Previously, I had explained why a major Gaza military operation
that leaves the http://mideastweb.org/hamas.htm">Hamas intact would likely be disastrous for Israel. Hamas would gain prestige and would spread its influence to the West Bank. If, in addition, the operation causes large numbers of civilian casualties, the damage to Israel in the public relations war, moral considerations aside, could be immense. An unsuccessful operation in Gaza would be like wounding an elephant just enough to get the elephant really angry. It may produce a nightmare for Israel as well as meaningless suffering for the civilian population of Sderot and Gaza. It will not stop the Qassam rockets on Sderot
. It may enthrone the odious Hamas as leaders of the Palestinians.
Consequently, I was not very encouraged to read what may be a genuine scenario of IDF planning for the big Gaza operation
, presented not long ago by the prestigious defense analyst and correspondent Ron Ben Yishai.
The essentials of a plan for dealing with Gaza militarily are get in quickly, don't raise expectations or excite opposition with grandiose statements in advice minimize civilian casualties, decisively defeat Hamas, and have an exit plan. The plan presented by Ron Ben Yishai doesn't meet the essential requirements. A major problem with the plan is this:
Western Negev residents will surely have to sustain heavy Qassam and mortar barrages in the first week or two (in a good case scenario.) But they are not the only ones who must be ready - residents on the Lebanese border and even south of it must be ready for rocket barrages.
Israel cannot plan on an operation that continues one or two weeks. It implies that the Hamas have two weeks to organize a public relations barrage that will be more lethal than their rocket barrage. After the first day or so, the BBC, the Washington Post, the Guardian, the Independent, Reuters News Service, CNN and the New York Times will all be full of pictures of smoke rising from buildings in Gaza, dead Palestinians real and imaginary, Jebalya "massacre" stories, homeless women with despairing faces. The UN Security council will be meeting urgently to declare a cease fire and condemn Israel. The Palestinian Authority in the West Bank will have no choice other than to hail the heroic resistance of their Palestinian brothers. Gaza must be basically controlled in three or four days or not at all. It was done in the past, and it must be done again, if at all, despite the inevitably stubborn resistance of the Hamas. Hamas may still be there after a few days or even a few weeks, but they must not be in a position to pose a threat to the Western Negev or elsewhere, because that would give them leverage to show, "we are still in the game."
The Second Lebanon War was the only war in which the IDF was given a really long time to achieve its goals and they did not do so there either. The enemy used the time both for rocket attacks, but more important from the political point of view, the rocket attacks were part of a skillful public relations campaign, aided by sympathetic media.
A second problem with IDF thinking seems to be this:
The strategic objectives are as follows:
1. Removing Hamas from power and establishing a stable Palestinian regime in the Gaza Strip, with international monitoring and assistance.
IDF should have learned never to publicize objectives before a military operation. The government and the IDF announced grandiose objectives before the Second Lebanon war. When they were not achieved, Israel was made to look foolish.
The exit plan is also risky:
In order to achieve this ambitious list of objectives, or at least most of it, Israel must secure the "operational environment." Simply put, Israel must create, in advance, international understanding and backing for the Gaza campaign and elicit the willingness (of NATO or other international parties) to be party to the agreement to follow in its wake, which would enable the IDF to exit Gaza. This matter is an important component in the preparations ahead of the campaign.
Israel cannot depend on NATO or the UN. NATO already has enough of its own problems in Afghanistan. NATO countries will not be happy, to say the least, to supply soldiers to another venue where they are sitting ducks for Islamists. The plan has to be realistic. It is not realistic to expect NATO to take this on, nor should Israel be falling back on the UN. Any UN sponsored settlement would probably look as bad as the one in Lebanon. It will be imposed before the Hamas are defeated, and that organization will be back in force. Hamas will fire rockets and kidnap Israeli soldiers from behind the protection of a UNIFIL force, as they did in Lebanon until 2006.
Israel has to recognize that the world will expect that the alternative to Hamas is not NATO or the UN, but the Palestinian Authority. It also has to understand that if IDF takes over Gaza again, the only way it can get out is by turning it over to the Palestinian Authority. I don't think that is a political judgment. It is true whether we like it or not. As long as the Palestinian Authority exists, it is the "address" for Palestinian territories that are to be vacated by Israel. Those who advocate a decisive military operation have to understand that if it is successful, it will ultimately put the Palestinian authority in Gaza, not NATO or any UN force.
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Replies: 1 Comment
What makes you think that Palestinian Authority wants to rule over Gaza? Abu Mazen has all the fun of ruling safely over the West Bank and watching HAMAS's troubles in Gaza.
I agree that sending our ground troups to Gaza is counterproductive: Israeli soldier will be killed and maimed, so will be the Gazans, and international outcry will follow. The same outcry will follow our shelling Gaza - but without our soldiers hurt. So, why don't we shell them?
Misha SHAULI, Wednesday, February 20th
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