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The real danger of not winning in Gaza

Israel's underwhelming response to Hamas rockets projects weakness: Hezbollah and the Iranians are watching closely
In this September 24, 2017 file photo, surface-to-surface missiles and a portrait of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are displayed by the Revolutionary Guard. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)
In this September 24, 2017 file photo, surface-to-surface missiles and a portrait of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are displayed by the Revolutionary Guard. (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi)

Hundreds of thousands of Israelis recently spent days running in and out of shelters and safe rooms as their lives were not only disrupted, they were put in danger. Millions of other Israelis wondered, with the ever-expanding rocket range, whether they would be next in the crosshairs of an increasingly sophisticated arsenal and ever-more belligerent Hamas.

Israelis were not the only ones watching the escalation, however. From his bunker in Beirut, the secretary general of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, and the mullahs in Tehran must have been watching not just with amazement but with glee and anticipation.

If one surveys Israel’s enemies in terms of firepower and ability to do harm to the Jewish State, Hamas has to rank near the bottom.

True, Hamas is reported to have a stockpile of between 5,000 and 20,000 mostly short-range rockets. But Hezbollah reportedly has around 14,000 Zelzal-2 rockets, which have a range of up to 200 kilometers, and between 100,000 and 150,000 non-precision rockets. This is without the Fateh-110 and the Scud-B and Scud-C missiles, which can pretty much cover every inch of territory in Israel.

Iran has been busy upgrading these missiles with far greater precision.

Then there is the Islamic Republic itself which remains on the road to nuclear weapons capability despite the tottering JCPOA.

So, when leaders of these entities look at Israel’s indecent haste to secure a ceasefire with Hamas, again, they must be wondering what has happened to the State of Israel that used to be feared by its enemies.

Of course, firepower and numbers of weapons are not the only thing that matters in warfare. If it were, Hamas would not last a day for the unrelenting punishment Israel could achieve against it.

What is missing in Israel, and what the enemies circling it now smell, is the lack of commitment to victory and its ability and desire to complete the mission until the opponent feels defeated.

Unfortunately, it has been a while since Israel scored an unambiguous victory and each operation or conflict leaves Hamas more emboldened. Its leaders have every right to feel this way, not just because they remain largely unscathed, and generally end the battle on better terms than which they began, but mostly because they see how quickly Israel sues for peace and rushes to the ceasefire talks.

What is most ironic is that the Israelis most under fire generally call on the political leadership to let the IDF win. They appear, from surveys and their protests, to be able to withstand more time under attack if it meant that the source of their daily worry was once and for all defeated and not able to inflict any more pain and death on them.

The people call for victory because they know anything short of that prolongs their misery.

They do not understand the reluctance by some decision-makers to free them of the everlasting threat that inexplicably remains hovering over their daily lives.

They don’t want a government that puts out brush-fires but has the goal of inflicting a sense of defeat among its enemies in Gaza to end the war once and for all and concede.

This of course would be in everyone’s interest.

First and foremost, it frees the people of the South to regain their lives and allow our children to forget the term ‘Tzeva Adom’ and their constant state of readiness to run to the nearest shelter within 15 seconds.

We give the children their innocence and joy back.

Secondly, it would free the Palestinian people in Gaza living under Hamas from being pawns in their unrelenting war against Israel, intrigues against other Islamist groups, and the wider Arab and Islamic world which uses them to score political points one against the other.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it would send a strong message to Beirut and Tehran, among others, that the era of Israeli deterrence is returning. Israel is not prepared to countenance any threat and will react with overwhelming force.

This is an absolutely vital message that needs to be sent as soon as possible.

As things stand, Hezbollah and Iran see the resolve of Israel as weak and frail, even if its capability is not. Both have shown in their recent battles that their resolve wins battles, whether in Syria, Yemen, or elsewhere.

In the Middle East only the ‘Strong Horse’ survives.

Israel would do well to remember that as much as we spend on defense and as impressive the commitment of our IDF soldiers is, if they are not being used to win wars then it will not impress anyone.

Understanding this is the key to ending the conflict and saving lives.

About the Author
Alex Selsky is CEO of the World Israel Beytenu movement, a member of the executive of the World Zionist Organization, and a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel. He is an Adviser to the Israel Victory Project of the Middle East Forum in Israel, and a lecturer at the School of Politics and Journalism at Hadassah Academic College in Jerusalem. In the past he served as an Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and was spokesman for the National Economic Council in the Prime Minister’s Office, spokesman for the Jewish Agency and the World Zionist Organization, and as emissary of the Jewish Agency for advocacy in New York City.