On social media, some have jokingly anticipated call-up of the IDF reserves and preparations for a new military operation in Gaza. Knowing the precedent in similar past circumstances, I expect the chances of a major incursion into Gaza at better than 50-50. To spare the IDF the trouble, I’ve already named it: Operation Punching Bag.
Yediot’s Alex Fishman alludes to this in today’s column. Here he writes of a potential Gaza connection:
If say, the IDF destroys the building in which the kidnappers are hiding, or if it continues attacking Gaza from the air, Hamas will not be able to continue biting its lip. Then Israel will not shed a tear or resist the option to strike, thus reminding the world of Hamas’s real image as a terrorist entity. And at the precise moment when Hamas returns fire, we’ll then be in the heart of battle. That will help the world to forget the days of the non-violent Palestinian unity government.
It’s no accident that the IDF moved an Iron Dome battery to Ashdod. There is an expectation at a certain point that Hamas will make a mistake. The expectation of such a mistake will prime the IDF for a [military] response. Israel has been following for some time Hamas’ arming itself with hundreds of long-distance missiles which threaten Tel Aviv. From its [Israel’s] perspective, this presents a golden opportunity: both to destroy the image of the Palestinian unity government and deal with Hamas’ rocket arsenal.
This is precisely the sort of grandiose thinking which got Olmert into the Lebanon war mess in 2006 and the Operation Cast Lead mess in 2009. It’s the notion that every few years Israel has to “mow the grass” represented by Hamas, as if this was regular lawn maintenance and not an assault on real human beings. Just as a hammer never sees any problem except as a nail meant to be struck, so Israel never sees Palestine as anything but a military problem whose solution is more force. This bankruptcy of strategic thinking leads to nothing but misery for the victims and Israel itself. Because Israel has reached a certain phase in which it cannot use its military power without losing. The more power it uses the worse Israel’s image becomes. So while Alex Fishman and the IDF think they’re going to tarnish the Palestinian unity government’s image, they’re really going to do the most damage to Israel.
I think that Bibi doesn’t mind this very much. He doesn’t care what the world thinks of Israel, as long as it thinks just as badly of the Palestinians. He has so far succeeded in this. The world may think Israelis are butchers during wartime, but it hasn’t come round to the idea that the victims are worthy of outrage or urgent action. As long as such a gap exists, Bibi’s content.
Netanyahu began today’s cabinet meeting with the breathless news that Hamas is responsible for the kidnapping of the three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank:
Israel believes that Hamas, or an Islamist cell linked to it, is responsible for the kidnapping
It doesn’t matter that the army hasn’t publicly breathed a word about any of this. Bibi has his own intelligence which tells him what he needs to know (or wants to believe). Blaming Hamas kills several Palestinian birds with one stone. Note that “an Islamic cell linked to it” covers virtually any militant operating anywhere in Gaza or the West Bank (or anywhere in the world, for that matter). Let Israel not be constrained by reason or moderation.
Not a single piece of evidence has been offered to support this claim, nor will any ever be. Gullible Israelis believe virtually anything their generals and politicians tell them regarding Palestinians. Normal standards of proof are unnecessary.
Sheera Frenkel quotes Israeli and Palestinian sources with a much different story to tell:
The kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers was likely carried out by a small group of militants with no direct orders from Hamas, ISIS, or any other regional terror group, said senior Israeli and Palestinian officials Sunday.
“What we do know, is that this was likely an opportunistic move. The men behind this may have ties to a larger terror group, but this does not have the markings of a well-planned, complex operation…”
So in weighing who to believe, Bibi’s source or Frenkel’s, I’ll take hers all the time.
Blaming Hamas serves many useful political purposes. First, Bibi needs to throw the U.S. and international community off its “blame Israel” narrative regarding the failure of the Kerry peace talks. If he can associate the Palestinians with terrorism then they won’t associate Israel with rejectionism. Second, the Palestinian unity government, which has been gaining favorable reviews from foreign governments, will look like terror-lovers. Third, Netanyahu, who just suffered an ignominious political defeat when Reuven Rivlin, won the Israeli presidency despite Bibi’s machinations, will be politically relevant once again.
There is clear evidence of police ineptitude in managing the case. The victims called 911 and were able to say that they’d been kidnapped before they went silent. Then one of the parents called an emergency police hotline. A patrol car responded to the scene of the kidnapping an hour after the call. But by then, the kidnappers and victims were gone. Neither one of these calls elicited the proper response and authorities lost four hours in beginning their search.
Readers of this blog won’t be surprised by police malfeasance. They don’t seem able to prevent or resolve many cases involving Israeli perpetrators (though they have a better record in resolving Palestinian crimes since they’re more motivated to do so). Remember the Bar Noar gay massacre? Not to mention hundreds of price tag attacks, almost none of which have been investigated, let alone prosecuted. The murders of two Israeli policemen, for which Jack Teitel was once suspected, also have not been solved.
In response to the kidnapping and Israel’s inability to quickly solve it, I expect a broad military adventure in Gaza. It is Bibi’s punching bag whenever he needs someone to blame. After the Eilat terror attack, Israel murdered the head of the Gaza militant group which Israel falsely blamed for the attack. 30 innocent Gazans died on the altar of Bibi’s expedience.
Perhaps the most troubling official statement was this one by senior minister Naftali Bennett:
“…From the dawn of Zionism, the Arabs and Islam are out to kill Jews. We shouldn’t be confused or beat ourselves up.”
This is nothing less than the Protocols of the Elders of Arabia. Disgusting Islamophobia. Israel can be proud to have leaders spewing such malevolent hatred all over the Israel and international airwaves.
Along the same lines, Israelis have created a Facebook page dedicated to the proposition that Israel should kill a Palestinian terrorist every hour until the Israeli kidnap victims are returned. The page has 16,000 Likes.