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Now that the Gaza fight with Hamas is behind us a bit, Commentary reports on who prevailed.
The story of the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in the summer of 2014 is not a complicated one. In June, Hamas operatives activated long-in-the-works plans to escalate terror operations in the West Bank and military attacks from Gaza. Israel responded by launching Operation Brother’s Keeper and then Operation Protective Edge, which were aimed respectively at eroding Hamas’s terror infrastructure in the West Bank and its military infrastructure in Gaza. By the middle of August, Jerusalem announced that Israeli security forces had secured the strategic goals of both campaigns.
This is what happened. And yet the simplicity of this account bothers a great many people. There remains sustained disagreement on the most basic origins of the violence. There remains substantial debate regarding the course of the war in Gaza. There should be little disagreement: 1) Hamas caused the violence; 2) Israel prevailed in the military conflict. Now, to say this isn’t to say anything definitive. Everything is not going to be just fine in the wake of the summer of 2014. Hamas will still pose a threat; Israel’s policies toward the Palestinians will remain controversial.
But in fact, Israel’s strategic position—with no army in the Middle East capable of launching a full-scale invasion and with a Palestinian leader who at least says out loud that the Jewish state is not going anywhere—has never been stronger. The country emerged from the summer’s violence more secure rather than less secure. …
… A full tally of the destruction that Hamas brought to itself and to Gaza will not be possible to know for months. Preliminary reports suggest near-total devastation of Hamas’s infrastructure. Eighty percent of the group’s projectile arsenal was depleted. Many of the rockets were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes, and almost all the rest either landed in empty fields, were swatted down by the anti-projectile system Iron Dome, or fell short and landed in Gaza. Hamas’s 32 attack tunnels were destroyed after Israel launched the operation’s ground phase on July 17. Only two days earlier, the group’s leaders had rejected a cease-fire that would have preserved that infrastructure; they instead deployed a group of commandos through a tunnel with the intention of raiding a small kibbutz.
At least three of Hamas’s very top military leaders were killed in the closing days of the war. They had made a frankly inexplicable decision to leave their underground bunkers after breaking yet another ceasefire. By the time Israel was through, roughly 1,000 Hamas fighters had been killed. Fully zero percent of Hamas’s spectacular attacks on civilians—to be conducted via long-range rockets, drones, hang gliders, and tunnels—succeeded.
And Israel? A total of 72 Israelis—66 soldiers and 6 civilians—died. Israel’s international airport was shut down for just over a day, which was Hamas’s strategic high-water mark.
Even this grim accounting fails to convey the scope of Hamas’s military debacle. The nature of the fight—the how’s and where’s—was entirely controlled by Israel. Hamas was capable of forcing the Israelis to fight, but there their control ended. The IDF’s July 17 ground invasion lasted precisely as long as Israeli leaders wanted to stay in the territory. After Hamas scuttled an 11th attempted cease-fire, the Israelis began on August 19 what they described as an “extraordinary escalation,” targeting top military leaders and leveling at least three multistory command-and-control centers.
Hamas capitulated within a week, accepting the very same terms that had been on the table for more than a month and that had been widely considered to be favorable to Israel and humiliating to the Palestinian faction. Victory parades were held in Gaza that fooled only the willingly fooled. Abbas called on Hamas to admit that it had been soundly beaten and adjust accordingly. Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh crawled out of his bunker and returned to his home, which had been destroyed during the war. …
… Israel’s attention has been turned to the military threat posed by attack tunnels, and this focus may avert a catastrophe in another war. Israel has a remarkable record of developing amazing technological solutions to asymmetric threats, but only after it has been forced to pay attention. Israeli intelligence knew for the better part of a decade that Yasir Arafat was preparing for a war that would be waged by terrorists infiltrating from the West Bank. But only after waves of suicide bombers had attacked family pizzerias and Passover banquet halls did the Israelis innovate and build their high-tech security fence. Similarly, Israel knew that Hezbollah was importing tens of thousands of rockets and missiles during the early 2000s. Only after northern Israel was saturated by Hezbollah rockets and missiles did Jerusalem begin seriously pursuing missile-defense technology. Hezbollah has undoubtedly dug its own network underneath Israel’s northern border in anticipation of war. Israel has now set to work and is focused on protecting itself from below as well as above. Hezbollah and its Iranian sponsors will not thank Hamas for having awakened the Jewish state.
This is what victory looks like. It is not total victory, but total victory was never sought. In the summer of 2014, Israel was forced to defend itself—and it did so, brilliantly.
Matthew Continetti posts on the useful idiots in the media as they reported the Gaza conflict.
… What has become clear over the summer is that there are really two wars going on. There is the real war, the war that is happening in Gaza and Israel. It is a serious operation: There are casualties, injuries, and loss of property. But it is happening for a reason, and the reason is that terrorists cannot be allowed to wage an insurgency behind human shields. That is why the Israeli and American publics are united in support. Like all wars, Operation Protective Edge will have consequences intended—the degradation of Hamas rockets, the closure of Hamas tunnels—and unintended. But Israel will protect itself. It must.
Then there is the second war, the pseudo-war that is happening on television. This is a war divorced from context. Cause and effect are unrelated. Disinformation is laundered through a supposedly objective media. In the pseudo-war, peace will come if only Israel lifts its blockade of Gaza, if only Israel negotiates with an entity that denies its right to exist. In the pseudo-war, the leaders of Hamas receive the same treatment as the leaders of Israel. Television personalities who go home to luxe condos in Manhattan lecture Israelis on the importance of avoiding civilian casualties. In the pseudo-war, fighting to protect the Jewish home isn’t heroism. Heroism is announcing one’s disappointment in Israel’s failure to live up to utopian standards of conduct.
The war that is actually taking place in space and time is more significant than the war related to us by images and sounds. It is a war Israel can win. But the biased, credulous, facile, immature reporting of the pseudo-war undermines Israel’s campaign. And worse, it weakens the West’s moral clarity, and thus our right to self-defense. It fosters the hazardous illusion that Hamas and, by extension, groups with the same nihilistic and terroristic aims as Hamas want the same thing that Israel and the West want: peace. For if Israel is to treat Hamas as an equal, why shouldn’t the United States treat the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria as an equal?
For Hamas and its fellow terrorists, the news business has become what Lenin said liberals in the West always were: a bunch of useful idiots.
Jonathan Tobin posts on the president’s conflict with Israel.
President Obama gritted his teeth yesterday and sat down for a meeting in the White House with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. Even at the best of times, the president isn’t good at faking bonhomie and there was little evidence of the usual pretense of good fellowship during the media portion of the session. He doesn’t like Netanyahu, but given his current emphasis on the war against ISIS and the utter collapse of the peace process with the Palestinians, Obama had little choice but to try and downplay his difference with the prime minister. Yet as a scathing State Department statement about Jerusalem issued later in the day revealed, the administration’s conflict with Israel has been sidelined but is far from finished. …
… If there is anything we have learned about Barack Obama in the last six years it is that he is not a man prepared to admit mistakes (just ask Jim Clapper). For relations between Israel and the United States to really improve—as opposed to the arguments just cooling down every now and then—it will require the president to admit that his idée fixe about settlements won’t bring peace or help the U.S. rally allies in the fight against genuine threats to American security. He will also need to realize that his never-flagging desire for engagement with Iran is bringing the world closer to the nuclear brink, not averting that danger.
For now, Obama’s feud with Netanyahu is on his back burner as he tries to avoid disaster in Iraq and Syria and his party is poised to be beaten in the midterm elections. But it will be back soon. Israelis should be prepared for being back in his cross hairs sooner rather than later.
Speaking of useful idiots, a professor at BowdoinCollege reviews the latest from Doris Kearns Goodwin.
For political scientist turned historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, history is all about telling stories, but how many times can a story be told before it becomes hackneyed? The challenge, especially when puffing up liberal icons as she’s done in previous books on Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt (for which she won the Pulitzer Prize), the Kennedys, or her old boss Lyndon Johnson, is to find some new angle that will bring the oft-told tales to life again. She managed this trick brilliantly in Team of Rivals (2005), a Lincoln Prize-winner and the basis for Steven Spielberg’s hit film, in which a wider focus on Abraham Lincoln’s contentious cabinet brought the president’s shrewd statesmanship into starker relief—even if she mistook him for a liberal. In her new bestseller, The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism, Goodwin weaves together two stories—three if you count the wives’ tale—that make vivid how the American public came to support the far-reaching reforms of the Progressive era introduced by T.R. This is story-telling with a moral, for her “greatest hope” is that readers in the age of Obama will be inspired to support reforms that will help “bring our country closer to its ancient ideals.” What precisely these “ancient ideals” are she never says, but before one has read very far into the book, it becomes clear that they bear a remarkable resemblance to 20th-century progressivism. …