The Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel are truly horrible and unprecedented. The attacks are ongoing. It will take days, even weeks to clean all of the terrorists out. No one yet knows the extent of casualties, because Israeli censorship is in place. Early reports put the number at 22 killed: it is probably at least three or four times that number.
The victims are primarily civilians, women and children, old people.
What happened? There is an emerging consensus that Israeli intelligence totally failed. There also is a growing belief that Israel’s defense forces (IDF) were unprepared and responded far too slowly. How come?
Israel is known for its excellent intelligence capabilities and its high tech tools. But there was a fatal mistake.
Israel believed that it had hermetically sealed off Gaza and contained the threat from there. Even the rocket threat was understood to be controlled by Israel’s Iron Dome, minimizing the chance of damage to Israeli population centers.
This belief is the root cause of what has just happened in Israel. It has let things fester in Gaza for decades. Israel never wanted to send in ground forces and clean out the enemy. Now the people of Israel are paying a terrible price.
Indeed, the slowness of the ground forces response is indicative of unpreparedness because attacks like this were not supposed to happen.
There were plenty of reasons why Israel adopted a defensive, passive policy on Hamas and the threat from Gaza.
From an internal point of view, not sending land forces into Gaza avoided high casualties and bloody fighting. No Israeli leader, no matter on the right or left, wanted to take responsibility for a war in Gaza.
Israel was also always under pressure from the United States and Europe, and from Turkey and Russia among others, to exercise “restraint” and to respond only “proportionally” if attacked.
Clearly Israeli leaders, who want to be respected abroad, exercised considerable restraint, which now has proven very costly.
Restraint has meant Israel applied extensive techniques when it responded to Hamas attacks, to protect civilians in the Gaza strip. When the enemy knows this, as Hamas did, they embed their forces in schools, mosques, hospitals and apartment buildings. This hands them a huge advantage and they exploit it effectively.
Because of self-imposed limitations, Israel has relied primarily on air power when it was attacked. Air power is an ineffective tool against terrorists in most cases, since in the end it plays into their hands by allowing them to claim that Israel is killing “innocent” civilians. Rarely does Israel get “lucky” and is able to eliminate some Gaza field commander.
It isn’t clear yet what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu means when he declares that Israel is at war with Hamas. Israeli jets are already hitting targets in Gaza, but once again this type of punishment is not going to stop Hamas from continuing its bloody attacks in future.
Much more is needed, but it is very likely Israel has no plan beyond air strikes to deal with Hamas. If so, Israel is unprepared for war.
Perhaps Israel has learned a lesson, in the most horrible and bitter way. Time will tell.
The incredible weakness Israel has shown in coddling reserve Air Force officers who refused to come to drills “protesting” the Netanyahu government, is an example of the decline of Israel’s moral deterrence and war fighting capability. These signs of malaise in Israel are nothing short of a disaster.
But there is a lesson too for the United States. For decades the US has believed in deterrence, and that the preponderance of US forces would protect us. Recently we learned that Iranian operatives have been working inside the Biden administration, yet nothing has been fixed, so any defense secrets we may have surely are being passed to the enemy. Not only will Iran benefit, but her allies in Russia and China will also get important inside information on US defenses.
Relying just on deterrence is a huge mistake.
You get comfortable with your enemy, then you are dead.