Israel Risks Losing Its Ability to Deter Hamas

For some time, Israel has followed the principle of “quiet will be met with quiet” in dealing with the Gaza Strip—and with its enemies in Syria and elsewhere. In practice this means that so long as Hamas does not launch rockets or conduct other attacks, the IDF will not engage it militarily, but any attacks will be met with a swift military response. To Amos Yadlin, the recent flareups show that this strategy is losing its effectiveness:

The positive aspect of the recent round against Gaza was the return, by the IDF, to the targeted killing of militants, the bombing of rocket-manufacturing facilities and warehouses, and the destruction of military installations and high-rise apartment blocks. . . .

The Israeli public, [however, remains] in the dark about the parameters of the long-term cease-fire agreement being negotiated with Hamas. What is known is that Israel is continuing to [allow the transfer of funds to] a terrorist organization but is refusing to talk to a legitimate, internationally recognized, Palestinian Authority. The message to Palestinians is clear: using terror against Israel is a means to achieve your desired objectives.

Above all else, Israel’s deterrence is shattered. Hamas is no longer fazed by the prospect of a military confrontation. The militant group still fears a full-blown war, but that too will change. The policy of “quiet will be met by quiet” or “quiet in exchange for money” is no longer viable. . . . It is time to begin reinstating Israel’s deterrence by causing massive injury to the military wing of Hamas, enemy loss of life notwithstanding—[including] the use of targeted killing of militant commanders, preferably carried out with surprising, unexpected tactics. The key here is the need to take initiative rather than responding and being led.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israeli Security


What Egypt’s Withdrawal from the “Arab NATO” Signifies for U.S. Strategy

A few weeks ago, Egypt quietly announced its withdrawal from the Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA), a coalition—which also includes Jordan, the Gulf states, and the U.S.—founded at President Trump’s urging to serve as an “Arab NATO” that could work to contain Iran. Jonathan Ariel notes three major factors that most likely contributed to Egyptian President Sisi’s abandonment of MESA: his distrust of Donald Trump (and concern that Trump might lose the 2020 election) and of Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman; Cairo’s perception that Iran does not pose a major threat to its security; and the current situation in Gaza:

Gaza . . . is ruled by Hamas, defined by its covenant as “one of the wings of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine.” Sisi has ruthlessly persecuted the Brotherhood in Egypt. [But] Egypt, despite its dependence on Saudi largesse, has continued to maintain its ties with Qatar, which is under Saudi blockade over its unwillingness to toe the Saudi line regarding Iran. . . . Qatar is also supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood, . . . and of course Hamas.

[Qatar’s ruler] Sheikh Tamim is one of the key “go-to guys” when the situation in Gaza gets out of hand. Qatar has provided the cash that keeps Hamas solvent, and therefore at least somewhat restrained. . . . In return, Hamas listens to Qatar, which does not want it to help the Islamic State-affiliated factions involved in an armed insurrection against Egyptian forces in northern Sinai. Egypt’s military is having a hard enough time coping with the insurgency as it is. The last thing it needs is for Hamas to be given a green light to cooperate with Islamic State forces in Sinai. . . .

Over the past decade, ever since Benjamin Netanyahu returned to power, Israel has also been gradually placing more and more chips in its still covert but growing alliance with Saudi Arabia. Egypt’s decision to pull out of MESA should give it cause to reconsider. Without Egypt, MESA has zero viability unless it is to include either U.S. forces or Israeli ones. [But] one’s chances of winning the lottery seem infinitely higher than those of MESA’s including the IDF. . . . Given that Egypt, the Arab world’s biggest and militarily most powerful state and its traditional leader, has clearly indicated its lack of confidence in the Saudi leadership, Israel should urgently reexamine its strategy in this regard.

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More about: Egypt, Gaza Strip, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, U.S. Foreign policy