The Israeli Response to Recent Rocket Attacks Marks a Strategic Shift

March 28 2019

For the past several years, Jerusalem’s approach to Hamas—as well as to Islamic State and other jihadist groups—can be summed up in the phrase “quiet will be met with quiet.” In other words, the IDF will retaliate swiftly after any attacks, but refrain from action so long as its enemies do the same. Israel seems to have changed its tune, however, in responding to Monday’s rocket attacks by continuing to strike targets in Gaza even after Hamas declared a ceasefire and de-escalated. Ron Ben-Yishai writes:

[It] appears that the IDF has a new strategy: attrition will be met with attrition; escalation will be met with escalation. . . . Hamas thought that by limiting its response, it would—as with previous rounds of fighting—be able to turn to Egypt for a ceasefire, and that Israel, even if it did not explicitly say so, would follow the “quiet will be met with quiet” formula. This did not happen. . . . Israel for the first time in a year refused to play the game, and IDF aircraft, as well as tanks and naval ships, continued to hit targets within the Strip even after the Hamas-declared ceasefire went into effect.

Hamas then tried to return again to the formula of quiet for quiet and at 3 a.m. [Tuesday morning] halted fire. By that point it had fired about 60 rockets at Israel, a relatively small number compared to previous rounds. But even though Hamas had stopped firing, the IDF attacked again three hours later. Hamas could see that the IDF’s pattern had changed, and despite [Israel’s] 6 a.m. strikes, it has since refrained from launching any rockets at all.

As part of this new modus operandi, the IDF is in no hurry. It is attacking targets slowly and systematically in the Gaza Strip with two main goals in mind: hurting Hamas’s military capabilities and infrastructure, and making the terrorist group aware that Israel will not hesitate to harm its regime and its political power bases.

The message is that if Hamas escalates the provocations against Israel, it will endanger the survival of its regime in the Gaza Strip—not only because of what the IDF will do to it with the assistance of the Shin Bet security service, but also because the population of the Gaza Strip will understand that Hamas is not achieving [its aims].

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security


Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat