Commentary Magazine


Topic: Operation Pillar of Defense

Gaza Ground War Decision Within 2 Days?

Israel will decide within the next 24 to 48 hours whether to accept a cease-fire deal brokered by pro-Palestinian governments in Egypt and Turkey or launch a ground incursion into Gaza, former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Harel said on a conference call today.

“Basically we are moving with the Palestinians straight into a [juncture],” said Harel, who served as deputy chief of staff from 2007 to 2009, and also led Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005. “There are two basic alternatives. One is an agreement, which is cooked in Cairo, apparently. And the other one is escalating the situation and move forward into the Gaza strip with a land effort, which is going to be bad for both sides.”

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Israel will decide within the next 24 to 48 hours whether to accept a cease-fire deal brokered by pro-Palestinian governments in Egypt and Turkey or launch a ground incursion into Gaza, former IDF Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Harel said on a conference call today.

“Basically we are moving with the Palestinians straight into a [juncture],” said Harel, who served as deputy chief of staff from 2007 to 2009, and also led Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005. “There are two basic alternatives. One is an agreement, which is cooked in Cairo, apparently. And the other one is escalating the situation and move forward into the Gaza strip with a land effort, which is going to be bad for both sides.”

Harel said that there are two conditions Israel believes must be met before a deal is reached. First, there must be guarantees that the cease-fire will be long-term. Second, there must be an end to weapons smuggling into Gaza. Harel didn’t specifically mention the one-kilometer buffer zone on the Gaza border, which the Times of Israel reported was also an Israeli condition. 

“If both conditions [are] answered…then the Israelis, as far as I understand, will sign the agreement,” said Harel. “So basically we are about 24 to 48 hours from this [juncture], and we will have to see which direction each side will take.”

Harel also said that Hamas’s infrastructure has been severely degraded by air attacks. The IDF has hit nearly every launching pad that it was aware of — numbering from several hundred to one thousand — as well as Hamas government infrastructure, he said.

Though Israel has successfully targeted Hamas leadership since the operation began, many remain underground. “They are not being attacked because of the places they are hiding,” said Harel. “We are not going to attack a hospital or mosque, and so forth.”

But if Israel is drawn into a ground war, the Obama administration might not necessarily receive warning notice beforehand, Harel added.

“It might, it might not. I really can’t call it,” he said. “Basically, it’s not something you hide from the Americans, and I guess if they ask, they’ll be answered.”

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Is this How the Israel-Iran War Begins?

Experts and defense analysts agree that Iran would respond to any Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities by proxy, specifically by Hamas and Hezbollah rocketry launched at Israeli towns and cities. Indeed, this is one of the reasons beyond sheer ideological spite that the Iranian leadership has gone to such great lengths to arm both Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Iranian leadership may be coming very close to forcing Israel’s hand. If Hezbollah seeks to open a second front against Israel, then Israel could find itself in a two-front war with terrorist entities. Make no mistake, Israel would achieve its objective of destroying the majority of the longest-range and most lethal missiles supplied to Hamas and Hezbollah by Iran, Syria, and perhaps even North Korea.

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Experts and defense analysts agree that Iran would respond to any Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities by proxy, specifically by Hamas and Hezbollah rocketry launched at Israeli towns and cities. Indeed, this is one of the reasons beyond sheer ideological spite that the Iranian leadership has gone to such great lengths to arm both Hamas and Hezbollah.

The Iranian leadership may be coming very close to forcing Israel’s hand. If Hezbollah seeks to open a second front against Israel, then Israel could find itself in a two-front war with terrorist entities. Make no mistake, Israel would achieve its objective of destroying the majority of the longest-range and most lethal missiles supplied to Hamas and Hezbollah by Iran, Syria, and perhaps even North Korea.

This might reduce the costs to Israel of undertaking a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. After all, if Hamas and Hezbollah are temporarily neutered and if the Israeli government concludes that the elements of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps who would have command and control over any Iranian nuclear arsenal would pose an existential threat, then the Israelis may decide that their window of opportunity would never be so favorable as the present. After all, Iran’s air defense is only going to get more sophisticated with time, and its missile program is advancing steadily, and so time is otherwise not on Israel’s side.

The Iranians often quip that they play chess while their opponents play checkers. Let us hope before it is too late that the Iranian regime comes to realize, despite its overconfidence, that it is not the grandmaster it believes itself to be.

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Destroy the Smuggling Tunnels

Jonathan Tobin is absolutely correct to warn against rewarding Hamas for its attacks on Israel by granting it any sort of diplomatic concession. After all, engrained in Hamas is an absolute refusal to abide by previous diplomacy, such as the agreements the Palestinian Authority had made with Israel as a precondition to the Authority’s 1994 formation in Gaza and the West Bank.

Israeli officials, alas, can always be counted on for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Enter on cue Dan Harel, former deputy chief of the Israeli Defense Forces General Staff and a former head of its Southern Command, who quips that Israel is running out of targets.

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Jonathan Tobin is absolutely correct to warn against rewarding Hamas for its attacks on Israel by granting it any sort of diplomatic concession. After all, engrained in Hamas is an absolute refusal to abide by previous diplomacy, such as the agreements the Palestinian Authority had made with Israel as a precondition to the Authority’s 1994 formation in Gaza and the West Bank.

Israeli officials, alas, can always be counted on for saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. Enter on cue Dan Harel, former deputy chief of the Israeli Defense Forces General Staff and a former head of its Southern Command, who quips that Israel is running out of targets.

There are several huge targets that Israel should destroy, lest they simply kick the can down the road and set the stage for a far more bloody conflict a few months or years down the road: The smuggling tunnels from Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula into Gaza. As much as Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, other Islamist leaders, and prominent leftists like Noam Chomsky and the UN’s special rapporteur Richard Falk whine about Israel’s inspection regime for the Gaza Strip, the fact remains that Hamas had no problem rearming and building its arsenal since 2009. It achieved this through the sophisticated network of smuggling tunnels.

Israel should not waste the opportunity to systematically destroy these in their entirety. To accept a ceasefire while the mechanism by which a terrorist group resupplies itself remains functional would be strategic malpractice. For diplomats in the European Union and United States to turn a blind eye to these tunnels is no less irresponsible.  

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Poll: Democrats Split on Whether Israel’s Actions Are Justified

Today’s CNN/ORC International poll shows solid American support for Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. Fifty-seven percent say Israel’s strikes in Gaza are justified, compared with 25 percent who disagree. That support is even higher among independents and Republicans, but substantially lower among Democrats:

A majority of Americans say that Israel’s current military strikes against Gaza are justified, according to a new national survey.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday indicates that 57% of the public says Israel is justified in taking military action in Gaza against Hamas, with one in four saying the attacks are unjustified.

“Although most Americans think the Israeli actions are justified, there are key segments of the public who don’t necessarily feel that way,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Only four in ten Democrats think the Israeli actions in Gaza are justified, compared to 74% of Republicans and 59% of independents. Support for Israel’s military action is 13 points higher among men than among women, and 15 points higher among older Americans than among younger Americans.”

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Today’s CNN/ORC International poll shows solid American support for Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense. Fifty-seven percent say Israel’s strikes in Gaza are justified, compared with 25 percent who disagree. That support is even higher among independents and Republicans, but substantially lower among Democrats:

A majority of Americans say that Israel’s current military strikes against Gaza are justified, according to a new national survey.

A CNN/ORC International poll released Monday indicates that 57% of the public says Israel is justified in taking military action in Gaza against Hamas, with one in four saying the attacks are unjustified.

“Although most Americans think the Israeli actions are justified, there are key segments of the public who don’t necessarily feel that way,” said CNN Polling Director Keating Holland. “Only four in ten Democrats think the Israeli actions in Gaza are justified, compared to 74% of Republicans and 59% of independents. Support for Israel’s military action is 13 points higher among men than among women, and 15 points higher among older Americans than among younger Americans.”

Democrats are divided on the question, with 41 percent saying Israel’s actions are justified and 36 percent saying they’re unjustified. Another 23 percent say they have no opinion. The gulf between Democratic opinions on the operation and broader public opinion is notable, especially considering President Obama’s public support for Israeli self-defense. However, the Obama administration has also expressed strong opposition to an Israeli ground invasion, publicly and behind-the-scenes.

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Hamas Follows Obama to Asia

There are two great sources of frustrating irony for presidents seeking to leave their own policymaking legacy. The first is that they have far greater control over American foreign policy than domestic economic policy, yet it is the latter they are judged on when they stand for reelection after their first term. The second is that, once forced by the electorate to turn their attention to economic policy, history reverses its influence on them by often judging them predominantly on foreign policy.

That makes sense; the president is the commander in chief of the combined armed forces of the world’s lone superpower, and his first responsibility is always to keep his citizens safe. Following this trend, President Obama came under attack for his own economic stewardship, but won a second term. Now, as he turns to foreign policy with more concentration and attention than his first term, he is finding, as most presidents do, that no matter which direction he turns he will somehow still be facing the Middle East. The president is already hounded by Benghazi; he’s gone to Asia to stress the Asian “pivot”—not so much a policy as a slogan meant to convey a thoughtfulness about the 21st century world—and the Middle East followed him there. It was not Benghazi, however. Rather, it was Hamas that showed up in Thailand, and the president was decidedly unamused:

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There are two great sources of frustrating irony for presidents seeking to leave their own policymaking legacy. The first is that they have far greater control over American foreign policy than domestic economic policy, yet it is the latter they are judged on when they stand for reelection after their first term. The second is that, once forced by the electorate to turn their attention to economic policy, history reverses its influence on them by often judging them predominantly on foreign policy.

That makes sense; the president is the commander in chief of the combined armed forces of the world’s lone superpower, and his first responsibility is always to keep his citizens safe. Following this trend, President Obama came under attack for his own economic stewardship, but won a second term. Now, as he turns to foreign policy with more concentration and attention than his first term, he is finding, as most presidents do, that no matter which direction he turns he will somehow still be facing the Middle East. The president is already hounded by Benghazi; he’s gone to Asia to stress the Asian “pivot”—not so much a policy as a slogan meant to convey a thoughtfulness about the 21st century world—and the Middle East followed him there. It was not Benghazi, however. Rather, it was Hamas that showed up in Thailand, and the president was decidedly unamused:

“Let’s understand what the precipitating event here that’s causing the current crisis and that was an ever-escalating number of missiles that were landing not just in Israeli territory but in areas that are populated, and there’s no country on Earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Obama said at press conference in Thailand at the start of a three-nation tour in Asia.

“So we are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on people’s homes and workplaces and potentially killing civilians.”

As usual, the United States stands with Israel in yet another no-brainer: a terrorist group has conducted a prolonged assault upon Israel’s south, Tel Aviv, and even Jerusalem. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, one of the most militarily cautious and patient prime ministers in Israel’s history, has shown remarkable restraint by not ordering a ground invasion even though Jerusalem—infinitely holy to the Jewish people but apparently not very holy to the Palestinians who keep trying to blow it up—has come under fire.

But this is an easy call for the president for another reason: Hamas has decided it will be the first to test the newly reelected president’s resolve. Obama wants peace and Hamas wants war. Peace will be possible with Hamas’s defeat.

But even more than that, the president’s foreign policy legacy very well might depend on the resolution of the security crises in the Middle East–including the one created by Iran’s drive for nuclear weapons–and if the president wants attention for his Asia “pivot” or any other aspect of his foreign policy, he needs a lot more quiet on the Middle Eastern front. Hamas’s ability to sabotage the political process has gone global. The president, therefore, may actually want to make more of an example of Hamas than even Israel does. Hamas’s latest provocations were intended as a message to Israel but also to the American president. Judging by his comments, Obama seems to have gotten the message.

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“Tough” Israelis Understand Region Better than the New York Times

The most frustrating thing about being a liberal critic of Israel these days is the fact that the generally fractious people of the Jewish state are more or less united behind their government as it attempts to defend the country against terrorist assaults from Hamas. This consensus is rooted in the knowledge that neither the Islamist-controlled enclave in Gaza nor the supposedly more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has the faintest interest in peace. Left without any peace partners, Israelis understand their nation’s only choice is to do what it must to lessen the peril from rocket attacks while preparing for even greater threats such as that of a nuclear Iran.

The need to take a realistic approach to an intractable problem is merely common sense, but it still grates on Israel’s critics who still prefer to blame the victim rather than the aggressors. A classic example of such thinking was found in the form of an op-ed masquerading as a news analysis on the front page of the New York Times yesterday. Writing by former Times Jerusalem Bureau chief Ethan Bronner, the piece took as its premise that Israel was stuck in an outmoded mindset that refused to take into account the changing circumstances of the Middle East. Instead of realizing that the rise of a new wave of Islamist sentiment in the wake of the Arab Spring meant they should be more accommodating, Bronner wrote that the foolish Israelis are simply doubling down on their old tactics of being “tough” with the Arabs.

As Bronner writes:

What is striking in listening to the Israelis discuss their predicament is how similar the debate sounds to so many previous ones, despite the changed geopolitical circumstances. In most minds here, the changes do not demand a new strategy, simply a redoubled old one.

But what Bronner fails to comprehend is that the changes in the Arab world are exactly why Israel’s policies are correct.

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The most frustrating thing about being a liberal critic of Israel these days is the fact that the generally fractious people of the Jewish state are more or less united behind their government as it attempts to defend the country against terrorist assaults from Hamas. This consensus is rooted in the knowledge that neither the Islamist-controlled enclave in Gaza nor the supposedly more moderate Palestinian Authority in the West Bank has the faintest interest in peace. Left without any peace partners, Israelis understand their nation’s only choice is to do what it must to lessen the peril from rocket attacks while preparing for even greater threats such as that of a nuclear Iran.

The need to take a realistic approach to an intractable problem is merely common sense, but it still grates on Israel’s critics who still prefer to blame the victim rather than the aggressors. A classic example of such thinking was found in the form of an op-ed masquerading as a news analysis on the front page of the New York Times yesterday. Writing by former Times Jerusalem Bureau chief Ethan Bronner, the piece took as its premise that Israel was stuck in an outmoded mindset that refused to take into account the changing circumstances of the Middle East. Instead of realizing that the rise of a new wave of Islamist sentiment in the wake of the Arab Spring meant they should be more accommodating, Bronner wrote that the foolish Israelis are simply doubling down on their old tactics of being “tough” with the Arabs.

As Bronner writes:

What is striking in listening to the Israelis discuss their predicament is how similar the debate sounds to so many previous ones, despite the changed geopolitical circumstances. In most minds here, the changes do not demand a new strategy, simply a redoubled old one.

But what Bronner fails to comprehend is that the changes in the Arab world are exactly why Israel’s policies are correct.

At the heart of this critique is a belief that Israelis don’t care about peace. This is ridiculous since, even now, it is probable that a comfortable majority could be found for even the most far-reaching land-for-peace deal with the Palestinians if it could be reasonably asserted that such a treaty would actually end the conflict rather than merely continue on terms that are less advantageous for the Jewish state. Unfortunately, that is all the Oslo peace process turned out to be. Both the collapse of Oslo in the terror of the second intifada and the transformation of Gaza after Israel’s complete withdrawal from that territory in 2005 into a missile launching pad has convinced the overwhelming majority of Israelis that peace is not possible in the foreseeable future.

That leaves them with no choice but to hang tough until a sea change in the political culture of Palestinians enables them to produce a leadership that might dare to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn.

That angers deluded observers who cling to the idea that the only real obstacles to peace are those created by Israeli policies. But unless you believe, as one Arab academic quoted in Bronner’s piece asserts, that Israel’s creation was a “crime” that must be rectified for there to be peace, the only rational response to Hamas attacks is a periodic effort to “cut the grass” that will make it harder for the terrorists to kill more Jews.

Taken out of the context of Arab intransigence and a fanatical Islamist determination to continue the conflict until Israel is weakened and ultimately destroyed, talk of “cutting the grass” in Gaza seems cynical and hard-hearted. That depiction dovetails with a mindset that views Israelis as military aggressors and out of touch with their neighbors. But it is Bronner’s piece that is detached from reality, not the Israeli grass cutters.

Israel tried repeatedly to make peace in the last 20 years, but only a tiny minority in the country has failed to comprehend that all they accomplished was to trade land for terror and to empower Hamas in the process. The decision of Turkey to abandon its alliance with Israel in pursuit of pan-Islamic glory and the transformation of Egypt from cold peace partner to active ally of Hamas (as well as the tacit acceptance of these developments by the United States) has rendered talk of more concessions even more absurd.

Most Israelis understand the choice facing their country is not between holding onto territory or settlements and peace. It is between death and survival in a war with Palestinian Islamists that has no end in sight. That is a reality that Israel’s liberal critics at the Times and elsewhere haven’t yet come to terms with.

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Are Journalists Paying Hamas Fixers?

I was doing a post-doc and living in Jerusalem during the 2001-2002 terror campaign that preceded Operation Defensive Shield, a military campaign best remembered for the media’s false accusations of a “Jenin Massacre.” As the campaign ramped up, many journalist friends came to Israel to report for CNN, BBC, and other major networks. Sometimes we’d meet up for drinks afterwards and talk about work. I was surprised to learn that most paid “fixers” to work in Gaza.

Producers explained—privately—that the implication for not hiring a fixer was that not only would Fatah (at the time still in control of Gaza) and more extreme factions not grant interviews, but they would also not grant “protection.” The flip side of this, of course, was that networks were effectively paying for stories and were also self-censoring based on their fixers’ affiliation.

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I was doing a post-doc and living in Jerusalem during the 2001-2002 terror campaign that preceded Operation Defensive Shield, a military campaign best remembered for the media’s false accusations of a “Jenin Massacre.” As the campaign ramped up, many journalist friends came to Israel to report for CNN, BBC, and other major networks. Sometimes we’d meet up for drinks afterwards and talk about work. I was surprised to learn that most paid “fixers” to work in Gaza.

Producers explained—privately—that the implication for not hiring a fixer was that not only would Fatah (at the time still in control of Gaza) and more extreme factions not grant interviews, but they would also not grant “protection.” The flip side of this, of course, was that networks were effectively paying for stories and were also self-censoring based on their fixers’ affiliation.

It was a year after this and after the invasion that ended Saddam Hussein’s grip on power in Iraq that CNN executive Eason Jordan penned a New York Times op-ed in which he acknowledged the network’s self-censorship in pre-war Iraq in order to maintain access. While critics focused on CNN’s behavior in Iraq, they did not ask the network to come clean about what news they sanitized in other countries and, in the case of Gaza, territories.

Perhaps it’s time for the news media to explain alongside their broadcasts what money changed hands for fixers and in which countries they feel their access will suffer if they do not please their hosts.

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Gaza Mess is Obama’s Fault Too

Despite attempts by Israel’s critics to deflect responsibility for the violence of the last week, there’s no question that the conflict along the border between Israel and Gaza is exclusively the fault of Hamas. The Islamist terrorist group chose to escalate the clash from a steady but small number of rockets fired regularly from Gaza to the massive barrage that engulfed southern Israel last weekend. Since then, emboldened by its diplomatic support from Egypt and Turkey, Hamas has chosen to up the ante at every point when it could have backed down in the last seven days. It has gone from pounding the region next to Gaza to launching missiles at Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem. In doing so, Hamas has not only terrorized millions of Israelis, but it has endangered the lives of Palestinian civilians, whom they use as human shields. Hamas has sacrificed the lives and property of the people of both Israel and Gaza by firing rockets indiscriminately at civilians and hiding their weapons among their own people. But Hamas’s cowardly leaders aren’t the only ones at fault. President Obama bears some responsibility too.

It is true that the administration’s behavior during the present crisis has been exemplary. The White House and State Department have condemned Hamas and endorsed Israel’s right to self-defense against its attacks. Rather than pressure Israel to accept a premature cease-fire or to halt its efforts to take out Hamas missile caches and terrorist cadres, Washington has seemed to give Jerusalem a blank check to do what needs to be done with regard to Gaza. Yet even as these positions deserve praise, it must also be understood that an administration policy of engagement with Hamas’s diplomatic backers has directly led to the current crisis. By leading from behind in the Middle East, the United States has largely abdicated its leadership role. Washington’s passivity in the Syrian crisis, and its embrace of the Islamist regime in Turkey and the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, has materially contributed to a situation where Hamas feels it can act with relative impunity.

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Despite attempts by Israel’s critics to deflect responsibility for the violence of the last week, there’s no question that the conflict along the border between Israel and Gaza is exclusively the fault of Hamas. The Islamist terrorist group chose to escalate the clash from a steady but small number of rockets fired regularly from Gaza to the massive barrage that engulfed southern Israel last weekend. Since then, emboldened by its diplomatic support from Egypt and Turkey, Hamas has chosen to up the ante at every point when it could have backed down in the last seven days. It has gone from pounding the region next to Gaza to launching missiles at Tel Aviv and even Jerusalem. In doing so, Hamas has not only terrorized millions of Israelis, but it has endangered the lives of Palestinian civilians, whom they use as human shields. Hamas has sacrificed the lives and property of the people of both Israel and Gaza by firing rockets indiscriminately at civilians and hiding their weapons among their own people. But Hamas’s cowardly leaders aren’t the only ones at fault. President Obama bears some responsibility too.

It is true that the administration’s behavior during the present crisis has been exemplary. The White House and State Department have condemned Hamas and endorsed Israel’s right to self-defense against its attacks. Rather than pressure Israel to accept a premature cease-fire or to halt its efforts to take out Hamas missile caches and terrorist cadres, Washington has seemed to give Jerusalem a blank check to do what needs to be done with regard to Gaza. Yet even as these positions deserve praise, it must also be understood that an administration policy of engagement with Hamas’s diplomatic backers has directly led to the current crisis. By leading from behind in the Middle East, the United States has largely abdicated its leadership role. Washington’s passivity in the Syrian crisis, and its embrace of the Islamist regime in Turkey and the new Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt, has materially contributed to a situation where Hamas feels it can act with relative impunity.

Barack Obama arrived in the White House four years ago determined to create more distance between the United States and Israel. By picking fights with Israel’s government, the president achieved that and more. Ironically, his pressure on Israel to make concessions led to the Palestinian Authority taking even more hard-line stands and avoiding peace negotiations. But while the administration has appeared to repent of these stands during its election-year Jewish charm offensive, it has compounded this error by giving unconditional support to Turkey and the Muslim Brotherhood as it seized power in Egypt after the fall of Hosni Mubarak.

No one should blame Obama for Mubarak’s collapse. Nor did his feckless approach to the Middle East create the Arab Spring, in which radical Islamists gained ground throughout the region. But by deliberately choosing to lower America’s profile and adopt a “light footprint,” the United States has become a powerless bystander as Syria descended into chaos and the formerly isolated regime in Gaza suddenly found itself backed by powerful friends.

Democrats bitterly criticized George W. Bush’s foreign policy as a neocon failure. But though Bush made plenty of mistakes, the weak stance of his successor has enabled Hamas to become a confident regional player.

While the United States would desperately like to be able to broker a cease-fire, President Obama finds himself utterly without leverage. Israel is grateful for his current support, but after years of being dumped on by Washington, Netanyahu has no reason to trust the president. And though he claims Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as one of his best foreign friends and has done much to reach out to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, neither has paid any attention to the president’s pleas to pressure their ally Hamas into stop firing on Israel.

Though Netanyahu has no desire to invade Gaza and would have been happy to avoid the entire conflict, he has been forced to hit back hard precisely because Obama’s friends have encouraged Hamas to launch this war and to persist in their rocket fire on Israeli civilians.

Even if the president were to start acting like a leader now by publicly demanding that Egypt and Turkey cease their support for Hamas and making it clear that the terror group should not be allowed to profit from their outrages, it may already be too late.

Just as Obama’s weak diplomatic stance and comical engagement encouraged Iran to stick to their nuclear dreams, an administration that has been voting absent in the region is in no position to use what is left of its leverage to make Hamas’s backers listen to reason. Nor is it entirely a coincidence that Hamas would choose to start this war after the president’s re-election rather than before it. President Obama’s “light footprint” and friendship with Islamists has made it difficult if not impossible for the United States to influence these events or to make it harder for the terrorists in Gaza to keep shooting. Hamas started this war, but Obama helped make it possible.

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The Gaza Conflict: The View from Turkey

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took to the stage at Cairo University to condemn Israel for its attacks on Hamas military leaders, weapons depots, and missile launching pads in the Gaza Strip. “Everyone must know that sooner or later there will be a holding to account for the massacre of these innocent children killed inhumanely in Gaza,” he declared. Let us put aside the massacres of unarmed Kurdish children under Erdoğan’s watch. These have no parallel in the Gaza situation, where Israel puts its own soldiers at risk to avoid This is the same man who has railed against “the Jew;” has worked tirelessly to break Israel’s lawful (according to the United Nations) blockade of Gaza, an action meant to keep weaponry out of the hands of Hamas; and has called Hamas rocket strikes on Israel a hoax. This is also the same man whom President Barack Obama identified as one of the five foreign leaders closest to him personally.

Any Israeli official who thinks that Turkey can be bought around has either replaced analysis with hope, or is delusional. After a decade in power during which he has seized the reins not only of state broadcasters but many private newspapers as well, Erdoğan has succeeded in indoctrinating a generation of Turks in anti-Israel incitement. Erdoğan isn’t going anywhere. But even if he does, the Abdullah Gül’s, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s, and Egemen Bağış’ that mark Turkey’s future are as fiercely anti-Israel.

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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan took to the stage at Cairo University to condemn Israel for its attacks on Hamas military leaders, weapons depots, and missile launching pads in the Gaza Strip. “Everyone must know that sooner or later there will be a holding to account for the massacre of these innocent children killed inhumanely in Gaza,” he declared. Let us put aside the massacres of unarmed Kurdish children under Erdoğan’s watch. These have no parallel in the Gaza situation, where Israel puts its own soldiers at risk to avoid This is the same man who has railed against “the Jew;” has worked tirelessly to break Israel’s lawful (according to the United Nations) blockade of Gaza, an action meant to keep weaponry out of the hands of Hamas; and has called Hamas rocket strikes on Israel a hoax. This is also the same man whom President Barack Obama identified as one of the five foreign leaders closest to him personally.

Any Israeli official who thinks that Turkey can be bought around has either replaced analysis with hope, or is delusional. After a decade in power during which he has seized the reins not only of state broadcasters but many private newspapers as well, Erdoğan has succeeded in indoctrinating a generation of Turks in anti-Israel incitement. Erdoğan isn’t going anywhere. But even if he does, the Abdullah Gül’s, Ahmet Davutoğlu’s, and Egemen Bağış’ that mark Turkey’s future are as fiercely anti-Israel.

Maybe it is time that Israel fight diplomatic fire with fire. Israeli officials might argue that the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) today is fighting a military insurgency and no longer engages in terrorism. The group is overwhelmingly popular in southeastern Turkey. After all, the Kurdish areas of Turkey are not doing well; life expectancy throughout Turkey is lower than in Gaza. Given Turkey’s support for Hamas, perhaps the Israelis might begin a public debate about recognizing Kurdistan with Diyarbakir as its capital. Perhaps it’s time for Israel to consider providing both civil and military support to Turkey’s Kurds. Turkey and Turks should know what is at stake. At the very least, it’s important to speak not in diplomatic nicety—Erdoğan is incapable of understanding that—but rather in language he understands.

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Gaza Conflict: A View from Down Under

Colin Rubenstein, the director of AIJAC based in Melbourne, Australia, appeared Friday on the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s (ABC) News 24. Australia’s ABC takes a political slant much like that of the BBC, but Rubenstein’s description of the reason for and logic of the Israeli military campaign is about as articulate as it comes. It is worth the watch.

It’s also well-worth noting that not only Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition and the head of the center-right Liberal Party, but also Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is decidedly left-of-center, have endorsed Israel’s right to self-defense and roundly condemned Hamas without any moral equivalence. It is good to see that, at least outside the United States, many liberals and progressives recognize just what is at stake.

Colin Rubenstein, the director of AIJAC based in Melbourne, Australia, appeared Friday on the Australian Broadcast Corporation’s (ABC) News 24. Australia’s ABC takes a political slant much like that of the BBC, but Rubenstein’s description of the reason for and logic of the Israeli military campaign is about as articulate as it comes. It is worth the watch.

It’s also well-worth noting that not only Tony Abbott, the leader of the opposition and the head of the center-right Liberal Party, but also Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is decidedly left-of-center, have endorsed Israel’s right to self-defense and roundly condemned Hamas without any moral equivalence. It is good to see that, at least outside the United States, many liberals and progressives recognize just what is at stake.

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Gaza Conflict Wasn’t Launched to Help Bibi

Hamas rockets reached Jerusalem today as the terrorist barrage on Israel continued. Rather than being silenced by Israeli counter-attacks, the Islamists have apparently been emboldened by the ardent support they have received from both Egypt and Turkey and have raised the ante in the conflict. That leaves Israel’s government having to choose between a cease-fire that will give Hamas a victory or to launch a costly ground invasion of Gaza that might inflict serious damage on the terrorists and perhaps restore some measure of deterrence. But looming over all of the discussions about the country’s options is the accusation that the fighting this week has been motivated more by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s re-election campaign than Israel’s security.

That’s the theme being sounded by a chorus of leftist critics of the PM on the Haaretz op-ed page and is even being echoed by President Obama’s good friend and Hamas ally Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today according to Ynet. Leaving aside Erdoğan’s fantastic claim that the several hundred rockets that have been fired at Israel are a “fabrication,” the notion that the decision to try and stop the rocket attacks is connected to Israel’s parliamentary election scheduled for January.

Considering how unpopular Netanyahu is outside of his own country as well as with Israel’s media, it’s hardly surprising that this sort of thing would be said. But it should also be understood that it is complete nonsense. The timing of the conflict was determined by Hamas, not Israel, and far from boosting Netanyahu’s chances of winning re-election, the growing violence is much more of a liability than it is an opportunity to win votes.

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Hamas rockets reached Jerusalem today as the terrorist barrage on Israel continued. Rather than being silenced by Israeli counter-attacks, the Islamists have apparently been emboldened by the ardent support they have received from both Egypt and Turkey and have raised the ante in the conflict. That leaves Israel’s government having to choose between a cease-fire that will give Hamas a victory or to launch a costly ground invasion of Gaza that might inflict serious damage on the terrorists and perhaps restore some measure of deterrence. But looming over all of the discussions about the country’s options is the accusation that the fighting this week has been motivated more by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s re-election campaign than Israel’s security.

That’s the theme being sounded by a chorus of leftist critics of the PM on the Haaretz op-ed page and is even being echoed by President Obama’s good friend and Hamas ally Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan today according to Ynet. Leaving aside Erdoğan’s fantastic claim that the several hundred rockets that have been fired at Israel are a “fabrication,” the notion that the decision to try and stop the rocket attacks is connected to Israel’s parliamentary election scheduled for January.

Considering how unpopular Netanyahu is outside of his own country as well as with Israel’s media, it’s hardly surprising that this sort of thing would be said. But it should also be understood that it is complete nonsense. The timing of the conflict was determined by Hamas, not Israel, and far from boosting Netanyahu’s chances of winning re-election, the growing violence is much more of a liability than it is an opportunity to win votes.

First of all, the notion that Netanyahu needs a “wag the dog” style war to be assured of winning in January is absurd. The prime minister’s Likud has been a prohibitive favorite for months. While there has been virtual unanimity about the fact that Likud will form the next coalition, any doubts that his party would receive the most votes was erased by the merger with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitienu group. Though the expanded Likud may not dominate as much as Netanyahu hopes, it’s probably a lock to receive more Knesset seats than any party has won in 20 years.

A war may boost Netanyahu’s personal popularity while the fighting is going on, but that isn’t likely to translate into extra votes for his party in January. After all, centrist voters who are uncomfortable with Lieberman or even the prime minister are more likely than not to stick with Yair Lapid or any of the other alternatives that will probably wind up in Netanyahu’s coalition anyway.

Far more important to these calculations is that there may be more votes lost than won from a conflict.

It is true that had Netanyahu allowed Hamas to go on pounding the south as they did this past weekend, it would have undermined his credibility as a leader. Nor would the approximately one million Israelis who live in proximity to Gaza appreciate him leaving them unprotected. But the counter-attack exposes him to criticism on a number of key points.

Having set out this week to clip Hamas’s wings and restore Israel’s deterrence factor, how will it look if the fighting stops with the Islamist group’s power intact and in position to declare a victory? Indeed, with more than half of the hundreds of rockets launched by Hamas getting through Israel’s vaunted Iron Dome anti-missile system and with rockets landing in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem since the offensive started, it’s hard to argue that even the hard blows administered to the terrorists this week have made a dent in their ability to threaten the Jewish state.

If Netanyahu decides not to accept a cease fire under these conditions and launches a ground attack on Gaza of some sort, that will satisfy some Israelis. But the heavy casualties that will be suffered by both sides will also be held against him as well as heightening foreign pressure to stand down before Hamas’s infrastructure is significantly damaged. While a clear success would make him look good, does anyone really believe that under the circumstances and the advantages Hamas has in asymmetrical warfare it is likely that such an outcome is likely?

Most important, it should be remembered that Hamas launched this conflict for its own purposes. It was Hamas that dug the tunnel under the border with Israel to facilitate future terror attacks and whose discovery set the first attacks in motion. It was Hamas that chose to fire at an Israeli army vehicle across the border. And it was Hamas that decided that rather than instead of a limited exchange of fire after these incidents, it would launch a barrage of over 150 missiles into Israel on Sunday and Monday.

This decision was related to Hamas’s desire to upstage the Palestinian Authority and its bid for United Nations recognition. The flexing of their muscles was also about their desire to bolster the group’s popularity, something that required them to re-establish their reputation as the Palestinian group that was best at killing Israelis. None of that had much to do with Israel’s election, let alone Netanyahu’s political interests.

The long-term impact of the conflict that Hamas has fomented has yet to be determined. But whatever it turns out to be, ascribing it to a plot to re-elect Benjamin Netanyahu reflects the malice that many observers have for the prime minister, not a clear-headed analysis of the situation.

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Spot the Flaws in This BBC Gaza Footage

Via Tablet’s Adam Chandler. At first glance the background footage in this BBC report appears to show injured Palestinians stumbling away from Israeli military strikes. But watch a little closer starting at about 2 minutes into the video, and see if you can spot the inconsistencies. Here’s one to start you off: keep an eye on the supposedly wounded guy on the ground in the tan jacket who’s carried off by a group of men around 2:10 into the clip. Watch him pop back up a few seconds later in the footage, milling around off-set with a bored look on his face:

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Via Tablet’s Adam Chandler. At first glance the background footage in this BBC report appears to show injured Palestinians stumbling away from Israeli military strikes. But watch a little closer starting at about 2 minutes into the video, and see if you can spot the inconsistencies. Here’s one to start you off: keep an eye on the supposedly wounded guy on the ground in the tan jacket who’s carried off by a group of men around 2:10 into the clip. Watch him pop back up a few seconds later in the footage, milling around off-set with a bored look on his face:

Chandler makes two other interesting catches. He adds:

With devastation raging in the Middle East right now–especially in Syria, where, according to reports, the death toll has now eclipsed 37,000–that the BBC would air footage that is so blatantly staged insults the victims of violence in places like Kiryat Malachi in Israel and Homs in Syria, where civilians were deliberately targeted today.

It’s unclear whether BBC produced this footage itself or through a stringer, but either way they should have saved it for the blooper reel. If history is any indication, we can expect a lot more of this in the coming days.

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Hamas Can Win Even By Losing

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.

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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.

In comparing this conflict to the one Hamas provoked at the end of 2008 when Israel was forced to launch Operation Cast Lead to try to put an end to the battering of its southern region, it’s clear the IDF has learned from its mistakes. The stories about Israel slaughtering Palestinians in 2008 were false since the vast majority of the 1,400 Arabs killed in the conflict were armed fighters, not civilians. Nevertheless, even more care has been taken this time. Israel is also doing much better at getting its message about the necessity of self-defense out to the world via both conventional means and social media.

But it must be understood that Hamas is in a much stronger position than it was four years ago.

Rather than Hamas being isolated, as it was in 2008, the Islamist governments of Egypt and Turkey are now powerful supporters of the Gaza regime. The Egyptians are openly backing Hamas and even sending their prime minister to Gaza to express solidarity while the group’s missiles rain down on Israeli civilian targets. Rather than counting on foreign volunteers or Palestinian civilians to serve as human shields for its terrorist cadres, Hamas can now depend on high-ranking Egyptian officials to visit even while it is still shooting at Israel.

Hamas is also counting on the usual routine of international diplomacy to save them from the consequences of their aggression. Though the Obama administration, along with the West, is backing Israel’s right to self-defense, tolerance for Israeli counter-attacks is probably limited and it won’t be long before Washington joins Moscow in calling for a cease-fire that will rescue Hamas from having more of its leadership and its weaponry eliminated.

Hamas also knows that although Israel is calling up reserves and sending them to the border in an attempt to intimidate the group into ending the shooting, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reluctant to launch a ground attack that will result in more casualties on both sides. A ground operation might do much to increase the pain for Hamas and to alter the cost-benefit ratio of their offensive so much as to perhaps turn this victory into a defeat. But that would come at a steep price for Israel in terms of its already shaky diplomatic situation.

All this means that if a cease-fire is agreed to in the next few days without much more damage being inflicted on the group, Hamas will have won a not inconsiderable victory.

Despite the Iron Dome anti-rocket system touted by both Israel and the United States, Hamas has shown it can still inflict tremendous pain on the Jewish state and even threaten metropolitan Tel Aviv. Iron Dome has intercepted less than half of the projectiles launched against Israel and saved many lives, but it can’t get all of them.

Hamas’s diplomatic support, particularly from Egypt, has demonstrated that it is invulnerable to pressure from the United States or anyone else. Israelis have also been reminded that no matter how outrageous the provocations of its enemies, much of the world will still insist that the Jewish state is at fault any time it defends itself.

While a cessation of missile fire will be a relief if it happens in the coming days, neither Israel’s government nor its population or its foreign supporters should take any satisfaction from what has happened this week. Netanyahu had no choice but to respond to Hamas and to do what he could to maintain Israel’s deterrence. But what we are watching shows that when you have a terrorist state on your doorstep that the world will not allow you to depose, there are no good options available to you and little chance for a good outcome.

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Critics Struggle to Undermine IDF’s Social Media Blitz

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.

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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.

So far, the Israeli military’s public relations department hasn’t been fazed. They’ve rolled out a new Tumblr page, where they’ve been posting videos of IDF dropping thousands warning leaflets from the air above Palestinian neighborhoods and succinctly explaining the Hamas rocket attacks that sparked Operation Pillar of Defense. They’ve also launched a Pinterest, a Flikr page, an Instagram, and a GooglePlus account that they’ve been updating by the minute.

The Israelis have also been smart about the content. The video clips, images, and tweets are actually newsworthy, as opposed to the usual stale and timid statements on government social media accounts.

It’s by far the most cutting-edge combination of PR warfare and military warfare, perfectly packaged to go viral in the current media environment. BuzzFeed’s Matt Buchanan writes:

Much of the criticism of the American media during the height of the Iraq War focused on its role repeating White House talking points and propaganda. But using the tools of social media, as Israel is doing, reveals there’s no longer a need to rely a media middleman, or to filter the raw feed of war through an “embedded” — and, military officials hope, captured — journalist’s mouth or keyboard. A nation is officially tweeting its wartime activities. The military can broadcast exactly what it wants to, directly to its citizens, allies, and enemies. The IDF even appropriates the language of news, prefacing several tweets with “BREAKING” — and native social media, at one point saying “in case you missed it” before pointing to a YouTube video of it killing Ahmed Jabari in a missile strike. And unlike any propaganda machine before it, it’s inherently viral. It’s designed to spread. So the IDF spokesperson provides posters and YouTube videos and a constantly updated Flickr account; they’re more shareable than plain text. Its tweets are a mixture of documentation, saber rattling, sober reminders of the reality of war, and upbeat updates on the advanced state of its technology. All delivered direct to you. Please RT.

Israel has long struggled to get its message through the anti-Israel filter of the international media. It’s finally landed on the perfect solution: go over the media’s heads.

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Israel-Hamas War Opens a Second Front: The Web

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:

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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:

Soon after, the official account for Hamas responded:

That began a series of tweets from both accounts directed at each other. For the first time, each side could tell observers, without using the mainstream media as a channel, what they were fighting for and why. Unfortunately for Hamas, the increased scrutiny has made it much more difficult to get away with public relations antics it has utilized in previous conflicts. 

Yesterday the official Hamas feed tweeted a photo of dead child, held in the arms of a sobbing man without any reference about who or where the victims were. Unfortunately for Hamas, many Twitter users immediately recognized the photo. It wasn’t from Gaza and it wasn’t even that recent; it was from Syria. While the Hamas feed has continually claimed that its civilians are under attack by the Israeli military, the proof they provide has been much more easily fact-checked by millions of Twitter users. 

Israel is using social media to explain the morality of the war it is fighting in the Gaza strip, filled with civilians. From their official YouTube account, video has been posted of leaflets being dropped on residents, explaining how they can best protect themselves in the fighting between the terrorist organization and the Jewish state. On the IDF’s website, an entire blog post explained the lengths Israel goes to in order to minimize civilian casualties. In the war of information, Israel’s detailed accounts of its activities are much more persuasive than misleading pictures from Syria posted on Twitter by Hamas without context. 

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No Alternative to Israeli Self-Defense

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.

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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.

Throughout 2012 several hundred rockets have been fired from the Hamas-run enclave at southern Israel. Up until today, when three Israelis were killed in Kiryat Malakhi, there were no fatalities. But life under the threat of rocket fire in a region where more than one million Israelis live was never normal. Even the new and improved anti-missile systems the country can deploy are not good enough to prevent terrorist squads from taking pot shots at the country’s southern cities, towns and villages.

Many in the foreign policy establishment have spoken of Hamas as having embraced non-violence in the last year. But the group continued to not only fire rockets and to tolerate attacks from smaller organizations, it also continued to dig tunnels, such as the one found last week, designed to facilitate terrorist operations inside Israel and to build up its arsenal of rockets.

Some allege that Netanyahu’s decision to retaliate for the recent surge in rocket attacks is linked to his own political prospects in Israel’s January elections. But that reverses the truth about the fighting. It is Hamas that is playing politics with rockets as it seeks to upstage the Palestinian Authority and to solidify its popularity by demonstrating that it is attacking Israel.

Netanyahu is hoping that he can avoid a costly ground operation. Few in Israel want any part of an infantry battle inside Gaza or to return to governing the area that it abandoned in 2005. But the idea that Israel has reasonable alternatives to air operations intended to hamper Hamas’s ability to attack Israel is a myth. The peace process is dead in the water precisely because support for terror against Israel and opposition to its right to exist makes it impossible for any Palestinian moderates — and it is a stretch to claim that term applies to the PA and its Fatah leadership — to negotiate with Israel. If there is to be any hope for peace, Hamas terrorism must be stopped. The group provoked this battle because it believed that the fighting would enhance its standing with Palestinians while doing nothing to harm its warm relations with Egypt and Turkey. But its leadership must be made to understand that the cost of this fighting will be higher than it can afford to pay.

There may be no definitive answer to the threat from Hamas, but continuing to ignore it is no solution. Netanyahu’s problem stems in large measure from a willingness on the part of the international community to treat the existence of a terrorist state on Israel’s borders as something that it must be forced to live with. Those that ask Israel to go on living with “normal” terrorism and to take no serious measures to halt the constant barrage of missiles onto its territory are acting as if the lives of those who live under this threat are worth nothing. That is a premise no government can ever accept.

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Now for a Public Service Announcement from the IDF

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

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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

One thing that sets this military campaign apart from similar ones in the past is what you see above — the IDF’s very active social media response. The Israeli government was clearly prepared for a media operation as well as a military one this morning, and immediately began putting out information on Twitter and YouTube, including this video footage of the ultra-precise Jabari strike. In fact, the IDF Twitter stream has been busy all day. Clearly it makes it difficult for Hamas and Hamas sympathizers to claim Israel is intentionally targeting civilians, and for the left to claim Israel is reckless about civilian casualties, if clips like this are made public.

The Israel Project has more on the campaign, which also appears aimed at depleting Hamas weapons stockpiles:

Washington, November 14 — Responding to months of rocket barrages by Hamas-led terror groups targeting more than a million Israeli civilians, the IDF today launched a widespread campaign targeting military infrastructure and operatives in the Gaza Strip. The campaign has been identified by Israeli military officials as “Operation Pillar Of Defense,” and began with a pin-point strike targeting Ahmed Jabari, the commander of Hamas’s military wing and a terrorist linked to hundreds of terror operations over the span of decades. … 

Early reports indicate that in addition to targeting Hamas’s senior military leadership, Israel is specifically seeking to degrade Hamas’s stockpiles of these and other advanced weapons. Media outlets are reporting that the Israeli Air Force struck a suspected stockpile of advanced Fajr 5 missiles smuggled into the Gaza Strip from Iran. The weapon’s use in 2006 by Hezbollah, Iran’s Lebanese proxy, had constituted a major escalation during that year’s Lebanon II war with Israel.

Israel is calling it “Operation Pillar of Defense” in English, and “Operation Pillar of Cloud” in Hebrew. The Hebrew name is a reference to the “pillar of cloud” that led the Jewish people through the desert in Exodus.

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