times of Israel reports, Hamas has replaced UNRWA, the UN agency devoted to caring for and perpetuating the Palestinian refugee problem, as the main provider of summer programs for children in the Strip. But rather than fun activities or education designed to promote peace or productive skills, the Hamas camps are geared toward indoctrinating and training the terrorists of the future. The 70,000 children taking part in the “We Will Live Honorably” camps are forced to undergo paramilitary training that apparently includes forcing them to walk on nails and knife blades as well as preparing them for prison. Rather than worrying about what Israel is doing to protect the people living near the Gaza border from terrorist missile fire, human rights groups should be investigating and condemning what appears to be activities that would be labeled as abuse were it taking place in the West.
It appears that what amounts to a military coup has removed the threat of a Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. That’s a great relief to many who feared that such an Islamist state abutting Hamas-ruled Gaza would overturn the situation that had simplified Israel’s strategic equation for more than 30 years. Whether the new military dictators in Cairo will help maintain the relative stability that existed under Hosni Mubarak is yet to be seen. Another question is whether the rage of frustrated Islamists and the others who fueled the country’s Arab Spring protests will bubble over into a bloody civil war that would also impact Israel.
But while the prospects of such spectacular disasters move to the back burner, Israelis must continue to cope with more routine horrors. This morning, a Gaza-based terror squad crossed Egyptian territory to launch an attack on Israel. They ambushed cars carrying civilian workers with rifle fire, anti-tank weapons and explosives. One Israeli, an Arab from Haifa, was killed. Israeli forces quickly pursued and killed two of the terrorists. The attack was reminiscent of a similar terrorist operation carried out further south near Eilat last year.
Today’s incident is an indication of how dangerous Egyptian Sinai has become in the last year as the regime in Cairo tottered and Mubarak’s successors loosened the blockade of Gaza. But it also shows how perilous Israel’s southern border remains. Since the beginning of the year, 280 rockets have been fired from Gaza into Israel despite the cease-fire that is supposed to prevail between the Hamas terrorists who run the strip and the Jewish state. Despite this, we are told by apologists for the Palestinians that Hamas has abandoned violence and that it is once again time for Israel to start making more concessions.