November 28, 2012 | National Review Online

Did Israel Defeat Hamas?

November 28, 2012 | National Review Online

Did Israel Defeat Hamas?

The end of Israel’s eighth war of self-defense last week prompted charged debates over the efficacy of Israel’s military operation. In short, what did the cease-fire accomplish for the Jewish state after eight days of unprecedented missile versus anti-missile-defense warfare? Israel’s opponent is the Jihadist terror group Hamas — an anti-Western, anti-Christian, anti-woman, and anti-Semitic organization that controls the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.

This graphic Reuters photo of a man dragged through the streets of Gaza for alleged “collaboration” with Israel is a window into Hamas’s barbarism.

During my interviews with leading military and intelligence reporters in Israel, there was a clear consensus that Israel had to respond to the growing violence from Hamas (including over 100 rockets fired into the south of the tiny Jewish country in November prior to the war). “Hamas eroded the cease-fire. Israel could not take it anymore,” Yossi Melman told me in Tel Aviv. Melman works as a commentator with the popular Israeli news outlet Walla, and is the co- author, with Dan Raviv, of the highly acclaimed Spies against Armageddon, which goes deep into the weeds of the enormously complex history of Israeli intelligence agencies.

Melman was referring to the cease-fire of 2009 which brought an end to Operation Cast Lead (Act I in the hot war), launched in 2008 to stop Hamas from raining rockets on Israel’s southern periphery. Hamas broke the cease-fire by shooting at Israeli patrols on the border and by its continued rocket fire.

That helps to explain why Melman dismissed as “rubbish” the view of some commentators that the head of Hamas’s military-operations, Ahmed Jabari, was a “moderate force.” He added that Israel’s pinpoint strike taking out Jabari caused turmoil within the Hamas leadership.

It took five years to reach a negotiated deal with Jabari to secure the kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit from Hamas in exchange for the release of over 1,000 Palestinian criminals and terrorists. Melman dryly noted that it would have perhaps taken ten years to negotiate a cease-fire with Jabari to end his rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. The targeted killing of Jabari was nothing short of a remarkable combination of Israeli human intelligence and military expertise.

The interview with Melman ended with a boom in the sky of Tel Avi. We heard Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system intercept a Hamas rocket aimed at Tel Aviv. The Iron Dome had a spectacular 85 percent success rate in intercepting Hamas missiles.

A mere three days before Israel’s military launched Operation Pillar of Defense, Yaakov Lappin, a defense correspondent with the Jerusalem Post, presciently anticipated the need for deterrence to be restored: “In the south, the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] is being forced into a confrontation with Gazan terror organizations. These are feeling especially brazen in light of the Islamist ascendancy in Egypt. As a result, Israeli deterrence is currently at rock bottom, and the terrorists are firing rockets at will into southern Israel.”

Lappin reported that senior IDF officials  believe Hamas absorbed devastating punishment from the recent operation. Moreover,Major General Tal Russo, who oversees the security for Israel’s south, said, “Deterrence is in place, despite the victory cries we heard in Gaza. Israel and Hamas both know Hamas has been hit hard.”

As my colleague Clifford D. May pointed out today on Fox News, Israel’s surgical strikes against “long-range Iranian missiles” in Gaza were a potent measure and an important accomplishment of the cease-fire. Equally important, May added that the cease-fire sends a message to Hamas should the terror group seek to open a second front in the event of conflict between Israel and Iran.

Taken together, the robust response to Hamas missile attacks, the elimination of Jabari, restored deterrence, the success of Iron Dome, and the destruction of Iranian Fajr missiles spell a defeat of Hamas in this Act 2 of the ongoing hot war against the Jihadi-based Hamas movement.

— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based Fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and reports on European affairs for the Jerusalem Post.

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