Last week, while visiting communities struck by Gaza missiles throughout southern Israel, it was easy to discern the all-pervasive anger that Israeli citizens – from all walks of life – vented against the Israeli government for halting the attack on Gaza after only one week.
Civilians under the terror of aerial attacks find it hard to gain perspective on the achievements made during a one-week November 2012 battle with the Hamas regime in Gaza. Indeed, this was merely a battle with Gaza. The war is far from over and it’s important to take stock of what we have gained, lost and learned.
Here are 20 conclusions that can be drawn from Operation Pillar of Defense:
1. Israeli Air Force’s pinpointed “surgical attacks” killed off Hamas leaders and deprived the Hamas regime offices of badly needed tactical and ideological leadership during the confrontation with the IDF – and Israel did so with a minimum cost to civilian casualties on the other side. Meanwhile, massive IDF attacks on the Hamas regime’s munitions tunnels signaled that the tunnel supply game is over.
2. When the IDF held back on a land incursion into Gaza, the other side was deprived of shahid martyrs. Hamas media had prepared professional YouTube videos of pupils in UNRWA schools in Gaza to be screened if they were to become shahid martyrs while attacking IDF troops during any IDF incursion into Gaza. Without available dead children in the form of shahid martyrs, it was hard for Israel’s adversaries to make the case to the world for “Israeli war crimes.”
3. The IDF attack on Hamas TV antennas and the IDF bombing of the Hamas media center signaled that communications could now be an IDF target. The next step might be a cut off of all Gaza radio and TV frequencies, since these frequencies happen to be owned by Israel. These frequencies were leased by Israel to the newly autonomous Palestinian Arab areas in Judea, Samaria and Gaza after the Oslo accords were signed in 1993, to communicate a message of peace….
4. A new unity of purpose swept Israel. Missile attacks on Tel Aviv and Jerusalem will help galvanize opposition in the center of the country to any possibility of a Palestinian Arab state in Judea and Samaria, which would place Tel Aviv and Jerusalem and, indeed, Israel’s only international airport, within ‘Sderot missile distance’ of any quasi-independent Palestinian Authority entity. The Hamas regime in Gaza proved that it could indeed hit the center of the country – Tel Aviv and Rishon Letzion and even Jerusalem. No longer would the people of Israel define the Hamas missile threat as limited or confined to Sderot and the Western Negev.
5. Daily praise heaped upon Hamas during its battle with the IDF by the official media outlets of the Palestinian Authority unveiled the formal alliance forged by the Fatah regime in Ramallah with the Hamas regime in Gaza. Since the EU, the US, Canada, Australia, Russia and even the UN define Hamas as a terrorist entity, the PA embrace of Hamas will place all future assistance to the PA in jeopardy. So much for the undeserved “moderate” image of the PA.
6. Vocal Israeli Arab citizen support for the Gaza regime as it launched missiles on the center of Israel will also not be forgotten.
7. The Israeli surgical attacks took the wind out of the sails of anti-Israel protest movements, which had planned demonstrations to protest alleged Israeli “war crimes.”
8. The Israeli military campaign, unlike any other campaign since 1967, witnessed international support for Israeli military initiative because the IDF focused on targeted killings of Arab military leaders. On the diplomatic front, US President Obama and virtually all European leaders expressed support of Israel.
9. The battle did not conclude with a ceasefire, but, rather, with a tahadia – a respite before the resumption of hostilities – which holds no obligations for the Arabs, yet also holds no obligations for Israel. Israel can therefore demonstrate total freedom to respond when it feels like, with the precedent of explicit international support.
10. After the PLO had worked for a generation to redefine the situation as an “Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Israel faced an Iranian-supported entity, which expanded the scope of the Gaza fighting into the international Islamic arena
11. A key element in this battle involved a test of Tehran’s deterrent system – the threat of missiles launched from Gaza was tested. Iranians could now gauge the effect on Israel of – and the ability of Israel to respond to – intensive bombardment from Gaza in retaliation for any Israeli, US or multinational attack on Iran. Iron Dome was proven to be effective, which can’t be pleasing to Iran.
12. Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, rather than visiting Gaza to demonstrate Egyptian solidarity with his fellow Muslim Brotherhood members (Hamas being the Palestinian branch of the MB), instead dispatched his prime minister Hesham Kandil, a minor figure, while Morsi frantically engaged in brokering an arrangement to stop the fighting. Morsi was shown to be far more concerned about keeping US financial aid flowing to Egypt than he is about anything else – Gaza, Israel, or Iran.
13. The IDF executed a successful reserve call-up that was simultaneously huge in absolute terms (75,000 troops, compared to about 10,000 reservists mobilized before Operation Cast Lead in December 2008) yet relatively small (the total IDF head count being about 621,500), indicating that, though much of its population was under the psychological stress of bombardment, Israel was capable of fielding almost eight times as much reserve manpower to threaten Gaza with invasion as was assembled on the Gaza border in 2008 (not counting any elements of the 177,000-strong regular army, which trains constantly and is thus better prepared for combat than the reserves) yet still managed to have five times as many yet-to-be-mobilized reserves as the 75,000 that were called up.
14. The IDF killings of Hamas military chief, Ahmed Jabari who masterminded Gilad Shalit’s abduction, Yahiya al-Abya, the head of Qassam’s rocket forces and Khamer Hamri, who commanded PIJ’s missile operation were each an accomplishment in and of itself.
15. The relatively low casualty rate on the Israeli side does not minimize the tragedy. There were heart-rending losses, including the horrific murder-by-missile of Mira Sharf, the 26-year-old pregnant wife of the rabbi of the Chabad House in New Delhi, who was visiting Israel to attend a commemoration of the 2008 butchering of the couple who ran the Chabad House in Mumbai, and the maiming of her husband and one of her children, only four years old.
16. Overall, the strategic position of Israel in the region has been bolstered by the impotence of the Gazan rocket barrage, the IDF’s formidable response and the sudden unity of Israel under fire.
17. It now remains for Israel to cope with the fact that 65 percent of the population of Gaza continue to wallow in Hamas-run UNRWA facilities under the promise of the “right of return” to “their” homes and villages, which they left after the 1948 war.
18. While villages of Gaza may develop into a prosperous entity, the one million descendants of the refugees from 1948 who live in UNRWA camps are indoctrinated to engage in an “armed struggle” to renew hostilities at any moment.
19. The Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs, which operates out of the Prime Minister’s Office, is now drawing up a comprehensive document on UNRWA that includes recommendations regarding the financing of UNRWA and the UNRWA-administered education system. The document will pay special attention to “the cultivation of the Palestinian ethos of struggle and resistance” in the UNRWA schools.
20. Hamas was elected to control the administrative union and the teachers union of UNRWA in Gaza. That means that humanitarian aid and education to UNRWA in Gaza fall under direct control of a terror organization. With the UNRWA demands for cash transfers, international accountability for placing cash in the hands of Hamas has become a critical issue. It will now behoove donor nations to UNRWA in Gaza to ensure that humanitarian aid is not bartered by the Hamas leadership for munitions or for incitement in the UNRWA schools.