“Hamas doesn’t want a large-scale military confrontation” is Israeli officials’ favorite term to explain why no major IDF offensive is launched to stop the terrorist plague unleashed from Gaza year after year. Of course, Hamas doesn’t; its style is terror, not full-scale combat. The ongoing Egyptian mediation is thus sidetracked into a bid to prevent Israel from launching a major war, while allowing the Palestinian Hamas to carry on with its highly successful terror-cum-extortion strategy.
Another pet Israeli phrase is that “Hamas needs to gain the profile of a victor.” The Palestinian terrorist group has, however, gained the full-face image of a victor. A panoramic view of the array of Israeli forces, tanks and equipment massed around Gaza by one of the foremost world armies to challenge a small terrorist group, fully justifies Hamas in showing the V sign.
As if to demonstrate that it is business as usual, terrorists hurled firebombs and hand grenades from Gaza at Israel’s border troops for five hours on Friday night, March 29, double its usual strength, whereas the IDF sent a single tank to fire three shells at a lone Hamas position. Saturday midday, the first firebombs of the day were aimed at Israel soldiers.
Hamas had got the message: You can safely carry on your terror-cum-blackmail conduct. The rules haven’t changed. And the message for Israelis: The peak concentration of military strength against your Palestinian tormentors may be impressive, but your leaders have every hope of avoiding using them You may well ask then: if that is so, why was it necessary to shell out millions of shekels to create this build-up?
There are more phrases for excusing Israel’s reluctance to deal with the Palestinian terrorists ruling the Gaza Strip root and branch. One contention is that Hamas is a hopeless case unless Israel re-occupies the Gaza Strip which Israel turned over to Palestinian rule in 2005 and this, no one wants. This contention too betokens the absence of original thinking for which the IDF used to be celebrated.
The incumbent Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Aviv Kochavi would undoubtedly hope no one remembers his words on September 12, 2007, after the last Israel soldier and all 8,000 civilians had departed the Gaza Strip for good.
As commander of the Gaza Division, he shut the Kissufim border crossing gate for the last time and declared: “If the Palestinians now fire a single bullet, the IDF will return to the Strip.” He was not to foresee that 12 years later, he would take over command of the IDF at the end of the Year of Hamas, during which he was Deputy Chief of Staff and therefore a partner of Prime Minister and Defense Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his predecessor Lt. Gen. Gaby Eisenkot in the evolving Gaza fiasco.
It has reached a point where nothing but fundamental action will suffice for recovering Israel’s deterrent strength, say DEBKAfile’s military sources: Either 1. A large-scale IDF operation for eliminating Hamas leaders and commanders and destroying their Ezz-e-din Qassam armed wing; or 2. A joint-Egyptian military campaign with the same object. Either way, Hamas rule of the Gaza Strip must be wiped out. Halting the operation in the middle for fear of international denigration, like the last campaign four years ago, would totally defeat the purpose.
In 2006 and 2007, the years following Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, the late prime minister Ariel Sharon followed his adviser Amos Gilead in relying on Egypt to take care of any problems caused by the Palestinian regime now ruling Gaza. Gilead also urged the government to allow the Egyptian army to take charge of the strategic Philadelphi Corridor linking Gaza and Sinai as a lever for keeping the Palestinians in line.
All the arrangements concluded with Cairo fell down in short order. No Egyptian troops were ever deployed at Philadelphi and, in no time, enormous quantities of weapons were being smuggled through and stoking Palestinian terror.
Relying on Egyptian mediation to avert the ongoing terror catastrophe is as much a farce now as it was then. If perhaps Israel had traded the military and intelligence assistance it grants Egypt in its war on the Islamic State in Sinai for a corresponding Cairo crackdown on Hamas, which also maintains ties with the Islamic State, the IDF might be in a different place today. As matters stand, without fundamental military action, Israel can look forward to nothing less than escalating Palestinian terror in expanding circles from the Gaza Strip.
Running parallel to Egyptian mediation between Gaza and Tel Aviv moreover, another track is taking the lead. On Friday, March 29, Hamas Deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s Ziyad Nahalah met in Beirut with Hizballah officials for instructions on how to manage the March of the Millions on Saturday. So, when they stated: “Any Israeli aggression against the demonstrators will be met by the resistance,” they were confirming that Hizballah is calling the shots in Gaza – not Egypt.