Monday, July 15, 2024

Can Israel Win Gaza War?

V. Subrahmanyam

Israel’s chief aim of the war in Gaza is to eradicate Hamas. “We will wipe off Hamas, ISIS-Gaza, from the face of the earth.” Defence Minister Yoav Gallant declared.Yoav Gallant hangs a poster with photos of wanted Hamas leaders in his office—three of them in enlarged sizes- Mohammed Deif, Marwan Issa, and YahyaSinwar. Gallant warns: “Sinwar is living on borrowed time”. Whoever is killed, Gallant strikes off the photo with an X mark. But three months into the war, IDF could not lay hands on these three top Hamas leaders.

However, as the war drags on for months, and now three months old, serious questions are being asked If Israel can win the war and if Hamas can be eliminated. 

Epic Israeli Debacle – Chinks in the Israel’s Intelligence’s Armour

The October 7th audacious act of Hamas in the impenetrable Israel’s territory, exposed chinks in its intelligence armour. Alon Pinkas, an Israeli Diplomat, described Hamas’s incursion as an “epic Israeli debacle.” “All of Israel is asking itself: Where is the IDF, police and security?” asked Eli Marom, the former head of the Israeli navy. He said: “It is a colossal failure of the intelligence”. The Zionist regime was shaken to the bones. Ironically, the Hamas attack happened on the 50th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War of 1973, which itself was regarded as a significant failure of intelligence.

Seventy-Five Years of Settler Colonialism Settler State is the Root Cause of the Present Imbroglio

Apparently, the Hamas attack is the reason for Israel’s present offensive. appears to be the grave provocation by Hamas. But the root cause is the seventy-five years of occupation of Palestinian land by Zionist forces.The French Social Scientist and a specialist in Middle East affairs, Maxime Rodinson, in his book Israel: A Colonial-Settler State?, calls it “Settler colonialism”. 

Can Hamas be Subjugated?

In yester decades, it was PLO that resisted Israel. And later PFLP. Now Hamas. They all have been the catalysts for intifadas in different periods. As long as the Palestinian people are deprived of their inalienable right to self-determination and dignity, it is impossible to extinguish the flames of rebellions.

Also read: Israel’s Attack on Gaza: A Genocidal War

Israel had defeated and subdued its Arab neighbours in several wars from 1948 to 1973. But now it is facing formidable militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas. In conflicts with these militants between the 1980s to 2010s, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) won tactical victories but never secured wins. Each time, Hezbollah and Hamas emerged stronger in their resistance. Former PM of Israel Menachem Begin began his campaign to “destroy PLO”. But the successive regimes harvested Hamas. Former Israel PM Ehud Olmert’s war cry was to crush Hezbollah. Alas! Hezbollah, the militant organisation in Lebanon, has become more formidable.

Hamas faced many conflicts with Israel- in 2008-09 (Operation Cast Lead), 2012 (Operation Pillar of Defence), 2014 (Operation Protective Edge), 2018 (Gaza Border Protests) and 2021 (Israel-Gaza Conflict), Hamas survived with support from like Iran, Qatar and Turkey. Israel won battles. Hamas suffered casualties and infrastructure damage. However, Hamas withstood. After each conflict, Hamas rebuilt logistics, adopted new tactics, and refined its strategies.

It is estimated that Hamas lost 5000 to 8000 fighters in the present Conflict. This is only the claim by the IDF, and no independent verification is possible. Hamas spokes persons pooh-poohed these claims. IDF had taken many suspected to be Hamas under it custody. Videos emerged showing half naked unarmed people forced to sit on the ground with heads down under the supervision of armed IDF personnel.

Mossad is known for eliminating its targets clandestinely, ranking next to the CIA. Secret assassinations, firings from helicopters, drone attacks and poisoning are some of the modus operandi that Israelis used to kill its ‘targets’ for decades. Since 1966, Israel has assassinated at least 366 Palestinian activists and resistance fighters, according to Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights body. On January 2, Israel killed Saleh al-Arouri in his Hamas office in Beirut in a drone attack. 

Netanyahu Derailed the Two-State Solution

In his 16-year rule from Tel Aviv, Netanyahu has done one thing consistently- he throttled the two-state solution. On December 12, he said in Knesset: “..the mother of all sins was Oslo (Agreement of 1993).” He oppressed Palestinian dreams with an iron hand. He aggressively expanded settlements in the West Bank. He cunningly brought a hiatus between the Al Fatah-led West Bank and Gaza. He unleashed vigilante settlers to perpetrate daily atrocities on Palestinians in the West Bank. He ruthlessly controlled Gaza, though with perpetual blockades and countless restrictions. He killed leaders in secret assassinations in Palestinian areas and abroad. He detained and arrested Palestinians in large numbers in the West Bank. Eight thousand Palestinians, including women and children, have been languishing in jails without any fundamental rights. Human Rights Watch observed: ‘Israeli settlers and Palestinians live in the same territory but are tried in different courts under different laws. With different due process rights and facing different sentences for the same offence.’ The result of this tyranny is –’a large and growing number of Palestinians imprisoned without basic due process.’ That was why, in 2021, the Human Rights Organisation in Israel- B’Tselem- called the regime an apartheid one. It said: “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”. Palestinians have no other way except to fight against Zionist and apartheid states. Hamas’s attack on October 7 appears pale if Netanyahu’s atrocities on the Palestinian nation are chronicled before the world. 

Will this be a Long War?

“This will be a long and difficult war,” Mr. Netanyahu added. Bush dreamt of concluding the Iraq war in a week. But after nearly a decade’s occupation of Iraq since 2003, the last US soldier quit Iraq on 18 December 2011. 

Before October 7, the Netanyahu government had a strategy towards Palestinians: Ignore the Palestinian Authority. Aggressively expand West Bank settlements. Maintain the siege of Gaza. And make peace with individual Arab states. Abraham Accords went into cold storage. But the Hamas attack changed the Netanyahu’s strategy. As the casualities mounted further, those Arab countries who made Abraham Accords with Israel keep them under cold storage. If even after the war, Israel keeps Gaza under its “security responsibility”, Israel had to forego its strong allies support too. The West Bank and occupied Jerusalem are already on the boil. The support for Hamas is growing in Arab countries and within the Palestinian territories. There is every likelihood that there would be severe backlash from Palestinian people if Israel keeps controlling Gaza after the war is over. Israel inflicts major losses. But sympathy towards Hamas will increase in leaps and bounds. The spectator role of Palestinian Authority led by Al Fatah faction further erodes its credibility.

Israel is Isolated but Strongly Supported by the U.S.

The Western world came out very strongly against Hamas’s action of Oct. 7.  But as the Israeli War dragged, and casualties increased with indiscriminate and lethal bombings on residential places in Gaza, the agony and deprivation of the Palestinians turned the tables around. Lakhs of people from London to Washington demonstrated, demanding to stop the War. There were people’s rallies in Latin American Countries and Arab Capitals, too asking for an immediate ceasefire. Jewish people, too, came in good numbers, showing concern towards the pains of the gruesome War.

Also read: New Year would have been too happier if only….

Millions of people’s anguish echoed in the voting pattern of the U.N., too. The UNGA resolution mooted by UAE on Oct. 27 for a humanitarian ceasefire garnered 120 votes, whereas the latest UNGA resolution introduced on Dec. 13 by Arabic countries got 153 in its favour. On the first UNGA vote on ceasefire, 14 countries opposed it, but only ten countries stood against it on the latest resolution. The 27th October resolution saw 45 abstentions, but the latest one registered only 23 abstentions. The majority of the E.U. countries- 17 out of 27 voted in favour of the Dec. 13 resolution, which asked for a ceasefire. Croatia voted against the resolution on Oct. 27 but changed its opinion on the latest resolution and voted for a ceasefire. Eight among the abstained countries on Oct. 27 voted in favour of the humanitarian truce.

Biden rebuked Netanyahu to scale down his “indiscriminate bombings” and advised “targeted killings” like that Israel did in Beirut of late killing Saleh al-Arouri. He warned him that Israel is getting “isolated”. Of course, Netanyahu has already planned calibrated killings. They are precisely the subject of Netanyahu’s announced plan under the new Operation named- Nilli- to target Hamas leadership “wherever they are”. Guardian mentioned a leaked recording of the head of Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security agency, telling Israeli parliamentarians in early December that Hamas leaders would be killed “in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Qatar, everywhere … ” 

Hamas is an Idea, Representing Resistance

Ami Ayalon et al., writing in the New York Times, say that ‘Hamas is an idea, and it will persist among Palestinians as long as there is no real peace option ….. Tel Aviv is unlikely to bring the 22 million Palestinians in an occupied Gaza to submission.’ Sir Alex Younger, a former head of MI6, says that Hamas was “essentially laying a trap for Israel”. The full-scale ground invasion of Gaza, the intensity of fighting and the inevitable loss of civilian life would result in a pyrrhic victory for Israel. “You cannot kill all the terrorists without creating more terrorists,” the former spy said. Hamas might have estimated that the aggressive War and massive deaths would stall Israel- Arab cooperation. 

Yaakov Peri, a former head of Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, said the military and intelligence agencies would target the Hamas commanders who carried out the Oct. 7 attacks but worries that Israel is creating a new generation of fighters. “We’ll be fighting their sons in four or five years,” Mr. Peri said. Like Peri, Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S., is worried that each civilian killed in Gaza could generate future members of Hamas. Hiltermann, Middle East programme director at the International Crisis Group, says: “Right now, there are very intense battles taking place, which means Hamas is not being defeated.” Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., a retired head of the U.S. military’s Central Command, says, “Time is not on Israel’s side internationally or domestically.” The growing casual

ties would turn the world opinion against the Israeli regime as the War dragged on, and the unintended consequence of spreading the conflict was the reason at the back of McKenzie’s mind when he spoke of the results of the long-drawn War. Even if Netanyahu wins the War, he might not keep up his position as PM. Within the Likud Party, debates are on to look for a new face. The voice of opposition is also increasing, and Netanyahu had to take responsibility for the inglorious intelligence failure in preventing the Oct. 7 attack.

Will this War Spill Over Beyond Gaza? 

Though Israel and the U.S. do not want the War to spread beyond Gaza, it appears that their hope is going awry. Hezbollah from South Lebanon fired several rockets into Israel in support of Hamas. Israel killed a senior leader of Hamas, Saleh al-Arouri, in Beirut. Will Hezbollah keep quiet? While fighting intensely in Gaza, Israel opened new fronts by killing Razi Mousavi, the top commander of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), on Christmas Day in Damascus by an air strike. Yemen’s Houthi rebels declared their battle on Israeli ships in the Red Sea zone, announcing their solidarity with people in Gaza. The U.S. sent its warships to the Red Sea and began attacking the vessels that were targeted ship by the Houthi militia.

General Brown said the longer the War drags on, the more challenging it will become for Israel. “Every conflict that I’ve been involved with throughout my military career, with the exception of probably Desert Shield (1991 Persian Gulf war), has gone a lot longer than most people would have imagined,” he said. Hiltermann of the International Crisis Group says the WarWar is “turning into a much longer and larger conflict”. He said “Israel will find it very difficult to dislodge Hamas and defeat Hamas from Gaza, but there’s a real risk that the conflict will spread to Lebanon and other places.” 

The Day after the War

With the steadfast support by the U.S. despite the world’s opinion for a ceasefire, Israel will continue the War, resulting in unfathomable misery for the Gazan people. The defence minister announced that the War had entered the second phase. 

The first phase of the War was to evacuate the people with successive rockets exploding indiscriminately in the residential places and infrastructures. Two weeks after the October 7th attack, 30,000 army and an unknown number of reservists crossed the border and entered Northern Gaza to encircle three sides, allowing a narrow path for people to escape to the South. In the first month itself, 10000 people were killed, mainly from the rocket explosions. Now, almost the entire Gaza of 22 lakh people has been squeezed into southern Gaza. While intense searches were going on in Gaza, combing operations to flush out Hamas were on in the southern part of Gaza. 

In the second phase, the Israeli Army intensified efforts to identify tunnels, hunt Hamas leaders, and search for hostages. The massive deployment of reservists crippled the Israeli construction and manufacturing activity. So, most reservists were sent back in the second phase. The second phase is going to be a longer one. Complete elimination of Hamas from Gaza and saving hostages from captivity are the main aims of this phase. “The third phase,” Gallant said, “will require the removal of Israel’s responsibility for life in the Gaza Strip and the establishment of a new security reality for the citizens of Israel.”

Hubris with enormous military power and the backing of the US, Israel was indeed hoping to win the War. The third phase starts from the ‘day after the war’.  

Initially insisting he had no interest in occupying Gaza, Netanyahu announced on Nov. 7 that “Israel will for an indefinite period have security responsibility” in the enclave. Netanyahu and his far-right allies never want a single Palestinian around them. Far-right gives three options for the Palestinians. Their ‘Decisive Plan’ of 2017 for Palestinians says: 1. They leave the occupied territories 2. Or live as second-class citizens 3. They can choose to fight, but the IDF “knows what to do with them”. Netanyahu entirely agrees with these ideas. In October 2014, Netanyahu said: “We don’t just hand over territory, close our eyes and hope for the best. We did that in Lebanon, and we got thousands of rockets. We did that in Gaza; we got Hamas and 15,000 rockets. So we’re not going just to replicate that. We want to see genuine recognition of the Jewish state and rock-solid security arrangements on the ground. That’s the position I’ve held, and it’s only become firmer.” Netanyahu is clear on his goals. The difference between him and far-right Finance Minister- Bezalel Smotrich is the difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. 

The U.S. is opposed to the idea of Israel having any kind of “responsibility” in Gaza. The U.S. wants to save its figleaf by sticking up to the dead “two-nation solution” brought by the Oslo Accord. Biden told 6o Minutes Programme that an Israeli occupation of Gaza would be a “big mistake.” There were alternative plans to entrust the Gaza Strip administration to the Palestinian Authority run by the Al Fatah group. Netanyahu wants Al Fatah to run Gaza as he hopes to control Gaza like he is controlling the West Bank. Sabri Sidam, the deputy secretary general of the Fatah Central Committee, said: “We will not be going on an Israeli tank to rule Gaza,” said. The fact is that the Al Fatah, which announced that it was “neutral in the war”, cannot face the Gazans, ‘the morning after the war’. 

There are strong rumours that Israelis are having secret negotiations with Egypt to send Gazans “voluntarily” to the Sinai Peninsula to flush out Hamas. Gazans know very well that once they leave their land, they can never return to it. 

Israel will never take up the responsibility to reconstruct Gaza. As long as Israel oversees Gaza, no Arab country comes forward in reconstruction efforts. Nor would there be any Arab Coalition to govern Gaza, as hoped by Israel. 

Perhaps succumbing to the pressure from the U.S., the Defence Minister announced the Gaza Plan after the War a couple of days ago.  “Hamas will not govern Gaza, nor Israel will”. Palestinian bodies will be in charge, with the condition that there will be no hostile actions or threats against the State of Israel”.Israel wants a body like the one led by complaisant Md. Abbas. Will that be possible when Israel ravaged the entire Gaza into a graveyard? 

Israel wishes to continue as a settler colonialist without facing any resistance. Hamas may not be there in Gaza after the War for the time being. Netanyahu may not have survived as PM after the war. But the Israel regime will be waiting for a third edition of Intifada, for sure.

Also read: Cost of Israeli War on Gaza   

Subrahmanyam Varanasi
Subrahmanyam Varanasi
Subrahmanyam Varanasi, Social activist and advocate from Guntur.



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