Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Netanyahu vs. Lieberman on Gaza (Part Two) - Hugh Fitzgerald

by Hugh Fitzgerald

“Today, Hezbollah possesses more firepower than 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries, and more rockets and missiles than all European NATO members combined,” the report stated.

A report from the Jewish Institute for National Security of America’s (JINSA) Hybrid Warfare Task force, which is headed by several retired senior U.S. military officials, outlined this striking strategic threat that Israel will face in its next war with Hezbollah.
According to the report, the next conflict with Hezbollah will “bear little resemblance to anything that has come before between Israel and its adversaries.”
“Changes in the strategic environment in the 12 years since the last Israeli-Hezbollah conflict will translate into unparalleled death and destruction,” the report said, noting that Hezbollah’s recent fighting experience in Syria, its support from Iran and its massive weapons arsenal pose a “quantum leap” in the terror group’s ability to inflict devastation on Israel.
“Today, Hezbollah possesses more firepower than 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries, and more rockets and missiles than all European NATO members combined,” the report stated.
Various estimates put Hezbollah’s overall rocket and missile stockpiles at between 120,000 to 140,000—up from roughly 10,000 in the last conflict in 2006.
The threat posed by Hezbollah is much greater than that from Hamas. In mid-November, Hamas did its level best, firing nearly 500 rockets and mortars into Israel, but only one Israeli was killed. One can imagine the destruction and casualties that would result from any attack by Hezbollah, with its gigantic stockpile — 120,000 to 140,000 — of rockets and missiles, many of them advanced, and hidden all over Lebanon.

Netanyahu has decided that the IDF has to focus most of its military efforts on preparing to meet any threat on the northern front, by Hezbollah in Lebanon, and by both Hezbollah and Iranian forces in Syria. He does not want to get bogged down in Gaza, or even have to divert limited military resources to the south (such as the Iron Dome anti-missile shield). A cease-fire with Hamas is always temporary, he knows, but these intermittent flare-ups with Hamas are manageable in a way that a massive attack from Iran, aided by Hezbollah’s missiles, would not be. Israelis call the damage they inflict repeatedly on Hamas as “mowing the grass.” But the threat from Hamas hardly compares with that from Iran-backed Hezbollah or Iran itself.

According to the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006, all armed groups in Lebanon were supposed to disarm. Instead of abiding by the Resolution, Hezbollah then began its gigantic arms buildup, with Iranian help, while Israel waited — in vain — for members of the U.N. to force Hezbollah to honor its solemn commitment to disarm. Everyone — Europe, America,U.N. peacekeepers — looked the other way; Israel complained, repeatedly, without success.

Nothing was done. The U.N. demonstrated its impotence, its inability and unwillingness, to force Hezbollah to abide by Resolution 1701. And the arms buildup by the terrorist group continued, unstopped and unstoppable, even until today. The only attempt to enforce Resolution 1701 has been by Israel, which has bombed Iranian shipments of weapons meant for Hezbollah. But it’s all a bit late. Hezbollah now possesses more firepower, according to the JINSA report, than 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries, and more rockets and missiles than all European NATO members combined.

Netanyahu wants to free the IDF from having to devote so many resources to Israel’s Southern Front. He knows that ever since 2006, Israel has turned its main military attention to Gaza, and had several small wars with Hamas, in 2006, 2008-2009, 2014, and 2018, along with many smaller-scale exchanges of fire. These conflicts have all been manageable, with Israel’s victory never in question, but they also helped deflect much of Israel’s attention away from Hezbollah’s steady, massive buildup, with the results we now see.

In an Israeli attack in mid-November, by way of an answer to a barrage of rockets and missiles from Hamas, the terrorist group saw the destruction of many of its weapons depots, of Al-Aqsa TV, the Hamas-run television station that broadcasts anti-Israel propaganda and also sends messages to would-be terrorists, of several of Hamas’ main office buildings, and a few residential structures, too, where weapons were known to be stored. In every attack Israel followed its “knock on the roof” practice — that is, dropping non-explosive or low-yield devices on the roofs of targeted buildings, as a warning of imminent bombing attacks, in order to give the inhabitants time to flee. The results for Israel have been most satisfactory: they hit more than 160 targets successfully, and kept the loss of life among the “Palestinians”  to an astounding minimum of seven dead.

Hamas, which not very long ago seemed swaggeringly intent on enlarging the armed conflict with Israel, was quickly chastened by seeing the widespread damage Israel managed to inflict in such a short time. That damage led Hamas to not only accept but– which is never a given with Muslim Arabs — to observe the terms of the cease-fire.

Did Israel make a strategic mistake in accepting the cease-fire? Ought it to have continued to pound Hamas so hard that it lost control of Gaza altogether? Wouldn’t a lawless Gaza be a grave danger to Israel, a place where some even more dangerous group, notably ISIS or Islamic Jihad, might fill the vacuum left by the crushing of Hamas? Worst of all for Israel would be if Gaza descended into complete anarchy, forcing Israel to move large numbers of troops into Gaza in order to impose order and to take over such mundane tasks  as supplying electricity, water, sanitation services, for a dangerous and hate-filled population of 1.8 million “Palestinians.” Indeed, the very worst thing that Hamas could now do to harm Israel is not to lobby more ineffectual rockets into southern Israel, but to announce that it cannot properly rule in Gaza when it is “under attack” by Israel, and then to hand the task of ruling Gaza over to the Israelis.

Hugh Fitzgerald


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