Israel’s botched operation in Gaza comes with consequences

The Palestinian group behind that attack scored a public relations victory because it refrained from firing until Israeli soldiers left the bus.
Sunday 18/11/2018
War advocacy. Israeli residents from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon demonstrate against the Gaza ceasefire, on November 14. (AFP)
War advocacy. Israeli residents from the southern Israeli city of Ashkelon demonstrate against the Gaza ceasefire, on November 14. (AFP)

A botched Israeli operation 3km inside Gaza resulted in both physical and political casualties, the latter including Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who resigned to protest what he said was a lack of determination in the Israeli government to inflict a major blow on Hamas

Lieberman also objected to the transfer of $15 million, donated by Qatar, to pay the salaries of Hamas-employed public servants, which the Palestinian Authority had refused to pay.

What started as a limited covert operation — Israeli media reported that members of the elite unit were disguised in women’s clothes — to abduct or assassinate a commander in the armed wing of Hamas’ armed wing Ezzeldin al-Qassam ended with seven Palestinian fighters dead.

However, the Palestinians killed the Israeli group’s commander and one of his companions. Israeli helicopters scrambled to evacuate the unit and Israeli jets destroyed the vehicle they used for the operation close to the Gaza fence.

Israel thought it could conduct a limited operation, leave the Gaza Strip with its attack team intact and withstand a small reaction of the firing of a limited number of rockets from Gaza. It would then present itself as the victim of Palestinian terror.

It once again failed to account for the resilience of the Palestinians, particularly in the tiny besieged strip, into its risk assessment before the operation. Not only did Palestinian groups fire back with nearly 400 rockets causing tens of injuries, images of a bus carrying soldiers on the Israeli side of the fence that was targeted with apparent ease made a mockery of Israel’s security provision.

The Palestinian group behind that attack scored a public relations victory because it refrained from firing until Israeli soldiers left the bus, controlling the amount of damage that could have been inflicted — and possible consequences.

The incident was shown on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV, which was targeted and its main building demolished by an Israeli strike.

Far from inflicting a severe blow on Hamas, Israel is at war with itself, with Lieberman’s resignation and his calls for others to consider their positions possibly leading to the collapse of the coalition government and perhaps early elections.

A week is a long time in politics. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu started the week making a surprise official visit to Oman.

Two other ministers followed on open trips to the Gulf. Culture and Sport Minister Miri Regev visited the United Arab Emirates and Transport Minister Yisrael Katz attended a transport conference in Oman. The Israeli flag was raised in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

There were rumours of possible diplomatic relations being established between Bahrain and Israel. A possible long-term truce with Hamas appeared to be near completion and plans were presented to create a sea route between Gaza and Cypress, to ease the siege on Gaza.

The Americans were said to be readying themselves to reveal the Deal of the Century, US President Donald Trump’s peace plan, in early December.

By the end of the week, Netanyahu was back in Tel Aviv to deal with the fallout from the botched operation and the ensuing violence. He cut short his visit to France, where he was pictured in the front row of commemorations of the centenary of the Armistice Day. On his return to Israel, he was met with images of Israeli citizens burning tyres in protest of the decision to end the bombardment of Gaza. This is a measure of the effect of the failed operation.

Yet another truce appears to have been secured between Israel and the Palestinian groups in Gaza. This was met with celebrations in Gaza, which saw this and the resignation of Lieberman as a victory for the Palestinian resistance. The truce will bring relief to Israelis in the neighbouring settlements, despite their protests.

The Israeli operation showed friendly Arab countries that normalising relations with Israel would not encourage Israel to engage in serious efforts for peace with the Palestinians. Also, Israel will not go to the aid of Arab states in the unlikely event of an Iranian strike against them.

The messy operation should be a wake-up call for Arabs to review their strategies towards Israel.

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