Operation Protective Edge may look like its predecessors–Operation Cast Lead in 2008-9 and Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012–in that it is a response to Palestinian terrorism launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians. The previous two rounds of the conflict ended with Hamas still in power in the Gaza Strip, weakened but able to re-arm over time and to project a strategic threat. There are five reasons, however, this time may be different.

1. By Attacking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, Hamas Has Invited Its Own Destruction. By launching its Iranian-and Syrian-made missiles against Israel’s two major cities–especially Tel Aviv, normally a safe distance from conflict–Hamas has broken the unwritten rules of the game. It has long been known that Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north had the ability to reach those cities. But those groups had not exercised it.

Now that Hamas has shown it is willing to attack Israel’s commercial, spiritual, and political centers, the terror group has left Israel no choice but to destroy it completely. There is no way Israel can accept life under an active threat of rockets, enjoying safety only at Hamas’s whim. Attacking border towns like Sderot–or even, as in 2006, a northern city like Haifa–is one thing. Attacking Tel Aviv is a provocation Israel cannot ignore.

In particular, Netanyahu must maintain Israel’s deterrent. While he needs to keep forces at the ready in case of an attack from Hezbollah, or a more direct escalation by Iran, he knows that if he fails to show that Israel is ready to defend itself, he will strengthen Tehran. With nuclear negotiators just days away from their deadline for a (bad) deal, Netanyahu needs to maintain pressure on Iran–and remind the U.S. it can act on its own.

2. Obama Is on the Wrong Side–and Irrelevant. On the first day of Operation Protective Edge, President Obama published an op-ed in the left-wing dailyHa’aretz calling for “restraint” and a Palestinian state. As if to make clear that the publication was not an accident of timing, a senior Obama adviser gave a harsh speech to a peace conference in Tel Aviv the same day at which he blasted Israel for continuing to occupy the West Bank.

These gestures–informed, as usual, by misleading Palestinian demographic statistics that falsely predict Arab majorities in the near future–send the message that the White House disapproves of Israel’s operation and its general strategic posture. Normally, that would be very bad news for Israel. But it may help, ironically, because Obama has already alienated Israel to such an extent that the Israeli government feels at liberty to ignore him.

In addition, Israel previously held back due to political considerations in the U.S., cutting Cast Lead short in time for Obama’s inauguration, and postponing Pillar of Defense until Obama’s re-election campaign was over. This time conflict has erupted at the height of the midterm elections, meaning that anything Obama tries to do to stop Israel will boost Republican criticism of his foreign policy, and place Democrats in a tough spot.

3. None of Hamas’s Usual Allies Are Going to Help. Egypt, which as of last year was controlled by a very Hamas-friendly Muslim Brotherhood, is now run by Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who led a military coup that pushed the Muslim Brotherhood out of power, cutting off a critical source of military and diplomatic support. The fact that Hamas is the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood means Sisi has no love for the organization.

Iran might normally be expected to help, especially by smuggling weapons and stirring up Hezbollah to create a potential second front for Israel in Lebanon. However, Iran is tied down in fighting to defend the Assad regime in Syria and the Maliki regime in Iraq. Syria has long since expelled Hamas from Damascus, and Jordan is too preoccupied with the threat of ISIS to care. Even ISIS is too busy to make Israel a priority. Hamas is on its own.

4. Iron Dome Has Neutralized Hamas’s Offensive Arsenal. Though Hamas targeted Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, those two cities have (thus far) emerged unscathed, thanks to the effectiveness of Israel’s Iron Dome system, which tracks and destroys small, short-range projectiles. (Here the Obama administration will try to take some credit for Israel’s security, although the project had U.S. support before Obama came to power.)

The other weapon Hamas still retains is kidnapping. It is still a potent threat, as last month’s abduction and murder to three Israeli teens shows. Yet to carry out that threat, Hamas must either rely on infiltrating from Gaza, which has become very difficult, or on activating terror cells in the West Bank, where the Israeli military operates relatively freely. There is a reason Hamas is resorting to its best weapons first: it is rather desperate.

5. There is Israeli Support for Invading Gaza. Or, rather, Netanyahu will pay a political price if he fails to do what is necessary to oust Hamas. That could include re-occupying Gaza for some time–not re-introducing the settlements that were abandoned in the 2005 disengagement, but enforcing stability and preventing Hamas from operating militarily or politically in the Strip, withdrawing only once its terror infrastructure is destroyed.

The Israel peace camp has become a joke. On Tuesday, attendees at a conference of peace activists physically assaulted one of Israel’s conservative leaders. Though a few die-hards–including Israel’s outgoing President Shimon Peres–will stress the importance of negotiations and a two-state solution, the more potent political threat is on Netanyahu’s right, ready to exploit impressions that he has not done enough to secure Israel.

Photo: File

July 9, 2014 | 6 Comments »

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  1. It’s wearying to keep reading all these profound essays and ‘patriotic’ statements. The reality, however, is quite the opposite of what’s being said. Are the ‘experts’ and ‘seasoned professionals’ really so blind to the historical reality? The current Israeli operation will not bring about a dramatic, long-term change. Hamas will not be eliminated. In fact, Hamas will come out of this stronger than ever… as has been the case in every major operation ‘against’ them. Only the ruling elites in Israel, the military-industrial oligarchy, and their partners in the Arab/International business world… only they will profit from what’s happening. The rockets will stop… for a while (as has been the case in the past). And, after the current operation, the building and supply companies will resume shipping goods into Gaza, rebuilding what was destroyed and expanding the infrastructure (as has been the case in the past). Another flotilla will be staged. The cycle will repeat… as has been the case for so many years (perhaps since the beginning of the State of Israel). In spite of all the well-written, grammatically-correct, rhetorically-clever essays and speeches, Israel is caught in a system designed to keep us trapped.. like Sisyphus and Tantalus… ever rolling the rock to the top of the hill, then watching it roll back to the bottom again; and/or reaching for the water that seems to be just within our grasp but fading away the moment we reach for it. A revolution is needed. But don’t count on this happening. It’s easy to write essays. It takes genuine courage and commitment to do what’s necessary to change the status quo, eliminate our enemies, and move us towards genuine sovereignty. The Muslims have that courage and commitment. Establishment Jews do not. (Written from Southern Israel, near Yad Mordechai, 12 Tammuz 5774)

  2. Re: #1-#5

    In 2012 Hamas did fire on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Israel knew they would do it again this time and is probably a major reason for BB trying to avoid a military confrontation since the kidnapping of the 3 young Israeli kids.

    The only thing that could move BB to enter conflict is attacks on the center of the country and Jerusalem. The South for BB is expendable giving credence to the popular Israeli belief that Jewish lives in the South are worth less than those in the populous center of Israel. No matter how this ends BB will pay a price for his reticence in the next elections just like he paid in the 2012 elections.

    The latest round with Hams has shown BB’s policy to be criminally flawed. It is Israel who through tax transfers to the PA in fact supports Hamas as the PA pays most of the civil servants in Gaza including their militias and leadership. Israel supplies water and electricity to Gaza and is owed almost a billion dollars. Israel has allowed dual purpose material into Gaza used to make bunkers and rockets now fired on Israel putting millions of lives at risk and costing the Israeli economy hundreds of millions of dollars.

    Until a policy of assuming every rocket fired against Israel is successful and responding in kind as though each one hit a major target or one with mass Israeli casualties. We will continue with the current flawed policy with each round of conflict finding the enemies capabilities more sophisticated than the last. Hamas will close the technology gap and use their own population as human shields to both negate Israels superiority and to mobilize world opinion against Israel when the body count of Arabs surpasses a hundred or so.

    The only way Israel can ensure peace and tranquility to our South and center of the country is to retake Gaza cleanse it of Hamas leadership and militant cadres, destroy all offensive capabilities including weapons accumulation and storage. There will be a heavy price to be paid by Israel in lives of our soldiers and the cost of maintaining and administrating the lives of 1.5 million Arabs in Gaza.

    Harsh economic sanctions by EU countries and possibly International Isolation…. Not good for business!!! 😛

    The alternatives is to fight Hamas every 6 months to 2 years and no one can predict the outcomes of the future confrontations.

    Then there is the issue of sovereign borders. Every attack against Israel is an attack against our sovereignty and an act of war, even a war crime when directed against innocent non-combatants.

    Israel allowed by omission or commission Hamas to Arm itself with over 10,000 rockets of various manufacture and origin, some home made with materials supplied by Israel.

    Ten years ago Hamas put together primitive Kassams and today are making more powerful long range rockets. In 5 and 10 years from now I assume they will have mastered accuracy deficiencies with extended ranges and payloads.

  3. @ Topaz:

    Israelis must demand that the government be dissolved and the military take over until the deed is done. If the military has not been also taken over by idiots.

    a while back I have recommended a book written some 7-8 yrs ago by zvika Amit, named code blue.
    It describes this very scenario that you have posted.

  4. This is NOT containable. This is ALL OUT WAR perpetrated by the Arab. They are daily sending multiple rockets against Israel’s nuclear site and into major cities. And Israel is still providing all the necessities of life and money to their enemy. Israelis must demand that the government be dissolved and the military take over until the deed is done. If the military has not been also taken over by idiots.

  5. As long as Gaza is not razed to the ground,
    As long as Refugees of Goush Katif do not return to their houses,
    This war shall have the same effect as the precedent,
    Just a sword strike into water.

  6. #6, but really No.1 – the Israeli’s have finally had enough. Even a Jew can only take so much!