The main lesson for Israel from the hideous Hamas attacks suffered over the weekend is a simple one: Terrorists can’t be managed.
For decades, Israel worked with Hamas and the Palestinian Authority (PA) by combining incentives on the one hand with controlled military responses on the other. Major attacks, including rockets from Gaza last May, prompted retaliation, usually with air power, and a subsequent cease-fire, often brokered by Egypt.
When Iranian-sponsored militias set up weaponry in the West Bank, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted on-the-ground operations in Jenin and Nablus.
In the case of Hezbollah, Israel allowed the US to broker a maritime border semi-deal last year that allows Lebanon to pump natural gas and receive the financial benefit, which will accrue to Hezbollah and run the government in Beirut.
All in the name of tamping down fires that could ignite the big blaze.
The policy derived from several elements. The first is “world opinion,” specifically American government opinion, that could turn against Israel unless it responded to terrorism in a manner congruent with pronounced Western standards. Israel believed that any military response had to happen quickly to avoid blowback from allies and friends as much as from enemies.
Israel has also always believed that someday, somehow there would be a political solution. Israeli leaders could be angry with Palestinian leadership – Hamas or the PA – but they also talked to them, subsidized them, looked the other way at language that veered into Nazi trope and even invited them to lunch.
Israel also thought it could use its long-range capabilities, especially airpower, to destroy enemy assets. While this sometimes worked as a form of retaliation, it never stopped the massive accumulation of Iranian-supplied and financed missiles, rockets and other weapons.
Read the rest at AsiaTimes.
Stephen Bryen is a Senior Fellow at Yorktown Institute.