Attacks on Israel are not unusual. However, the rain of over 3,000 rockets, on Israeli civilians on the morning of October 7th, was unprecedented. The attacker was Hamas from Gaza, the Palestinian exclave on the eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Israel’s intelligence and air power are renowned, yet it was pounded by Gaza. It was a surprise attack by Hamas, the Palestinian militant outfit that controls Gaza. Tragically, the attacks on Israel were symbolic as they happened on a day of religious significance to Jews.
The Reality was Grimmer
Israel declared war immediately and retaliated with fierce airstrikes. It was war, once again in West Asia. The conflict proves both Israel and Palestine can ill afford to be casual about a peaceful settlement. Hungry for more attacks, an impatient Hamas, which manages Gaza, ran amok. As a result, the reinforced border between Gaza and Israel was broken and breached. Attacks were mounted from assorted categories of bomb-carriers – from land, air and sea. Again, civilians were primary targets for both Israel and Hamas.
For the militarily more competent Israel, attacks on its civilians were just unacceptable. Making the war serious, Israel began targeting even the military headquarters of Hamas. At the end of the day, both Hamas and Israel accounted for more than 1,000 civilian deaths. The reality was grimmer. Both Hamas and Israel had unaccounted number of civilians from both sides as prisoners of war. The fire and the fury suggest the war may not come to an end soon. Both the sides are raising the stakes. Worse, the war is likely to escalate. https://www.cnbc.com/2023/10/09/israel-hamas-live-updates.html
Video Courtesy: YouTube/BBC News
A Major Crushing Liability
Furious Israel is already accusing Hamas of various war crimes. Israel is pointing fingers at Hamas for directing its militants to carry out more terror attacks. An irate Binyamin Netanyahu, prime minister of Israel, has even warned Palestine that it would have to pay an ‘unprecedented’ price. Walking the talk, Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes have been more devastating for Hamas. Yet, Israel is not satisfied. It is doubling up on its firepower and air strength fast. Israeli army units are being enlarged with recalled reservists.
These emergency initiatives show Israel’s determination to retaliate on a greater scale. The war thus threatens to turn uglier in the coming days. Economically too, the war is bound to become a major crushing liability, particularly for Gaza. Workers from Gaza will not be able to earn daily wages in Israel. This will make remittances from them dry up. For the war-hit economy of Gaza, this will be killing. As a debilitating war destroys Gaza, its people and their livelihood, they are all sure to regress by decades. The future looks quite scary. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/10/09/business/dealbook/israel-gaza-war- markets-oil.html
Denigrating the Pacifist President
Yet, Hamas celebrated after its attacks on Israeli civilians on October 7th. Many Hamas terrorists are said to be openly happy about having avenged the Israeli ‘desecration’ of the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem. The attacks on Israeli civilians are Hamas’s way of assuming leadership of Palestinians. It is bent on proving to Palestinians the futility of peaceful negotiations and diplomatic perseverance. This is why, in desperation and impatience, Hamas launched its October 7th strikes to drive home this point.
Hamas seems to be happy about having launched its airstrikes. Its joy springs also from its success in denigrating Mahmoud Abbas, the pacifist president of Palestine. What has brought particular delight to Hamas is its perception that its attacks are yielding results, for the time being at least. However, for Hamas, there is still a persistent irritant before them: the normalisation of ties between Israel and the Islamic nations of the Arab world. The coming close of Israel and Saudi Arabia is irking Hamas. Normalisation of ties is anathema to Hamas. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/09/07/world/middleeast/mahmoud-abbas- video-antisemitic.html
Israel’s Failure of Perception
Desperate to disrupt this development, Hamas might have used the airstrikes to throw a stone in the placid pool. For Hamas, normalisation of ties means great shame and utter disgrace. What is shocking however is the abject failure of Israeli intelligence to foresee the attacks by Hamas. More shocking is Israel’s failure to get a whiff of what was coming. As months of elaborate planning would have gone behind Hamas’s attacks, Israel’s intelligence failure is astounding. The Israeli intelligence failure does raise some serious questions.
Did Israeli intelligence turn complacent after a long lull in the Israel-Gaza theatre? Did Israel miscalculate that its attempts to befriend Saudi Arabia mean lasting peace in West Asia? Did Mr Netanyahu signal the intelligence to go slow so that Hamas’s attacks can divert the nation’s attention from his controversial judicial reforms? Israelis may never know. Yet, the Hamas attacks prove it was Israel’s failure of perception. Hamas had such an ease of launching its airstrikes, it mirrors a breakdown in political leadership in Israel. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/donald-macintyre-hamas- carnage-b2425923.html
Divisive and Expansionist Policies
As Mr Netanyahu’s strategies of ignoring Palestinians and pooh-poohing their sovereignty aspirations have failed, this war may last longer. If it does, patience of reservists will run out sooner than later. It could mean Mr Netanyahu would have to face a civil war within Israel too. This will be worse than an external war with an enemy nation. As such fears may take root, there is a possibility that Mr Netanyahu may realise internal protests are better than a devastating Hamas attack. https://poliphoon.com/bracing-for-its-worst-ever- crisis/
The declaration of war by Israel is sure to keep the Israelis protesting against Mr Netanyahu’s revolting judicial reforms off the streets. But they may not stay quiet for long. When they realise Palestinians have been provoked again by the far-right, divisive and expansionist policies of Mr Netanyahu, protesting Israelis of today are sure to rise back in revolt with greater numerical strength. In such an uncertain scenario, prospects for peace and friendship are dim. So, what now? What could be in store for Israel and embattled Israelis? What will happen to Mr Netanyahu’s reign? These questions should worry Mr Netanyahu. https://www.euronews.com/2023/09/13/israeli-supreme-court-hears-first- challenge-to-netanyahus-divisive-judicial-overhaul
The Poliphoon’s Last Word
As discontent with Mr Netanyahu’s government bubbles up, Israelis’ emotional turmoil will upend his government. https://poliphoon.com/israel-is-no- longer-a-democracy/ They will not hesitate to show him the door to pave way for a new political formation and government. Meanwhile, airstrikes will continue to pummel Hamas and Israel, killing numerous civilians on both sides. For the Israelis, the Simchat Torah festival falls on October 7th. The festival symbolises assertion of identity. Strangely, this symbolisation seems to be true only for a few. This irony is much more wounding than devastating airstrikes.