The war with Hamas is not over. What we are experiencing today is a temporary cease-fire.
The most basic reason the war is not over is because Hamas has no existence outside its war against the Jewish state. Hamas exists to obliterate Israel. The goal of each round of fighting is to soften Israel up for the next round.
Hamas will only stop fighting when it is defeated. And Israel did not defeat Hamas.
Not only did Israel not defeat Hamas, according to Haaretz, senior IDF commanders are now lobbying the government to enable Hamas to credibly claim victory.
According to Amos Harel, senior IDF commanders want Israel to bow to Hamas’s demands for open borders with Israel and for the steady transfer of funds to Hamas’s treasury.
Harel quoted a senior IDF source who said that if Israel doesn’t give in to Hamas’s demands for open borders, Hamas will renew its attacks at the end of September.
In the senior commander’s words, “If we can assist [Hamas] by expanding fishing grounds and easing restrictions on border crossings of people and goods into and from Israel, this will help maintain the quiet.”
So to delay the next Hamas onslaught against us, the IDF is lobbying the government to surrender to Hamas.
This behavior demonstrates two basic truths about Hamas’s war against Israel.
First, it is impossible for Israel to deter Hamas, but Hamas has apparently deterred the IDF General Staff.
During Operation Protective Edge Hamas absorbed massive blows to its war machine. The IDF destroyed Hamas’s offensive tunnels that penetrated into Israel. It destroyed thousands of Hamas’s rockets, missiles and launchers. It killed hundreds of Hamas fighters, including some top commanders.
And yet, less than a week into the cease-fire, the IDF prefers to capitulate to Hamas’s demands, and so allow Hamas to recoup its losses, rather than face its depleted forces on the ground in four weeks.
In other words, despite the blows it suffered, it is Hamas that has deterred the IDF.
Harel’s report is just the most recent indication that the IDF senior command echelon is Hamas’s ace in the hole. Throughout the war, news reports revealed that under Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, the General Staff refused to present the security cabinet with any viable plan to defeat Hamas. And now, having failed to defeat Hamas, they insist that it is Israel that should surrender.
Hamas went to war with Israel because its back was up against the wall. Due to Egypt’s decision a year ago to seal its borders with Gaza, Hamas lost the ability to expand its arsenal, fuel Gaza’s smuggling-based economy and pay its terrorists their salaries.
Its leadership figured that the best way to reopen its supply lines was by going to war against Israel. The risk-averse behavior of the General Staff both during the war and today tell Hamas’s leadership that they were right.
The General Staff’s behavior isn’t the only reason that Hamas thinks aggression is the way to go. The US and Europe have gone out of their way, both during the fighting and today, to show Hamas that they are right to attack Israel.
US President Barack Obama adopted Hamas’s demand for open borders as the official position of the US government almost at the outset of the conflict.
He sought to replace Hamas foe Egypt as mediator with Hamas’s principal state sponsors Qatar and Turkey.
Under Obama the Federal Aviation Administration instituted a discriminatory and unwarranted flight ban on Israel. The repercussions of that move continue to harm Israel’s economy.
Today, the US and the EU are working together at the UN Security Council to draft a resolution that would see the deployment of international military forces to Gaza. The defined role of the force would be to oversee Gaza’s demilitarization, seemingly in line with Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s demand.
But the notion that UN forces would take any steps to disarm Hamas is absurd. The minute such forces arrive in Gaza they will become human shields preventing Israel from defending itself against Hamas aggression. If they are deployed to Gaza, then in the next round of Hamas’s war against the Jews, IDF troops will have to constrain their offensive operations still further to avoid killing Western forces.
In other words, the deployment of such a force in Gaza will make it all but impossible for Israel to fight Hamas in the future.
The current discussions at the Security Council tell Hamas it is winning.
By attacking Israel, the genocidal jihadist group won the support of the West. At the UN today the US and the EU are crafting a resolution that will allow it to attack Israel from behind Western human shields.
So between the IDF General Staff and the West, Hamas now knows that all they have to do to survive, thrive and expand their war on Israel, is shake the tree. Something will fall out that will reward their aggression.
If they pay any price at all, it will involve nothing more than the death of the civilians of Gaza. And Hamas leaders couldn’t care less. For them, the death of civilians is yet another means of attacking Israel.
Facing this dire state of affairs, our leadership must dedicate itself today to preparing for the next round of war.
To this end, Israel must begin acting in three areas, now.
First, Israel must use whatever means it has at its disposal to scuttle the US’s attempts to pass any resolution related to Gaza at the UN Security Council.
Second, the government must clean the stables in the IDF General Staff.
Gantz is due to complete his tour of duty in February. Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon need to use his departure as an opportunity to replace not only Gantz but several other senior generals. Their replacements must be commanders who understand that the role of the IDF is to win wars, not lose them.
To date, Netanyahu and Ya’alon have given no indication of their intentions. Senior ministers and the public should use both the General Staff’s support for surrender and its lack of strategic ambition and tactical imagination during the war as a means of pressuring Netanyahu and Ya’alon to conduct a major shakeup of the General Staff.
Finally, the time has come for Israel to expand its military industries.
During the war both the US and European governments placed obstructions in the path of IDF resupply.
Israel cannot remain dependent on undependable foreign military suppliers. Israel needs to develop its own production lines, starting immediately.
We have the technology. We have the economic wherewithal. And we have the external markets to cover the costs of development.
True, this is a long-term undertaking.
But it has to begin now.
Residents of the south are livid at the government for opting for a ceasefire rather than mounting a full invasion of Gaza and dismantling Hamas piece by piece, terrorist by terrorist. As they see it, Operation Protective Edge failed to bring them the security they deserve and require to lead normal lives.
There is much validity to their claims. Hamas’s declarations of victory would sound far more disingenuous if the IDF’s leadership wasn’t intent on proving them right.
Their celebrations would ring hollow and even pathetic if the Americans and Europeans weren’t laboring to set up a mechanism to prevent Israel from fighting in the future.
As it stands, the only way for our leaders to prove their credibility now is by rejecting Hamas’s demand for open borders, even if doing so will require us to go back into battle in a month. After we have seen what Hamas is capable of, the notion that we should allow them to resupply and so rebuild and expand their military capabilities is simply outrageous.
Every general even obliquely tied to this initiative should be given his walking papers.
So too, our leaders need to demonstrate that they understand the nature of the diplomatic battlefield whose contours are being designed in Washington as well as Europe. To meet this threat, we must devise a clear plan to scuttle the cease-fire initiative at the Security Council, and we must diminish our dependence on our unreliable defense partners by building our own production lines.
Absent these responses, it is difficult to see how we will weather the next rapidly approaching storm. Absent these responses it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the time has come for new elections.
This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post.