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Fighting on two fronts


Haaretz leads its weekend edition with a political analysis of the gas monopoly story; Yedioth Ahronoth headlines Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon's plan to introduce American-style credit ratings for all Israelis and The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom continue to lead with this week's bloody events in the Sinai.

According to the Post, Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, Major General Yoav Mordechai, said Thursday that Israel has new clear information that Hamas is helping the ISIS-affiliated group that carried out the attacks against the Egyptian forces in Sinai. Interviewed on Al Jazeera, Mordechai gave specific examples with names of Hamas military commanders whom he said were involved in organizing and supplying the attacks in Sinai.

'We have examples of Hamas commanders actively taking part in this assistance,' he said. 'Wael Faraj, a battalion commander in Hamas’s armed wing, smuggled wounded [fighters] from Sinai to the Gaza Strip.' Mordechai gave a further example of the Hamas coordination with Sinai Province, saying that 'Abdullah Kishti is a senior training officer in Hamas’s armed wing and he has trained members of the Sinai Province group. Hamas’s armed wing has ties to ISIS; ties in the fields of logistics and weapons. I am convinced of this and I have proof.'

The Post adds that, according to Cairo-based Al-Shourouk newspaper, which in turn cited unidentified sources, fighters infiltrated from Gaza through tunnels to Sinai to participate in the terrorist attacks on Wednesday. The attackers included Palestinians, Afghans, and other foreigners, the source added.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has extended condolences to the Egyptian people. In remarks during a visit to Be'er Sheva, Netanyahu noted that up until several months ago, when Israel said that ISIS was carrying out actions on its borders, people were skeptical. 'And here we see before our very eyes ISIS operating with unusual brutality on both our northern and southern borders,' Netanyahu said. He added that the actions seen from ISIS are nothing compared to the capabilities being built by the Iranian regime, and for this reason it is especially important to prevent Tehran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

According to the lead headline in Israel Hayom Israel has closed traffic on Highway 12 – which runs along the border with Egypt – due to the security situation in the Sinai Peninsula. The IDF stressed that the move is a temporary measure.

Elsewhere, Army Radio reports that Palestinian Authority forces arrested 100 Hamas members in the West Bank in the biggest raid of its kind in years. It was the biggest mass arrest in one night since 2007 when Palestinians split after Hamas violently ousted the forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas from Gaza, leaving him governing just parts of the West Bank.

Hamas spokesman Husam Badran said in a statement that the arrests were meant to stop the recent spate of deadly Palestinian attacks against Israelis. He accused Palestinian Authority security forces of working for Israel, and said that Hamas holds President Abbas personally responsible, adding that Hamas will continue attacks against Israelis in the West Bank. There was no immediate comment from the Palestinian Authority.



LINES IN THE SAND: Writing in Yedioth Ahronoth, Alex Fishman explains why, despite the declarations and promises of Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian army has not managed to wipe off the Salafi terror groups in the Sinai – and what this means for Israel.

"Yesterday morning, the Egyptian army held a parade of bodies. The blood-soaked bodies of some 60 ISIS fighters were brought from all part of the Sinai and laid out in rows in an empty swimming pool in el-Arish. At the shallow end of the empty pool, the army placed dozens, if not hundreds, of weapons that the terrorists had been carrying. What stood out in this pool of death was the fact that most of the dead terrorists were wearing full military uniforms; some of them even had flak jackets and other military equipment.

The fighting between el-Arish and Rafah ended yesterday afternoon. Now they are counting the bodies. Several dozen Egyptian soldiers were also killed in the battles. The Sinai branch of ISIS tried and failed to capture a built-up part of the Sinai. But the battle for public perception is still raging: who won and who lost. The Egyptians played their card – displaying dozens of bodies – while ISIS can boast that it shocked the Egyptian public with its well-coordinated attacks in the Sinai and in Egypt itself.

It's hard to say whether the battle for this coastal strip of Egyptian land is over or whether this is merely a lull in the fighting, since the recent war between the Egyptian army and ISIS has been taking place under a blanket of intelligence ignorance. The IDF, which raised its level of alert as soon as word came through about the fighting on Wednesday morning, took into account the possibility that it, too, was suffering from a lack of intelligence which could see the fighting cross over the border into Israel. That is why it bolstered its presence along the border and sought deeper intelligence. On Wednesday evening, it became clear that ISIS was not planning to cross the Israeli border, but the alert level remained high.

If the ISIS assault had been more successful, it is conceivable that it would have attempted to turn its attention to Israel. There is also concern among Israeli defense officials that Salafi groups in the Sinai will take advantage of the situation to open a new front against Israel. No one knows which direction this snowball will take.

Israel, once again, was given a clear strategic warning. The terrorist groups operating in the Sinai are just as well organized as anything that the world witnessed in Afghanistan, Syria or Iraq. We are no longer talking about gangs of armed Bedouin tribes attacking Egyptian army outposts from time to time or blowing a hole in the gas pipelines. These are now Egyptian Bedouin who have adopted a jihadi ideology, alongside foreign fighters who have set up shop in the Sinai and who have become a well-regulated military force over the past year.

More than 100 ISIS fighters took part in this week's attacks, which targeted a number of positions along a 25-kilometer area. Carrying out an attack of this kind needs detailed preparation, training, logistics, control and command. In order to show the world that ISIS is behind these attacks, the organization has started to use its trademarks in the Sinai, where several headless bodies have been discovered over the past six months. The victims had been accused of collaborating with the Egyptian army or of being Israeli agents.

The Achilles' heel for the Egyptian army is intelligence. Cairo was supposed to set up an invincible intelligence network in the Sinai, which Israel could also benefit from. However, the situation on the ground is exactly the opposite. Egypt is not providing Israel with intelligence information, which means that if the IDF wants to get something done it has to do it itself. After the events of this week, Israel must redouble its investments in establishing an intelligence network in the Sinai.

When it comes to preventing weapons from entering the Gaza Strip from the Sinai – as part of the IDF's plan to dry out Hamas' arsenal – Israel is perfectly capable of obtaining the requisite intelligence. And these efforts have borne fruit. The Shin Bet and the Border Administration is under orders to inspect even the smallest item entering Gaza. Anything that can be used to build tunnels is confiscated.

Indeed, in recent months, Hamas' tunnel-building teams have been unemployed. There is not enough equipment and kilometers of electric cable have been seized at the Kerem Shalom border crossing. One year after Operation Protective Edge, Hamas had hoped to reach a certain number of operative tunnels, but failed to meet its own goal. The moment that construction equipment starts arriving in Gaza again – such as cement from Qatar, which Egypt allows to cross over via Rafah – tunnel building resumes. This is the focus of Israel's intelligence-gathering operations – and the results are there for all to see, including a drop in the number of rockets being manufactured in the Gaza Strip.

However, various organizations in Gaza, including Hamas, have, over the past year, conducted tests of new rockets with a range of between 80 and 150 kilometers. Israel is making every effort to thwart production of these rockets and searches every truck entering Gaza for material that could be used. But Hamas has built several new tunnels along the Philadelphi Route, between the Egyptian side of Rafah and the Gazan side, which bypass the Egyptian buffer zone. There is a commercial-level amount of earth-moving material entering Gaza. The only consolation for Israel is the fact that the price of such material has skyrocketed in recent months.

When it comes to the Sinai, however, intelligence gathering is of secondary importance – despite the fact that it is becoming increasingly clear that ISIS is setting up shop on Israel's southern border. This is just as worrying – if not more so – than the fact that ISIS is already present on the northern border, where it is engaged in the battle to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sissi might well decide to launch some show operation in the Sinai, but Egypt's strategy regarding the Salafi organizations will not change. Sissi may have defined the Sinai as the main mission facing him and, unlike his predecessor; he has given the army responsibility for cleaning up the peninsula and has given his military commanders all the means that they could possibly need to do the job – including tanks and attack helicopters. Little wonder, then, that Israel expected the Egyptian army to do a better job of eradicating the terrorists from the Sinai and of isolating the Gaza Strip from the northern part of the peninsula. But, as the events of the past few days prove, the Egyptians are not there yet."



THE PRIDE OF THE EGYPTIAN ARMY: Writing in Makor Rishon, Assaf Gavor says that the Egyptian army has failed to eradicate terrorism from the Sinai Peninsula because it is too proud to take advice and assistance from the IDF, which has years of experience in counterterrorism operations.

"The Egyptian army is large and strong – but it doesn't know how to fight terrorism. That is the obvious conclusion from the events of the past few days in the Sinai. More than 75 armed militants carried out a series of well-timed and well-coordinated attacks, killing more than 60 Egyptian soldiers.

This week's attacks are further proof of the abject failure of the antiterrorism activities of the Egyptian army and the Egyptian intelligence services. The fact that the alert level had been raised across Egypt, ahead of the second anniversary of the coup lead by Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sissi, merely adds to the embarrassment. Sissi's promise to clamp down on terrorism – made during the funeral of Egypt's prosecutor general, who had been assassinated a few days earlier – was mocked by media outlets across the Arab world.

Until just a few years ago, Israel was equally guilty of neglecting the Sinai. As a result, Israel's defense and security establishments created a massive black hole in terms of their understanding of what was happening on the other side of the border. A lack of manpower and a focus on other, allegedly more pressing fronts created a situation in which Israel possessed precious little intelligence about what was happening in the Sinai.

The warning lights started to flash for defense officials after a Qassam rocket – smuggled into the Sinai from Sudan – was fired at Eilat. Terrorists returned from training camps in Iran to the Gaza Strip and a system was developed for smuggling infiltrators into Israel via the Negev. In response, Israel revitalized, expanded and upgraded its intelligence-gathering apparatus in the Sinai and started work on a border fence to prevent smuggling. In addition, cooperation and coordination with the Egyptian security forces was significantly bolstered.

Since Israeli decision-makers assume that Egyptian control over Sinai and a sense of security in the peninsula serve Israeli interests, too, the IDF allowed Cairo to violate the terms of the peace deal between the two countries and to send in massive numbers of troops and weapons. Sissi, who declared war on the armed groups prowling the Sinai back when he was defense minister, took forceful action to clip the wings of these radical organizations, which took advantage of the fact that no one appeared to be ruling over the Sinai. As part of a broad strategic maneuver, troops, attack helicopters, tanks, APCs and even gunboats were redeployed to the Sinai. The media gave the operation widespread coverage, hoping to prove to the Egyptian people that, after years of neglect, somebody was taking control of the Sinai and planned to impose order.

The proud Egyptian army entered the Sinai with its head held up high and with the goal of eradicating terror, but it was not adept at this kind of fighting. It is more used to fighting against regular armies and all of its training exercises in recent years focused on fighting off foreign armies that might invade Egypt. As part of these exercises, Egyptian forces practiced fighting alongside troops from other branches of the military, including the air force and the navy.

But dealing with small terror cells, which took advantage of their relative speed and their knowledge of the local terrain, was something that the Egyptian army was not accustomed to. In addition, it was unfamiliar with ongoing security work aimed at preventing terror attacks. Over the years, Israel developed a strategy for dealing with threats of this kind, thanks to being forced to deal with Palestinian terrorists, Hizbollah fighters and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. The IDF expressed a willingness to share this knowledge with Cairo as part of the cooperation that has developed between the two countries, but there was one problem that got in the way: Egyptian pride. Egyptian army commanders in the Sinai refused to cooperate and so did not study the strategy for fighting terrorism that Israel developed, which means that these agile and small cells enjoy a relative advantage over the massive presence of Egyptian troops.

International terrorism, which is spreading across the entire region by ISIS, is a major military challenge. Brig. Gen. Nimrod Sheffer, the head of the IDF's Planning Directorate, spoke about this very issue during the Herzliya Conference last month. He spoke about the vital need for the army to identify changing trends and to be more flexible in terms of its strategy and its tactics on the ground. He even praised the Egyptians for joining forces with Hamas to tackle terrorism in the Sinai. Responding to reports of a rapprochement between Cairo and Gaza, he said that, 'if this leads to the creation of an apparatus for tackling the Salafi terror groups in the Sinai, then it is to be welcomed.'

After two years of antiterrorism activity in the Sinai, Cairo needs to learn one simple lesson: if it does not change its way of thinking and if the Egyptian army does not agree to accept the advice of Israel – which has plenty of experience in the area – blood will continue to flow in the Sinai."



OPERATION DOUBLE SUCCESS: Writing in Israel Hayom, Dan Margalit says that Operation Protective Edge and Operation Cast Lead were a success for Israel, despite what its many critics would have us believe.

"Operation Protective Edge was, it seems, the first of Israel's wars that was commanded over by frontline officers and lawyers who were trying to ensure that the IDF met the demands of international law. This is a reason for us to be proud of ourselves, but it does not grant us any political credit in the international community. Even a fair-minded periodical like The Economist wrote this week that the ratio of Israeli to Palestinian civilian fatalities was 1:1,462 – as if the life of an Israeli soldier counts for nothing and doesn't even deserve to be counted; as if there were no terrorists killed on the Palestinian side. This is the fate of the Jewish people and it is Israel's duty to argue with the world until the truth reaches all four corners of the globe.

But this is first and foremost an internal discussion. Hamas murdered three boys and Israel went above and beyond the call of duty in its efforts to exercise restraint. Israel wanted to avoid battles and wanted to refrain from giving Gaza the punishment it deserved – not only at the start of the operation but throughout all 50 days of fighting. Israel was the only side that agreed to an Egyptian-backed ceasefire agreement. These are facts that we should constantly be reminding all those liars at home and abroad.

We should also remind them about the deafening argument between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon on the one hand, and Avigdor Lieberman and Naftali Bennett on the other hand. It was an argument between those who understand the limitation of force and those who wanted the kind of resounding victory that only exists in the movies.

There is no point in operations that try to resolve all problems. Netanyahu and Ya'alon, like Ehud Barak and Gabi Ashkenazi before them, understood something that does not play out well on television screens: they understood that operations like Operation Protective Edge never end with the total defeat of the enemy. At best, they end in interim victories, designed to achieve a temporary cessation of hostilities. The only way to ensure long-term quiet would have been to retake the Gaza Strip.

During the Second Lebanon War, Israel sustained unnecessary casualties. In Operation Protective Edge and Operation Cast Lead, there was no choice. If Netanyahu and Ya'alon had not acted with an abundance of restraint, there would have been far more casualties – without improving the final outcome. In practice, without re-occupying Gaza, Israel could not have hoped for a better outcome.

Proof of this can be found in the massive effort that Hamas' Gaza-based leadership is making (thus far) to prevent other radical organizations from firing rockets at Israel. Their aggressive tendencies are – for the time being – focused on fighting alongside ISIS against the Egyptian army in the Sinai – and they know why.

Israel's critics refuse to be convinced. But if it is confirmed that Hamas is currently negotiating with Israel over the terms of a hudna – a long-term cessation of hostilities – then maybe even they will recognize that Operation Protective Edge and Operation Cast Lead were a two-fold success story for the IDF."



SISSI'S CHALLENGE: Writing on the News 1 website, Yoni Ben Menachem says that Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sissi must fight terror on two fronts – the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS – if he is to survive in power.

"Egyptian President Abdelfattah el-Sissi has been ruling Egypt for just two years. He assumed power over an Egypt burdened with major security and economic problems and with complex relations with radical Islam. He needs to fight terror on two fronts: the attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood within the cities of Egypt and ISIS terror in the Sinai.

An Egyptian police force raided a Muslim Brotherhood hideout in Cairo on July 1 and killed nine terrorists, according to police and Brotherhood spokesmen.  They were wanted for acts of terror and may be tied to the assassination of Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat. Police found in the apartment weapons, explosives, large sums of money, and e-mail correspondence with Muslim Brotherhood leaders in Qatar and Turkey. Police also said they found a hit-list of Egyptian political figures.

The war on ISIS is one that has been imposed on Egypt, as it has been imposed on other Arab states, and Sissi will have to find the right military formula to defeat the group in Sinai.

Sissi based his government’s legitimacy on animosity toward the Muslim Brotherhood, which, when it took power about three years ago, aroused loathing among the Egyptian population. He adopted the same measures that previous Egyptian presidents, such as Gamal Abdel Nasser and Anwar Sadat, used to fight Muslim Brotherhood terror. Among other things, its leaders have been tried in civilian rather than in military courts, and many have been given death sentences that so far have not been carried out.

When he began serving as president, Sissi was prepared to consider mediation by Arab states to help reach a 'national reconciliation' with the Muslim Brotherhood. However, as the movement ramped up its terror attacks, reconciliation ceased to be a possibility from Sissi’s standpoint. Some in the Egyptian media speak of 'uprooting the Muslim Brotherhood' and oppose reconciliation with the movement.

On June 30, Sissi announced that, in light of Barakat’s assassination, he seeks to hasten the implementation of the death sentences and life-imprisonment sentences that have been meted out to Muslim Brotherhood leaders.

It appears that Sissi, in light of security considerations and the huge efforts to salvage the economy, is opting for an iron-fist policy against the Muslim Brotherhood. The bloody conflict with them, therefore, looks likely to continue.  The latest wave of terror leaves Sissi no option; his battle is a battle for survival, and he is not prepared to surrender to terrorism."



POINTING THE FINGER: Writing in Haaretz, Zvi Bar'el explains that Egypt isn't trying to link Hamas to this week's terror attacks in the Sinai, since it prefers to focus on the Muslim Brotherhood.

"'The Egyptian army controls all of northern Sinai,' army spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir proclaimed on Thursday. 'Now the investigations will begin into where the terrorists came from, who helped them and how they obtained uniforms similar to Egyptian army uniforms.'

After 24 bloody hours in which at least 17 soldiers and some 100 militants were killed from Wilayat Sinai (formerly known as Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis before affiliating with Islamic State), the Egyptian army is indeed present in northern Sinai, and the fighting has died down. But its claim of 'control' is debatable.

Nobody knows how many terrorists participated in the coordinated attack that stunned the army on Wednesday by assaulting 15 military checkpoints and facilities simultaneously. And no one knows how many are in Sinai. Two years ago, the Egyptians estimated that Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis had some 4,000 fighters, mostly Egyptian and some foreign. But many of the latter left for Libya to establish a base for ISIS in that country.

When it was first founded and prior to joining ISIS, Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis focused more on attacking Israeli targets – including the pipeline that used to carry Egyptian gas to Israel. But it has always attacked the Egyptian police and military as well. The group is just one of about a dozen militias operating in northern Sinai and the rest of Egypt. Others have also perpetrated murderous attacks, such as the killing of 16 Egyptian soldiers in Sinai in August 2012.

That was long before the Egyptian counterrevolution toppled President Mohammed Mursi and the Muslim Brotherhood in June 2013. But the wave of terror intensified greatly after current President Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi ousted Mursi. Sissi has waged war on the Muslim Brotherhood – including declaring it a banned terrorist organization – and both the government and media blame it for the violence in Sinai.

Nevertheless, Sissi’s uncompromising war hasn’t reduced the terror. Moreover, the connection the government makes between the Brotherhood, Hamas, Hizbollah and jihadi militias in Sinai has created the impression that it’s looking for excuses to justify its battle against the Brotherhood. There is no real proof of any military connection between the Brotherhood and the others.

Granted, Hamas is an ideological offshoot of the Brotherhood, and it once cooperated routinely with both Hizbollah and the Sinai jihadists. The latter let Hamas use their smugglers and arms stockpiles; in exchange, Hamas provided safe haven to jihadists pursued by Egyptian security forces.

But circumstances have changed. Hamas severed ties with Syria, Iran and Hizbollah over the ongoing Syrian civil war, and its forces in Syria’s Yarmouk refugee camp have even fought the Syrian army and Hizbollah there.

Though Qatar and Turkey replaced Iran as its financial patrons, this did Hamas little good. Egypt closed its Rafah border crossing with Gaza and destroyed most of the smuggling tunnels to Sinai, while Israel maintained its naval blockade of the Strip, severely restricted access from Israel and pressured Palestinian banks not to transfer funds to Hamas. This joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade seemingly left Gaza an isolated, neutralized island incapable of harming anyone.

In January, when King Salman ascended the throne of Saudi Arabia, things changed. Salman saw Hamas as a card to play in his battle against Iranian influence. He pressured Egypt into rescinding Hamas’ designation as a terrorist organization, just two months after a court announced it; Egyptian officials began meeting with Hamas representatives; senior Egyptian officers praised Hamas in the media for its efforts to prevent cross-border infiltrations in both directions; Egypt approved a limited reopening of the Rafah crossing, which, for the first time, included goods as well as people; and there were rumors of indirect Hamas-Israel talks on a long-term cease-fire.

Consequently, though Egyptian officials hastened to tie Hamas to Sinai jihadists after previous attacks in the peninsula, this time, neither military officers nor government officials linked Hamas to the Wilayat Sinai attack. Pundits, researchers and some civil-society organizations did accuse Hamas – not of cooperation with Islamic State, but only of cooperating with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Thus, contrary to Israeli predictions, it seems Cairo intends to preserve its ties with Hamas, distinguish between Hamas and Islamic State, and even treat Hamas as if it weren’t part of the Brotherhood.

Indictments against several senior Brotherhood officials that were published last week quote wiretapped conversations showing that Hamas members, at the Brotherhood’s behest, came to Egypt on the eve of the 2011 revolution to help break Brotherhood activists out of jail. Yet Egypt hasn’t indicted senior Hamas officials or demanded their extradition; evidently, it prefers not to upset its ties with the organization.

Indeed, Egypt’s main problem isn’t Hamas, but Islamic State and other jihadi groups in Sinai. Even though the army claims to uncover new terror cells or weapons stockpiles every day, the frequency, scope and targets of the attacks show both the weakness of Egyptian intelligence and the strength of the militias’ logistical infrastructure.

Egyptian experts now expect the security services to take the gloves off against the Muslim Brotherhood – which they certainly did on Wednesday when they assassinated nine Brotherhood activists meeting in Cairo, rather than arresting them. The government might also execute senior Brotherhood officials, including Mursi. But such steps are unlikely to have any effect on the behavior of the jihadi groups. Just two months ago, those groups blamed the Brotherhood’s plight on its decision to abandon jihad in favor of 'democracy and reconciliation'."



ANOTHER WAR?: Writing in The Jerusalem Post, Yossi Melman looks back on Operation Protective Edge and says that it will only be judged a success if Israel's southern border remains quiet in the long term.

"A year ago this week, Israel launched its third war in Gaza in less than seven years. The first was in December 2008 and the second in November 2012. Simple calculation shows that the time elapsed between the first and second campaign was nearly four years. While the cease-fire between the second and third wars lasted just 19 months, on average it can be calculated that every 22 months Israel has found itself facing the same problem in Gaza. So, with the same calculation, Israel can expect another round in Gaza in the spring of 2016.

But Middle Eastern realities are not mere products of statistics. They don’t necessarily adhere to the scripts written by the planners. Sometimes the military battles generate surprising twists in the drama.

The last war, codenamed by IDF computers 'Protective Edge,' could be one of these unexpected events. It has the potential for a long-term tacit or formal arrangement between Israel and Hamas, one that could put an end to the rocket launching, sporadic or systematic, from Gaza and could bring quiet and tranquility for the residents of southern Israel.

In that sense, the last Gaza war could turn out to be a mirror image of the Second Lebanon War in 2006. That war exposed many tactical weaknesses of the Israel Defense Forces but, on the strategic level, empowered Israeli deterrence. The inhabitants of northern Israel have for nine years since enjoyed and benefited from a peaceful border as Hizbollah is deterred from attacking Israel. Something similar can emerge in the South. The situation Israel has witnessed in the last 12 months on the Gaza front is complex; alongside hopes, it contains risks and danger that another war is on the horizon.

What were the war’s flaws and weakness? It lasted 50 days and was not only the longest of all three Gazan campaigns, but also the second- longest war in the history of the State of Israel after the 1948 War of Independence. During Protective Edge, Israel was bombarded with nearly 5,000 rockets, more than in any other of its military clashes, including the two previous Gaza wars and the Second Lebanon War.

For its critics, the war was also too long. But there was a reason for it. The political echelon led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, as well as the IDF leadership, were concerned about reducing Israeli casualties, which due to the urban and densely populated terrain could have been higher than the 67 soldiers who died in battle.

It was also said that Israeli intelligence failed to have accurate information about the number, size and spread of the tunnels Hamas had dug to be used as a surprise weapon. But this claim is not true. Based on military sources, this writer wrote in October 2013 – nine months before the war – that Hamas had built 20-30 tunnels. Surely, IDF Military Intelligence and the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) did know that Hamas had dug 30 tunnels leading in the direction of Israel. And, indeed, during the war the IDF found and destroyed all of them. The problem, however, was that, even though the information was conveyed to the government, neither the IDF’s top generals nor the cabinet ministers fully grasped the full strategic meaning before the war.

Still, the war results, as we analyze them today, are satisfactory. It was a limited war because the declared goals were limited. Israel didn’t wish to topple Hamas because that would have meant once again conquering Gaza, which is a small territorial enclave with a big but very poor population of 1.8 million inhabitants. Conquering Gaza – which from a military point of view could have been achieved within days – would have resulted in many casualties to both IDF troops and Palestinians. And it would have forced Israel to once again be the occupier and daily provider of Gaza. Israel did not want to be in this position.

Bearing in mind that Israel had no serious alternatives other than to end the war the way it did, its achievements were numerous. A growing wedge was created between Hamas and Egypt, which perceives the Islamist organization as a threat to its own national security and accuses it of supporting and collaborating with the terrorists of Islamic State in Sinai. The security cooperation between Jerusalem and Cairo has reached unprecedented levels. Both countries are partners in the war against terrorism, which this week in Sinai caused the Egyptian Army heavy casualties by the hands of Islamic State and showed how painful and formidable a task it is.

There is no military solution to Gaza. The third Gaza war will be judged successful only if the southern border is truly peaceful. This is only possible if a long-term agreement is reached among Israel, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt – with financial support from Qatar to rebuild and help Gaza normalize the life of its inhabitants. Without a deal that will politically and economically regulate and administrate life there, Gaza will never be rehabilitated. Even worse: The situation will deteriorate and Israel will be confronted with Islamic State, a worse and more brutal enemy."




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