Did Israel Defeat Hamas?

by Benjamin Weinthal



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 ceasefire 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 lethal 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 the courtyard of Hamas barbarism.

During my interviews with leading military and intelligence reporters in Israel, there was a crystal clear consensus that Israel had to respond to the growing jingoism from Hamas (including over 100 rockets fired into the south of the tiny Jewish country in November prior to the war).  “Hamas eroded the ceasefire. 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  co- authored  with Dan Raviv the highly acclaimed Spies Against Armageddon, which goes deep into the weeds of the enormously complex history of Israeli intelligence agencies.

Melman’s reference is the ceasefire of 2009 which sealed the closure of Israel’s 2008/2009 Operation Cast Lead (Act I in the hot war) to stop Hamas from raining rockets on  Israel’s southern periphery.  Hamas broke the ceasefire by shooting at Israeli patrols on the border and its continued  rocket fire.

That helps to explain why Melman dismissed the view of some commentators as “rubbish” that the head of Hamas’s military-operations Ahmed Jabari was a “moderate force.” He added the effect of 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 soldierGilad Shalit from Hamas in exchange for the release of over  1,000 Palestinian criminals and terrorists. Melman dryly noted that it would take 10 years to perhaps negotiate a ceasefire 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% 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: “In the south, the IDF 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 Israel Defense Force (IDF) officials  believe Hamas absorbed devastating punishment. Moreover,   Maj.-Gen. 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 was a potent measure and an important accomplishment of the ceasefire.  Equally important, May added that the ceasefire sends a message to Hamas about the terror group seeking to open a second front in the event of an Israel versus Iran conflict.

Taken together, the elements of a 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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