Hit Hamas Hard to Create a Different Strategic Balance Against Islamic Terrorism

by Prof. Hillel Frisch, BESA

BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 253

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

It is time for a full-scale offensive against Hamas and the other Islamist-Jihadist groups in Gaza. Israel should take over Gaza temporarily; destroy the terrorist infrastructure as much as possible, to the point where Israel will then be able to minimize future damage to its cities by limited military actions against the Hamas infrastructure. In short, Israel should adopt the highly successful anti-terrorist strategy it employed in the West Bank over the past decade. This will not completely end terrorism from Gaza, nor will it fully alleviate the plight of Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza, but it will considerably reduce the threat to Israel’s major population centers.

Israeli military strategy towards Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) has been vastly different from its strategy towards Gaza. Israel assessed correctly in the second intifada that the Palestinian Authority (PA) in Judea and Samaria was easy to penetrate because of its relatively low density of population, but difficult to contain because of its size and the length of the green line (over 300 kilometers long). Gaza, by contrast, was easy to contain but difficult to penetrate because of its small size and high density of population, especially its very large refugee camps.

Israeli moves, consciously or unwittingly, expressed these differences. In 2002, Israel engaged in two massive offensives against Yasser Arafat’s PA, its security forces, Fatah and the other terrorist organizations. It temporarily took over the big Palestinian towns, and has been “mowing the grass” ever since through daily preventive arrests of terrorist operatives across the entire area. This policy, coupled with security cooperation with more pliant PA security services under Muhammad Abbas’ rule, has had a dramatic effect. Terrorism in Judea and Samaria has declined to levels that prevailed before the first intifada and have remained low ever since.

In Gaza, Israel took a different path. Because Gaza was difficult to penetrate, but presumably easy to contain, Israel decided to withdraw unilaterally. The results, as we all know, were much more problematic. Improved rocketry eroded the assumption that Gaza could be contained. Meanwhile, Israel has avoided a massive ground attack on Gaza on the assumption that it is not only difficult to penetrate Gaza, but that such a ground attack will have no lasting effects and might even make the situation worse.

Proponents of the status-quo thesis argue that a massive attack on Gaza to destroy the military infrastructure of Hamas will lead to its “jihadization”; to a Gaza controlled by a variety of small Jihadist groups at Hamas’ expense. Unlike Hamas today, these groups will not be a stable “strategic address.” They neither will be deterred nor subject to pressure to desist from terrorist activity.

Is the status-quo thesis valid or is it now the time to engage in a full-scale offensive against Hamas and the other Islamist-jihadist groups in Gaza?

The answer is the latter; it is time for a full scale offensive. Israel should take over Gaza temporarily – destroy the terrorist infrastructure as much as possible, to the point where Israel will then be able to minimize future damage to its cities by limited military actions against the Hamas infrastructure. In short, Israel should adopt the highly successful anti-terrorist strategy it employed Judea and Samaria over the past decade. This will not completely end terrorism from Gaza, nor will it fully alleviate the plight of Israeli communities adjacent to Gaza, but it will considerably reduce the threat to Israel’s major population centers.

Maintaining the status quo, by contrast, is increasingly dangerous. After two rounds of punishing limited offensives, one can surmise that the strategic address argument hardly works. More worrisomely, Hamas is aiming at linking Israeli moves against the Hamas infrastructure in Judea and Samaria to the escalation in rocket strikes against Israel.

Were Israel to implicitly accept this linkage – and it might be doing so already by curtailing its moves in the West Bank against Hamas to cajole the organization into agreeing to a lull – this would not only directly threaten the security of Israelis but also the longevity of Abbas’ PA.

Were Israel to accept this linkage, Hamas could kidnap, kill and build-up its infrastructure in the West Bank under the threat that Israeli moves against Hamas will provoke massive rocket attacks. Hamas would essentially be calling the cards in the West Bank, undoing the achievements of the 2002 offensive. Hamas infrastructure would pose a direct threat to the PA; a complete change in the balance of power between Israel and Hamas. Yet, this is what the return to the “status-quo” threatens to bring. In politics, there is rarely a prolonged status-quo, certainly not in a conflict as bitter as between Israel and Hamas.

The future ramifications of agreeing to the linkage might even be more severe. With the rising power of the ‘Islamic State in Iraq and Syria’ organization and the threat it poses to Jordan’s security, it is absolutely vital to maintain an Israeli free hand against all terrorism in West Bank.

Other arguments made in favor of the status-quo can also be questioned. A Hamas weakened by direct Israeli assault and threatened by other Jihadist groups, might be willing to be a more pliant strategic address just as was the PA after the 2002 ground offensive.

A weakened Hamas will also facilitate Israeli intelligence penetration in Gaza. At present, Hamas counter-intelligence has partially succeeded uncovering informants. The smaller Jihadist groups do not possess these capabilities nor will they be likely to possess them in the more fluid situation that will prevail in Gaza after the assault.

Even if Hamas were overwhelmed by other Jihadist groups they might spend more time fighting each other than against the Zionist enemy, as we see today in Syria. The Syrian regime has recently made major gains in large part because the ISIL is as busy fighting al-Nusra and other groups as it is against the Syrians. In Gaza, it will probably be little different. Certainly, these organizations will not have the capabilities of Hamas. They will hardly enjoy the same level of tactical support from Iran as Hamas enjoyed in the past.

A jihadist Gaza also will strengthen Egyptian-Israeli cooperation to counter the threat and might even garner the support of the Europeans worried by the Jihadi rise in Iraq and Syria, the increasing participation of European citizens in these battlefields, and the obvious ramification that their participation will have in increasing terrorism in Europe itself.

Israel should capitalize on these opportunities to strike hard against Hamas. It’s time to replicate in Gaza the success of the 2002 Operation Defensive Shield in the West Bank, even if the costs will be greater and the gains less spectacular.

Prof. Hillel Frisch, a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, is a professor of Political Science and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University. He specializes in Palestinian affairs; Israeli Arabs; Islamic fundamentalism in the Middle East; Palestinian-Jordanian relations; and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Jordan.

BESA Center Perspectives Papers are published through the generosity of the Greg Rosshandler Family

July 9, 2014 | 31 Comments »

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31 Comments / 31 Comments

  1. @ bernard ross:

    or do you mean “Samsons Foxes”?

    Samson of course!
    (Must have been too long in the ‘arctic’ sun…. 🙂 )

    In as far as your following comment re working out a cease fire….

    In such a case Israel would be admitted to a mental institution

    This is putting it EXTREMELY mildly…. 🙁

  2. Reports of ceasefire formula emerge as Gaza hostilities continue

    “Reports differed on what would be included in a ceasefire agreement but some claimed it would include the release of Palestinian prisoners, opening the crossings into Gaza, and transferring funds to Gaza, Channel Two reported.”

    http://www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/Reports-of-ceasefire-formula-emerge-as-Gaza-hostilities-continue-362490

    In such a case Israel would be admitted to a mental institution

  3. @ bernard ross:
    This is why I LOVE reading your posts…
    They express PRECISELY my views and feelings, only in a much better prose. 🙂

    the same need exists today; the willingness to create a vehicle which will apply the “attack” techniques necessary to protect Jewish lives.

    It is time for the 101 unit or the foxes of Solomon to be fully operational again.
    http://youtu.be/8twc6OpD898

  4. the phoenix Said:

    Even then, they were still committed to a policy of “havlaga” – self-restraint, which led many later to leave and join the more radical Irgun or Stern Gang, both of whom advocated a harsher response to Arab terror.

    the same need exists today; the willingness to create a vehicle which will apply the “attack” techniques necessary to protect Jewish lives.
    Jews don’t like to be labeled terrorists and rather accept terrorism for their children. I would never apologize or be ashamed to say that if you fired ONE rocket at my family I will kill you ALL. This is the real choice offered and not the distractions the world touts which basically says that state sponsored terrorists may kill jewish children but Israel must avoid killing their children. I could never avoid killing their children if they tried to kill mine. I will unapologetically state that if you fire at my child I will kill ALL of your children intentionally. Those that allow dead jewish children are shocked to hear that but it is important that they are shocked into the reality that one dead Jew can bring horrific reply.

    This is the place to which the Jews are unable to arrive. Their children are not important enough to warrant horrible behavior to avert their slaughter. it is a state of mind that brings clarity to the situation. The difference is that my attention is focused on the welfare of my child whereas the other Jews attention is focused on the welfare of the enemy children.

    There is a greater likelihood of success in a goal upon which you are focused so those Jews will likely be more successful at protecting the enemy children than their own. This is what the world, and the daily trolls, advise to the Jews also. They tell us to focus on the pals and their needs. This is the con to be avoided, the jew must focus on the needs of the Jews.

  5. yamit82 Said:

    enables the enemy to attack as he sees fit and to retreat at will, to reorganize and to attack again

    “He who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day” Falstaff Henry V part II Wm. Shakespeare.

  6. @ SHmuel HaLevi 2:
    @ the phoenix:

    Passive Defense
    by David Raziel
    Commander in Chief of the Irgun from 1937-1941

    “If the objective of the war is to break the will of the enemy; we clearly cannot be content with defensive action. Such a method of defense, which enables the enemy to attack as he sees fit and to retreat at will, to reorganize and to attack again – such defense is known as passive defense‚ and ends in defeat and ruin; he who does not wish to be defeated must attack.”

  7. @ the phoenix:

    The Israel Restraint Forces

    by Dr. Israel Eldad

    in late 1938 the Hagana began coming out of the bunkers in the kibbutzim and going on attacks into enemy territory to strike at the Arab gangs (this was after Wingate revolutionized Hagana tactics). These defensive incursions are similar to what is done in different uniforms and on a different scale by the Israel Defense Forces [….]

    When Israel avoided crossing into Abdullah’s territory [Jordan], and agreed to withdraw from Egypt as soon as it was ordered to do so, and then to obey a cease-fire, the Israeli leaders who agreed to these steps did not only show stupidity and cowardice, but they showed that their essential character trait is obedience [….]

    Only an army that isn’t an army but a “Hagana” in military uniforms will forego a strategic move on Ramallah and Shchem and El Arish and Beirut. The only justification for a real army not to undertake such necessary strategic moves, is if it doesn’t have the military strength to do it. (It goes without saying that from a national perspective, the Jewish relation to Shchem […] means that it wouldn’t just be a necessary strategic conquest for the security of the state, but the liberation of parts of the homeland.

    If in the past we made concessions, and if we refrained from advancing because of an order to cease fire, this proves the army wasn’t an army and the war wasn’t a war of liberation, but rather a defense with all that means.

    Again: Don’t be fooled by the uniforms, the state, the army and borders. Of course these exist but they add only shame, for the essence has remained as it was.

    Just like the Hagana is now called an army, we now call the Arab gangs of the past infiltrators.
    Remove the change in names and the technical advances, and nothing has changed.

    The initiative belongs to the gangs, of course. And what is surprising isn’t that they are operating within the state. The surprise is that they aren’t yet operating at the level they can. Apparently, the reason for this is not their inability.

    Our previous restraint is alive and well in all its details.

    Details such as:
    1. Before acting we first seek the representatives of the UN to submit a strong protest (then, in the past, it was to the Chief Secretary or High Commissioner).
    2. Then we move to clean up a particular area (as in the days of Wingate).
    3. We search for those actually responsible.
    4. (This is the most similar) The articles in the press, are word for word copies of what appeared then: “How long?” “We won’t stand for this!” “The criminal hand will be cut off!” “End the provocations!” etc., etc., etc.

    But if these are the Israel Defense Forces, and if those who give it orders are those who gave orders to the Hagana and those who have sanctified “restraint” for decades already, then there is no doubt: The restraint in all its forms and justifications and political explanations are alive and well.

    See the dead, see the shame, see the proof: There has been no change in the mindset, in the soul, in the concepts.

    Size and uniforms are not enough to turn a “Yishuv” into a state, nor a “Hagana” into an army.

  8. @ SHmuel HaLevi 2:

    One may ask how come we are still “fighting” Hamas while they should have been vaporized in hours.
    Go ahead and ask…

    Excellent observation.
    I’ll join Bernard and also ask “”how come” indeed?

  9. @ dweller:
    Two quotations from your link
    Orde Wingate and the Development of the Special Night Squads:

    The Haganah, the Jewish Defense Organization, had been founded in 1920, but it had done little until the outbreak of the riots in 1936. Even then, they were still committed to a policy of “havlaga” – self-restraint, which led many later to leave and join the more radical Irgun or Stern Gang, both of whom advocated a harsher response to Arab terror.

    `That is the trouble with the Jews. Always so calm and patient. Always waiting for disaster to come. You are a race of masochists crying: `Hurt me, hurt me! I cannot raise my hand against you until you have killed my brother and raped my sister and thrown my father and mother into the ditch.’ The Jews of Palestine are in bad condition. So long as you all sit in your settlements and wait to fight and die, you will die before you have a chance to fight.’

    …And one quotation from Ecclesiastes 1:9

    “What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.”

  10. @ SHmuel HaLevi 2:

    “Moshe Dayan operated behind enemy lines with a unit that did precisely that to Arab villages who sent squads of murderers to slaughter Jews.”

    The unit was Plugot Ha’Layla Ha’Meyukhadot, the Special Night Squads (SNS)

    — organized & trained at Ein Harod during the Arab Rebellion [1936] by haY’did, the friend, ORDE WINGATE:

    “Until Wingate arrived in Palestine, the Jewish attitude towards Arab marauders and Arab terror was one of self-defense only. The establishment of the Special Night squads in 1936 marked a change in this attitude from a purely defensive to a more offensive ethos. After Wingate the night, which had previously belonged to the Arabs alone, no longer did so…

    “[H]is training and example left an indelible imprint on the emerging standards of the fledgling Israeli Army. A major part of the reason why the state of Israel was able to withstand its enemies in 1948, and thus see the renewal of Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel after more than 1800 years, was due to the unparalleled and heroic efforts of Orde Wingate and his group of Jewish fighters comprising the Night Squads…”
    MORE HERE

  11. SHmuel HaLevi 2 Said:

    Go ahead and ask…

    I’ll bite, if you got an answer, I’m clueless.
    (I just found out that all my Israpundit notifications have been going to spam since before july 1, so I might have missed some comments.)

  12. yamit82 Said:

    Abbas’s Fatah Threatens Israel: ‘Prepare the Body Bags’

    I used to be a lot more tolerant, but after observing this scum for a while, I’d like them dead for looking crosseyed…..I just found out that all my Israpundit notifications have been going to spam since before july 1, so I might have missed some comments.

  13. honeybee Said:

    are they hitting any thing or are they just make a show ??????????

    dont know….I just found out that all my Israpundit notifications have been going to spam since before july 1, so I might have missed some comments.

  14. SHmuel HaLevi 2 Said:

    Go ahead and ask…

    SHmuel HaLevi 2 Said:

    Moshe Dayan operated behind enemy lines

    As I have said, send in a gang of Mex. Cartelistos. After the Pals find be-headed bodies hanging from bridges, they may have second thoughts. I works down here.

  15. @ yamit82:
    I like T N T also. Moshe Dayan operated behind enemy lines with a unit that did precisely that to Arab villages who sent squads of murderers to slaughter Jews.
    With the Islamic beasts that is the only way to deal.

  16. SHmuel HaLevi 2 Said:

    One may ask how come we are still “fighting” Hamas while they should have been vaporized in hours.
    Go ahead and ask…

    Ma Yomru Hagoyim?

    I support T N T ‘Terror Negged (against)Terror’

  17. Lets set up clear status.
    Israel has the No.1 rated Air Force in the world by several rating outfits.
    We have a formidable rocket forces system.
    Artillery second to none.
    Advanced sea going war vessels
    Intelligence gathering and attack drones.
    Satellites. Radars galore.
    Terrific ground forces. Tanks and fast attack vehicles.
    HAMAS has some thousands of primitive rocket artillery units and long range mortars.
    A few commando units two of which were instantly wiped out in the last two days.
    DOES NOT HAVE antiaircraft systems.
    No radar or satellites
    No tanks or SPPA’s.
    No aircraft or airports.
    No naval vessels.

    One may ask how come we are still “fighting” Hamas while they should have been vaporized in hours.
    Go ahead and ask…

  18. Hammering them from the air and sea is a good start but a real job will require combat engineers to take over in Gaza and demolish all of the Hamas infrastructures.
    There are risks on this but we see no choice.
    We allowed the growth of the monster by “disengagement” now we have to put it back into rigid control and terminated.
    Remaining there manning stern control points depends on the locals electing a normal, democratic, non violent leadership.