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  • November 15, 2012

    ANALYSIS: Israel changes the rules of the game

    By Yoav Limor, ISRAEL HAYOM

    The IDF continued its aerial attacks on the Gaza Strip Wednesday night in an effort to stop rocket fire on Israeli communities and target Hamas operatives.

    Israel’s actions on Wednesday went a long way toward restoring the deterrence lost during the most recent escalation. The assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the head of Hamas’ military wing, and the equally important targeting of Hamas’ long-range rocket caches, stunned the Islamic organization. It was reminded once again of the adversary it is up against and what the real balance of power is.

    But whether Operation Pillar of Defense turns out to be a success ultimately depends on how the next few days unfold. Will Israel be able to hold onto its early gains? Will it avoid a military and diplomatic entanglement in the Gaza Strip? Will the operation help usher in a new modus vivendi that allows the residents of the south to lead their lives peacefully?


    Israel’s decision to carry out the assassination underscores a realization that Hamas, under Jabari’s leadership, changed its modus operandi by taking an active role in terrorist attacks, effectively abandoning its long-held policy of restraint. This was evident is the repeated rocket launches against the communities near the Gaza Strip and its stepped-up attacks against IDF troops patrolling the border fence and combating its tunneling activity.

    Hamas’ audacity reached a new high on Saturday, when it fired an antitank missile on Givati troops near the Gaza security fence, wounding four. This proved Hamas was no longer going to shy away from an escalation.

    The massive salvos on Sderot and Hamas’ half-hearted efforts to ensure other terrorist groups abide by the cease-fire that has been in place since Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009 were an indication that the ruler of the Gaza Strip was now running the show and was leading the terrorist campaign against Israel. Israel knew full well that if it let the recent violations slide it would invite a new, more painful round of hostilities in the near future.

    The response came on Wednesday, after a few days of stormy weather that prevented action. In hindsight, the unfavorable weather conditions played into Israel’s hands. On the one hand, the government’s inaction elicited scathing criticism for forsaking the residents of the south, but it bought Israeli leaders some time to put on a show that convinced Hamas that the latest round was drawing to a close. Hamas let its guard down, expecting calm, and allowed its leaders to come out of hiding. This provided an opening to Israel to make its move and embark on its campaign.

    The decision to allow trucks to flow into the Gaza Strip with goods on Wednesday was also designed to create a false impression of calm. Another layer of deception was added when the Israeli media showed the prime minister and defense minister touring the north. Other politicians also played along, stating that a military operation was unlikely. This added to Hamas’ sense of complacency.

    A top-down attack

    The Jabari assassination was greenlighted by the Forum of Nine (comprising the prime minister and other top ministers) on Wednesday. Israel opted to begin the campaign with a top-down attack focusing on Hamas’ higher-ups, knowing that an incremental campaign would allow Jabari and the other leaders to lie low (as was the case in Operation Cast Lead), which would make their assassination unfeasible.

    In Wednesday’s Forum of Nine meeting, the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and the IDF predicted that Hamas would try to retaliate by firing rockets on Tel Aviv, a strategic tit-for-tat that would change the rules of the game. The IDF was thus given the go-ahead to take out all the long-range rockets and rocket launchers in the Gaza Strip.

    The two-pronged campaign was run simultaneously from the IDF and Shin Bet headquarters. The IDF, from its underground bunker at the General Staff Headquarters (the Kirya), was tasked with targeting the rocket disposition; the Shin Bet’s operations center was in charge of the assassination.

    The IDF had in its target repository an elaborate file on the Fajr-3 and Fajr-5 rockets, which have ranges of up to 75 kilometers (46 miles). The Israel Air Force used the coordinates in these files to carry out precision strikes on the bunkers where they had been stored as well as on other caches and launching sites. As in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, which began with Israel destroying Hezbollah’s long-range rockets, the most pressing objective was to deny Hamas (and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad) the ability to disrupt the lives of those in the greater Tel Aviv area and central Israel by means of long-range rockets.

    IDF officials were careful on Wednesday not to declare Hamas’ long-range rocket apparatus as having been destroyed, lest they be embarrassed by a successful launch. The Israel Navy and Israel Air Force, having learned the lessons of Hezbollah’s surprise attack on the INS Hanit in 2006 by means of a coastal missile, stepped up security to prepare for Hamas surprises down the road.

    Jabari’s death stunned Hamas and put it on the defensive. Over the past several years, Jabari had become the dominant figure in the organization, the Gaza Strip’s all-powerful wheeler and dealer. He was seared into the collective minds of Israelis as the one who masterminded the abduction of Gilad Schalit in the 2006 cross-border raid (and who later handled his release in the prisoner exchange). Israel’s security officials considered him a sophisticated and bitter enemy.

    Under his leadership, Hamas assembled a military force that was organized, trained and equipped. This has increasingly become a challenge for the IDF. Jabari was to Hamas what Imad Mughniyeh was to Hezbollah — the linchpin that holds together all the organization’s military infrastructure. No one in the Israeli decision-making apparatus was under any illusion that Hamas would let this assassination slide. They nevertheless gave it the go-ahead, knowing full well that after the initial shock subsided, Hamas would retaliate forcefully.

    The fact that Hamas did not pursue a large-scale retaliation in the immediate aftermath of the assassination is a result of the state of confusion in the Gaza Strip in the first few hours. The Israel Air Force’s highly effective shield over the Gaza Strip also effectively nipped much of the rocket-launching activity in its bud. That said, the discussions concluded on Wednesday with policymakers bracing for a “tough battle” on Thursday.

    That is why Israel’s southern communities were instructed to prepare for many hits. Schools were closed; the first-responder apparatus and the IDF Homefront Command were sent reinforcements; anti-rocket Iron Dome batteries were deployed in a way that could provide maximum protection for residents and strategic sites.

    The IDF also deployed more infantry troops to the Gaza Strip, as well as armored combat units that largely comprised Merkava Mark IV tanks fitted with Rafael’s Trophy active protection system that effectively neutralizes the threat of antitank missiles. But for all the preparations, as of Wednesday night, Israel still had no intention of waging a ground campaign in the Gaza Strip.

    The troop deployment was meant to render such a contingency a viable option should things deteriorate, but it was chiefly designed to shore up deterrence. Israel hopes that international pressure would help limit the scope of the campaign and render a ground campaign unnecessary. A ground war has both military and political pitfalls that Israel seeks to avoid.

    The goal: a short campaign

    Over the past several days Western officials have tried to dissuade Israel from realizing its threat to attack hard. Egypt has even hinted it would resort to strong measures if Israel was to trigger an escalation. All the while Cairo has found it increasingly difficult to restrain Hamas.

    Security officials assessed prior to the assassination that Egypt would temporarily recall its ambassador from Tel Aviv. This prediction proved accurate, although Cairo has so far stopped short of any additional action. This could change should Israel engage in a protracted and massive campaign that results in a large number of civilian casualties.

    The officials further stressed that Egypt has a unique role to play when it comes to preventing such a scenario from materializing if it manages to use its ties and clout in the Gaza Strip to bring about a cease-fire. Avoiding a quagmire is a chief concern of the political echelons, and they have communicated that to the military’s top brass through their operational directives.

    The goal of the campaign is to change the rules of the game. Namely, to deter Hamas and the other terrorist groups and to restore calm (“normalcy”) to the southern communities. Another, secondary, goal is to kill the so-called high-value targets and compromise the terrorists’ fire power, primarily by means of targeting strategic weapon systems.

    The military was also instructed to take special precautions to avoid hurting noncombatants and to ensure its actions don’t further undermine Israel’s legitimacy abroad. The IDF’s task is to create favorable endgame scenarios that would allow the campaign to meet its objectives as quickly as possible.

    For Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and to a lesser extent to Defense Minister Ehud Barak, the Jabari assassination could be what the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound was to President Barack Obama in 2011. A successful operation and a sense of calm in the south could significantly boost Netanyahu’s standing at the height of a re-election campaign that has been temporarily suspended.

    On the other hand, if the Gaza Strip campaign turns ugly or is perceived as a failure, Jabari’s death could hurt Netanyahu’s electoral chances, just as in the February-March 1996 wave of suicide bombings, when Hamas took revenge for the killing of the Hamas explosives expert (the “engineer”) Yahya Ayyash, contributed to then Prime Minister Shimon Peres’ defeat in the polls.

    But apart from any political implications that the campaign may have, Operation Pillar of Defense may be critical when it comes to the security in the south for some time to come: When the dust settles, there should be no doubt as to who won and who lost; who established deterrence and who has been deterred.

  • Posted by Ted Belman @ 5:24 pm | 14 Comments »

    14 Comments to ANALYSIS: Israel changes the rules of the game

    1. Bernard Ross says:

      The military was also instructed to take special precautions to avoid hurting noncombatants and to ensure its actions don’t further undermine Israel’s legitimacy abroad.

      This might be a mistaken policy which has served Israel poorly. Israel has embraced a policy foisted upon the jews to tie the hands of jewish response and give jew killers comfort in their ability to rely on compliant jews to observe age old double standards. The world continues to hoodwink the jews with these fraudulent suggestions.
      It should be an INTENTIONAL policy of Israel to EMBRACE the retaliation against the civilians of those who target Israeli civilians. This will carry the message that there is no room for double standards and foreign swindling will not be accepted. There should be no apologizing for the targeting of civilians in gaza. In fact the world should be told that even the unsuccessful targeting of Israeli civilians will bring immediate retaliation on foreign civilians. The enemies must be clearly shown that killing jews is VERBOTEN and the price is MASSIVE. There must be a DECLARED end to the policies of proportionate, limited and restrained response. This policy is the direct cause of terror against jewish children. The face of all those who wish to tie the hands of jewish response must be severely slapped, as if by a rifle butt. Such suggestions to hoodwink jews must be repudiated and met with derision. The docile jew must become a memory for the ghettos of Europe: let the europeans rejoice in their memories but but leave them with memories only.

    2. Bernard Ross says:

      I am curious as to how Hamas leadership perceived Jabari; was he an asset or a threat to other interests?

    3. ArnoldHarris says:

      Ultimately, it will be seen that the only tactic that Israel can deploy which will permanently end the now-incessant attacks against Jewish cities and villages by rocket attacks is to use military force to invade the territories from which the attacks have been mounted, then annex these territories to the State of Israel, populate them with Jews, and expel significant numbers of the non-Jewish inhabitants to locales as far away from Israel’s heartland as possible.

      There never has been long-term peace in the Middle East. There never shall be long-term peace in the Middle East, and, because of the embedded cultural characteristics both of the Arab nation in general and the two main prevailing and competing Islamic sects which comprise nearly all Arabs, no long-term peace in the Middle East ever shall be possible.

      The Jewish nation, in order to have the peace our ancestors have prayed for over some 3000 years since the break up of the united Kingdom of Israel, has the following choices:

      1) Evacuate the Middle East entirely and return to the indignities and on occasion, mass murders, of the Jewish dispersion, to live once again solely on whatever comes from being considered the “useful but despised” nation.

      2) Surrender to Islam in hopes they will let you live in peace and not simply enslave you, with the latter being the more likely outcome.

      3) Conquer, annex and render Jewish large blocks of land surrounding Aretz Yisrael and grow the population, industrial/economic base and military power of the state and nation to become a permanent Jewish-controlled empire to rule from the Nile to the Euphrates, and the Taurus Mountains southward into the Arabian deserts.

      4) Do none of the above, and just get killed, along with your wives and children, as the Arabs overrun you.

      If any of you have what you consider to be a better permanent solution to what has become a permanent problem, I would be pleased to be enlightened.

      Arnold Harris
      Mount Horeb WI

    4. Yidvocate says:

      War is hell. You either win or loose. If you don’t win you loose. All except Israel it seems. It has fought countless wars but has never been permitted to win any. The result is constant and incessant war. To win you have to convince the enemy to end the conflict. This has never happened. Proportionality is what ever it takes to produce this result.

      Targeting civilians in Gaza is justified as the terrorist rulers were elected by popular vote and their enmity towards Israel and Jews in general are shared by the populace at large. Contrast this with Iran where the Mullahs are largely detested.

      What truly mystifies me is why hasn’t Israel turned off the water, the electricity and truck deliveries it supplies Gaza? Who in their right mind gives vital aid to those who are trying to kill their children?

      If deterrence is the objective, the rules of the game that need to change is a simple new doctrine that for every rocket, mortar, missile or projectile of any kind fired, there will be a 12 hours disruption to power, shipments of vitals and supply of water, which will double for each and every successive firing. This would be entirely appropriate and would put Hamas in charge of it’s own demise in an entirely bloodless manner.

      Collective punishment you say? Well what is war if not collective punishment?

    5. James B - Montreal says:

      Yamit is very correct and the world has no right to judge because their own histories are full of war against civilians.

      Tecumseh Sherman, on orders of Abraham Lincoln, did exactly that. And the Europeans? They wrote the book. Asiatics no better.

      Israel should call it ” Mivtza Enola Grey “.

    6. ArnoldHarris says:

      @ Yidvocate:
      Yidvocate, :12-hour disruptions in Yidvocate Said:

      If deterrence is the objective, the rules of the game that need to change is a simple new doctrine that for every rocket, mortar, missile or projectile of any kind fired, there will be a 12 hours disruption to power, shipments of vitals and supply of water, which will double for each and every successive firing. This would be entirely appropriate and would put Hamas in charge of it’s own demise in an entirely bloodless manner.

      Yidvocate, your logic regarding the above is just the same kind of “Jewthink” that has gotten our people conquered, expelled, despised, robbed and murdered for the past 3000 years. The mindset of al-Qaeda, Hamas, Ilkwan, Hezbollah and other Islamic gangs that are now attacking Jews wherever they can get in reach of them, is less concerned with discomforts or even the deaths of their own people, than they are on wiping Israel off the map of the Middle East, and along with Israel, the Jewish nation.

      Enemies of the type that now threaten the State of Israel and the future of the Jewish nation can neither be pleaded nor bargained with. They are not reasonable, because Islam is a faith of total submission to what they are convinced is the will of Allah. Therefore, they must be considered and treated as implacable enemies of the Jewish state and nation, along with the rest of the world which they obviously think they are in the process of conquering. Nor is there any kind of national succor likely from the international community, including the USA, Western Europe, or anyone else with the power to help. The fact is, most of them do not really give a damn about the outcome, so long as it does not interfere with their immediate lives.

      The only kind of response that works must be the permanent conquest of the nearby Arab lands by the Jewish state, with all police powers reserved for Israel’s Jewish government, possibly excepting Arab municipalities firmly under control of a local Arab leadership that can be counted upon to quietly kill or acquiesce in the permanent expulsion ny Israel of any Arab troublemaker who threatens the peace. In other words, overlordship of a land area ultimately from the Nile River or the Gulf of Suez on the far west to the Syrian Desert on the far eastern frontier, and from the Taurus Mountains in the north to the Arabian deserts to the south.

      Stay focused, Yidvocate. Don’t become angry, or even give yourself over to resentment. The most effective fighters in the world are those who have learned to kill their enemies in cold blood, then wipe all that out of their kinds and sit down for a nice dinner with their wives and children. That — and nothing short of that — is precisely the mind set that the Jewish nation, including its leadership, must adopt and to which it must adapt their policies and actions. It is either that, or the Jewish nation shall be swept into one of the more mournful dustbins of world history. Because that is precisely the way the world functions, like it or not.

      Arnold Harris
      Mount Horeb WI

    7. Yidvocate says:

      @ ArnoldHarris:

      and other Islamic gangs that are now attacking Jews wherever they can get in reach of them, is less concerned with discomforts or even the deaths of their own people, than they are on wiping Israel off the map of the Middle East, and along with Israel, the Jewish nation.

      I agree that their leaders may be less concerned, but when the lights go out and the people run out of water and other vital necessities, they may have something to say to their leaders and their leaders will be more than a bit too busy to engage in their favorite sport!

      Enemies of the type that now threaten the State of Israel and the future of the Jewish nation can neither be pleaded nor bargained with.

      Again I agree but does this mean that Israel has to supply them with the necessities of life?

      ….in other words, overlordship of a land area ultimately from the Nile River or the Gulf of Suez on the far west to the Syrian Desert on the far eastern frontier, and from the Taurus Mountains in the north to the Arabian deserts to the south.

      Agree again but do you really think the present Israeli leadership is capable of such a policy? Get real!

      It is either that, or the Jewish nation shall be swept into one of the more mournful dustbins of world history. Because that is precisely the way the world functions, like it or not.

      That may be the way the world functions but it is certainly not the way the Jewish nation functions or else we would have long been in that mournful dustbin you speak of.

      You’re calling for a mega-policy that isn’t going to happen and you know it. I’m just suggesting something so painfully obvious and rational and easy, that only a fool would not have immediately resorted to it 5 years ago when the first rocket was fired. It’s just as justified and I suggest effective today. WHY AREN’T THEY DOING IT? is the question that burns me.

    8. ArnoldHarris says:

      Yidvocate,

      I’m calling for a mega-policy that must happen if Israel is to survive as a homeland for an expanding Jewish nation. And what you think of as “so painfully rational” will not work simply because Arabs in particular and Muslims in general have little or no regard for human life, including the thousands of those who are recruited as suicide bombers — in itself a tactic that goes far back into Arab history such as the time of the Nizari sect, commonly referred to in the West as the Hashashin — which is from where the universally applied modern name “assassins” come from.

      Incremental tactics such as focused reprisals are no more useful for Israel today than was the policy of shooting of significant numbers of enemy civilians as reprisal for their armed resistance to German occupying troops useful for the armies of Kaiser Wilhelp and Adolf Hitler. The ancient Assyrians, 19th century American military chiefs cleaning out the Indian tribes, and Josef Stalin in the 1940s had a better and far more useful tactic: Expel the entire populations of large districts and either concentrate them in “reservations”, as the US Army commanders did with Apache, Sioux, Comanche, Navajo, Cheyenne and a host of other American Indian tribes; or as Stalin did with the Crimean Tatars and the Chechen of the Caucasus region following World War II. Or for that matter, as the Poles, Czechs, Romanians, Hungarians and Jugoslavs did to some 14 million ethnic Germans also following World War II. It may be messy. It certainly is brutal. But it gets permanent results and far less damage to one’s national reputation than outright mass murder.

      And if people with mentalities such as yours are wrong about the incrementalism you propose, then what? If and when the Arabs become strong enough, all Israel will be crowded back to huddle in shelters in its few remaining cities. To await either the doom of the Jewish state, or a last desparate effort to even the odds against them by firing off hundreds of missiles with nuclear warheads, to cause the greatest mass murder in human history. Or at that point, Yidvocate, would you pull your punches and witness your Jewish nation pass into near extinction?

      Arnold Harris
      Mount Horeb WI

    9. scottdnok says:

      @ ArnoldHarris:

      That’s preceisely what the aviators that laid waste to Japan and Germany’s industrial heartland and population centers did in Europe in WWII. Terrible terrible war. We won Japan and Germany no longer the threat the were 70 years ago.

    10. yamit82 says:

      3!!!Fajar 5 Rockets hit Jerusalem area in past few min. No reports of Damage.

      Egypt and the Arab Muslim world appears have thrown Hamas under their Bus.

      No demonstrations although in Egypt the MB called for a million demonstrators in Cairo, in their famous square.

      Egypt is Bankrupt and are due to receive 6 billion Euros from EU amd the World Bank including a half billion dollars from Obama. They are in no position except for Blah Blah to help Hamas. Turkey is quiet so far and few are condemning Israel. Hamas is for the moment Isolated even their brothers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are quiet.

      This can change in an instant and they are hoping for a repeat of many casualties by Israel to reverse their international and inter Arab position.

    11. rongrand says:

      Israeli leaders should be sure to finish the job.

      Don’t let this turn into another “Operation Cast Lead” that ended before the job was completed and later ended up with a fictitious Goldstone Report.

      An Arab reported on Twitter that Israel has turned Gaza into a prison.

      Sorry pal, Hamas turned Gaza into a prison and they use the Palestinians, what fools.

    12. the phoenix says:

      @ yamit82:
      now is the time for a fajar 5 to “accidentally” land into the al-aqsa and dome of the rock
      mosque.
      Israel must surely have some such rockets in its arsenal…

    13. Bernard Ross says:

      the phoenix Said:

      now is the time for a fajar 5 to “accidentally” land into the al-aqsa and dome of the rock

      An interesting idea

    14. Tony says:

      @ ArnoldHarris:
      or something else that you really have no idea about….

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