I had a rare opportunity to be (mostly) detached from the media - both TV and radio - for the duration of the Pillar of Cloud (for some reason dubbed differently by the media). Still, I had to watch the mutual backscratching appearances by Bibi, Barack and Lieberman, each one lauding his own achievements during the operation and thanking the other two for their support.
One detail that may have escaped two of the speakers, Bibi and Barack, was especially foreboding: Israeli citizens watching them on the local channels have also seen and heard the air defense warnings breaking into the speeches and, in what became a routine during the days of the operation, announcing rocket launches from Gaza and the areas where people should take cover asap.
The trio did their puny best, trying to milk whatever they could from what is emerging out of the Cloud as an unmitigated disaster that will follow us all for years to come. They cannot make us forget the true old maxim: don't start something you can't finish. And never get into a situation from which you don't have at least one prepared in advance exit.
The trio had started something without considering enough the consequences and without having an acceptable exit strategy. As a result we are facing a military, political and financial calamity that, while seeming to be relatively minor, is carrying long term effects that will go deep and be very painful.
The biggest mystery of the operation is in its interpretation. If, as our Chief of Staff, Benny Gantz, claimed, all the objectives laid out ahead of Operation Pillar of Defense were met successfully during the eight days of fighting, why then the hugely expensive mobilization of almost 70,000 reservists? To impress Hamas? Hamas leaders are not easily impressed by threats of this kind, just the opposite - they thrive on new "shahids", especially when the inevitable civilian toll caused by a ground operation rises.
The only sensible explanation of the about-turn executed by our leadership on the ground operation is presented by Rob aka JoshuaPundit (see "Political" below).
There is no doubt that during the weeks leading to the Pillar of Cloud the intensity of both rocket attacks and ground provocations from Gaza increased quite drastically. On the other hand, there is no doubt whatsoever that while Hamas, closely followed by the bevy of other "freedom fighting" outfits like PFLP, Islamic Jihad, Popular Committee for this or for that etc., is the ruling force in Gaza, the attacks will never cease, varying in intensity from week to week.
As in previous rounds of violence, Gazan rocket scientists didn't present anything serious that changes the game. The Fajr-5 rockets introduced to the scene this time, while having a larger range, have a drawback of being more easily identified, located and subsequently destroyed by IAF, which by and large is what has happened. And of course, militarily speaking, IDF is easily able to kick Hamas to kingdom come on any given day - provided IDF is allowed to do its job. Which it wasn't allowed to, as in many other cases in Israel's relatively short history.
As far as public perception goes, Hamas won this round. Their depleted stock of Qassam rockets will be replenished fairly quickly with Iranian sponsorship, their killed operatives (including the late and unlamented Ahmed Jabari) are already replaced by new and eager martyrs-to-be, and the cycle of violence will be restarted fairly soon, as we all know and fully expect. Yes, there is a considerable damage to infrastructure and buildings, but when did Hamas care about that? Aside of using the bombed buildings as background for photo-ops, of course...
And when I mention public perception, this time I mean the Israeli public as well. Not many people remember Bibi's solemn election promise of 2009 to eradicate Hamas, but who remembers (or believes) election promises? However the current sentiment regarding the results of the Pillar of Cloud is quite clear.
After a painful concession on Iran, offered by Bibi to Obama (or, rather, forced by Obama on Bibi) before the US elections, which concession's details are still hidden by the veil of secrecy, another political defeat by Bibi raised its ugly head, according to Rob:
But then the Obama Administration intervened.I don't know how precise the above version of events is in its details, but by and large it is the only one that makes any sense.
They were perfectly happy for Israel to go in to Gaza and take out Hamas, but insisted that they then turn Gaza over to the Palestinian Authority. This was supposed to strengthen PA President Mahmoud Abbas as 'Palestine's savior' . [And] as a kicker, President Obama insisted that Israel immediately declare a Palestinian State in Gaza and most of Judea and Samaria, including areas currently under Israeli sovereignty from which the Jewish residents would then be removed. These were also to be turned over to Abbas.
If the Israelis were unwilling to have the IDF do Mahmoud Abbas' dirty work for him and then give up large areas populated by Jews, then the Obama Administration told the Israelis the U.S. would not back an IDF ground assault in Gaza.
So they Israelis took the ceasefire, essentially meaning that Hamas is going to be left in place to regroup and fight another day. And can claim a victory.
Whatever the reason, Hamas' political strength has indeed underwent a surge. Not only is Hamas able (with good enough reasons) claim a victory, hollow as it may look in military terms to an unprejudiced observer - Hamas' international position, especially in Muslim countries, chief of them Egypt and Turkey, was elevated to a practical acceptance as a political partner, while the PA and its leader, Mahmoud Abbas with his current stance of non-violence, lost a lot of ground to the victorious Hamas. The mere fact that Egypt's PM visited Gaza during the Pillar of Cloud, without even a nod in the direction of Ramallah, must hurt Abbas terribly, and this is only a small taster of things to come. Who is willing to bet that PA, looking at the success of their terrorist Gazan brethren, wouldn't be inspired to follow suit in due time? After all, they didn't get much out of the currently reigning calm, so why shouldn't they try the other approach?
No matter how far from the truth is Hamas' boasting about their military prowess, the other result of the operation, which is the truce agreement, supports their claims of victory. Hamas won a promise to open the border with Egypt, to review the list of materials allowed to be transported to Gaza via the border crossings with Israel, to expand the fishing area. So why wouldn't Hamas claim a political as well as military victory? They have won this round by any criteria.
And if, as a senior Hamas functionary claims, the ceasefire agreement between Israel and Hamas which ended Operation Pillar of Defense does not include Egyptian guarantees to prevent the smuggling of weapons to Gaza, the whole operation doesn't make any practical sense.
But the most painful lesson of the operation is the growing submission of our leaders to the wishes and orders from the White House. Without going into analysis of whether this submission is good or bad, the fact is that fiercely independent (in his speeches) Bibi is becoming a mere puppet of White House, State Department and (probably) various other branches of power in Washington.
Financials of wartime
Of course, relatively speaking, this was a short operation, however the damage to the property, loss of working days due to the call-up of reserves and the cost of the call-up, the direct expenses of the IAF and related branches, the Iron Dome missiles etc. During the time when Israeli economy is contracting as it does lately, with shrinking income from taxes, the financing of the whole affair wouldn't be a simple issue, what with IDF demanding (and, as usual, receiving) more financing to cope with the future threats.
The only visible ray of light is the success of the Iron Dome, but the financial successes stemming from future sales of this defensive wonder to the international customers are still far away to be meaningful.
As for Hamas financials: the answer is already forthcoming:
Less than a week after the conclusion of Operation Pillar of Defense, and with Hamas boasting of an imminent increase in military aid from Iran, Israeli satellites have spotted a ship at the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas being loaded with rockets and other military supplies ostensibly bound for Gaza, the British Sunday Times has reported.And:
Senior Hamas figure Mahmoud al-Zahar on Saturday said that Iran will increase the military and economic aid to Gazan groups because of the victory Hamas claims against Israel in Operation Pillar of Defense.Next round is already looming, the only question is timing.
And this is the way it goes.
As a side remark: some people have done an excellent work on the operation on Wiki. While not free of sudden changes and some political infighting, the article is definitely worth your attention.