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Three years later, IDF happy with ‘Cast Lead’, wants to have another go

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From Haaretz: 

Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz marked the three-year anniversary of Operation Cast Lead on Tuesday by hailing it “an excellent operation that achieved deterrence for Israel vis-a-vis Hamas.” However, he warned, cracks have emerged in that deterrence over time, and a second round of fighting in the Gaza Strip is not a matter of choice for Israel.

Such a round must be initiated by Israel and must be “swift and painful,” he said, adding, “I do not advise Hamas to test our mettle.” [emphasis mine] 

Since becoming Chief of Staff, Gantz has argued that Israel must respond to any rocket attacks with extreme force. He has also hinted that future Israeli actions will not be confined to airstrikes: “we shall in the end need to move to broader, more aggressive action in the Gaza Strip” he told Knesset members recently.

“The harder you hit them, the longer they stay quiet,” as a tsarist general one said. It’s hard to tell if Gantz is merely trying to cow Hamas, or if he is really intent on launching Cast Lead II in the near future.

Contrary to my expectations this summer, Israel did not use the Eilat attacks as an excuse to undertake a full-scale operation in Gaza, even though there were calls for regime change there among Israeli politicians and former military leaders. Ynet reported in November 2011 that that the IDF has been training its combat engineers for a possible resumption of hostilities in Gaza. Israel’s latest consigment of American-made bunker busters – ostensibly for a strike against Iran – could also be used against targets in Gaza, such as the smuggling tunnels between Gaza and Egypt that, according to the IDF, are a serving as conduits for a stream of stolen Libyan arms. And as war warning signs, neither the trainings nor the bunker busters raise new alarms.

For now, I think Gantz is saber-rattling. Israel is hoping to scare or wrongfoot Hamas as it scores political successes through the prisoner exchanges, the electoral success of Egypt’s Islamist bloc, entry to the PLO and new unity talks with Fatah. A more conciliatory Hamas is not what Likud wants to deal with. The best way to undermine Hamas’s nonviolent political successes would be to put Hamas in awkward position over the actions of Islamic Jihad (which Israel struck just this week) or another militant organization. Hamas’s leadership would be an awkward position of having to manage feelings of militant nationalism that it has cultivated in order to secure potentially ephemeral political concessions. Its legitimacy would be at stake, but should it respond with violence, its survival would be in jeopardy.

Hamas will likely avoid the temptation to return to fighting. The Middle East is too politically fluid at the moment. But given the hawkishness of the “liberal” alternatives to Likud, as Dimi Reider points out, I am still convinced that the timing of Cast Lead II will be a question of when, not if. Israel would be more likely to use massive force against Gaza than Iran if it came down to an eleventh-hour choice for Defense Minister Barak. Israel’s leadership has no doubt been encouraged by SecDef Leon Panetta and President Obama’s public backpedalling on their reluctance to attack Iran. The U.S. could deal with Iran (an “October surprise,” as some have suggested), leaving Israel a stronger hand to play against Hamas. The timing for any of these possible actions will greatly depend on how the 2012 U.S. presidential election progresses.

As for how the IDF will react to Hamas’s announced new focus on popular demonstrations, Gantz’s past comments about the Arab Spring offer some insight:

There is a focal player in the Middle East – the street – and it is clear to us that in the coming months we can find ourselves in broad popular demonstrations, which gain public resonance. The IDF is preparing for these demonstrations.


For this reason, we will act with great fire power and full force at the very beginning of the confrontation. Anything the camera can stand or could stand in the first three days of fighting – it will not be prepared to put up with thereafter.

Paul Mutter

Paul Mutter is a contributor to Mondoweiss, Foreign Policy in Focus and the Arabist.

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8 Responses

  1. Avi_G. on December 28, 2011, 1:16 pm

    This is yet another example of the extent of the Israeli government’s militancy. Ben-Gurion used to claim that Arabs only understand force and violence. And yet, Israel is incapable of understanding peace and non-violence.

    It’s forces relentlessly attack non-violent Palestinian marches. It’s forces repeatedly shoot and kill unarmed Palestinian civilians. Israeli government and society, both cheer on for more violence when an olive branch is extended in the form of the Arab peace deal.

    Even in 1948, as early as January, Ben-Gurion convened some of his advisers and expressed concern at the non-aggression pacts Palestinian Arab villages were signing with neighboring Moshavim and Kibbutzim..

    The rationale was, if ‘the Arabs’ did not use violence, how would Zionist militias manage to drive them out using ‘defense’ as a pretext?

    Those interested in more reading can see:



  2. Dan Crowther on December 28, 2011, 1:42 pm

    “The Jerusalem Post disclosed that “the drill, which is unprecedented in its size, will include the establishment of US command posts in Israel and IDF command posts at EUCOM headquarters in Germany–with the ultimate goal of establishing joint task forces in the event of a large-scale conflict in the Middle East.”

    “According to the Post’s defense correspondent Yaakov Katz, “Israel is moving forward with plans to hold the largest-ever missile defense exercise in its history this spring amid Iranian efforts to obtain nuclear weapons.”

    “Last week,” Katz wrote, “Lt.-Gen. Frank Gorenc, commander of the US’s Third Air Force based in Germany, visited Israel to finalize plans for the upcoming drill, expected to see the deployment of several thousand American soldiers in Israel.”

    So, the Israeli’s are going to make a big display of their air defenses. Americans will be on the ground. Imagine if something were to happen during these excercises……

  3. FreddyV on December 28, 2011, 2:09 pm

    The headline made me want to retch. Seriously.

    I’m at an utter loss.

    ‘Happy with Cast Lead’?

    Sorry for the gut reaction post. I know I’m supposed to come up with some clever retort, but this is beyond base.

    • justicewillprevail on December 28, 2011, 3:43 pm

      Agreed. The sadism of these apologies for human beings is staggering. But such is the effect of a fascist ideology on people already receptive to it.

  4. American on December 28, 2011, 4:03 pm

    I like my press release better.

    “Code Pink marked the three-year anniversary of Operation Stop AIPAC on Tuesday by hailing it “an excellent operation that drew the line for Americans vr Zionism.” However, she warned, cracks have emerged in that deterrence over time, and a second round of fighting in Washington is not a matter of choice for Americans.

    Such a round must be initiated by Americans and must be “swift and painful,” she said, adding, “I do not advise the Zionist to test our mettle.”

  5. split on December 29, 2011, 2:26 am

    They’re good at slaughtering defenceless sheepherders and their kids with a $70.000 laser guided rockets from F15’s or an Apache chopper provided to them by the V-column on Capital Hill or sniper bullet – Talk/educate your kids , ask them talk to their friends ,…

    • john h on December 29, 2011, 11:02 pm

      That’s pretty much what a Palestinian-American in high school said yesterday:

      What happened during the 22 days [in Gaza] was not a war.

      The fourth strongest military on earth, equipped with F-16s, Apaches, tanks, armored vehicles versus homemade rockets, is not war. That’s a massacre.

      1,400 human beings murdered in 22 days. That’s a blatant massacre.

  6. Talkback on December 29, 2011, 5:28 am

    Deja vu?

    “In July 2002, Israel moved quickly to avert yet another political catastrophe. With assistance from European diplomats, militant Palestinian organizations, including Hamas, reached an accord to suspend all attacks inside Israel, perhaps paving the way for a return to the negotiating table. Just 90 minutes before it was to be announced, however, Israeli leaders – fully apprised of the imminent declaration – ordered an F-16 to drop a one-ton bomb on a densely-populated civilian neighborhood in Gaza, killing, alongside a Hamas leader, 11 children and five others, and injuring 140. Predictably, the declaration was scrapped and Palestinian terrorist attacks resumed with a vengeance. “What is the wisdom here?” a Meretz party leader asked the Knesset. “At the very moment that it appeared that we were on the brink of a chance for reaching something of a cease-fire, or diplomatic activity, we always go back to this experience – just when there is a period of calm, we liquidate.” … (52) Scoring still another major political victory the next month, the Israeli government blocked Israeli peace activists from linking up with 700 of their Palestinian counterparts in Bethlehem. Reporting from Bethlehem, Amira Hass observed that many Palestinians were endeavoring to “open a pubic debate aimed at reducing Palestinian support for attacks inside Israel, without waiting for a change in Israeli policy.” The joint demonstration, she continued, “was an example of that type of effort. It was an effort that failed, foiled by the Israeli authorities.” (53)”

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