Yesterday I wrote that Israel would only be able to repair its military deterrence with a change of government in Jerusalem. Retaliatory strikes simply aren’t enough. Israel must go on the offensive. Back in March I wrote that it was time for a preemptive strike against our enemies. I doubt whether the newly-launched operation in Gaza dubbed “Shield and Arrow” will make much of a difference, but for now it has terrorist leaders scurrying to their bunkers. Meanwhile in Jerusalem, National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir found himself left out of the Security Cabinet meetings that preceded the operation over fears he would leak sensitive information and jeopardize campaign.
This time patience paid off. Three top jihadist leaders were targeted and eliminated overnight. Israel’s defense establishment is gearing up for a multi-day battle in Gaza, but much depends on the Hamas terror regime. Islamic Jihad is only the second largest terror organization in Gaza and has recently attacked Israel without the participation of Hamas. A small and isolated terrorist group, Islamic Jihad in Gaza poses a difficult intelligence challenge for the Israeli security service Shin Bet and the army. This is why it took so long to finally carry out such a strike against the group. Preparations lasted more than a month after Islamic Jihad fired rockets at Israel following clashes on the Temple Mount.
Operation Shield and Arrow has three objectives. First, deterrence. Second, prevent further terrorist plans in Judea and Samaria, among other places. Third, revenge. The last is more of an emotional than an operational reason. Islamic Jihad has been responsible for numerous terrorist attacks in the biblical heartland and Jerusalem in recent months. Such an operation cannot be organized overnight, it must be carefully planned. And in this case, Israel’s defense establishment will have to ignore the anger and scolding of politicians if Israel doesn’t immediately respond harshly to rocket attacks and bombings. That’s not helpful anyway, because even before the terrorist gangs attack Israel with rockets or other attacks, the terrorist bosses, whether Hamas or Islamic Jihad, hole up in their underground bunkers. Because of this, Israel’s security forces have to wait until they crawl out of their holes again so they can be targeted for killing, like they are doing now.
No one has the right to criticize Israel for such an operation. Just as the Americans are allowed to kill ISIS leaders in Iraq or Syria, Israel is also allowed to do the same in the Gaza Strip.
Of course, there are some, both within the opposition and abroad, who argue that the operation was primarily intended to preserve the fractious coalition government. The elimination of high-ranking terror leaders and the widespread damage to the terrorist infrastructure are the result of political pressure from Itamar Ben-Gvir and his right-wing national party Otzma Yehudit. “Bloody politics! Palestinian blood is the price to bring Itamar Ben-Gvir and his party back to the Knesset votes,” tweeted Arab Member of the Knesset Waleed Taha.
The big question is whether the Hamas regime will get involved this time. In previous instances, Hamas remained on the sidelines while Israel and Islamic Jihad fought it out. Hamas encouraged Islamic Jihad to launch rockets at Israel after the confrontation on the Temple Mount during Ramadan, and particularly after the death of jihadist and Palestinian convict Khader Adnan in Israeli prison last week.
Hamas in Gaza is cautious because it has a responsibility to the Palestinian people in Gaza who are angry enough with their leadership. We have often reported how little Hamas cares about the welfare of its own people. That is why the criticism against the group is increasing and why it is sending proxies to the front against Israel. So Hamas can tell the people that Islamic Jihad is responsible and that Israel is attacking them, and not Hamas. This is a dangerous game. But at the same time, Hamas is criticized by the Palestinians in Judea and Samaria when they don’t intervene and launch rockets at Israel, like Islamic Jihad.
Much depends on whether Hamas sits on the fence or launches rockets into Israel in the coming hours and days.
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