Israel Thought It Had Deterred Hamas, While in Fact Hamas Had Deterred Israel

Last week, Assaf Orion came on our podcast to speak about the IDF’s air campaign in Gaza. In this essay, Orion takes a careful look at how Israel underestimated its vulnerability to Hamas, and how Jerusalem should imagine its strategic goals. He begins by looking at how strategists failed to draw the correct lessons from the many short wars with Hamas between 2006 and May 2023:

In each of these operations, it became clear that Hamas was acquiring stronger and better weapons, including longer-range rockets with larger warheads, along with drones that could pose aerial and naval threats. It was also apparent that Hamas was building a large and increasingly sophisticated network of underground tunnels. During each conflict, Hamas did its best to punch through Israel’s defenses and reach the communities around Gaza’s border. But . . . Hamas operations mostly failed—on the ground, underground, in the air, and at sea.

Despite Hamas’s growing capabilities, these failures convinced Israel that its defense strategy was working: Hamas was unable to strike Israel’s population effectively; and it faced significant retribution for attempting such strikes and could be rewarded with material support for keeping calm. Israeli officials also concluded that trying to destroy Hamas’s forces outright would be too costly and might create dangerous new problems. . . . But this approach also allowed Hamas, supported by Qatar, to acquire the resources it needed to transform its military into a highly capable army of terror.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas, Israeli Security

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy