Ceasefire, but control the agenda

In 1936, after a yet another round of violent attacks on the Yishuv’s Jewish communities, David Ben-Gurion made a statement which resonates today as clearly today as it did then.  “Those who murdered our people… not only plotted to murder some Jews but intended to provoke us… The Arabs stand to gain from such a development. They want the country to be in a state of perpetual pogrom.”

This is Hamas’s calculation today as it was their vitriolic predecessors’ then.  They know that the I.D.F. posses the might, sophistication and capability to defend Israel from the vast majority of the attacks they perpetrate against us. Instead Hamas aim to conquer opinion.  They seek the favour of their own brethren in Gaza, by being seen to trump Abbas’ efforts gain upgraded UN status.  They seek to enamour themselves to their fellow Jihadists by trying to drive a wedge between Israel and the new Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt.

Moreover – echoing Ben-Gurion’s words nearly eighty years on, Hamas – seek a state of perpetual violence. They know that Israel’s determination and capability to defend its citizens will outweigh and outclass their cult-like desire for death and destruction, resulting in the inevitable international condemnation of Israel, and that now all too familiar and perverse accusation – that Israel maintains a ‘disproportionate’ desire for self defence.

With this in mind, the idea that Israel ‘stopped short’ in its recent Operation Pillar of Defence appears to be in itself tragically myopic. There is no denying the damage inflicted to Hamas’s infrastructure in Gaza, and while they will continue to claim victory and heightened popularity – after the targeted elimination of the organization’s mastermind arch-terrorists, and having sustained in excess of 1,500 strikes at the heart of its munitions stores, weapons caches and terrorist training and communications centres – surely any further such victory would be a pyrrhic one indeed.

Hamas it seems presumed that – with an election nearing – Israel would play all its cards, and at least send in ground troops.  They hoped to drag Israel into a ‘Cast Lead take two’, resulting in massive civilian casualties, and of course high numbers of I.D.F. fatalities and even perhaps – more kidnappings.

Israel did not. Israel instead remained in control of the agenda.

Another dramatic miscalculation on Hamas’s behalf was that world opinion would instantly turn on Israel once it began to respond to the hundreds of rockets that went unreported by the foreign media as they were fired by Hamas in the days before Pillar Of Defence began.

Again, Israel’s Government, military and everyday activists created a very different reality.  With everything from I.D.F. Tweets, Hasbara infographics to more social media and blog activity than perhaps ever before in Israel’s favour  and with sound diplomatic efforts, Israel continued to enjoy the support of the international community and – despite the best efforts of some – maintained the understanding and appreciation for its positions and opinions in the eyes of much of the global press.

It is the accepted wisdom that a ground offensive, with all that that brought with it, would have greatly negated much of this support.

By choosing the ceasefire at the time they did, Israel’s leaders showed that they maintained control of the agenda.  Hamas will inevitably need to be dismantled or drastically transformed if peace in the region stands a chance.  Let us not forget this is an extremist, terrorist group who feed on inciting hatred, and glorifying mass murder.  They oppress their own people and show no regard for human life.  They do not need ‘putting back to the Dark Ages’, they are already there.

However, this is a ceasefire, and it is intended to give peace to the residents of the South, as was made clear in the press conference by the Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Foreign Minister when they said “Silence will be met with silence”.

Moreover, we must not be distracted from the key threat.  Iran.

Iran armed Hamas.

Iran continues to seek nuclear weapons with the aim of destroying Israel.

The international community’s appreciation for Israel’s concerns has only been bolstered in the aftermath of Pillar of Defence – and in no small way due to the manner in which Israel sought a swift end to the escalation. The handling of the situation by Israel’s leaders has achieved significant gains, not just against Hamas, but also against their backers in Iran.  And just like Iran – when it comes to Hamas, if they continue to seek the path of terror, all options are on the table.

About the Author
Jason Pearlman is a strategic consultant and media advisor specializing in communications and campaigns.