By Rahul Dixit :
Israel deserves plaudits for standing up to Hamas brazenness.
The decades-old conflict between Arabs and Jews is dangerously spiraling into another possible full-scale war even as Israel valiantly defends its cities and people from the barrage of rockets fired by Hamas militants. The skies over the Gaza Strip and front-line towns in Israel are full of fire and the ground full of metal and debris. There are still no signs of de-escalation despite truce moves initiated by the international community. As the world opinion remains divided over the brutal fight between Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and the Islamist militant organisations in Gaza, Israel deserves all plaudits for standing up — as always — to Hamas brazenness and its attempts to incite Islamic extremism to stoke a civil war.
The attacks from Gaza on Israel’s civilian population are proving to be a well-planned and co-ordinated conspiracy. It has nothing to do with the Sheikh Jarrah land dispute which is ostensibly a civil matter. Neither does it bear any connection with police action in the Al-Aqsa mosque where rioters had to be quelled with force. Hamas has manipulated these events by combining terror and organised riots within the Arab-Israeli community to grab the Palestinian leadership. There is a visible disintegration in the Palestine Authority leadership after the signing of Abraham Accords by the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain with Israel. The Middle-East peace plan proposed by former US President Donald Trump, too, has left the Palestine leadership divided. Hamas is trying to seize control now and keep the pot boiling. Israel has seen it all since independence in 1948. Its brave forces have fought famous wars against Arab forces helping the nation carve a place of pride in the comity of nations for its defence preparedness and technological achievements.
Yet, this time the situation is different, and surprisingly was not anticipated by Israel. The Hamas strikes have come when the political situation in Israel is fluid due to continuous election deadlock. With negotiations still on between political parties on forming government, the transitional government seems to have overlooked both internal and external Intelligence aspects. For a country that has set golden benchmarks in Intelligence gathering, the failure to see the Hamas plot has come as a surprise. Now, even as the Iron Dome Missile Defence system keeps thwarting ninety per cent of Hamas rockets, Israel has a lot of ground to cover.
The scale of rocket attacks and the duration the Hamas has stretched it to confirm that the militant group had amassed enough arsenal in advance. Possibility of a larger operation planned by other militant groups operating at the behest of Israel’s enemies, too, cannot be ruled out. Gaza may become the starting point of another war-like engagement for Israel with its sworn enemies in the days to come. Gaza has always been a hotbed of deadly terrorist activities since Israel conquered the Strip in the 1967 Six-Day War. The IDF had lost control over the violent refugee camps till in 1971 General Ariel Sharon (who went on to become Israel’s Prime Minister) formed a special unit to destroy terrorism using unconventional methods. Sharon, Captain Meir Dagan, and their ‘Rimon’ unit broke the back of terrorism in Gaza and the area became peaceful and quiet for some years.
However, lack of a strident policy might have cost Israel dearly as Palestinian militants and Hamas seized control over Gaza in the later years. It has been a witness to violent activities including the first and second Intifada (the Palestinian uprising). Even the IDF finds it difficult to operate in Gaza as compared to its special operations in the West Bank. Proposals of carrying out covert operations in Gaza are generally met with reluctance by Israel’s military commanders. Over the years, IDF’s special force unit, Sayerat Matkal, has also cut down on its operations in the densely-populated Gaza region because of the high-risk factors involved. Award-winning television series ‘Fauda’ has presented the dilemma of special units in a vivid manner. Hamas is now the sole ruler of Gaza since 2007 after seizing control from the Palestinian Authority in a violent fight. Hamas has used the Strip to build its ammunition, conspicuously funded by many Arab nations in conflict with Israel.
The militants in Gaza and also the Hezbollah in Lebanon have a solid backing from Iran which has a visceral hatred for Israel. Hamas has ambitions to take over Israel territories with its larger goal of replacing the country with a Sharia-based State ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood. Political and military observers are of the view that the Hamas is not bothered about the sufferings of its own citizens when Israel retaliates as long as Jewish lives are lost in the attacks. Fighting such an enemy devoid of basic moral standards requires a ruthless strategy that must disregard unsolicited opinions emanating from different wings. In Israeli spymaster Rafi Eitan’s words, “In principle, when there is a war on terror, you conduct it without principles. You simply fight it.” Israel is free to exercise its right to self-defence in the exact manner. It is doing so with precision strikes at militant hide-outs in Gaza with prior warning to local populace to vacate the place. This remains the most fundamental difference between the strikes carried out by Israel and the Hamas. Such facts are conveniently ignored by a grudging section of international opinion-makers whose focus is bound to be more on sufferings of the Palestinian people in Gaza. It has remained a fixed course over the years while blaming Israel for exercising its right of retaliation.
The root cause is always forgotten in the war of hijacking narratives. In the instant case, the fact that Palestinian leadership was responsible for the violence and escalation was swiftly pushed aside while putting the blame on Israel. A country fighting to defend its people from a barrage of rockets cannot be questioned for its actions. It’s a biased thinking peddled only to suit deliberately doctored agenda. Israel has been dealing with it for years with great success. It fought the Intifada and continues to thwart attacks from militant groups operating out of hostile neighbourhood. And it will continue to do in the current conflict in defence of the Israeli lives, for, they also matter. What was most appropriately described by Professor Samuel Huntington as clash of civilisations, thus stands almost proved right over decades. If Israel is fighting for its survival, the Arabs, too, have their own historical reasons to stay eternally on the other side of the divide. Seen in this light, the Middle-East conflict was never just a matter of hostile political attrition fought only for territorial control.
Much to the contrary, it has remained a true clash of unbending civilisational ideologies. This does not actually explain the reasons of continued hostility as the human community has achieved truce at several points elsewhere in more or less similar conditions. Nevertheless, it serves the purpose of a true-to-fact description of the conflict that is mostly not to have any end. No matter the piecemeal pacts of friendships that Israel and a few Arab nations might have struck over time, the basic conflict has persisted because the followers of political Islam have not ceased to use terror as a tool. n