“Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us” — Golda Meir
“The Prophet said: the Jews will hide behind the rock and tree, and the rock and tree will say: oh servant of Allah, oh Muslim, this is a Jew behind me, come and kill him! Why is there this malice? Because there are none who love the Jews on the face of the earth: not man, not rock, and not a tree; everything hates them. They destroy everything, they destroy the trees and destroy the houses. Everything wants vengeance on the Jews, on these pigs on the face of the earth, and the day of our victory, Allah willing, will come.” — Shaykh Ibrahim Mudayris, Palestine Authority TV, September 10, 2004
“If we searched the entire world for a person, more cowardly, despicable, weak and feeble in psyche, mind, ideology, and religion, we would not find anyone like the Jew. Notice, I do not say the Israeli.” — Hezbollah leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah Quoted in Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, Hizbullah: Politics and Religion, London, 2002
“There can be Jerusalem without Israel, but there cannot be Israel without Jerusalem”—David Ben-Gurion
According to Martin Indyk, a former US Special Envoy for Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations:
“We’ve seen Israel-Hamas wars before—the last one was in 2014—and we know how they go. Hamas, with assistance from the Iranian-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), fires off its rockets indiscriminately. Israel retaliates disproportionately. The United States supports Israel’s right to defend itself. Europe wags its finger at Israel.
Hamas eventually decides it has made its point. Qatar and Egypt mediate a cease-fire based on the usual ‘quiet for quiet’ deal. Both sides bury their dead, clear the rubble, and go back to business as usual while the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hamas’s Ezzedeen al-Qassam Brigades prepare for the next round.”
After 11 days of around-the-clock, cross-border fighting, Hamas and Israel agreed to a ceasefire. During a conflict which was prompted in part by tensions in East Jerusalem—Hamas fired more than 4,000 rockets into Israel, most of which were intercepted. Israel responded with airstrikes on Gaza. As of May 20th, 256 Palestinians have been killed—219 in Gaza, 25 in the West Bank, and 12 in Israel.
The delicate ceasefire that suspended hostilities between Israel and the militant Hamas PIJ factions carries only limited promise. Precedent suggests that, in the absence of genuine reconciliation, the parties, which will not even talk to each other directly, will return to the battlefield in due course.
This is not the first such cycle of war and ceasefire. There have been seven such cycles since 1987, listed below.
First Intifada 1987-1993 Results Oslo 1 Accord
Second Intifada 2000-2005 Palestinian Uprising Suppressed
Operation Summer Rains 2006 5-Month Lull in Hamas Rocket fire
Operation Cast Lead 2008-2009 Rocket Fire from Gaza reduced
Operation Pillar of Defense 2012 Cessation of Rocket fire into Israel
Operation Protective Edge 2014 Unlimited Ceasefire Agreement
Operation Guardian of the Walls 2021 Unlimited Ceasefire
I provide this context to demonstrate that the Israelis and the Palestinians have been in perpetual conflict since the beginning of the declared Palestinian State in 1987. What has it produced? How will it end? When will it end? Who are the actors? These are all valid questions that need answering. It would require a library full of books to begin to unpack all that is happening in that tiny strip of land at the eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea. There are many wonderful books written that give an honest attempt to answer such questions.
But the questions we are considering today are, “what is being learned from these mini-wars?”, and “who is learning what?”
I will start by looking at Hamas. What is Hamas learning and who are their partners in learning it?
Hamas is a radical Islamist regime currently ruling Gaza. It is working closely with its allies in the Shiite axis—Iran and Hezbollah—to study the latest conflict and share lessons that can help in the next war, a war which most analysts are certain will come sooner than later. Why? Hamas’ stated goal is not a two-state solution. It will not be satisfied with anything short of a complete annihilation of Israel and the destruction of everything Jewish in what it considers to be its native homeland. These temporary ceasefires are simply an opportunity to learn more and to prepare for the next battle until all of its objectives are completed.
What does Hamas want? According to its top political leader, Khaled Meshal, the mandate of Hamas, speaking to a mass rally celebrating Hamas’s 25th anniversary May 2021, is as follows:
“Palestine, from the river to the sea, from north to south, is our land. Not an inch of it can be conceded. We cannot recognize the legitimacy of Israel’s occupation of Palestine. There is no legitimacy to occupation, and therefore no legitimacy for Israel, no matter how long it will take. Liberating Palestine, all of Palestine, is a duty, a right, and a goal….we will liberate [Jerusalem] inch by inch, stone by stone, Islamic and Christian holy places. Israel has no right in Jerusalem….”
What has Hamas and, by association, its allies, Iran and Hezbollah, learned?
- Hamas launched over 4,000 heavy rockets into Israel and Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system was able to intercept over 90% of the rockets, rendering their main attack virtually ineffective. Hamas will look again at their strategy of missile attacks into Israel.
- Hamas launched guided torpedoes to attack Israeli ships and off-shore oil Rigs. All their torpedoes were intercepted.
- Hamas fired Iranian-built anti-tank, guided missiles and scored only one hit on an Israeli Jeep, killing one Israeli soldier.
- Hamas was also aware that its attack tunnels were becoming much more problematic as an offensive tool, due to Israel’s underground anti-tunnel wall, which was completed in March. Israeli soldiers and aircraft destroyed almost 100 kilometers of Hamas built underground tunnels in the course of 11 days.
- Hamas deployed several unmanned combat systems in May 2021 with no known success, including the Shihab kamikaze drone, which appears to be a Gaza-built knockoff of the Iranian HESA Ababil-2 drone. They will re-evaluate the use of armed and unarmed drones in the future.
- Despite massive Public Relations campaigns globally, few countries in the world are prepared to “condemn” Israel. The US, which is the principal source of moral and military support to the Jewish state, has stuck to its traditional position of Israel’s right of self-defense.
- Even the major Arab countries have joined the rest of the world in branding Hamas as a terrorist organization.
- Despite the global consensus on a two-state formula for the permanent solution to the Israel-Palestine issue and increasing criticisms in recent years, including that of the US, of Israeli actions of legitimizing the Jewish settlements in the occupied territories (after the 1967 war) that should go to the state of Palestine, Iran’s open economic and military support of Hamas and its rigidity is not recognizing the existence of Israel as a country seems to have worsened the crisis in the Middle East.
Hamas and its allies have been diligently studying the lessons that they have gleaned from their previous conflicts with the Israeli’s. They have been preparing tactical responses to hard-learned lessons, while also strengthening their own capabilities to surprise the Israelis. One of the tactical responses has been that Hamas has demonstrated it can locally manufacture a sprawling inventory of rockets with which it could sustainably assail Israeli cities despite the massive IDF aerial bombardments and that it can now project more firepower at greater ranges than the 2014 conflict with Israel. This learning competition is set to continue well into the future as Hamas even now is preparing for the next conflict.
What has Israel and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) learned?
While Israel was highly successful in merging its intelligence and firepower capabilities, it still has vast room for improvement when it comes to repressing future rocket attacks and dealing with anti-tank missile fire at Israeli vehicles.
“Everyone understands that drones are the next big threat, including against American forces deployed in the area, as the Commander of CENTCOM (Central Command), Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, has pointed out,” said Kuperwasser. “This is also a challenge for US allies like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, who are also exposed to the threat.” Here are several strategic lessons learned by the Israeli government from this current conflict with Hamas.
- Don’t expect Hamas to keep its promises. Following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Hamas committed to stop smuggling weapons into Gaza and to not rebuild military infrastructure in exchange for Israel’s consent and assistance to the rehabilitation of the enclave. The ongoing barrages on Israeli civilians since then have proved otherwise.
- Don’t take your regional partners for granted. When it comes to regional support, diplomatic efforts are required to foster cooperation. These include communication between senior decision-makers and regional partners in order to explain and coordinate policy choices.
- Don’t take your friends’ support for granted, either. The United States—though publishing counterproductive, ambiguous messages at first (“all sides”)—came out as a firm supporter of Israel by preventing an anti-Israeli decision in the United Nations Security Council, by promising to renew its arsenal of Iron Dome missiles and by stressing, first and foremost, Israel’s right to self-defense.
The IDF’s defensive achievements against Hamas in the latest round were ground-breaking and should, by no means, be taken lightly. Also of note were the Israeli navy’s achievements in thwarting every offensive move by Hamas’s navy, the air force’s achievements in shooting down Hamas drones (including an explosive drone that was directed at the Tamar gas rig), and defensive achievements at the Gaza border that blocked the infiltration of Hamas commando teams. Also laudable were the efforts to counteract rocket fire and the performance of the Iron Dome missile batteries, which can be added to the achievements in the defensive domain.
According to the analysts at the Investigative Project, “In short, there is room for joint learning between Israel and the US, just as Hamas is doing with Hezbollah and Iran. It is safe to assume that what Hamas shares with Iran and Hezbollah will also be shared with the Popular Mobilization Forces (the pro-Iranian militias) in Iraq and the Houthis in Yemen. Israel must try hard to remain ahead in this competition.”
Where do we go from here? It seems blithe and a bit trite to tow the oft-repeated line used by most of the international community—that the only way to resolve the problem is to address the root causes, namely an end to the occupation, the establishment of a Palestinian state, and our immediate neighbors accepting that Israel has the right to exist within secure borders as a Jewish state.
It is a mantra that has lost much of its substance, but there doesn’t appear to be any other strategy other than that of violence and warfare.
In the words of Professor David Newman, “We don’t have the stomach for that sort of warfare anymore, if only because we don’t see ourselves fighting for the continued existence of Israel. Certainly, when one sees the effectiveness of the Iron Dome system (out of some 4,000 rockets and missiles, only a few succeeded in landing in built-up areas), there is a feeling of collective invincibility, even if there are individual casualties.”
I fall back on my age-old advice for this week’s action. Stay accurately informed. There are many aggressors and many victims in this perpetual conflict. Accusations of disproportionality and perfidy are extremely complicated matters. Staying informed and not just buying into the most recent opinion is terribly important. I am reminded of a quote from Guillaume Apollinaire, The New Spirit and the Poets in 1917 when he said, “It must not be forgotten that it is perhaps more dangerous for a nation to allow itself to be conquered intellectually than by arms.”
I fear that many nations today will succumb to defeat, not by the arms of hostile nations, but by the inability to intelligently decipher the nuances of lies and disinformation that they are bombarded with on a daily basis. I stand by the tagline of the More than Meets the Eye intelligence weekly…”if knowledge is power, what happens to our power when our knowledge gets corrupted.”
I am not pretending that I have answered all the questions that need to be answered in this week’s subject matter, but if you are willing to look at many of the references I have listed for you below, you will gain a deeply needed knowledge that will help you gain a much better understanding of what is happening in the Middle East today.
The fascinating follow-up to the More than Meets the Eye entitled The New Old World. Japan is trying to lure people into rural areas by selling $500 homes, but it’s not enough to fix the country’s ‘ghost town’ problem… https://www.insider.com/japan-ghost-towns-population-vacancy-rates-akiya-banks-2021-6
What to Know about Rising of the Moors, an armed group that says it’s not subject to US law… https://www.stripes.com/theaters/us/2021-07-04/who-are-moors-sovereign-citizen-group-2049073.html
For your comments or questions about any of our digests please feel free to write to me at: email@example.com