Hamas disarming? Forget about it, says top IDF intel officer

In a rare interview, Lt.-Col. M., tasked with understanding the Palestinian ‘enemy,’ looks at how Hamas sees the summer’s war, and how the West Bank reality might play out

BY AVI ISSACHAROFF, TOI

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal answers AFP journalists' questions during an interview in the Qatari capital of Doha, on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/al-Watan Doha/Karim Jaafar)

Lt.-Col. M., the head of the Palestinian desk at Military Intelligence’s Research Department, was tasked with a near-impossible mission during the 50 days of fighting in Gaza: understand the intentions of Hamas’s leadership, and assess its resilience.

Now M., the man ultimately charged with gauging the Palestinian “enemy,” be it Hamas or the Palestinian Authority, is trying to understand what exactly happened in the last conflict, and how Hamas views things in its wake.

“When we evaluate how Hamas leaders see the war, and I am referring to both public and private conversations, their conclusion is negative. At the same time, they are not entirely devoid of accomplishments,” M. said in a rare interview with Times of Israel.

“For them, the latest round of conflict uncovered some serious problems: The Arab world remained on the sidelines, and an even more resounding failure was that the West Bank public was apathetic. The isolation of Gaza remains, and there are still no signs of the blockade being lifted. The recent war was entirely different for them than Pillar of Defense. There, they had accomplishments. Here, this was a battle over governance, economy, and the public space.”

‘Hamas did not plan or initiate this campaign. It got worse on its watch. Yet Hamas certainly wanted to take advantage of the war, to attain civilian accomplishments’

Lt.-Col. M. emphasizes that such assessments are not only those of the Research Department, but of Military Intelligence as a whole. The deeper significance, which M. does not explicitly delineate, is that the situation in Gaza is not expected to improve anytime soon.

“My estimate is that the movement that fought a war over these issues will not easily give up its rule. That is, Hamas will not relinquish its military capabilities or its military wing,” he says. “The demand that it subordinate its military wing to the PA is unrealizable. For now, the talk of ‘one weapon,’ or ‘one authority’ is just talk.”

What should we make of the claim that the “July War” was carefully planned by Hamas?

“The position of MI is clear: The stories about a ‘July War’ are nonsense. There is no information to show that Hamas had a ‘Pearl Harbor-style’ contingency plan prepared, which they pulled out suddenly, surprising us completely. And the others [the Shin Bet security service] agree about this.

“What we see was a gradual deterioration. Prior to Protective Edge, it was obvious that Hamas did not want war. And certainly not an all-out war. After Operation Brothers’ Keeper [when security forces arrested numerous Hamas operatives in the West Bank, as Israel sought the killers of three Israeli teenagers abducted on June 12], there was an escalation on the ground led by smaller factions, including Islamic Jihad.

“Take for instance the Abd al-Wader al-Husseini Brigades. They fired rockets [at Israel from Gaza] before and during the war, and contributed to the deterioration and escalation. I can assure you that some of the members of this group do no even know who Abd al-Wader al-Husseini was. (He was a leader of Arab forces in Jerusalem and Hebron during the 1948 War of Independence.) They are punks in flip-flops with RPGs.

“Hamas did not plan or initiate this campaign. It got worse on its watch. Yet Hamas certainly wanted to take advantage of the war, to attain civilian accomplishments.”

Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal answers AFP journalists’ questions during an interview in the Qatari capital of Doha, on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/al-Watan Doha/Karim Jaafar)
Hamas chief Khaled Mashaal answers AFP journalists’ questions during an interview in the Qatari capital of Doha, on August 10, 2014. (photo credit: AFP/al-Watan Doha/Karim Jaafar)

Lt.-Col. M. refuses to talk about the balance of forces with the various Hamas factions, but is happy to give his opinion of the leader of the organization, Khaled Mashaal. “There is a certain riddle here. He is a fascinating figure, in my opinion. Gaza residents mocked him in various forums, writing about the ‘Jihad of the hotels’ [referring sneeringly to Mashaal’s speeches urging continued resistance, issued from his hotel in Qatar]. He no longer has control of the organization’s money, or over the weapons being brought into Gaza. And yet he has authority. I think it is connected to the man’s charisma, and to the concept of the ‘General Guide’ that flourishes among Muslim Brotherhood organizations. Mashaal still sets the tone, but he is not the absolute authority. There is internal coherence between all the wings [of Hamas]. And right now I still do not see anyone who can succeed him.”

Muhammad Deif
Muhammad Deif

And what of the fate of Mohammed Deif, [the Gaza military commander and arch-terrorist, wanted for decades by Israel, whose wife and children were killed in an Israeli airstrike on August 19 and who has not been heard from since]?

“I am not willing to discuss this. I can only say to you that most Gaza resident believe he is alive.”

Why did Hamas keep fighting if, in your assessment, it didn’t want the war?

“Their principle was to keep fighting until they had some achievement. And once they set goals such as the removal of the blockade or the building of an airport and a seaport, they had to act to achieve these gains. Hence the prolonged fighting. At some point it became a trap for them, because they did not accomplish anything, and ending the war without any achievements was more dangerous to them than halting the rocket fire.”

“As a government, they suffered heavy losses, with many Gazans dead and displaced — 100,000 to 150,000 people homeless — as well as the destruction of so much infrastructure.”

“On the operational level, there was no surprise here for Israel. Most of the arsenal of medium-range rockets that Hamas had spent years stockpiling were thwarted by the Iron Dome, and their special operations were largely thwarted by the IDF. They were had a third of their rockets left, of various ranges, at the end. But they also have some things they see as constituting a victory — their resilience, the ability to damage the fabric of life in Israel, including at Ben Gurion Airport, as well as emptying out the settlements around Gaza at the end of the war. The bottom line, though, is that it was a grim event for them.

A rocket explodes in the Kerem Shalom border crossing compound, August 10, 2014. (screen capture: YouTube/zafat 1986)
A rocket explodes in the Kerem Shalom border crossing compound, August 10, 2014. (screen capture: YouTube/zafat 1986)

“How this operation is etched in the minds of the Palestinians is related to the economic issues. In July 2013, after the revolution in Egypt and the closure of the smuggling tunnels [under the Sinai-Gaza border], the first cracks in the calm [that had prevailed between Israel and Gaza since 2012’s Pillar of Defense] were felt. The stabilization of the current ceasefire will depend on what happens in relation to the operation of the border crossings, the transfer of salaries to Hamas clerks, and the rehabilitation of Gaza. But nothing concrete has been agreed that would allow any of this to unfold constructively. Hamas wants to see members of the PA’s Presidential Guard run the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods [between Israel and Gaza] and the Erez crossing for people. They are also anxious [to see eased access at the] Rafah border crossing with Egypt. But the Egyptians are dragging their feet with regards to Rafah. This is the famous Egyptian ‘slowly, slowly’ approach.”

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recites a prayer in memory of those killed during the Gaza campaign ahead of a press conference on August 26, 2014 in the West Bank city of Ramallah, to formally announce a ceasefire with Israel. (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas recites a prayer in memory of those killed during the Gaza campaign ahead of a press conference on August 26, 2014 in the West Bank city of Ramallah, to formally announce a ceasefire with Israel. (photo credit: AFP/Abbas Momani)

And what about Abbas and the West Bank, how things are developing there? Here M. sounds wary and is not prepared to disclose MI’s assessments, perhaps out of fear that they will be interpreted as criticism of the political echelon.

What are the chances of the outbreak of a third intifada?

“Let’s put it like this: I still feel that the mood on the Palestinian street in the West Bank is a function of a strong desire to maintain the fabric of life – people see what is happening in Syria and other places in the region, and there is still the memory of [the IDF’s anti-suicide bomber] Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. But much of the stability on the ground depends on the economic and civil component.

“What can cause unrest and instability, and I intentionally am not talking in terms of a third intifada, is the undermining of the economic component, or something dramatic like the harming of a symbol such as Jerusalem. As long as these brakes are maintained, matters are under control for now. But these things are potentially incendiary, and nothing lasts forever.”

Read more: Hamas disarming? Forget about it, says top IDF intel officer | The Times of Israel http://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-disarming-forget-about-it-says-top-idf-intel-officer/#ixzz3FHPierWf
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October 5, 2014 | 18 Comments »

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18 Comments / 18 Comments

  1. @ yamit82:

    “this is what I had in mind!!”

    Link is dead-ending. No connection.

    “Couldn’t do it. I posted a very nasty reply that was thwarted by the god of pity and it didn’t get through.”

    ‘Pity’ for you, it would seem. Would’ve been all the same to me.

  2. honeybee Said:

    I hope you have had a better night and are feeling refreshed, ready to take upon yourself the challenges of a new day.

    Your cryptic comment leaves me on second reading concerned? What’s wrong? Are you alright? You are worrying me pls say something so I at least know your OK.

  3. WAR WITH HEZBOLLAH IMMINENT.

    They are openly looking for a fight.

    Hezbollah claims attack that wounded 2 Israeli soldiers

    Hezbollah operatives “detonated an explosive device on the Shebaa hills against a motorized Israeli patrol causing a number of injuries among the occupation’s soldiers,” the group said in a statement.

    The statement said that the bomb was planted in honor of Hussein Ali Haidar, a Hezbollah member who was killed in a September 5 explosion that Lebanese officials claimed was caused when Israel destroyed one of its own surveillance devices that had been uncovered inside Lebanon.

    IDF shells Lebanese areas after cross-border bombing; Netanyahu says Israel will ‘respond with force’ to any attack

  4. @ dweller:

    “Try it sometimes pretend to be a Shia Muslim.”

    Whenever I think of 72 virgins, all that comes to mind is a bunch of old broads dressed in black robes with white collars & goofy headdresses — and Irish, Polish & Ukrainian surnames. And they all pack 12-gauges.

    Dunce this is what I had in mind!!

    Couldn’t do it. I posted a very nasty reply that was thwarted by the god of pity and it didn’t get through. Just as well because it was very cruel. I don’t feel in a cruel mood today even towards you file it for use possibly at another afforded opportunity you will surely supply.

  5. dweller Said:

    Dunce this is what I had in mind!!

    I posted a very nasty reply that was thwarted by the god of pity and it didn’t get through. Just as well because it was very cruel. I don’t feel in a cruel mood today even towards you file it for use possibly at another afforded opportunity you will surely supply.

  6. dweller Said:

    “Try it sometimes pretend to be a Shia Muslim.”

    Couldn’t do it. Whenever I think of 72 virgins, all that comes to mind is a bunch of old broads dressed in black robes with white collars & goofy headdresses — and Irish, Polish & Ukrainian surnames. And they all pack 12-gauges.

    Dunce this is what I had in mind!!

  7. yamit82 Said:

    My injured leg might keep me awake at night

    I hope you have had a better night and are feeling refreshed, ready to take upon yourself the challenges of a new day.

  8. @ yamit82:

    “I mentioned it (and only parenthetically at that) so as to indicate that the error wasn’t at Ted’s end.”

    “Bull dweller…”

    Not bull. Fact.

    “you just can’t help yourself. It’s part of your emotionally compulsive sick nature.”

    No compulsiveness here. You must have me confused with the guy who looks cross-eyed at you from the mirror when you shave. Now, there’s a case of compulsive. (Hell, there’s a TRUCKLOAD of compulsive!)

    “I’m sure Ted is very appreciative.”

    Didn’t mention it so he’d be ‘appreciative.’ Actually I’d pretty much assumed that it would never even get to his attention.

    ” You are just sooo Helpful”

    What’s it TO ya?

    “Were you ever a girl scout, or a Brownie?????”

    Nope. I was at one time, though, the youngest Eagle Scout on the eastern seaboard. No longer the youngest. But still an Eagle Scout (there are no ‘former’ ones).

    “Would it make a difference to you to know that Abd al-Qader was Faisal Husseini’s father?”

    “NO! Not in the least. My injured leg might keep me awake at night but NOT “that Abd al-Qader was Faisal Husseini’s father’…”

    It’s not your injured leg that keeps you awake. It’s your resentment of your injured leg that keeps you awake.

    Actually Abd al-Qader al-Husseini is an important figure in the pre-invasion part of the War of Independence.

    “Wives are expendable and so are nephews. A few proofreaders as well.”

    “Forgot to take your medicine again, did you? Evidently that’s NOT expendable.”

    “No meds dweller pain helps me to be my wittiest and most creative.”

    Most charming too, I see.

    But I didn’t mean pain meds. I meant your anti-depressants, tranquillizers, stomach-acid reducers, etc.

    “Takes my mind off it. “

    Pain takes your mind off of your injured leg???

    “Try it sometimes pretend to be a Shia Muslim.”

    Couldn’t do it. Whenever I think of 72 virgins, all that comes to mind is a bunch of old broads dressed in black robes with white collars & goofy headdresses — and Irish, Polish & Ukrainian surnames. And they all pack 12-gauges.

  9. dweller Said:

    Go soak your head. I mentioned it (and only parenthetically at that) so as to indicate that the error wasn’t at Ted’s end.

    Bull dweller you just can’t help yourself. It’s part of your emotionally compulsive sick nature.

    Go soak your head. I mentioned it (and only parenthetically at that) so as to indicate that the error wasn’t at Ted’s end.

    I’m sure Ted is very appreciative. You are just sooo Helpful

    Were you ever a girl scout, or a Brownie?????

    Would it make a difference to you to know that Abd al-Qader was Faisal Husseini’s father?

    NO! Not in the least. My injured leg might keep me awake at night but NOT “that Abd al-Qader was Faisal Husseini’s father?”

    Forgot to take your medicine again, did you? Evidently that’s NOT expendable.

    No meds dweller pain helps me to be my wittiest and most creative. Takes my mind off it. Try it sometimes pretend to be a Shia Muslim.

  10. yamit82:

    “Abd al-Qader al-Husseini. (Typo in the original TOI article.)”

    “Where would the TOI be with out your proof reading abilities?”

    Go soak your head. I mentioned it (and only parenthetically at that) so as to indicate that the error wasn’t at Ted’s end.

    “Who gives a shit…”

    Would it make a difference to you to know that Abd al-Qader was Faisal Husseini’s father?

    “Wives are expendable and so are nephews. A few proofreaders as well.”

    Forgot to take your medicine again, did you? Evidently that’s NOT expendable.

  11. dweller Said:

    Abd al-Qader al-Husseini. (Typo in the original TOI article.)

    Where would the TOI be with out your proof reading abilities?

    Who gives a shit they have so many nephews they can spare a few it’s all from polygamous marriages anyway.

    Wives are expendable and so are nephews.
    A few proofreaders as well. 😛

  12. “What we see was a gradual deterioration. Prior to Protective Edge, it was obvious that Hamas did not want war… there was an escalation on the ground led by smaller factions, including Islamic Jihad. Take for instance the Abd al-Wader al-Husseini Brigades. They fired rockets [at Israel from Gaza] before and during the war, and contributed to the deterioration and escalation…”

    Hamas was certainly strong enough to CONTROL them if they’d wanted to.

    This is evident from the fact that once Hamas decided they wanted the cease fire, they DID control them.

    “I can assure you that some of the members of this group do no even know who Abd al-Wader al-Husseini was. (He was a leader of Arab forces in Jerusalem and Hebron during the 1948 War of Independence.)”

    Abd al-Qader al-Husseini. (Typo in the original TOI article.)

    Nephew of the Mufti, Hajj Amin al-Husseini.

    Participated (w/ Hajj Amin) in unsuccessful 1941 Iraqi pro-Nazi coup of Rashid Ali al-Gaylani (former PM) against the Brits.

    Popular & highly regarded amongst the Pali locals.

    Killed on recon at al-Qastal, April ’48.

  13. Israel should cooperate with the tribes, clans and notable families to provide sufficient funding to cover costs, estimated at $10000 per person, to smuggle local Arabs out of the Gaza area and into southern Europe through one of the Egyptian ports. Paying costs of their emigration in fact is less expensive than paying costs of annual or bi-annual wars against Hamas.

    I find this quite amusing… Not a bad idea, and one that would surely warm the hearts of the multiculti-obsessed Euros. But the irony is that eventually Israel will be blamed for promoting “Arab immigration” into Europe, and the Euros will become indignant that they have been tasked to solve the Palestinian Refugee Problem [TM] (as opposed to every other Muslim refugee problem). But of course the former is what they have been trying to do (from afar) since 1948. Of course it may be difficult for them to publicize this indignation, since that would kind of make them sound a little racist…

  14. Hamas cannot be disarmed so long as Israel’s armed forces feel compelled to withdraw from the Gaza strip after each retaliatory invasion. I think the only permanent solution to that problem, that wold not require Israel to directly govern the approximate 1.5 million Arabs in the Gaza area would require the following steps:

    Step 1) Zahal must retake permanent control of the Gush Katif area the Gaza strip, which separates the city of Gaza from the Arab urban places adjoining the border with the Sinai peninsula. A sufficient number of Arab residents of the Gush Katif area should be removed as may be needed to assure Israeli security in that particular piece of land.

    Step 2) Israel should use secret negotiations among the Gaza area tribes, blood-relationship clans, and notable urban and village families, for purposes of using them as local autonomous rulers of the Arab population. Among the outcomes of such negotiations are that the local power-holders would assassinate the Hamas leadership, actions for which Israel, through its intelligence agencies, would reward them sufficiently to cover the risks that such tasks imply.

    Step 3) As effective power among the Gaza strip Arabs would shift to the local families cited above, Israel should move to shut down the UNO refugee support agencies and expel their personnel. As part of this policy, Israel should work with the local chiefs of Arab tribes, clans and notable families to block any foreigners other than Israelis from entering or setting up shop in the Gaza region.

    Step 4) Israel should cooperate with the tribes, clans and notable families to provide sufficient funding to cover costs, estimated at $10000 per person, to smuggle local Arabs out of the Gaza area and into southern Europe through one of the Egyptian ports. Paying costs of their emigration in fact is less expensive than paying costs of annual or bi-annual wars against Hamas.

    Arnold Harris
    Moun Horeb WI

  15. Lt.-Col. M., the head of the Palestinian desk at Military Intelligence’s Research Department, was tasked with a near-impossible mission during the 50 days of fighting in Gaza: understand the intentions of Hamas’s leadership, and assess its resilience.

    It is a hard decision whether to laugh or to cry…

    They are punks in flip-flops with RPGs.

    Nonetheless, ‘punks in flip-flops with RPGs’ can and DO kill our own.
    Why is there a need to start to dissect “the intentions” , “who is a more, moderate killer”, yadayadayada and the rest of the bs????
    In other words, we still don’t know who the enemy is…
    This is a very sad state of affairs.