When it comes to the game of forces between the military echelon and the political echelon on the Gaza issue, the hidden rabbi over the revelation. From time to time, however, a statement or document sheds light on the tension between the pragmatic approach, mainly the defense establishment, and the hawkish approach of the Netanyahu government.
In October 2017, an extraordinary article was published in the IDF's "Systems" magazine . The article caused a stir in the public system, not only because of its content – written in careful language – but mainly because of its authors: Palestinians, Col. Michael Milstein.
Under the headline "Six brigades or two million people? How did Operation Resilient Cliff change Israel's way of looking at the Gaza Strip," Mordechai and Milstein described the confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the summer of 2014, which claimed the lives of more than 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis, not as "a product of planning, of preparation and of orderly intentions on both sides, but of degeneration into a large-scale conflict, in which neither side wanted and towards which neither side was held." As in the First World War, they added, "both sides rolled into a campaign […] that stemmed fundamentally from a miscalculation and a lack of mutual strategic clarity."
For Hamas, the reason for extending the operation to 50 days was the desire to extract from Israel a political achievement in the field of freedom of civil movement and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip, Mordechai and Milstein wrote. Hamas remained determined to maintain its political rule in the Gaza Strip, and fought with all its might to maintain its position and divert internal unrest toward Israel. If so, it was not religious ideology that motivated Hamas to attack Israel, but much more political and everyday needs.
In the summary of the article, the two pointed to two emerging approaches in Israel regarding the ongoing crisis in Gaza: on the one hand, those who support the "establishment of a strategic series" with Hamas, whose main point is a ceasefire ("Hudna", "Tahada") Tensions with the Palestinian Authority and Egypt will help Hamas establish its political hold on the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, those who are in favor of increasing the involvement of the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip – regaining control of the border crossings, presence in the border area and control of civilian centers in the Gaza Strip (infrastructure and civilian offices). This alternative – which the writers doubted was possible – could gradually create a governmental alternative to Hamas. However, the writers seem to have blatantly ignored a third alternative, which has already gained a foothold in Israeli political discourse, and can be briefly called the "collapse of the Hamas regime."
Even before Avigdor Lieberman took office in the Ministry of Defense in April 2015, he promised that when he was appointed, "there would be a final campaign against Hamas." During a visit to the Enrichment Route the day before the 2015 elections, Lieberman criticized Prime Minister Netanyahu's soft hand against Hamas. "Eliminating the rule of Hamas is the first task of the Israeli government and I will do it as defense minister. We will not reach agreements and understandings with them. The only agreement that can be reached with Hamas is when they are buried underground."
Similar things were said by Education Minister and cabinet member Naftali Bennett in the previous cabinet. In a speech at the inauguration of the Ariel Medical School, Bennett compared Hamas' demand for salaries to its officials in exchange for a lull along the border fence, to the Italian mafia's attempts to blackmail: "Whoever surrenders to protection will bring war on us. Israel must not succumb to Hamas protection threats." He added, however, that the attack he recommended did not necessarily involve a ground invasion of Gaza. As early as 2014, during Operation Eitan, Bennett said that the collapse of the Hamas regime was on the agenda for him, but did not offer a governmental alternative to Gaza.
The arrogant words of Ministers Lieberman and Bennett cost them politically, but proved how acute the "Gaza problem" is in the consciousness of the Israeli public. In his resignation speech in November 2018, Lieberman explained that he had failed to fulfill his election promises, led by the collapse of Hamas, and sharply criticized the transfer of aid funds from Qatar to Hamas. "Everyone knew what my positions were when I entered the government, but it is impossible to prevent any offensive activity in Gaza and the next day to ask what suddenly 48 hours have passed and Haniyeh is still alive," he said.
The day after Lieberman's resignation, Bennett demanded that he receive the defense portfolio as a condition of his stay in government, so that "Israel will return forever." "For decades our systems have gone into mental fixation and avoidance of contact with the enemy. Perception of disconnection. The enemy calls us and he interprets it as fear of fighting. The most dangerous thing for Israel is that we began to think there was no solution to terrorism, terrorists, missiles," Bennett said. "We have an excellent army, dedicated commanders and a first-rate chief of staff. At the same time, the role of the defense minister is to challenge thinking, to bring innovation, to create creative and surprising alternatives […] the role of the defense minister is to lead policy and not be led. "Two days later, Bennett gave up his demand and remained in government.
In March 2019, with the election campaign heated up, bright Bennett whom he leads the feeble policy against Hamas: IDF's senior command, binds the fighters and commanders in the field. A series of tweets , Bennett attacked the Benny Gantz, chief of staff performing a rock and a rival Political, and called it "the wet dream of the Hamas people" and "the hesitant general." Even outside the political system were attacking the IDF unwillingness to defeat Hamas. In an article published on the site of the conservative "measure" applies Dan Sion, reserve lieutenant colonel and former squadron commander, the leak – in the midst of performing a rock – a presentation of the IDF secret " It estimates that clearing Gaza of offensive weapons will take five years, collect thousands of Palestinian victims, and cost the Israeli economy NIS 10 billion.
"Is the IDF unable to defeat Hamas in the Gaza Strip (at a reasonable price) as presented, or does it not want to?" Sion asked in the article, choosing the latter option. 'He recoils from space and prefers technological solutions and weapons on the other hand over making contact with enemy soldiers. "The IDF, which is influenced by civil society organizations, adapts itself to the media discourse of the social elites and prefers to engage in 'managing the conflicts' over their decision, and is willing to settle for a 'victory picture' over an actual victory."
Contrary to Sion's words, however, the pragmatic approach to Hamas is not the result of postmodern pressure exerted on the military by civil society organizations, but stems from the heart of the security establishment. In an interview with Gali Tzahal in May 2018, former GSS chief Yoram Cohen said that it is not Islamist messianism that drives Hamas' considerations, but his desire to be "a state like all other states, to be a people like all other peoples." Instead of overthrowing the Hamas regime, the former GSS chief recommended improving the economic situation in the Gaza Strip.
He said similar things to the residents of the Gaza Strip, his predecessor in the position of Cohen, Yuval Diskin, a few months after Operation Eitan. "The Gaza Strip needs to be better economically, " Diskin told residents of Kibbutz Bari in November 2014. "It should be seen that they do not use materials that go in favor of weapons. I think if we and the international community take care to create economic projects in the Strip, then Hamas will prefer the situation. This is about fighting. "
The most "positive" attitude toward Hamas is presented by Maj. Gen. (Res.) Giora Island, former head of the IDF Operations Division and head of the National Security Council. "Israel should encourage peace and economic well-being in the Gaza Strip. Island believes that it does not make sense to transfer aid money to Gaza through the Palestinian Authority." In an article in Yedioth Ahronoth in March 2018, he added –
The more this is done, the more power plants, desalination facilities or sewage rescue projects will be built in Gaza – the more restrained the Hamas government will be. I am familiar with the claim that Hamas will use the aid only to build more tunnels, but my argument is the opposite: this is what is actually happening in recent years, because they are not negotiating with Hamas and are not directly given the money or the means. Hamas will invest more in civilian infrastructure if it is recognized as a de facto state, and if agreements are made with it that will require strict supervision of the concrete and other means that will enter the Strip.
In his opinion, the political split between Hamas and Fatah is a Palestinian problem that has no solution in the foreseeable future, and it even serves Israeli interests.
A similar dynamic between the military and the political echelon can also be found in Hamas. While Hamas military spokesman Abu 'Abida consistently supports the armed struggle and individual actions in the West Bank and sees them as the only option for fighting Israel, leaders from the political echelon, such as Hassan Yussef and member of the political bureau (and negotiating team with Israel) Hossam Badran, also stress the need In a political outline, in the spirit of Israel's recognition of the borders of the Green Line that appears in the Hamas document from 2007.
Israel's unwillingness to recognize Hamas is reminiscent of the refusal to recognize the PLO, led by Yasser Arafat, until the early 1990s. importance:
- Contacts between elements in the Israeli left and PLO representatives during the 1980s. In this context, it is possible to mention the meetings of Uri Avnery, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Matti Peled, Luba Eliav and others.
- The decision of the Palestinian National Council in November 1988 "to move in an intifada from the stone stage, in the battlefield, to the stage of political initiative, when the Palestinian side will adopt a technique of creation and initiative."
- A change in the US administration's attitude in December 1988, immediately after the Palestinian National Council's decision to open a dialogue with the PLO. According to researcher Moshe Shemesh, following the outbreak of the first intifada, the Americans expected a change in Israel's position. He said the change was a "strategic turnaround in the United States' position." A few weeks earlier, a group of American Jews had met with Yasser Arafat in Stockholm, mediated by Foreign Minister Anderson.
- The change of government in Israel following the 1992 elections, in which Yitzhak Rabin defeated Yitzhak Shamir on the basis of a political platform calling for an agreement with the Palestinians.
One of the factors that enabled Israelis to recognize the PLO is the identification of the gradual change in the organization's position: first the decision to restrict military operations to the territories of Israel (and not to operate abroad), and finally, the 1988 Palestinian Declaration of Independence. A similar gradual change has taken place in Hamas – from the militant treaty of 1988 to the more conciliatory document of 2007. Will Israel recognize the opportunity inherent in this?
Pigeons in government, hawks in the army
Despite the above, the dichotomous distinction between a hawkish political system and an Ionian security system is incorrect. Even within the Netanyahu government's cabinet, pragmatic voices are being heard that clearly speak of the futility of a military solution in Gaza and support civilian reconstruction of the Gaza Strip. On the other hand, there are voices in the defense establishment that challenge the need for Israel to secede from the Gaza Strip and claim that the unwillingness to reconsider the occupation of Gaza strengthens Hamas.
For example, during a round of fighting between the IDF and Hamas in May 2018, Minister of Transportation and Intelligence and Cabinet member Israel Katz said that "we have nothing to look for in Gaza. Israel does not want to enter Gaza. "" There is an Israeli policy with red lines. I propose beyond this policy another strategic move that will enable a better reality vis-à-vis Gaza, free us from civilian responsibility, give them civilian spending not at our expense, not through us, and concentrate solely on preventing the military threat. "The IDF is capable of anything, but there is no proposal on the table as an Israeli policy," Katz said. "I say a very simple thing: let's say goodbye to Gaza. Let's allow them a way out into the world under security. This is not a reward for Hamas, this is an award for Israel. I do not want to give the keys to two million people to Hamas by imprisoning and closing them."
Half a year later, following clashes between the IDF and Hamas after a failed operation by an elite unit deep in the Gaza Strip, Cabinet member Yuval Steinitz said that the government "does not want to be dragged into an unnecessary war that has no strategic goals, real for us." The political echelon of the security echelon on the Gaza question, emphasizing the heavy price of property and property involved in the occupation of Gaza and the collapse of Hamas.
On the other hand, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Gershon HaCohen, former commander of the military colleges and now a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center, claimed in an article published in Israel Today that Hamas has no interest in moderating when it knows Israel will never overthrow it. "The Israeli necessity in preserving the separation achieved in Gaza is an element in the tract of factors that caught us in the trap. This is what created the pointlessness assumption in the attack on Gaza: why re-occupy if you want to leave and part again in the 'they are there and we are here?'" The priest wondered . "Prime Minister Netanyahu, who is seeking refuge from the two-state trend on an overall basis, has an interest in the formation of an independent Hamas state in Gaza and it is precisely he who deserves to preserve the current regime there.
Until the political system decides between the two approaches, it seems that the Netanyahu government is operating in a method of "going with and feeling without." Along with militant threats to overthrow Hamas and rounds of fighting of varying intensities, the government approved in January a transfer of millions of dollars to Hamas to pay salaries to officials and needy families. Israel continues to communicate with the Hamas leadership through the mediation of representatives of Qatar and Egypt, and sometimes through European governments, such as Germany and Norway . When the contacts between the Europeans and Hamas take place without the consent of Israel, the latter reacts sharply. For example, in November 2017 , Defense Minister Lieberman banned the entry of Swiss representatives into Gaza, after official Swiss diplomats met with the Hamas leadership in the Gaza Strip.
However, contacts for a long-term settlement mediated by Egypt are taking place regardless of the rounds of escalation. Thus, days after the firing of two missiles at Tel Aviv, in an action defined by Hamas as a "mistake" (a definition approved by Israeli security officials), Israel again discussed easing the Gaza Strip during the settlement talks.
The complex attitude of the countries of the world towards Hamas
The global system's approach to Hamas continues to be guided by the 2006 International Peace Quartet Decision (Russia, the United States, the United Nations and the European Union) to recognize the movement only if it meets three basic conditions: recognition of Israel, recognition of agreements signed and abandonment of the armed struggle. This is how the EU and most Western countries define Hamas as a terrorist organization and avoid official contacts with it, however, Russia and China do not consider Hamas a terrorist organization, while Australia, New Zealand and Britain distinguish their laws between the organization's military arm and its political arm.
The quartet's rigid policy toward Hamas following its victory in the January 2006 general election in the Gaza Strip was not self-evident. James Wolfensohn, the quartet's envoy to the Middle East, resigned after less than a year in office, fearing that the restrictions imposed on Hamas – in particular the repeal of the transition agreement and the confiscation of Palestinian tax money – would prevent him from fulfilling his duties as required.
There are also quite a few voices in the American and European research community calling for the recognition of Hamas. As early as 2006, a few months after winning the election, Henry Sigman , a Palestinian political researcher at the prestigious Council on Foreign Relations Research Institute , identified moderation trends in Hamas (especially due to its decision to stop funding suicide bombings) and called on Israel and the United States to come to terms. He quoted former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevi, who called for fighting Hamas terrorism and at the same time allowing its integration into the Palestinian political system.
Similar things were written in 2010 by Daniel Beaman, a senior researcher at the Brookings Institution. In an article published in the journal Foreign Affairs , Yemen claimed that the conditions for recognizing Hamas dictated by President George W. Bush in 2006 had been lost. Yemen wrote that the Obama administration had continued Bush's boycott policy as a "default," adding that Israeli policy "remained stuck in the past." Biman suggested that Israel place a more sophisticated system of "sticks and carrots" in front of Hamas, which would encourage it to cooperate. "Hamas is here to stay. Refusing to come into contact with it will only worsen the situation: the Palestinian moderates will be weakened and Hamas will be strengthened," Biman wrote. Nearly a decade after these things were written, Biemann's prophecy of rage seems to have come true.
Despite minority views in both camps, there is a deep gap between the position of the security establishment and the position of the Netanyahu government in relation to Hamas in Gaza. The mainstream of senior IDF commanders and the heads of the General Security Service support a pragmatic position ranging from economic reconstruction of the Gaza Strip to official recognition of the Hamas administration; The Israeli and Palestinian interest in advancing the peace process – put Israel in a diplomatic bracket that makes it difficult for it to show greater flexibility in relation to Hamas.
The Israeli government, for its part, chooses to go between the drops: not to officially recognize the Hamas administration in Gaza, and at the same time help it continue to survive. Although the motives for Israel's indecision – chief among them the desire to maintain cooperation with the moderate partner in Ramallah – are understandable, the Israeli fear of taking risks that will lead to a decision inevitably leads to chronic instability and repeated rounds of fighting in the Gaza Strip.