By: Y.K. Cherson
Hamas was always after a propagandistic victory, but this time is different. They went too far, and now they’re paying the price.
A terrible assassination of three Israeli youth caused an unprecedentedly fierce reaction in Israeli society, and the celebrations over this heinous crime among Israeli Arabs overfilled the cap of Israeli patience. While analyzing the situation between Jews and their Arab neighbors, Western analysts should never forget that at a certain moment, Jews stop being a people with a 3000-year-old civilization behind them and become normal Middle Easterners: tough, cruel, quick in responding to a threat and having serious problems in controlling the wish to simply convert their neighbors into a slightly smoking black parking lot. Yes, of course: democracy, humanistic values, we must negotiate not fight… but the patience of Jews has limits, and when these limits are crossed and if they are considered to be a serious threat, then the phase “ready or not, here I come” begins. This is exactly what is happening now in Gaza.
Hamas in the current clash made a very serious mistake. In all its previous confrontations with Israel, Hamas from the beginning did not pretend to have a military victory – and from the beginning made it clear that this was not its intention or goal. The goal of Hamas was to start a fight- and then run under the protective wings of the “international community” which always hurried “to put an end to the deaths of civilians,” demanded that Israel stop the strikes- and as it was clear that Hamas did not pose an existential threat to Israel, Jews usually shrugged and said: ok- after which Hamas declared that it “defeated a Zionist aggressor” and started to celebrate its “victory” in the usual style: with dances in the streets of Gaza under the accompaniment of machine-guns shots.
Hamas was always after a propagandistic victory, not after the military one. And in order to understand what Israelis thought about all this, it would be enough to say that in previous clashes, Israelis often did not even bother to cancel their weekend picnics, and tourists came from Tel Aviv to watch “the war in Gaza.” The military outcome was known from the beginning, and the propagandistic “victory” of Hamas was probably the last thing in the world that bothered Israelis.
However, this time it was different.
Hamas has shown that it has not been idle during the nearly five years after the last clash with Jews. An underground city three floors high under Gaza fortified with concrete and steel that Israel supplied so that “poor Gazans” could build some huts, 40,000 well-armed and highly motivated fighters who, unlike those during “Cast Lead”, did not run away at just seeing Israeli soldiers… and –last but not least- missiles which now fly further, are more precise, more potent and reach not only Ashdod or Ashkelon, but Haifa, Tel Aviv- and the principal and unique international airport of Israel Ben Gurion.
Also, the demands of Hamas are now different. For the first time in all its history, Israel met someone who demanded of her not only to cede some territory, free some prisoners or raise the blockade of some part of land- but DEMILITARIZE. Hamas treated Israel as a defeated and completely crushed enemy, and made it clear that this time its goal was not just a propagandistic triumph. It was an open unmasked and arrogant THREAT, and to the experts it was clear that this time Israel will act pretty ruthlessly and will fiercely resist any attempt to stop it halfway.
It became even more evident when European and American airlines cancelled flights to Israel after one Hamas’ missile fell near the Israeli International Airport Ben Gurion. Were these air companies so sacred? Hardly; the flights were restored just 24-36 hours later, and of course they could redirect their flights to one of Israel’s military airbases, which Israel offered. But they preferred to cancel the flights.
This was declared as a “victory” by Hamas, and with good reason: it happened in the hottest moment of the tourist season and cost Israel billions of dollars. But if these companies- and through them Western governments – wanted to send Israel a warning, some “look how we can punish you”- then the message was lost, because Israel interpreted it as a signal to deprive Hamas of any possibility to attack Ben Gurion, Dimona- or any important object on Israeli territory at all.
After the attack on Ben Gurion, Israel intensified its ground operation, and its aerial and artillery strikes on Gaza became not only fierce, but- for the first time in all the history of Israel’s confrontations with Hamas- unusually indiscriminate. If during its former clashes with Hamas Israel very often cancelled strikes on very important targets if one or two civilians were inside, now it strikes even if there are twenty. Jokes are evidently over, and Hamas leaders understood that they went too far when Israel, usually very touchy to even minimal losses, did not move an eyebrow after losing in just the first four days of the ground operation 27 soldiers and over 50 wounded- and resolutely continued with it.
Also the usual method of Hamas of running to the “international community” for help and support this time did not work; for Egypt, Hamas is a true thorn in the ass, and without Egyptian support Hamas is absolutely not interesting for European countries. The USA, in its usual attempt to show others how they must live and “make love not war”, sent John Kerry to Israel with a “peace proposal” that was, as usual, demanding of Israel more “moves of good will” and “painful concessions to reach peace and stop the bloodshed ”- also as usual demanding of Hamas practically nothing instead except a usual ceasefire which Hamas, also as usual, breaks the moment it decides is best for another round with Israel.
The only thing Kerry could scratch out of Jews was an agreement to a 12-hour truce, which Israel gladly uses for a valuable opportunity in collecting intelligence. In the heat of the fighting, the IDF and its clandestine arms were unable, despite strenuous efforts, to obtain electronic and SIGINT access to the hidden Hamas and Islamic Jihad command and control centers; now it can fill in this gap.
Chances are high that this time Israel will go much further than in any of the previous operations, and Hamas has nobody to blame for this but itself.
Originally posted at: www.chersonandmolschky.com