Today, leaders around the world called for Israel to avoid escalation of the conflict in Gaza as Israeli bombing raids continued and rockets poured forth from Gaza. As I noted in my articles over the past few days, this conflict is not like past conflicts in Gaza, nor is it a conflict that was originated as a response by Israel to events that took place last week or even over the past two or three weeks. It is part of well-devised plan to respond to circumstances in Gaza that have developed over the past three years.
I have noted that phase one of this current operation was most likely an Israeli strike on the Yarmouk Weapons Factory in Khartoum, Sudan on October 24, and was not caused by anything that took place on November 14 or even within a week or two of that date. Moreover, if phase one of the formal portion of Operation Pillar of Defense was the strike on Ahmed Jabari as stated by the IDF, then the entire plan could not have been put in motion until a time came when an attack on Jabari became possible. Attempting an attack on Jabari alone could have been an active operation for days prior to actually carrying out an effective strike. Because of operational necessities such as not only knowing where Jabari was and when but also having a clean shot to take him out at a time when an Israeli aircraft was capable of doing do, it would absurd to assume that the fact that Jabari was killed on November 14 necessarily means that on that date the order was given.
The careful planning of Operation Pillar of Defense did not begin on November 14, nor shortly before October 24 with the strike in Sudan that certainly appears to be a part of the current operation and which required extensive preparations. This operation has been planned for many months and enacted likely based upon red lines that were crossed long ago. It is possible that the red line in this case was the importation of longer range and more powerful Iranian weaponry into Gaza with the planned importation from Iran via Sudan of substantially more, quantitatively and qualitatively, advanced weaponry, creating an existential threat to Israel.
Now, is it possible that what appears to be obvious based upon the attack on the factory in Khartoum on October 24 and the presence in Gaza of substantial numbers of longer range rockets and their use by Hamas over the past few days, are not in fact considered to be an existential threat by Israel. However, if indeed this is the situation, if Israel does see this as an existential threat, then Israel has three choices,
- Accept a weak ceasefire deal creating a situation in which a Hamas in possession of longer range missiles could wreck life in half of Israel on a regular basis by periodically firing in the direction of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem; a situation in which any upcoming conflict would prove substantially more damaging for Israel. This is the option pushed by the international community.
- Demand that Hamas be disarmed of those longer range missiles, trust that it would not import more at a later date, and trust that Hamas would abide by any ceasefire agreement. Hamas has always used ceasefires to increase its ability to afflict harm on Israel by acquiring both more damaging weaponry and more of it, while choosing to violate ceasefires whenever it sees it advantageous to do so. This option, if unenforced becomes closer to option 1 above. Israel would like this option with strong enforcement of it.
- Conduct a massive scale ground invasion of Gaza coupled with airstrikes in an attempt to cripple Hamas’ ability to harm Israeli civilians and eliminate the vast majority of its weaponry while maintaining strong border control indefinitely following any operation. No one wants this option.
It is abundantly clear that option 1 is not going to be reasonable for Israel and that option 2 is not going to be acceptable for Hamas, which leaves option 3.
Those who believe that a ground operation would weaken prospects for peace in the long term, undermining the prospects of a two-state solution, are completely off-base. The prospects for a long term peace under the current circumstances are nil. Israel cannot tolerate an Iranian backed and heavily armed terror state in Gaza that regularly chooses to use such weaponry in either the short term or the long term. Future prospects for peace for both Palestinians and Israelis require a dramatic reduction of the armaments present in Gaza and the removal of virtually all longer range weapons. In other words, peace requires either option 2 or option 3 above, while option 1, a quick ceasefire, will make any possible peace solution more distant.
The cost, both in financial and human terms, of a ground operation is immense. There would be many deaths. The cost of doing nothing for Israel is also immense with a certainty of dramatically worsening terror attacks and rocket attacks against larger Israeli population centers going forward.
If one believes that the Israelis are so reactionary as to launch a major operation based upon periodic short range rocket fire over the past week or two, then I suppose one may assume that Israel would be interested in a quick ceasefire. This would demonstrate the weakness of Israel in the face of increasing power in Gaza and encourage further importation of more damaging and more advanced weaponry there.
If one believes that the Israelis have been planning this operation for months based upon long term strategic assessments and analyses that demonstrate substantially increasing threats in the short term, then a quick ceasefire is not an option and no ceasefire that does not occur after achieving major operational goals would be.
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