It’s Not Just about Hamas
In Gaza, Netanyahu is demonstrating Israel’s capabilities — and its determination.

An Israeli Merkava tank on maneuvers (IDF)


Middle Eastern politics is a toxic blend of reality and paranoia, an ecosystem in which one situation has many ripples.

Take Gaza.

At present, Israeli forces are trying to degrade Hamas infrastructure and deter continued rocket strikes. But Operation Protective Edge is also about sending a message to Iran.

After all, for Netanyahu, the prospect of a nuclear Iran poses a terrible threat to Israel’s security. His fear, in my view a well-founded one, is that Iran seeks nuclear weapons as a defining strategic objective. Iran’s possession of such weapons would drive the Middle East deeper into the abyss of chaos. Iran would use its newfound power to threaten democratic movements in Iraq, Lebanon, and Yemen and to intimidate Europe and the Sunni Arab monarchies. In turn, these states would probably develop their own nuclear weapons. Iran would also significantly expand its support for groups like Hamas, the Lebanese Hezbollah, and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), using a strategy of nuclear blackmail against the states in the region to encourage extremism among these Islamist groups.

And a nuclear-armed Iran is increasingly likely. While international negotiators are currently meeting with their Iranian counterparts to pursue a long-term nuclear deal, the prospects don’t look good. First off, Iran is refusing to dismantle its existing nuclear infrastructure. Indeed, Supreme Leader Khamenei claimed yesterday that Iran had an “absolute need” for 19 times the enrichment capacity that Western diplomats believe the country can (somewhat) safely be allowed. Put simply, there’s a vast diplomatic chasm obstructing any deal. But while the Obama administration believes that President Rouhani might be able to persuade the aging and ill Khamenei to accept a deal, Netanyahu’s cabinet is far more skeptical. Recognizing Khamenei’s literal supreme power over foreign policy, and keenly aware of his pathological hatred for their very being (check out his twitter feed), Israeli officials believe Khamenei is fixated on obtaining nuclear weapons.

Moreover, the rise of ISIS and the meltdown of Syria have forced Netanyahu to take a far sharper view of Israel’s regional security interests. Not since the early 1980s has Israel faced such a diverse spectrum of threats.

This truth takes us back to Gaza.

Meeting Hamas and PIJ rocket teams with decisive force, Netanyahu hopes to signal Israel’s unwillingness to cede its traditional security supremacy. This intent is encapsulated in Israel’s mobilization of ground-force deployments: Netanyahu seems determined to take major risks in pursuit of grand strategic objectives (in this case, the military dismemberment of Hamas). Nevertheless, Israeli operations in Gaza aren’t solely about damaging Hamas. They’re also about broadcasting specific capabilities. In this regard, the scale of Israel Defense Forces air sorties in Gaza has been notable. Advertising its conducting of hundreds of missions each night, the IDF is demonstrating its capability for large-scale operations: the kind of air campaign necessary to attack Iran’s nuclear infrastructure. Here, Netanyahu wants Iran to understand his willingness to gamble — even at potentially high cost. By extension, Netanyahu is also warning U.S., European, and Russian diplomats that he won’t accept any deal with Iran that he regards as weak.

In all strategy, the use of military force is as much about psychology as physical impact. But nowhere is this truth more evident than in the Middle East. Put another way, in Gaza, Israel is now drawing a red line for Tehran. While most Western leaders seem to believe that a nuclear-armed Iran can ultimately be tolerated, Israel, as I’ve long suggested,  believes the opposite. Correspondingly, only a strong nuclear deal will suffice.

Tom Rogan is a blogger and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph. He is based in Washington, D.C., and tweets @TomRtweets.


Operation Protective Edge
The Israel Defense Force has launched Operation Protective Edge in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere to combat a wave of rocket strikes and other attacks by Hamas. Here’s a look at the operation and some of the weapons involved, including the Iron Dome.
The current conflict follows the brutal kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers and the reprisal killing of a Palestinian youth. In the aftermath, numerous clashes broke out in Palestinian areas, wiht some concerned another intifada may be looming. Pictured, Palestinian youths clash with Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem.
The chief danger from Hamas forces is rocket attacks. Since the beginning of the year, Hamas has launched more than 450 rockets at Israeli cities, and attacks have intensified in the past month. Pictured, the aftermath of a Hamas rocket strike in Sderot.
The IDF has used social media to inform Israeli citizens about the danger of rocket attacks and the ongoing operation. (Image via IDF Twitter)
(Image via IDF Twitter)
(Image via IDF Twitter)
(Image via IDF Twitter)
On July 9, the IDF reported that while 29 Hamas rockets had been intercepted, 117 got through (thought not necessarily hitting their target). One rocket struck Jerusalem. (Image via IDF Twitter)
PROTECTIVE EDGE: To combat the renewed campaign of rocket attacks the IDF launched Operation Protective Edge, which includes a call-up of some 40,000 reserves. (Image via IDF Twitter)
Some 100 Israeli airstrikes have relentlessly targeted Hamas militants in the opening stages of the operation, according to the Jerusalem Post. Pictured, an IDF strike in Gaza.
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has obtained approval for possible ground operations in Gaza, telling reporters on Tuesday that the time has come to "take off the gloves" against Hamas.
An IDF Apache gunship sends a missile towards a target on the ground.
Smoke rises from more airstrikes against targets in Gaza.
Four columns of smoke rise from the aftermath of an airstrike that targeted a tunnel used by Hamas militants.
A crater on the ground in Gaza in the aftermath of an IDF airstrike.
IRON DOME: On the front lines of Operation Protective Edge is the Iron Dome missile defense system. First deployed in early 2011, Iron Dome consists of a radar station, weapons control unit, and the missile launcher. Pictured, an Iron Dome battery near Ashdod.
Iron Dome’s radar detects an incoming enemy rocket, determines its trajectory and target, and quickly plots an intercept course. Pictured, a closer view of the Iron Dome missile launch battery.
Not every incoming rocket is targeted; those that are determined to be headed towards unpopulated areas are let through — few if any Hamas rockets are guided, and are more like mortar shells — leaving the Iron Dome system to concentrate on those that pose the most danger.
An Iron Dome missile finds its target in the skis over Israel.
Merkava tanks assemble at a staging area outside of Gaza. The Merkava is the main battle tank of the Israeli Defense Forces.
First deployed in 1979, the Merkava (Hebrew for “chariot”) has gone through four main versions, with the Mk IV entering service in 2003. The Merkava is a robust and battle-tested weapon system, featuring heavy crew protection and superior speed and maneuverability. (Photo: IDF)
IDF soldiers gather outside of the Gaza Strip.
A column of IDF armored personnel carriers outside Sderot.
Updated: Jul. 08, 2014