ישראל נאמן | Lectures, Articles, Tours: Israel | Mideast onTarget | Elliot Chodoff & Yisrael Ne'eman | Some Gaza Conclusions

Some Gaza Conclusions

25 August 2014

By Yisrael Ne'eman.

Israel's Protective Edge Operation in Gaza is apparently not over but we can draw a few conclusions.

 There have been well over 5000 Israeli airstrikes resulting in some 2100 Palestinian deaths and 11,000 wounded.  These figures are from the Gaza Health Ministry and in comparison with all other organizations are the highest.  However these stats are the ones we will use for a bit of analysis.  Statistically much less than one Palestinian (approx: 0.4%) has been killed per Israeli airstrike in addition to two wounded, meaning Israel is extremely careful not to cause civilian casualties.  In addition over 26,000 artillery shells were fired (quite a few as smoke screens) bringing the amount of casualties per shell or bomb (both stats are added together) to at much less than half than the above statistics (0.2% killed and one wounded per strike).  Israel continues to drop tens of thousands of leaflets urging Palestinians to remove themselves from harm's way while Hamas demanded that civilians remain near the homes of the Hamas leadership to in effect act as "human shields" as demanded by Hamas representative Sami Abu Zuhri on Al-Aksa TV on July 8, the first day of the conflict. 

 Reportedly, one third of casualties are women and children (most obviously non-combatants) but over half of Gaza's population are children (under the age of 18).  Any accusations of "genocide" through the deliberate targeting of civilian populations by Israel are ludicrous.  If that were the case Israel would destroy civilian targets, especially multi-story apartment blocks, with no warning killing dozens with each strike.  Upon doing the math, the numbers would be astounding – 5,000 X 25 dead and 100 wounded per strike.   Genocide means the population is reduced quickly and drastically.  In 1967 Gaza had 270,000 residents.  Today the Palestinians claim a population of 1.8 million.  Gaza's population has increased over 6.6 times in the past 47 years, possibly the highest population growth in the world.  This whole accusation is the "Big Lie" but if repeated often enough many will begin to believe it.

 It is very difficult to confirm how many Hamas militants were killed with conflicting reports between Israel, Hamas, the UN and other groups offering statistics.  Hamas claims only 20% are their fighters while Israel claims some 900 Hamas militants have died, or well over 40%.   The UN speaks of some 30%.   The discrepancy arises when calculating the "unknown" group – young men of military age but not identifiable as members of Hamas.  In any case Hamas is hit hard but will continue the battle.  There will always be replacements and lest we forget Jihadi ideals are not up for sale or given to defeat as they are diocentric with full faith in Allah's demands for implementation.  Hamas has no qualms demanding that all Palestinian society sacrifice itself for the cause of Islam.  Hamas ideals are no different than those of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) but implementation is moderated as Ismail Haniya & Co. see themselves also as part of the Palestinian society and not necessarily at the physical vanguard of world Jihad.  They also govern a civil society even if through Sharia Law.

 On the Israeli side there are 68 dead (all soldiers except three civilians and a Thai worker) and hundreds wounded. Over four thousand Hamas rockets have been fired at Israel and so far the nine Iron Dome defensive systems (at $225 million each) are responsible for taking out hundreds of Palestinian rockets headed for Israeli population centers in Beersheva and the central Negev or the coastal cities of Ashkelon, Ashdod, Tel Aviv and the Dan region.  Thirty two Hamas tunnels heading under the Gaza-Negev border were discovered and destroyed by Israel thereby preventing major terrorist attacks.  In a Hamas raid from one tunnel five IDF soldiers were killed.

 On the economic side the Israeli economy has lost at least NIS 4.5 billion ($1.3 billion), another NIS 1 billion ($300 million) is already gone in taxes and estimated war costs so far add up to more than NIS 8 billion ($2.3 billion).  It is impossible to estimate the long term losses to tourism nation-wide, which are not confined to the south and center of the country.

 The Gaza GDP was always limited (about $500 million) and today is totally smashed.  Statistical estimates are almost impossible, whether before, during or after the conflict as accurate reporting of economic activity is difficult to estimate.  Much of the Gaza economy survived on the import-export of civilian goods and weapons through the Rafiah tunnels under the border with Egypt.  Cairo began closing these conduits already a year ago.  On the other hand 1,500 trucks came through Israel carrying civilian supplies during the first month of fighting and despite the continued conflict hundreds more are arriving each day.

 There is no doubt Israel is the military victor but such "victories" can prove pyrrhic, Israel must win on the political-diplomatic front, a much greater challenge.  First of all, politically too many people separate Gaza's population from Hamas.  The people of Gaza support Hamas (yes there is some opposition, but if discovered they are jailed or murdered), vote Hamas, and despise Fatah, the Palestinian Authority and its leader Mahmoud Abbas.  Israel and the West must stop separating Hamas from the people they represent.  Most Gazans oppose secular Palestinian nationalism and any long term compromise with Israel (permanent two-state solution).  At best they will agree to a hudna or Islamic cease-fire in the hope of one day re-igniting the conflict and gaining final victory. 

 Most Gazans favor Islamist Sharia Law, and by extension support the Hamas Covenant.  It is unclear how committed the average Palestinian living in Gaza is to the demand for Jewish destruction world-wide or what his attitude is towards a global Jihad.  One can expect only a minority to pro-actively demand and participate in the never ending battle against Israel and global Jihadi undertakings.  However there is no true opposition to Hamas and support for secular democratic ideals is negligible.  In any case public opinion polls are always suspect under conditions where freedoms are severely curtailed.  A better question may be asked, "How many Gazans support ISIS or ISIL (the Islamic State), their ideals and methods of implementation?"  We simply do not know.

 Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) are forced into supporting Hamas publicly but they are petrified by the continued daring of their Islamist adversaries in the never ending attempts to overthrow the western leaning PA government.  Just a few days ago it was announced that 93 Hamas operatives were arrested by Israel in the West Bank.  There was no PA condemnation of Israel, but rather Pres. Mahmoud Abbas explained that his security forces were examining the evidence and if found to be reliable Hamas would face the "consequences."

 So what should Israel do?  Recapturing the Gaza Strip is out of the question even if there may be a major ground operation to crush Hamas.  One can never totally capture Gaza, wiping out all of its terror cells, whether Hamas or otherwise.  Should Israel consider remaining in Gaza these Jihadi groups will enjoy continuing support from the people.  Lastly, such a wide range, in depth, long term operation will be extremely costly in casualties, material loss and international diplomatic credit.  As we know there are a few right wingers demanding such action but only with the full knowledge that no one is listening, except for their electorate.  Any tactical concessions on fishing limits, farming agricultural lands by the fence (often used for tunneling), financial transfers of funds with Israeli oversight or even a resupply of civilian commodities may be met with quiet on the border but only for a certain amount of time.  As Jihadis, Hamas and their allies view war as the eternal option to be used at one time or another.  Hamas will eventually concede a temporary setback whereby they will agree to a hudna or Islamic cease-fire (allowing for a re-start in the future) only should they lose the support of the people.  For this to happen there must be a clearly marked way "out," a sort of game changer, or change of the rules.

 One must not despair – we need to find answers and yes, they exist.  No, this is not the same game all over again.  Nowadays the moderate and mainly secular Arab regime interests are in facing down Islamic State threats and the desperate need to halt the Islamic Awakening.  They must re-solidify secular Arab nationalism as the alternative to Islamic fundamentalism.

 Many are speaking of "Demilitarization for Development" which in essence is a return to projects of the 1990s as advocated by Shimon Peres and a return to the Oslo Accords guidelines.  The Israeli right wing will deny this but they should read the Accords carefully and review the Labor demands of the PA in the 1990s.  This time however, such steps may be possible, especially demilitarization, if woven with Egyptian and international cooperation.   The possibility of developing the Gaza economy exists, in particular the construction of industrial zones not far from the border with Israel.  Such an undertaking must be done under an internationally supervised demilitarization regime.  Once there is quiet Israel can allow for the development of port facilities and air links as there were in Dahaniya in the late 1990s. 

 The bottom line is that the Oslo principles are not dead but rather they need a different format.  No longer are the 1990s simultaneous exchanges of "Land for Peace" (journalistic jargon) or "Sovereignty for Security" (the reality of the situation) acceptable.   Israel must guarantee its own security with international cooperation.  Only afterwards can there be development and sovereignty on the Palestinian side.