Even at this point it is possible to assess that this time a number of things have been different to what some people expected and to what happened in the past.
Of course some things have not changed at all, such as Hamas’ determination to attempt to terrorise and destroy all of Israel whether inside or outside the Green Line; and its continuing desire to maximise Palestinian suffering and casualties for public relations benefit.
As Prime Minister Netanyahu said:
“Here’s the difference between us. We’re using missile defense to protect our civilians, and they’re using their civilians to protect their missiles.”
Prime Minister Netanyahu demonstrated what his critics have never been able to see, that rather than being an aggressive leader looking for a chance to retake Gaza or to harm Palestinians, he is as he has always been, a cautious leader very uneager to take large scale military action.
In November 2012 (Pillar of Defense) despite calling up reserves, PM Netanyahu did not send troops into Gaza unlike in Dec 2008 (Cast Lead) when Israel was led by the so called “dovish” Ehud Olmert.
The first major change this time was the ability of Hamas to launch so many rockets and with such a range so that virtually all of Israel was under attack.
In the first 10 days, Israel responded largely with aerial attacks and make no mistake, these attacks, as in the past, were preceded by warnings no other army on earth has hereto employed to attempt to avoid civilian casualties on the other side.
Netanyahu was aided in this of course by the really miraculous success of Iron Dome the second major change.
Iron Dome, paid for by the United States under the financial initiative of President Obama and an Israeli invention, has achieved many things including:
– the outright saving of life, of many many lives
– the strengthening of the belief that Israel can protect her citizens, with the consequent uplift in morale
– enabling Netanyahu the “luxury” of patience and caution.
Iron Dome could also have avoided the necessity for the ground incursion had Hamas agreed to a cease-fire.
It is clear now that Hamas wanted to bring Israel into Gaza itself. This was done by not accepting the Egyptian cease fire which Israel did and with Hamas’ gross violation of the 2 humanitarian truces requested by Hamas itself.
Hamas was prepared for this ground operation and perhaps surprised Israel with its ability to continue to not only fire rockets, but to infiltrate Israel repeatedly via the incredibly extensive and sophisticated tunnel system.
A tunnel system largely built with Israeli and aid organization supplied concrete and materials that should have been used for the welfare of the Palestinians in Gaza.
A tunnel system that seems to have been gearing up for a multi pronged mega terror attack not too far down the track.
Another big change of course is the leadership in Egypt which is openly hostile to Hamas and has no interest in seeing Hamas survive with its operational abilities intact.
But it is not only Egypt.
The Arab League, the Palestinian Authority, individual Arab countries, the European Union, the United States and all western governments generally placed the blame squarely on Hamas and at least until the ground incursion, mostly praised Israel.
Of course yet another big change was the unity that initially appeared at the time of the kidnapping of those 3 poor boys Naftali (16 years old), Gilad (16) and Eyal (19) the cry that was heard all over Israel that there was “no difference between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.”
The symbolism of these 2 cities is generally used to describe the divisions within Israeli society, not the unity,so it’s a powerful statement.
There was great unity of feeling over that atrocity – whether they wore kippot or not and whether they were kidnapped and murdered over the Green Line or not.
And this has continued in terms of the current war.
Unity is one of a democracy’s greatest strategic assets
There is unity within Israel that this is a necessary war. That the sacrifices are necessary to avoid even great sacrifices in the future, that this is a moral war and that Israel is behaving – even with all of the ugly pictures –with maximum restraint and yes, with maximum respect for human life – no matter how willing Hamas is to sacrifice Gazans.
The Hamas leadership expressed its frustration when asking:
“where is the Goldstone Report this time?????”.
This time extremist Jewish groups in Israel are not yet crying out for international pressure on Israel and this time Jewish funded Israeli Arab advocacy organisations are almost silent as well. For how long is the question.
This time groups like J-Street and others have been completely sidelined and exposed by Hamas for the unrealistic views they hold.
It is no longer pc for such groups to undermine Israel’s actions.
And this is a direct result of the unity of Israelis and of the way in which PM Netanyahu has managed the situation, possibly the best job he has done from virtually all aspects,in his entire career.
Notwithstanding all of the above, as the civilian death toll mounts, world pressure on Israel increases.
However it is clear that ultimately it will be Hamas who will determine when a cease fire will occur.
As I said previously, Hamas seems to have wanted to lure Israel into Gaza, the question is at what point in time will Hamas feel that the damage and suffering it has brought upon Gazans will be worth the price or be able to spin that it was?
Ridiculous and one sided resolutions such as that of the UNHRC last night is an example of precisely what Hamas is waiting for in the public relations arena.
It is to be hoped that this time some well meaning but naïve Jewish groups do not play into Hamas’ hand and join the Israel bashing brigade on the premise of humanitarian concerns.
Those really concerned for the lives of the Palestinians in Gaza, rather than looking for yet another excuse to attack Israel, need to place the blame where it belongs.
Hamas is directly and deliberately responsible for the civilian deaths – rarely have events been so blindingly clear.
Hamas does not want a truce as yet because it is hoping for world pressure on Israel, because it is hoping that the West Bank will ignite if they can continue the war and because they are still hoping to succeed with an event large enough to depress and demoralise.
In these time more than ever our thoughts and prayers are with those risking their lives on behalf of Jewish survival.
Israeli journalist David Horovitz put it into perspective when he wrote:
We’re frustrated about all that now too, but it’s not our preoccupation. For we find ourselves at war with an Islamic extremist group utterly committed to killing us, at whatever cost, delighting in the evil it wreaks upon us, indifferent to the devastation it brings down upon.
But far too much of Hamas’s capacity to do us harm remains intact. And it is relentlessly seeking to do us murderous harm. So what preoccupies us right now is one simple, essential imperative: to prevail.”
Dr Ron Weiser AM