Published On: Thu, Apr 28th, 2016

The loss of deterrence, the loss of the way

Op-ed: There's a direct connection between the knife attacks, Hamas's attack tunnels, the recent foiling of countless of terror attacks and the bus bombing in Jerusalem last week. Israel is losing its deterrence, and its government doesn’t know what to do next.

Scene of the attack in Ra'anana - Terrorist - Terror

A straight line connects the intifada of knife-wielding terrorists, Hamas’s attack tunnels, the countless Hamas attacks foiled by the Shin Bet in the West Bank recently, and the suicide bombing on a bus in Jerusalem last week. Israel is losing its deterrence, and its government can’t seem to find any direction to navigate itself and the people it is responsible for.

The lone-wolf stabbers came out by the dozens to kill Israelis. They did so because of hatred and incitement, as the Israeli government tries to claim, but also because of a deep despair of a reality that, to them, is only getting worse. And unlike the government’s claims, their actions and the reasons behind these actions are not the same as ISIS’s.

The fear of Israel’s military might and its intelligence apparatus, Netanyahu’s thunderous declarations, home demolitions, the threat to deport terrorists’ families, and the calls by ministers and other right wingers to the public to ensure these terrorists die in every attack – meaning that they are lynched after being neutralized (a call that has been heeded many times) – all these did not deter them. The threat of enacting some magic new technology that would detect them in advance, before they pulled out a knife, also proved to be empty words.

 

Firefighters battling the flames after bomb goes off on Jerusalem bus.

 

While these lone wolves were acting without organizational affiliation, Hamas continued (in fact, it never stopped) building tunnels they plan to use to kill and abduct both civilians and soldiers from Israeli territory. The Netanyahu government justified the necessity of Operation Protective Edge by citing the need to destroy the tunnels and resume deterrence. At the end of the operation, the government vowed that the IDF had destroyed all the “attack tunnels.” This claim, like the management of the entire operation, requires investigation.

A very senior security official said in a closed forum recently, “In his book The Courage to Win, MK Ofer Shelah, a member of the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, recounts the history of the terrible management of Operation Protective Edge within the secrecy limits he is required to adhere to. The full and detailed truth is far more frightening.”

If Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in 2014 to destroy the tunnels, why didn’t it launch it sooner? After all, the existence of the tunnels has been known for a long time before that. And if Israel then claimed that all of the tunnels were destroyed, then why did the IDF just recently find another tunnel that, according to intelligence officials, was already at an advanced stage during the operation?

 

Israel-Palestine Terror The recently-discovered Hamas tunnel in Gaza (Photo IDF Spokesman)

 

Furthermore, if Israel had really rehabilitated its deterrence following Operation Protective Edge, how is it possible that Hamas kept on digging the tunnel, as if nothing had happened? There’s a high chance there are several other tunnels that have yet to be discovered.

Hamas also hasn’t been deterred from continuing its widespread efforts to commit attacks against Israel or from undermining the rule of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. Most of this activity failed to bear fruit, thanks to the Shin Bet (and also thanks to the security cooperation with the PA), but that doesn’t change the fact that in reality, there is no deterrence between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas has managed to shape the terms of the ceasefire with Israel to its liking: Israel doesn’t carry out targeted killings in Gaza, Hamas continues digging tunnels, Israel is unable to completely stop rocket fire from the Gaza Strip, and Hamas continues trying to carry out attacks from the West Bank, all while Israel isn’t retaliating.

Government and defense officials have recently announced that there has been a decline in terror attacks. The Jerusalem bombing last week served as a wakeup call for them. Netanyahu declared, “We will find those who made this explosive device; we will reach those who sent the terrorist.” He might be right. Unlike the lone-wolf stabbers, the Jerusalem suicide bomber was affiliated with Hamas, and the Shin Bet (Israeli domestic General Security Agency, which is in charge of counter-terrorism) is likely to find those who sent him.

 

ISRAEL_ PALESTINE One of the terrorists neutralized at the scene of the attack.

 

Netanyahu’s concluding words, “we will reach those who send the terrorists, ” are full of vigor and masculinity, but what exactly is he saying? To whom is he referring? To Iran, which supports Hamas and Islamic Jihad? Does Netanyahu intend to attack Iran? In any case, it is clear that those who sent the terrorist aren’t afraid as well.

Since it was a suicide bomber, the failure of deterrence is even worse. Twelve years ago, Israel managed to win what was considered an unachievable victory: a combination of precise intelligence, targeted assassinations campaign and Ariel Sharon’s leadership of led Hamas to beg for a ceasefire and cease using suicide bombers. The cost to the organization was just too high, even for the jihadist Hamas. The return of suicide bombers indicate that even this achievement has slipped from Israel’s hands.

The bottom line is clear, when there is no clear way to fight terrorism, and there’s no reasonable political alternative presented to the Palestinians, we are left with bombastic declarations. The strong support for Netanyahu shows that large parts of the Israeli public are buying these empty phrases. The adversary on other side, it turns out, is less gullible.

Via Ynet News

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