Tag Archives: Gaza

The Iron Dome Is Great, But Not Enough

18 Nov

If the current war between Israel and the Gaza based militants were to finish today, there would be one winner: Israel’s Iron Dome anti-missile system.

Today my city of Tel Aviv was attacked twice and on both occasions the Gaza launched missiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome system.

Iron Dome has also done much to protect other parts of Israel such as the city of Ashkelon and Beer Sheva.

Despite its brilliance, the Iron Dome is only a temporary, short-term solution.

To defeat Hamas in the long-term we need smarter Israeli policies such as closer cooperation with Egypt and with the PLO. We can start doing so by ending the current settlement expansion drive. One can understand why the current Israeli government would want to undermine and weaken Hamas, but why is it weakening the PLO? Why is Netanyahu making the PLO officials who are cooperating with Israel look like incompetent sell outs by constantly undermining them with more settlements?

To defeat Hamas we also need to end the Gaza siege in its current format. Restrictions against imports and exports except weapons must be lifted. Until then we can not say that we have left Gaza. After Israel left the Sinai in the early 80s as part of the Camp David peace agreement, did it still control what Egypt could import or export through the Sinai? No it didn’t  This is why Israel could say that it withdrew from there and no one could dispute it. The same can not currently be said about Gaza.

Implementation of such policies would give more legitimacy and backing to Israel’s right to fight Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists who threaten its security and that of its citizens. They would also weaken the extremist’s support base.

Meanwhile I hope the Iranian regime is watching the Iron Dome, because for its Shahab missiles we have an even better anti-missile system, called The Arrow.

Gaza Ground Invasion Will End Badly

16 Nov

I would not like to be in Benjamin Netanyahu’s shoes tonight.

By attacking Tel Aviv with its missiles, Hamas has crossed a major red line. No Israeli leader can ignore such an attack. The fact we have elections coming up in Israel makes it more difficult for the government to ignore today’s attack.

Tel Aviv is my city. I live here. Its my home.

As much as I detest and condemn Hamas’s attack today, I am not sure how a massive ground invasion is going to solve the problem.

Why? because our officials are saying that “Israel won’t halt Gaza operation until Hamas begs for truce”. In terms of domestic politics, Hamas would loath to be seen as “begging” for peace. It would lose all legitimacy at home. That would mean holding our troops as well as fate of our citizens hostage to Hamas’s domestic concerns. This must not be our exit strategy. If it is, then we are heading for an ending disaster as Hamas may prefer to engage Israel in a long drawn out guerrilla war in Gaza. This could sap the morale of our country while straining our relations with the international community.

Worst still, as my colleague Hossein Ibish points out in his interesting article, it could push Hamas and Morsi together. Lets not forget that when it comes to destroying Hamas tunnels, Morsi has done more than Mubarak did. Yes you read that right. Despite both belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood organization, Morsi has actually made life for Hamas quite difficult.

“So what do you suggest we do?”, I hear my compatriots and friends ask.

I think more time should be given for the air attacks to pound Hamas targets with maximum care that ordinary people are not hurt.

Meanwhile we should also engage the Egyptians. Instead of invading Gaza and pushing Morsi into Hamas’s corner, lets continue to make Hamas his problem. An invasion will not be in Morsi’s interests either. He has enough economic problems on his plate. With a major economic problem on his hands, he would prefer not to anger the Americans, and the EU by being seen to back Hamas.

So lets get the Egyptians to start a massive shuttle diplomacy to rein in Hamas attacks. If they manage to do this we in Israel would have averted a war and all its costs while Morsi could say that he is now the biggest power broker in the region.

The biggest loser would be Hamas. Not only it would be confronted by a Muslim brotherhood diplomatic onslaught, it would come out of this conflict losing its most senior military official Ahmad Jabari, and its credibility. And if it decides to break the truce, it would have Morsi to answer to. He is a lot more difficult to avoid than Netanyahu. 

Israel and its Gazan Security Dilemma

13 Nov

Large scale Israeli offensive (similar to 2008) against Gaza would bring short-term reprieve fo Israel’s citizens but would also mean:

  • Long term strengthening of Al Qaeda and extremist Salafist organizations in Gaza
  • Justification for Palestinian drive for statehood in the UN
  • Help for the international boycott and divestment movement against Israel
  • Hurt Israel’s relations with the EU
  • Divert attention away from the conflict Syria thus helping Assad.
  • Hurt Israel’s relations with Egypt and Jordan.

The citizens of southern Israel deserve peace and security. The continued attacks against them are intolerable. In the search for finding a short – medium term solution, the current Israeli government should apply smart power. This means a mixture of hard and soft power, meaning involving Israel’s diplomats as well.

Israel also needs to consider what its calls “security measures”.
For example: how is the well-being of Israel’s citizens secured by crippling Gaza’s export capability? How does banning Gazan workers from selling their fruits in Jordan or the West Bank help Israel’s cause?
Does this hurt or help the Palestinian extremists?
Does this hurt or help the 1.5 million people of Gaza?
Making them poor and unemployed with such measures is in Israel’s interest?
These ae some of the questions which those of us in Israel who are looking fo a long-term solution to our security problems in Gaza must ask ourselves.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? No thanks

13 Sep

Today I took part in the  2012 World Summit on Counter Terrorism  simulation at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Herzliya, where I teach the contemporary Iranian politics course.

I played Iran.

I thought I was going to play Khamenei, however upon coming on stage I was told that I am playing the part of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. I was then asked about Ahmadinejad’s reaction to Israel’s response to a terrorist attack from the Sinai, which included aerial attacks against Hamas and Salafist Jihadi targets in Gaza.

I had to refuse this role allocation. The reason is simple: here in Israel the press seems to think that Ahmadinejad sets defense and foreign policy in Iran.  The only place where Ahmadinejad commands such authority is in his dreams.

I emphasized that in reality these are Khamenei’s domains, and for the sake of accuracy I had to play him. The moderator kindly agreed.

What would Khamenei say and do in response to an Israeli retaliatory attack against Hamas and Jihadi targets in Gaza?

He would say much while doing nothing.

Currently Iran has bigger fish to fry. It has its relations with Egypt to consider, something which it badly wants to improve. It also has to think about its more immediate problems in Syria.

More important than all, Khamenei has the economy of the Islamic Republic to be concerned about. He needs his money at home more than ever before. Sanctions are biting and the infighting within the regime is continuing. Both problems could ultimately turn into existential threats, if unattended. Khamenei needs his money there. Hamas and Palestinians can wait, for a very long time. Perhaps for eternity. They stand no chance in competing with resources needed for regime stability.

The Israeli PM played his cards well.  All the time he had Iran on his mind. To him Hamas and the Jihadi movements were secondary, despite calls by at least one minister in his cabinet to invade not just Gaza but also the West Bank.

Instead he tried to contain the situation by working with the Egyptians and the Americans, while making sure the situation does not escalate by keeping the aerial attacks limited and the military on a tight leash. He used Israel’s military and diplomatic muscles simultaneously. Israeli smart power was on full display.

Israel’s imaginary PM at today’s simulation in fact did all the things that Khamenei would not have wanted him to do. I hope Israel’s real PM learns from him.

 

I will be Khamenei For a Day

12 Sep

Tomorrow I will play the part of the Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

It will be as part of the 2012 World Summit on Counter Terrorism which the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) will be holding.

As I teach the contemporary Iranian politics course there, they have asked me to act out Iran’s reactions and strategies in response to the following scenario:

Four rockets were launched from the Sinai Peninsula to the South of Israel: one rocket landed in an uninhabited field – making no damages or casualties, another rocket felt next to an energy facility – making no damages or casualties. However, the two other rockets reached the resort city of Eilat. One of these rockets targeted a Hotel in Eilat and killed 14 people and injured 52 people, while the second rocket reached another hotel and killed 3 people and injured 31.

The other players will be: Al Qaeda, Egypt, France, Hezbollah, Israel, Russia, Syria, Turkey, US and the UN.

I have my strategies and scenarios all set out.

What are they I hear you say?

Well, you will have to wait until tomorrow.

All I know is that it won’t be easy. It was a lot easier to play Iran prior to 2009.

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