Dan Ehrlich

Missed Opportunity? Shouldn’t Need to Invade Rafah

I’ll risk sounding off as an armchair general in saying Israel’s six-month-long military response to the October 7th Hamas massacre is turning into a debacle because of bad planning and execution that now risks bringing down the Netanyahu Government.

And while an end to Bibi’s current cobbled up extreme right-wing government would be wonderful news for millions of Israelis, it’s nothing worth the bragging.

For weeks the talk has been of the coming attack on Rafah where it’s claimed several thousand Hamas members are hiding amidst 1.5 million Gazans.

After worldwide condemnation of Israel’s revenge that has killed thousands of ‘innocent civilians,’ (We may never know the number or the numbers of dead Hamas members) what we do know is that calling them innocent is debatable since all polls show 75 percent of Gazans support Hamas and the October 7th massacre.

Now the extreme right of Bibi’s extremist government is warning Boss Netanyahu that it will bring down his matchstick coalition if he doesn’t invade Rafah.

Such an invasion will kill more civilians along with Hamas terrorists. It would also more than likely be another bit of evidence for possible World Court war crimes charges against Bibi.

Yet, a large scale assault on Rafah wouldn’t be necessary had the IDF’s battle plan not been so one dimensional, pushing Palestinian Arabs from the north to the south of the Gaza Strip with little or no thought to how such action would affect Rafah.

New stats show Rafah’s current population is five times larger than its pre October 7th level. Most of this was due to IDF warnings and military action from Gaza City to Khan Yunis with the embattled population finally heading to Rafah on the border with Egypt.

This was bad military planning and didn’t have been so bad had the IDF stationed plenty of troops guarding the entries to Rafah…troops who could vet civilians and engage Hamas terrorists before they became lost in the growing urban sprawl. But they didn’t.

As has been the case since Egypt gifted the Gaza Strip to Israel in 1979, this has been one of a few short-sighted screw-ups after another.

Another more practical approach would have been to attack from south to north, first securing Rafah with minimal damage while heading north, first to Khan Yunis. After securing that town, the bulk of IDF forces could attack Gaza City from the south and north.

Aside from admitting the deadly ‘accidental’ attack on a relief food convoy and planning an assault on Rafah, where the bulk of Hamas terrorists are said to be, Netanyahu seems to have approved widening the war into Syria and Lebanon which has brought big bad Iran into play in a missile threatening way.

Who says most of Hamas members are in Rafah? The same people who claimed most were in Gaza City, then Khan Yunis. But wait, several hundred alleged Hamas terrorists were more recently detained and/ or killed at the al-Shifa Hospital, which means they’re heading north again almost as if it were a deadly game of tag. Where will they be next?

While it might seem logical and even prudent to keep occupation forces at places such as al-Shifa, Israeli military leaders admit they don’t have enough active duty personnel to man all the nation’s active or possible conflict areas.

There would be enough troops if men from the fastest growing sector of Israel’s population would fulfill their civic duty as citizens and serve in the IDF.

According a demographic study 1.2 million Haredim live in Israel, where they account for 17 percent of the Jewish population (and 13 percent of the total population),

Yet, they defy Jewish exceptionalism by numbering among the poorest most non productive people in a wealthy nation. And while they may reject military service, they take all the benefits they can from the state.

Getting the Haredim to serve is one of a growing list of headaches for PM Netanyahu that are threatening to destroy his extremist right-wing government. Another is his new reluctance to attack Rafah via pressure from the USA and the EU

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said it would be “a humanitarian catastrophe.”

Against this Israel’s National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, has threatened to topple the government if Bibi ends the war without launching an offensive on Rafah.

To this the PM insists there will be a Rafah invasion. But the date hasn’t been announced.

Personally, Netanyahu needs a complete victory for his political survival since his incompetence in the past years of his government is seen as playing a major part in events leading to October 7th.

And, in case you have forgotten, three separate corruption cases have been brought against Netanyahu. Back on 21 November 2019, he was officially charged with fraud, breach of trust, and receiving bribery.

He hopes the war against Hamas will further dampen down his five-year-long wait for justice to be served.

There seems to be an unwritten rule for politicians, from dictators to democrats, who fancy themselves as leaders for life. They must do anything to stay in power…anything, even prolonging a war.

About the Author
A London based American journalist with a long wide ranging career spanning print, radio TV and online news.
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