The Islamist onslaught has ended – for now

Hostilities between Gaza’s Islamist Hamas regime and the Jewish state ended as they began.

With Hamas dictating the pace.

Hamas started the conflict by raining missiles on Israeli civilians. And after the ceasefire went into effect, Hamas fired up to 20 missiles at Ashkelon, Sderot, Sha’ar Ha’Negev, Kiryat Malachi and Ashdod.

That’s the latest “ceasefire” from Iran’s forward position, its Hamas brigade on the southern border of Israel.

At about the same time as all this played out, Iran’s forward position on the Jewish state’s northern border, its Hizbollah brigade in southern Lebanon, fired two rockets at Israel. Luckily they were incorrectly calibrated and landed inside the Lebanon.

So what have the past 10 days of escalating hostilities shown?

They have shown that whenever Iran so chooses, it can spark a remotely controlled war that focuses attention away from her accelerating nuclear weapons capabilities.

They have shown that in a situation of asymmetric warfare, the kind that targets civilians from amidst civilian infrastructure, nations bound by conventions, rule of law, public opinion and democracy will always lose out on the battlefield.

They have shown that there are no “red lines” where the Jewish state is concerned – violence against Israel will always pay dividends. If it does not, just ratchet up the violence.

They have shown that in the world of public diplomacy, the people you have to be most frightened of are those who publicly profess their undying support for you while tightening the ropes around your hands. As the mist of ceasefire euphoria clears away, saner minds will analyse just how much pressure, how much blackmail, was exerted on Israel by Hillary Clinton to give the Hamas warmongers what they wanted all along: a free rein, massive pan-Arab public support, unfettered Islamist pride, and a PR coup that not even Saatchi & Saatchi could have dreamed up.

The Prime Minister of Israel, Bibi Netanyahu, had consistently thundered in the press about the absurd attempts to portray some kind of moral equivalency between Islamists targeting Israeli civilians, on the one hand, and Israel taking steps to defend her citizens, on the other. Yet when enough pressure was applied by Washington, Netanyahu was forced to acknowledge that moral equivalency – after all, Israel did back down and give the terrorists what they wanted, all it took was even higher levels of unprecedented violence against the Jewish state’s citizens.

According to reports, one of the conditions to which Israel has agreed is for the people of Gaza to have greater freedom of movement through Israel. Question: what does it mean, what does it look like, when an aggressor in a war emerges from that war demanding – and getting – the right to traverse the territory of its adversary? It certainly doesn’t look like victory for Jerusalem.

Which raises the issue of Jerusalem. Rockets from Gaza targeted the Israeli capital. Rockets from Gaza also targeted Israel’s commercial capital, Tel Aviv. And now the Iranian-proxy forces that fired those rockets have secured the right to traverse the territory over which their rockets flew, between Palestine I (Gaza) and Palestine II (the Jewish provinces of Judea & Samaria, aka the West Bank following that territory’s illegal occupation between 1948 and 1967 by Jordan, aka Palestine III).

So what does all this mean for the orchestrator and financier of this devastating war, this exercise in domination? Iran successfully refocused attention away from its centrifuges, it successfully demonstrated that if only the violence is raised to a sufficiently high level, Israel will cave in. And Israel caved in to the smallest of the three main forces arraigned against the Jewish state – Hamas! Hizbollah had already previously demonstrated its ability to initiate and survive a war against Israeli civilians, now Hamas demonstrated the same. Which leaves Iran gloating over its strategic success and able to more accurately gauge the ability of the Israeli military.

There is of course one more force that has not yet tried its hand against the Jewish state, but which has observed, and internalised all the necessary lessons. No, not Egypt under Morsi – that danger will make itself felt in good time and in very real terms, but it is some way down the line; right now Morsi is basking in unprecedented media glory, having just had his arm painfully twisted by the USA to make a show of reining in his Islamist allies in the Gaza Strip.

No, the force that yet has to demonstrate that it has learned these lessons is that of Fatah’s unelected leader Mahmud Abbas in Ramallah. His 17 different armed forces continue being equipped, trained and financed by the EU and US, and there will come a time when they too will attempt to replicate the successes of Hizbollah and Hamas. Their task is not going to be equally easy, because unlike in the Lebanon and Gaza Strip, where Israel has no physical security presence, Israel very much has a presence in strategically significant locations in Fatah territory/Palestine II.

But that will change, as Fatah learns that the only barrier to greater freedom of action and movement is to simply elevate the level of violence, ensure that sufficient numbers of their own civilians are put in the line of fire where EU-funded video cameras can capture the effects of the violence they unleash, ensure that the lives of Israeli civilians are disrupted for a sufficiently long period. All this will deliver results. It’s merely a matter of stamina – and blood.

Has it all been a waste, then? Not at all. If the result is an absence of rockets raining down on the citizens of Israel, that is a significant achievement. If the result is that the people of Gaza start rebuilding their lives and decide that they no longer want to live under a regime that periodically brings death and destruction upon them, voting them out of office and replacing them with pragmatists interested in coexistence, that is a significant achievement.

When all the hype dies down, when the recriminations cease, there still remains the most important point, one that many observers in Israel and overseas seem to forget: Israel has celebrated its 64th birthday. An Arab state of Palestine should also have celebrated its 64th birthday this year. That such a state does not exist is not Israel’s fault – it is the Arabs who in 1948 refused to have their state if it meant acknowledging the existence of the Jewish state of Israel – it wasn’t “Palestine” they wanted, it was the non-existence of Israel. And that’s the way it has been ever since.

True, violence against Jewish civilians may have won them their battle, but if the end result is that the Arabs finally agree to the establishment of Palestine I and II in the Judenrein, ethnically cleansed Gaza Strip and those parts of Judea & Samaria that will also be ethnically cleansed of all Jews, while living in peaceful coexistence beside the Jewish state, 21 percent of whose population is Arab, then that is a very significant achievement.

The Israeli government may deserve a lot of criticism for not having achieved more in this latest Islamist war, but the end result may yet be positive.

Beyond the accusations of “ignominious retreat” being levelled at Netanyahu is the very real perception that his hasty backing down was actually in full and detailed coordination with the US and perhaps even Sunni (albeit Islamist) Egypt as a precursor to freeing up resources to tackle the head of the snake in the very near future: Shia Iran and its nuclear weapons aspirations.

Time will tell.


About the Author
Served as deputy chair of the West Sweden branch of the Sweden-Israel Friendship Association. Written three political thrillers about Sweden-Israel-Gaza in The Hart Trilogy: "Bridges Going Nowhere" (2014), "The Threat Beneath" (2015) and "From the Shadows" (2016), where the action switches seamlessly between Samaria, Gaza, Israel, Sweden and Iran. Work has started on a fourth book, "Picture Imperfect".