The Monday morning quarterbacks were quick to dump on Prime Minister Netanyahu for letting Hamas off lightly and, to quote Benny Gantz, ‘using residents of southern Israel as a bulletproof vest’. It was unseemly to see this 48-hour trauma politicised before they even had a chance to bury our dead. Even worse to see Number 3 on the Likud list, Gidon Saar, sounding like a Blue & Whiter in his criticism of Netanyahu.
As I see it, these people are playing chequers whilst Bibi is playing chess. This round was a simple act of extortion by Hamas, perfectly timed on the eve of Independence Day and the Eurovision Song Contest being staged this year in Tel Aviv. Hamas and its Iranian handlers knew that Bibi would want calm, not war, this month of all months. They also knew that all of Bibi’s outreach to moderate Arab states would be marred by waging war on the opening days of Ramadan.
As a chess player, Netanyahu is playing the ‘long game’. He knows that Hamas is running out of money, and that its Iranian paymasters are bleeding under Trump’s draconian sanctions. He also knows that 85-year-old Abbas is in a European hospital and Bibi is not prepared to risk the casualties of an IDF ground invasion of Gaza to remove Hamas without knowing what happens the day after.
If we have learned one thing from the Middle East it is that any vacuum is always filled by terror, and mostly Iranian terror.
With due respect to Gantz and Saar, they are not privy to the private talks Bibi has been having with Sissi, Putin and Trump. There is a much deeper calculus involved here. We may look at Gaza in two dimensions. Gantz as a military man may even look at it in 3D. But I believe that Bibi is looking at it in 4D.
Beyond all that, lessons have to be learned from every one of these rounds in the war of attrition. One is that almost all of the fatalities on our side came from failure to heed the clear instructions of Home Command. You do not take a smoking break during a Code Red alert, nor do you get into your car!
Another lesson is that, at $80,000 per interception, Iron Dome is too costly to deal with these blitzkriegs. America’s laser-based Skyguard system needs to be deployed.
And lastly, loudmouth as he may be, Bezalel Smotrich is 100% right when he says that Hezbollah is watching this from the north and learning lessons from our response to Hamas in the south. However important Bibi’s long game may be, he must not lose sight of how this appears to Nasrallah.