It’s tragic, because there is in fact no significance to the question of who fires their ammunition last. Deterrence is not achieved via a particular missile or shell, even when it’s the last shell. Meanwhile, more and more civilians are hurt, both on our side and on the other side. Every fatality draws further escalation and every escalation draws more fatalities. Both sides lose control.
Based on estimates voiced in defense establishment discussions over the weekend, the multipronged terror attack north of Eilat surprised Hamas. The group had no advance information about the operation, and in any case was not involved in the planning or execution. In principle, Hamas prefers to extend the lull until further notice.
It’s not as though Hamas regretted the death of Israelis, however. The relationship between the leadership of Gaza’s rulers and the other organizations in the Strip is complex. An IDF officer compared it Saturday to the relationship between Yasser Arafat and Hamas: You can take the crazy route, but I won’t be responsible.
This game necessarily leads to an explosion: If Hamas is the sovereign government in Gaza it cannot be absolved of responsibility, neither towards Israel nor towards its own citizens. Ultimately it is drawn into a battle it did not seek; a battle that can bring no victory.
Don’t lose Egypt
The Israeli government will also not be achieving a victory in this battle. The backdrop for its decision to respond to Thursday’s terror attack with a string of aerial strikes is clear. Yet the strategy is unclear: What do we want to achieve in this round? What do we wish to achieve in the long run? If the goal is to destroy Hama’s rule in Gaza, this is not the way. If the objective is to accept Hamas’ existence, this is most certainly not the way.
The Israeli government has sophisticated military means at its disposal; yet it has no strategy.
The string of attacks on the Egyptian border constitutes the first serious test of the ties between Israel and the new regime in Cairo. That’s the innovation, and the danger, this time around. The conclusions are not unequivocal: On the one hand, Egyptian commanders in the field cooperated with the IDF during and after the incidents and are willing to jointly probe the events. On the other hand, Egyptian authorities allowed the terrorists to reach the border, and at least in one case to operate near a manned Egyptian position.
Egypt is currently ruled by a provisional military regime that exists at the street’s mercy. The commitment to the treaty with Israel exists, but is under daily assault. We can assume that the next regime will further minimize its commitment to the agreement. The Camp David Accord is a vital security asset. Israel must not give it up. The Israeli government must draw lessons from its failure to manage the crisis with Turkey: We must not lose Egypt.
Not every lethal incident starts with a screw-up. Nonetheless, a large part of the recent events could have been averted. This assertion undoubtedly applies to Thursday’s incident: At this time it appears that it could have been thwarted, or at least minimized. A specified warning was available yet for reasons that have not yet been clarified it was not translated into the required steps in the field. The price of this was heavy; too heavy. Sadly, we continue to pay it, in Beersheba, in Ofakim and in Ashdod.
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