It’s been a busy few months on the Israeli-Gaza border, with repeated attempts by the Palestinians to break into Israeli territory, and Hamas also increasingly using so-called ‘terror balloons’ (small explosives attached to balloons) to launch minor attacks on Israeli border outposts, in order to provoke a reaction. We’ve all seen the footage of Israeli Troops gunning down Palestinians recently, which only serves to up the tension.
Then a few days ago, Israeli Special Forces launched a covert commando raid into the Gaza strip itself, with some claiming that the objective was to take out a top Hamas commander. Whatever the aim, the operation ran into difficulty and an Israeli Lieutenant Colonel was killed in action, with one of his men being wounded.
The next day Hamas began its biggest rocket offensive ever, launching over 300 rockets at Israel with a bus and several homes reportedly being hit. Israel responded with both air and naval power, hitting strategic areas in the Gaza strip. It is believed that over 100 targets were hit by the Israelis, including Hamas’s own Al-Aqsa television network headquarters.
Israel’s security cabinet has two ‘ceasefire contacts’, which they rely on for negotiations during periods of conflict with the Palestinians. The ceasefire contacts are the United Nations and Egypt. Whilst the UN is heavily involved on the ground in the Gaza Strip, Egypt takes a more distant role, and is actually helping Israel in blockading Gaza. Cairo has over the last few years been fighting a war against Islamists in the Sinai Peninsular, with many of those Islamists receiving shelter and training in Gaza.
The infamous Iron Dome system built and deployed by Israel intercepted and destroyed most of the rockets before they reached their intended targets, but some got through. Hamas had threatened to use long-range rockets in the future if necessary, with such projectiles possibly reaching over the 40KM mark.
The key calculation the Israeli government makes in these situations is how many military objectives they can possibly accomplish before their economy takes too much of a toll to carry on. This is usually around 2-4 weeks and gives Benjamin Netanyahu more than enough time to damage Hamas and keep them from fighting another war for at least another 3 years. What’s certain is that Hamas has developed a more confident mentality over the last 6 months, and seems intent on causing maximum impact. But at the same time, it is not stupid enough to risk being toppled from power, or causing so much chaos in the region that it loses favor with its regional allies.
This is why it agreed to a temporary ceasefire on Tuesday, something which went down well in the battered Gaza Strip. However, it did not go down so well in Israel where border communities went out into the streets and blocked roads. From their perspective, they are fed up with continuous rocket attacks; and they want a final, great conflict to end any threat from the Gaza Strip. Indeed Israel is so nationalistic that students refused to attend high school in protest over what they saw as their government’s weakness.
This discontent escalated over the proceeding night and into the following morning and caused political ramifications that few had foreseen. Avigdor Liberman, the Israeli Defence Minister, resigned in protest over the ceasefire on Wednesday, and called it a ‘surrender to terror’. Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife are already under investigation by the authorities, and any political instability makes it a possibility that he will be toppled from power. Having said that, Netanyahu held firm immediately after his colleague’s resignation and hinted that not only would he stay as Prime Minister, but that he would also take Liberman’s job as Defence Minister. This is hilariously mad, for the simple reason that he is already Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Health Minister and Immigrant Absorption Minister. On top of that, he is also a member of the Knesset (Israeli Parliament) and is the head of the Likud Party. Very Machiavellian indeed!
In a further plot twist it was reported that MBS (Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman) tried to persuade Netanyahu to instigate a conflict with Gaza in order to distract attention away from the infamous Khashoggi murder. It may seem counter-intuitive that a Muslim nation like Saudi Arabia would be so close to the Jewish state of Israel, but they are both sworn enemies of Iran, and their intelligence agencies are joined at the hip.
Perhaps it is not surprising to somebody familiar with the Jewish question that the Tribe’s own nation can experience so much turmoil in just a few days, but it is interesting nonetheless.