Thursday, January 1, 2015
What's Next for Israel
In the last decade, Israel has been involved in eight military operations: In 2004, we experienced Operation Rainbow and Operation Days of Penitence; in 2005, there was Operation First Rain, which was renamed Summer Rains in 2006. In 2008 the fighting took place during a different season, and so they called it Operation Hot Winter; and in 2009, they came up with the strong name Operation Cast Lead. Then we had a nice long break until the next skirmish, which didn’t take place until 2012 when we had Operation Pillar of Defense. The eighth and final campaign was this past summer: Operation Protective Edge. During the last operation, we paid a heavy price in soldiers’ lives and in resources and cash. The economy suffered dearly as many businesses came to a standstill. As in all of the previous campaigns, Operation Protective Edge was greeted with all of the regular speeches by the prime minister and the IDF chief of staff who spoke of the military’s strength and victories and warned Hamas that it will suffer the wraith of the IDF if it threatened our security. Just like all the others before it, Hamas initiated Operation Protective Edge; first with just a few rockets launched here and there, and then later on they started firing at a faster rate. Then there would be a kidnapping or an attack on the border and then another one within Israel proper. And once again, last summer, Israel was dragged into the fray only after things had truly heated up, and the IDF foot soldiers entered the war halfheartedly. The chief of staff had a hard time making any resolute decisions and as a result, the Israeli counterattack was neither deep nor daunting. This last military campaign ended inconclusively as all the previous ones had, with no military or political achievement. Not only did Israel not win the war, but its military deterrence against Hamas has been eroded as a result of Operation Protective Edge. And now it is just a matter of time until the next campaign begins. The only people who believed that there would be peace and quiet for the next five years were the IDF officers who were dispatched to the media to tell them this news. It’s not even been four months since we buried all of the fallen soldiers from the last operation and we’re already declaring how great our victory was (and preparing for the next one). Hamas has reinstated all of its observation points and is once again actively gathering intelligence. Just a couple of weeks ago, Hamas fired a single rocket into southern Israel; it was strategically placed to strike in an open, unpopulated area since the Islamist movement knows that the government will tolerate this so long as it’s not too close to Tel Aviv. And of course Hamas knows that Israel would retaliate with an air strike on an abandoned building that has no strategic importance. Hamas has resumed digging tunnels from Gaza into Israel with zeal and the concrete and building materials are flowing into the Strip like water. They are manufacturing explosives so they can booby-trap the entrances of tunnels and the buildings they are dug from. The rocket factories are back to full-time production and they are even planning on increasing production rates since they’ve had an influx of funds from Europe and Qatar. Hamas’s commando training has resumed in the northern Gaza Strip and its soldiers are training to take over Israeli communities near the Gaza border. They are rebuilding their arsenal, digging tunnels at a fierce pace, training the new soldiers, and shooting a rocket or two into Israel every once in a while just to warm up the ground a little. Once again, the residents of the “Gaza Envelope” are experiencing Color Red rocket sirens and life has returned to what is considered normal in southern Israel. In the meantime, in central Israel it is business as usual. Campaigning has begun; political parties continue to disintegrate and new ones pop up overnight. Every day we hear about another politician who was arrested for corruption, or a public official who was caught misappropriating public funds. The most effective system we have in place is one in which people bribe elected officials and then magically win tenders that boost their businesses. Roads are collapsing and the price of fuel is still sky high despite the significant fall in the cost of oil, but the transportation minister hasn’t noticed because he is too busy trying to orchestrate his appointment as the next finance minister. In the south, Hamas is taking advantage of these few months during which Israel has no energy or time to deal with it, to dig tunnels and train its fighters. And in the north, Hezbollah is also using this lull to get organized and plan strategy. And just across the border in Syria, Islamic State continues to capture territory, rape women and chop off the heads of infidels, knowing that the West won’t do anything to stop it. The alarms announcing the next military campaign are going to start ringing any minute now, but we are nowhere ready to fight. Instead, our leaders are busy making deals under the table so that the next unstable government will survive in office for at least a year or two until it crashes and burns like all of its predecessors. Once again, Israel has no political party that will come close to winning a majority of the people’s votes. The only thing for sure is that the election will cost the Israeli people an incredible amount of money that should have been used for welfare and education instead of lining lobbyists’ pockets. Without a long-term strategic plan to improve the economy and a desire to carry out political negotiations with the Palestinians, nothing good will ever happen here. The writer is a former brigadier- general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency). Translated by Hannah Hochner.