Operation Protective Edge — Gains and Losses…writes Isi Leibler

August 26, 2014 by Isi Leibler
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The jury is still out and few would envy Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s challenge in making the tough decisions required in an extraordinarily complex situation. But despite self-criticism that occasionally borders on masochism, most Israelis appreciate the responsible leadership displayed by the prime minister and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon in the current confrontation with Hamas.The government’s current overriding obligation is to respond to the incessant targeting of missiles on its citizens.

Isi Leibler

Isi Leibler

Yet despite outstanding spokesmen ably presenting Israel’s clear-cut case of defending itself in response to a genocidal aggressor, the global media’s focus on horrific images of dismembered Palestinian children, often entirely out of context, led to reason being subsumed by emotional anti-Israel sentiment.

This morphed into feral antisemitism of historic proportions, comparable to the Middle Ages, when individual Jews were perceived as a source for all the natural disasters of mankind. Even the blood libel has been revived in the depiction of Israelis as child killers and war criminals. Leftists, neo-Nazis and Moslems combined in demonstrations, generating violence against Jews unprecedented since the 1930s.

However, in assessing the actual military and political confrontation with Hamas, Israel was more successful.

From the outset, Netanyahu had the foresight to warn the nation that there would be no quick-fix solutions. He and the defense minister (hardly considered a dove) resisted calls for a full scale military conflict. Although the prime minister may yet be obliged to move in this direction, he understood that taking control of the entire strip and its subterranean tunnels could be immensely costly in terms of Israeli casualties. Beyond that, there was every likelihood that global intervention, possibly even spearheaded by the United States, would oblige Israel to retreat unconditionally, creating a triumph for Hamas.

Israel cannot claim a military “victory” as long as Hamas remains in Gaza and if the rockets are not soon silenced, Israel may yet be obliged to take further drastic military ground action. Meanwhile the terrorist organization has taken a tremendous battering. Tunnels were demolished, missile sites destroyed, infrastructure severely damaged and key leaders assassinated. The suffering endured by the people of Gaza must impact on their leaders, especially as they may be impelled to hold some sort of election in the not-too-distant future.

One of Israel’s greatest obstacles has been the ambivalence and at times outright negative attitude of our principal ally. At one stage, U.S. President Barack Obama demanded that Israel open Gaza’s borders prior to demilitarization, thus presenting Hamas with an outright victory. His moral equivalence, support for the involvement of pro-Hamas Qatar and Turkey in the mediation process, and — even in the midst of a war — his threats to limit arms shipments, were incompatible with repeated assertions of “having Israel’s back”. This behavior encouraged Hamas to believe that with western media support there would be increasing global pressure on Israel to give in to its demands.

On the positive side, for the first time, the bulk of Arabs states are snubbing and even condemning Hamas. Egypt may play a crucial role in the future and could be the key to the ultimate demilitarization of Gaza. It is apparent that Netanyahu’s contentious willingness to engage in indirect negotiations with Hamas was motivated by a desire to work in tandem with Egypt.

The most complex aspect of the problem is the role of the corrupt Palestinian Authority. Israel has learned from this Gaza experience that it can only agree to a Palestinian state that is totally demilitarized and in which Israel retains defensible borders. Otherwise, Tel Aviv could wake up with terrorist tunnels emerging into Habima Theater.

It is utterly delusionary to visualize that Mahmoud Abbas could provide us with security. In the absence of the Israel Defense Forces, the PA could at any stage be taken over by Hamas or other Islamic fanatics. It is also unrealistic to expect Israel to embrace Abbas, who, despite being happy to see his “partner” Hamas humiliated and defeated, continues his incitement against Israel. He has now announced unless the UN Security Council forces Israel to retreat to the 1949 armistice lines, the Palestinian Authority will seek to charge Israel with war crimes at the International Criminal Court.

However Netanyahu may yet seek to negotiate a “collaboration” with the PA, subject to demilitarization of Gaza and responsible supervision, enabling Israel to ease the blockade. But there is probably a greater possibility of imposing tough controls to prevent Hamas from replenishing its stockpile of rockets and weapons, for which the cooperation of Egypt is crucial.

The belated global awareness of the serious threat posed by ISIS in Iraq, Syria and other countries, accelerated by shock at the barbaric murders and decapitations, has enabled Netanyahu to demonstrate that ISIS and Hamas are both genocidal birds of a feather. He has stated that “Hamas is ISIS and ISIS is Hamas.” ISIS is not even half as strong as Hamas but “look what it can do.” However, a U.S. State Department spokesman explicitly rejected Netanyahu’s analogy, implying that jihadist terrorists threatening Europe and the U.S. epitomize evil incarnate while those murdering Jews are at worst to be defined as “militants.”

At the outset of the conflict, the unity of the nation was reminiscent of that during the Six-Day War. Today, despite a decline in support, the majority of Israelis still back Netanyahu.

Alas, this never applied fully to the political echelons although the opposition was tempered in its approach, even suggesting that Netanyahu had responded “too softly” at the onset with Hamas.

However members of the Security Cabinet have behaved disgracefully. It is unprecedented and unconscionable that in the midst of a war, ministers criticize the policies of their own prime minister, sowing confusion among the public and undermining him internationally. Some behaved as political commentators rather than ministers. Others simply promoted policies that they felt would provide them with additional votes.

The most outrageous was Avigdor Lieberman, who ignored his responsibilities as foreign minister and demagogically castigated his own government for not “finishing off Hamas.” Setting aside the wisdom or otherwise of his remarks, no foreign minister has ever behaved so irresponsibly in the midst of a war.

Economy and Trade Minister Naftali Bennet, consistently called for an immediate halt to negotiations and a full onslaught against Hamas — a view that could have been advocated within the cabinet (or in the opposition) but should never be aired publicly by a minister during a war.

Justice Minister Tzipi Livni condemned the government for not being aggressive enough with Hamas and accused Netanyahu of using this as an excuse to avoid dealing with Abbas and the PA. Even Finance Minister Yair Lapid could not restrain himself from uttering derogatory remarks about Netanyahu’s relationship with Obama.

Netanyahu ignored opinion polls and displayed leadership, crafting a policy that he believed to be in the national interest. While most Israelis today still endorse his policies, if a protracted war of attrition drags on, his support may dwindle and a constellation of political forces in the national camp may seek to depose him.

But irrespective of Netanyahu’s short-term political future, if he ultimately succeeds in providing long-term security for Israelis, especially those in the south, he will have earned his political legacy and would be recorded in history as one of the great Israeli prime ministers.

Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.



5 Responses to “Operation Protective Edge — Gains and Losses…writes Isi Leibler”
  1. Otto Waldmann says:

    One salient element in the calculations of prospective decisive success by Israel over Hamas is the FACT that Hamas could not be engaged in any SAFE conflict by Israel with any prospects of a decisive victory, the defeat of Hamas as a military entity.
    No great or greater Israeli PM could conceive a “plan of action” , military strategy which could annihilate Hamas as anything, militarily , politically etc. Even the specific targeting of leaders will achieve very little. The reservoir of replacements in all areas of activity within Hamas is seemingly endless.
    So, what are the prospects for a clear and irreversible Israeli prevalence in the conflict!!!
    By the normal, decent account of Humanity prevailing , Gaza, the entire palestinian entity would have a chance at arriving at drastic changes in their attitude toward Israel.
    There is no doubt that the military intervention of the kind we are witnessing now, the radical approach by Israel compared to previous encounters, would have to weigh on the minds of any rational palestinian, leader or “follower”. One must rely on the impending propensity of the human mind of “learning” from hardships, from mistakes, from the obvious, impossible to challenge reality , this greater force than one’s unrealistic desires.
    Israel shall continue to prosecute a war of many kinds against its enemies, Hamas, Iran, now some other criminals on the block called ISIS and, of course a PR manic apparatus bent on promoting the residues of age-old antisemitism.
    The very obvious of a prosperous , ethical state entity , Israel shall be the guiding light ( to make it look a bit poetic ) in the future strategies Israel shall employ against Hamas. This is not the case of Israel NOT being able to defeat Hamas and all other associated foes, but the tangible reality that THEY cannot possibly prevail over the Zionists.
    Time is of the essence here as much as expecting that ANY Israeli leader may not be able to deliver that kind of “peace in our time” promise. And that is good enough for me, good enough for the infinite survival of the Jewish State. Long term “fixes” are , by far, to be preferred than the quick ones.
    And in this compelling “wash”, the tiffs at cabinet level are so insignificant , particularly when considering that NOBODY expects any Israeli Cabinet to behave like ANY other in the free world, yet it bloody well functions BETTER than any other !!!

    • Gil Solomon says:


      You say of the Israeli cabinet that: “it bloody well functions BETTER than any other”. Have you taken leave of your senses? This seems more like a wishful thinking rant on your part, devoid of substance.

      The bottom line is that there is absolutely no substitute for victory.
      This was a just war that Israel should have prosecuted with ferocity but failed to do. The IDF engaged military lawyers who decided where, what and which targets had to be aborted, many virtually at the last second.

      You have a ramshackle cabinet screaming at each other and now there is another ceasefire that Hamas will break at the time of its own choosing.

      The south of Israel is a disaster, with people leaving for good.
      Would you trust a word from Benny Gantz, the IDF Chief of Staff when he says “it’s OK folks you can go back now”.

      Hamas has managed to bring day to day life filled with uncertainty for Israelis, who now realise their Government didn’t fight this war to win. To that degree, Hamas has won a significant victory and has prevailed and God only know what else Netanyahu has agreed to, we’ll just have to wait and see.

      This debacle surely has to end with Netanyahu’s days as PM being numbered.
      You Otto should wake up to reality.

      • Otto Waldmann says:

        Gil, as the alternate Israeli Prime Minister, you are absolutely right and I am sure that the Cabinet you are leading right now is in complete harmony with your democratically arrived at decisions.
        One wonders how on earth is Israel managing in spite of your eitzes, your unassailable political wisdom, strategic plans of action and, principally your objective criticism.
        I respectfully thank you for the precious guidance you are giving me in my modest attempts to scribble something on an internet page.
        Since you are so comprehensively valuable in all your interventions and unsolicited advice, maybe I can profit a bit from your anxiety of being of service. Look, I have this stubborn stain on me carpet , light beige small pile 60% wool, 20% acrylic, 40% jute and I have tried all manner of methods, including goat milk mixed with hydrochloric acid, but it wont budge and have relatives of me missus of Egyptian origin, Sephardi, and they are simply neurotic about this kinda stuff. They speak mainly French, which I can handle, mixed with Arabic, which I cannot. So, Gil what do you recommend for the stain and what does it mean in English ” you are a bloody hotna”. I know the bloody part but “hotna” is a mistery. Please Gil sort it for me and I promise that at the next elections for the PM in Israel I will tick you. TICK is not that bugger which gets into your hair and drives you nuts. Different if you are bald, which I am not, quite to the contrary, I am a gorgeous hairy alpha male all over.
        Is all this now changing your opinion about me “ranting ” !!!! I hope so, Gil.

  2. Paul Winter says:

    The jury is not out: Bibi has bungled. The situation is not complex, it is just that intellectualising about it instead of acting on the obvious befuddles him. Hamas should have been crushed, but instead the greatness of his intellect – in his eyes – has crushed him.

    Israeli spokesmen are outstanding only in their incompetence. They are always so, soooo intellectual, so legalistic, so circumspect, so proper, so humanitarian. So apologetic and such losers and dopes.

    Israel has lost the battle, because in mid-East mentality if your opponent has not killed you, and killed you horribly, sadistically and with delight, you are not defeated. For someone born in Israel not to have tapped into mohammedam mentality, shows that he is an airhead and a light-weight who should never have become the PM and did so because of his fluency in English and the stature of his late father and brother.

    His short term goal is ego and the perks of office. He is not interested in the long-term security of Israel, because he has twinned with defeatist Livni, who has the coward’s fear of victory; survival is more than enough. Except it isn’t.

    High position does not make a man great. Portraying Bibi as a big man contending with crushing burdens only makes believers if that myth shallow. Netanyahu is hopeless and as delusional as his claque. If he faced reality he would long ago resigned. Yelling at Bennett and Lieberman and sacking Danon reveals his lack of reality and fear. Opposing the wish of the majority of Israelis displays a perverse arrogance and the mentality of leaders of Nazi era judenrats.

  3. Gil Solomon says:


    I hate to be the one to bring you up to date, but the jury is NOT out in respect to Netanyahu. By all counts the man is an abysmal failure as a war time leader and your pathetic defence of him is to me just nauseating.

    Your last paragraph is mind numbing nonsense.
    “But irrespective of Netanyahu’s short-term political future, if he ultimately succeeds in providing long-term security for Israelis, especially those in the south, he will have earned his political legacy and would be recorded in history as one of the great Israeli prime ministers.”

    What about those living in the rest of the country?
    At the end of the day, there is no substitute for victory. This whole action is not some response to an individual act of terror but is outright war and Israel better prosecute it as such.

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