Hamas goes to war

Wednesday’s bus bombing has been planned for a long time

The bitter joke going around Twitter this morning is that Israel didn’t invade Gaza, Hamas invaded Israel.

It has been clear since the outset of the current conflict between Israel and Hamas that the insurgency in control of Gaza has felt that the time is right to increase the intensity and violence of its conflict with Israel.  Hamas’s aims have been discussed elsewhere.  Its current strategy now becomes clearer.

Hamas, which often shows its debt to Maoist insurgency doctrine, has decided to move to the final stage of Maoist insurgency: open civil war. In years gone by they have tried and failed to confront Israel decisively, but for whatever reason they now consider themselves ready.

Today’s bombing in Tel Aviv has been in preparation for a long time.  The bombers who delivered the device have, so far, made good their escape; possibly indicating that they are senior members of Hamas rather than the cannon fodder they use in suicide operations.

Today’s bombing in Tel Aviv has been in preparation for a long time

The bombing was carefully timed to permit Hamas to say that Israel begged for a cease-fire (which they have claimed), to allow the cease-fire to appear to be a done deal; and now to put Israel in a situation in which public pressure will demand an Israeli joint operation in Gaza.

It is facile to say that Israel ought to resist the temptation to conduct a joint operation into Gaza (what people call a “ground operation”).  Everyone in a leadership position in the Israeli national security establishment knows exactly how costly such an operation would be.

Current operations in Gaza have showcased Israel’s abilities to operate in the information space, using social media, in ways that have not been possible before. Israel’s operations have had unprecedented support from governments overseas to date. Those advantages in the information space and that political support would vaporize immediately as Israeli tracks crossed into Gaza.

Yet it may be that this is the cost of doing business.

High intensity conflict in the alleyways of Jabalya would be a disaster in the information space, costly in lives and prestige to Israel, and yet another grim kick in the teeth for the miserable population of Gaza.  Yet it might be the only option, when considered carefully in the context of the current requirement: defeat Hamas.

In 1968 Vo Nguyen Giap, the military genius who interpreted Mao Zedong’s ideas for the Vietnamese Communists, moved to the final stage of Maoist insurgency doctrine. In the Tet Offensive he surprised the Americans and their allies, and while the Viet Cong was nearly destroyed and the People’s Army of Vietnam was knocked back over the DMZ; the US was politically defeated.

According to General Davidson, the chief intelligence officer of the US forces in Vietnam, the political defeat lay in not understanding their opposition. The Americans coped militarily with the offensive, but completely missed its political significance.

The Americans won the battles of 1968, but they lost the war.

Action against Hamas must now be considered holistically, with a view to a defeat of Hamas’s aims and comprehensive destruction of its infrastructure so that the Palestinian Authority (which has hewed to Israel’s side in this conflict so far insofar as they can) can once again grip the Gaza strip.

Giving Hamas a kicking today is useless if Hamas comes roaring back tomorrow, as they have done over and over again in the past

The careful goading of Israel to war over the past weeks, and the precise application of violence to scotch today’s cease-fire, shows that Hamas is consciously moving to open war with Israel. Hamas thinks they have a chance to win, or they wouldn’t have started it. It is now Netanyahu’s war to win or lose, and victory or defeat will be inextricably tied to understanding the enemy.

About the Author
Dr Lynette Nusbacher is a strategist and devil's advocate. She is Principal at Nusbacher & Associates, a strategy consultancy. She has been a senior national security official in the United Kingdom, was Senior Lecturer in War Studies at Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and served as a military intelligence officer.