Friday, January 09, 2009

Israel's Impending Victory in Gaza

A few days ago I wondered what Israel was hoping to accomplish with its assault on Gaza. Today's it's still not clear, not even to Israel's government which is still debating whether to make a total push into Gaza's cities, a move which would signal an attempt to destroy Hamas as a governing body. Meanwhile, as people warn that Israel's attack on Hamas will only result in strengthening the group, rocket attacks from Lebanon into northern Israel seem to confirm that warning as many see the rockets as a message from a Hezbollah that emerged from its own war with Israel stronger than it was before.

But not so fast.

Hezbollah is adamantly denying that it has anything to do with the rockets being launched from Lebanon. That's not the move of an empowered nationalistic militia; that's the move of a group that, despite its propaganda claims to the contrary, suffered a massive beating in its war with Israel. Hezbollah likely lost more than 500 soldiers in ground fighting with Israel while Israel lost 30 soldiers (Israel lost about 10o total soldiers). Furthermore, Hezbollah's rocket attacks, in which Hezbollah launched around 4,000 rockets into Israel, killed 43 Israelis civilians and wounded more than 4,000. While it's true that the impact of the rocket attacks cannot be measured purely in casualties, it's also true that 5-1 loss ratios and the use of a large part of its arsenal to kill 40 civilians cannot really be seen as a military victory in any sense. Furthermore, the political fallout borne by Hezbollah for antagonizing Israel and endangering Lebanon seems to have been very heavy. And now we're seeing the results of the Israeli operation, as Hezbollah despites its blustery claims of Palestinian solidarity is not only NOT opening a second front, it is taking great pains to ensure that Israel does not turn its might against Lebanon again.

If the invasion of Lebanon was enough to reestablish a modicum of deterrence against Hezbollah, can the Gaza campaign do the same vis-a-vis Hamas? A wide campaign against Hamas's strategic assets, government facilities, and underground tunnels may very well cripple Hamas's ability to not only attack Israel but to provide the services for Gaza that have advanced Hamas's political agenda and brought it to power as a viable alternative to Fatah. Hamas's victory in Gaza was not only a result of its aggressive stance against Israel but also a rejection of the corruption and ineffectiveness of Fatah. But if Hamas loses the capability to threaten Israel, cannot effectively defend itself or the people of Gaza, and sees its ability to govern destroyed, the Palestinian people very well may turn back to Fatah.

It is for this reason that it is imperative, as I wrote in my last post, for Israel to make clear the benefits that can be had for adhereing to the path that Fatah has chosen. As I wrote, "Israel should immediately announce a halt to all funding for settlement building in the West Bank, dismantle all illegal settlements, and lift all but the most necessary checkpoints and roadblocks that have made life in the West Bank so difficult." Doing so in the midst of the war against Hamas will announce in no uncertain terms Israel's commitment to a peaceful, two-state solution so long as there is a willing and able partner among the Palestinians.

In an article in today's Wall Street Journal, Edward Luttwak writes "Hamas will claim a win no matter what happens, but then so did Hezbollah in 2006. And yet, for the most part, Hezbollah remains immobile and the Israeli northern border with Lebanon remains quiet. If Israel can achieve the same with Hamas in Gaza, it would be a significant victory." But we must not be fooled by rhetoric and propaganda. Israel's invasion of Lebanon was definitely a success, and whether Gaza is as well will not be judged by Hamas's empty claims of victory.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip on the WSJ column. I remember well your analysis on the 06 Lebanon war and your debunking of Hezbullah's claims of victory. Here is a genuine question that's been bugging me lately, and this is not at all sarcastic. In modern lingo, what the hell's a rocket? When Israel fires a projectile, it's called a "missile" by the same news outlets that call Qassams and Katyushas "rockets." The thing is, I, speaking as a professional slinger of verbiage, think most people think a "missile" is a serious piece of killing ordnance designed strictly for war and death while a "rocket" primarily suggests fireworks or the things you use to put satellites in space, though in a strict sense the words are fairly synonymous. (I don't know whether non-American English speakers have the same associations) And so, in an echo of the Arab PR success of the rocks hurled during the Intifadas (people conveniently forgot rocks kill people, like in stoning someone to death, David and the sling, etc.), the missile / rocket dichotomy makes most people think the Gazans are, once again, doing something relatively innocuous by firing all those "rockets" into Israel, and that Israel overreacts when it fires "missiles" in return.

-David Orlowski

Seth Weinberger said...


All rockets are missiles, but not all missiles are rockets. The term "rocket" refers to the type of engine used by the missile. A missile can also use a jet engine, in which case it is not technically a rocket. Rocket engines are easier to make, and can be much cruder than jet engines. The missile launched by Hamas use rocket engines and are thus often called rockets. Israeli forces use both rockets and missiles...hope that clears things up!

Seth Weinberger said...

One more thing...the term "missile" is normally used to describe a guided projectile, while "rocket" refers to an unguided projectile.

Anonymous said...

Actually, yes, that completely clears that up. I figured you'd know the answer without having to dig up some Jane's guide...


moshref said...

Asahhih rockets from Hamas a small but influential Israelis Nvsi

Abe Bird said...

Israel goal is to produce deterrence against Hamas and not to destroy it. It is clearly open by the method of action of the IDF. The intention is to bring Hamas to suffer a great deal of terror activists' human loses and ruining as many as their sites and infrastructure and end the operation inside Gaza. In any case Hamas will not get out of that conflict stronger, although Hamas propaganda will claim so, as Edward Luttwak wrote.
The Hamas intensified the numbers of rockets they waged on Israel since Israel's withdrawal from Gaza. Iran and Al-Qaida involvement there had been coming stronger since. Hamas and other terror groups gathered more heavy weapons by smuggling then through Sinai. The Hamas doubled its manpower (20,000 combatants) and tripled its armament. Most of the "long rage" rockets came from Iran in the last 2 years.
Hamas rejected to continue the "Tahdiah" with out gaining extra benefit (free exporting, free entrance into Israel, their right to continue to send rockets over Israel) from Israel. Of course Israel denied them. The Hamas kept its "right" to send daily rockets into Israel each day and Israel had to react forcefully.

There are some signs that Iran influenced Hamas and some proxy Palestinian group in Lebanon to occupy Israel attention to its borders, fearing that the US or Israel will attack by air some vital Iranian nuclear facilities before Bush administration comes to its end and leave Obama quite an easy desk. That's why Iran spurred the extremist Islamic movements.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why no one has asked the obvious as of yet...If the people that live in Gaza (The same ones that have been there all these yrs)want Israel to stop firing rockets at them, then they themselves should get rid of all the Hamas animals that have been using them as shields. Let the people that live in Gaza clean their own house!!!

Anonymous said...

What a lot of TOSH, the plain and simple truth is that the Israel's Government are nothing more than a bunch of Murderer's.

Any nation or so called army instructs 30+ women and children to hide in a house then hits the building with, "Missiles, Bombs or Rockets" (Who cares what they are called) and kills the majority of the people in side should have the same thing done to them. What justification does these murderes have to kill 230 children.

The Jews clearly have a very short memories and they should think back to the 2nd World War !!!!

What is worse the Yanks are no better and they are clearly spineless to abstain the UN vote, mind you they are not good at fighting wars are they, Vietnam, Korea, Iraq - Need I say more

Anonymous said...

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Gary Baumgarten said...

We'll be discussing the Israeli invasion of Gaza from perspectives on both sides of the divide Monday and Tuesday January 12 and 13 at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on with Israel's Consul General in New York Asaf Shariv and Hussein Ibish, executive director of the Foundation for Arab-American Leadership and senior fellow at the American Task Force on Palestine.

Please go to and click on the Join The Chat Room button to speak with Shariv on Monday and Ibish on Tuesday.



Abe Bird said...

a lot of TOSH?

What is happening in Israel is a classic example of Muslim hypocrisy which is strengthened by their murderous tactics because that makes people bend over for them. The Palestinian Arabs are the same people as the people living in Jordan/Syria/Egypt ethnically and linguistically. They should have been settled by now rather than taking a major chunk of the UN resources meant for the refugees. They are the problem of Arab countries not Israel.

There is no chance for peace in Israel land (aka Palestine) as long as the local Palestinian Arabs making all efforts to destruct Israel, wiping Israel off the map. The Hamas systematically operates to kill Jews as Jews but fails to understand that now Jews have the power to protect themselves.

Hamas has been trying very hard to hit Israeli citizens with its rockets. Unfortunately, they sometimes succeed. While forced to defend itself, Israel is trying very hard not to hit Palestinian civilians. Fortunately, Israel is for the most part succeeding.

Why this difference is so difficult to understand is beyond me. After all, it's not exactly rocket science.

Just listen to one Gazan girl the basic truth coming out of her mouth(just before the Hamas net cut the direct broadcasting!):

Ʀahٹლą'i said...

While Hizbullah is an organization (political party, if you so insist) within Lebanon, the geopolitical situation in Gaza is quite different. HAMAS ("Harakat al-Muqawama al-Islamiyya") is not just another marginal group. It is the regional governing body, democratically elected by the Gazan people.

I do not know where you live, but it certainly isn't in Israel. The Israelis see Lebanon II as a failure, and part of it is the alarming aftermath. Today, more than two years later, Iran has completely re-supplied and enlarged Hizbullah’s arsenal through Lebanon’s porous border with Syria—and all in plain view of UNIFIL’s “peacekeeping” forces. Israel must ensure Gaza's mosques and UN schools are not filled with more 120mm mortars and Arash missiles in case of another tahadiya.

One thing they do have in common, though, Hizbullah and Hamas, which is to rise up against the "foreign element" in the region, the Small Satan. The goal of both Lebanon II and Gaza '08 is to restore Israel's deterrence capability against the muqawama (i.e. resistence).

It's time to understand that the Middle-East is not the Mid-West.

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