Coffee House

Operation Pillar of Defence leads Israel to strategic failure

22 November 2012

Last night’s ceasefire is a strategic failure for Israel. While the end of military action must be welcomed, it is hard to see what Netanyahu has achieved beyond the killing of Ahmed Jabari. Despite a week of tit-for-tat missile fire, Israel secured none of its strategic objectives. In fact, in many cases it actually strengthened Hamas and diminished Israel’s security. Here’s some of the ways in which Israel has been weakened by Operation Pillar of Defence:

1) Hamas was able to break the psychological barrier of attacking Tel Aviv. No one has fired missiles at the city since 1991 when Saddam Hussein tried to undermine coalition forces in Operation Desert Storm. In the interim Israel threatened that any further attacks on Tel Aviv would necessitate a strong and overwhelming military response. In the event, Hamas shot at Tel Aviv and Israel failed to respond; this will have encouraged the Iranians.


2) Hamas is claiming it ‘defeated’ Israeli forces in the latest confrontation, strengthening its position among jihadists and emboldening their hostility towards Israel. Indeed, Ismail Haniyeh has already boasted that Hamas made Israel ‘scream with pain’ and thanked the Iranians for supplying them with weapons and money. The situation has also granted Hamas leverage over Abu Mazen who is left even weaker and more irrelevant than he was before the confrontation.

3) Once Israel initiated Operation Pillar of Defence, a wave of Arab leaders rushed to visit Gaza, giving Hamas wider recognition and legitimacy among its neighbours. The whole process has meant more regimes are now dealing with the Hamas administration than before.

4) Mohammed Morsi can claim lots of credit within the international community for helping to broker the ceasefire. Inadvertently, Netanyahu has helped strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood administration in Cairo who can now boast of being able to ‘deliver’ stability in the Middle East. None of this will have harmed Morsi’s reputation in Washington, particularly among those who argue that the Muslim Brotherhood is paring down its more radical views.

Public opinion in Israel is highly critical of Netanyahu, and his administration is badly bruised by the events of the last week. An Israeli friend told me that while it can seem like the current situation is best for both parties, when one considers the dynamics at play – that Hamas is an internationally designated terrorist group – then even though the playing field is level, that represents a loss for Israel.

More Spectator for less. Subscribe and receive 12 issues delivered for just £12, with full web and app access. Join us now.

  • Julian F

    Israel killed Hamas’ military leader and drew fire into their Iron Dome, thus depleting Hamas’ arsenal and identifying their locations to enable surgical strikes on the stockpiles (it’s not rocket science, if you’ll forgive the pun, just military doctrine). It then showed statesmanship and restraint by negotiating with Morsi and drawing Egypt into a closer bilateral relationship as a result. The world has been shown the cowardly tactics of the so-called “Palestinians” and the diplomacy and military strength of the Israelis. So a few excitable “Palestinians” drive around proclaiming victory. Big deal. The reality is that Bibi has achieved what he set out to achieve.

  • obbo12

    I hope that Netanyahu has bought this cease fire with something not in the public domain. If he has accepted a public tactical defeat for a strategic asset, for instance the transfer of more tanker aircraft, this could play out well for Netanyahu in the medium term. However Netanyahu’s time in government has not been noticeable for its diplomatic finesse.

  • Jayson Rex


  • Augustus

    “Last night’s ceasefire is a strategic failure for Israel.”

    Islamic Jihad provoked the conflict with Israel (because they actually started shooting the rockets. Hamas only became involved later), this could mean that Hamas is incapable of controlling the whole of Gaza, which could lead to a weakening of Hamas. And after yesterday there isn’t much left of that resistance or the struggle against Israel upon which the organization was created. For the first time since its inception,
    Hamas signed an agreement in which it is obligated to lay down its weapons and
    stop fighting Israel. So one could say that the real losers in this latest conflict are the jihadists in Gaza. Israel’s Iron Dome defense shield has been successfully tested, and missile storage sites have been destroyed. The terrorists may have won this war in the eyes of the Western and Islamic media because they deliberately place their own people in the front line, but these fighters know full well that it’s a fictional victory. The reality is that Hamas cannot hold out long while its military commanders need to be replaced on a daily basis. These commanders are needed by Hamas to provide stability and protect it, first and foremost from the more radical Islamist groups, and even from Fatah. And when the moment of truth came Hamas had to choose between preserving and establishing its rule over the Gaza Strip or forfeiting the banner of struggle against Israel, Hamas made the pragmatic choice to survive politically even though it lost out militarily.

  • chudsmania

    So you love Hamas . Why not just come out and say so ?

  • The Bellman

    You’d need to define Israel’s strategic interests a bit more clearly before deciding whether or not they had been achieved. From my armchair, what has Israel achieved? In no particular order:

    It forced the Obama administration to pick sides and publicly.
    It forced Hamas to expose its infrastructure supporting the longer-range rockets. As well as destroying a lot of it, Israel has extended its targeting list, of routes, tunnels, firing positions, personnel and so on, for disruption either by further air operations or by other means.
    It proved Iron Dome version 2 and much of its civil defence architecture is effective, and mportant psychological hedge against a nuclear Iran. So a few rockets landed near Tel Aviv? Achieving not very much. The people I spoke to in the city reported the kind of resilience one would expect: no sign of panic and a calmness wholly missing in much of London in August last year when a few hoodies went shopping with menaces.
    They killed a lot of Hamas people and with far fewer non-combatant casualties than in Cast Lead.
    It proved and rehearsed its mobilisation procedures.
    There are others, I’m sure.

    Also i’m not dure you have jabaari’s killing in its correct contxt. The kind of preparation that goes into killing a person of Jabaari’s stature cannot be tuned off or on at will. They had people on the ground, close to his personal security detachment, feeding near-real time information on his whereabouts. Those opportunities do not present themselves often, so to that extent it as unlucky for Hamas that the occasion coincided with their stepping up of rocket fire. What the operation demonstrated is, I think, the operational agility of the Israeli forces: that this opportunity was developed rapidly into a full-blown campaign to wear down the stocks, crews and supply lines of the Fajrs. And I think when future analysis is done that you will find there wa indeed a ground dimension to this operation – just not in the ‘tanks and diggers’ way that the media were hoping for.

  • Yuval Sterling

    האמת היא שליברמן וביבי לא רוצים “התנגדות” פלסטינית לא אלימה. הם מעדיפים חמאס חזק שישתלט גם על הגדה המערבית כדי שהם יוכלו להמשיך ולהילחם בהם. בשבוע הבא באו”ם הם יגידו שאבו מאזן “לא רלוונטי”, הדרך היחידה של אבו מאזן להישאר בשלטון הוא לשלב את חמאס בממשלתו ובטווח הארוך, כשיגידו לישראל לדבר עם חמאס כי הם השליטים יתברר לעולם (פתאום) שהם לא רוצים לדבר (הם לא דרך אגב, אם תהיתם. הם יהיו מוכנים לדבר רק אם נרצה לקפוץ לים מרצוננו החופשי)… זאת לפחות חלק מהתכנית
    רוצים לעשות נגד זה משהו? מנהיגים באירופה וארה”ב צריכים להכריח את האו”ם לעמוד בהתחיבויות שלו עצמו לגבי החוק הבינלאומי, לפטר את הגזענים שעובדים במי יודע כמה ועדות שיש שם ולהוציא צו הסגרה למנהיגי חמאס על ירי מתוך אוכלוסיה אזרחית ואחר כך בגלל ירי לתוך אוכלוסייה אזרחית. כי באמת, אם לאף אחד לא אכפת מהחוק הבינלאומי אלא אם זו הזדמנות לנגח את ישראל, זה יפגע אחר כך בשאר העולם (לדוגמא 500 כורדים שנהרגו בצפון עיראק מידי הצבא התורכי בחצי שנה האחרונה,)..

    • arnoldo87

      Was it really 500? Well I never!

    • Noa

      Best re-submitted to the Tel Aviv edition of the Speccie.

  • Augustus

    ” Netanyahu has helped strengthen the Muslim Brotherhood administration in Cairo who can now boast of being able to ‘deliver’ stability in the Middle East.”

    You mean the West has now put aside its fears of Islamic radicalization and treated Egypt as a positive
    contributor, as if Hosni Mubarak had never left?

  • victor67

    Thats what happens when you use war as an election strategy . The murder of the Hamas leader who Israel was actually negotiating with was a major blunder.

  • Daniel Maris

    I don’t think it was a victory for Israel. Certainly a victory for the followers of Sharia.

    I am not sure there is a viable path for Israel to follow. This isn’t the 1950s or 1960s. They can’t expect to take on the whole Arab world and win.

    The rocket threat to their viability as a state is huge. We have only seen the beginnings of this. The rockets are getting bigger and more accurate.

    They depend on help from the international community to survive long term. I think that requires first of all that they show clearly they support a two state solution in principle. The rest can wait.

  • Hexhamgeezer

    You are D Korski and I claim my £5

  • Augustus

    This ‘wave of Arab leaders’, people like Morsi, brother in arms to Hamas and Turkish Prime Minister Erdogen, an oppressor of the Kurds (and a descendent of those who committed the Armenian genocide, don’t forget) have become mediators between Israel and a terrorist organization. Furthermore: An Egyptian president is supposed to be the “arbiter” when Hamas and its colleagues violate the cease-fire agreement. In other words, Israel has put its own hands in handcuffs. The trap will be revealed to everyone when in a few months Israel will once again be called to the gates of Gaza with the cry of:
    “Samson, the Palestinians are upon you!” But Samson’s hair has been cut, with
    his own hands. And the current military success is only partial, because among its goals was no demand for the enemy’s unconditional surrender. One would be wise to learn from Winston Churchill’s immortal words: “Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour, they chose dishonour and now they will have war.”These words are now true for Israel.

  • RightChuck

    I thought Hamas had agreed to be accountable for rockets fired from Gaza into Israel? If so, that’s a significant advance for Israel, and will probably result in yet more internecine murder and torture and vile savagery within the militant community itself (irony alert), in which Hamas will be portrayed as doing Israel’s dirty work and will be attacked by its own erstwhile supporters.

  • a human

    israel is very mini, believe.

  • the viceroy’s gin

    Your points 1 through 3 seem to be your musings alone, as to their relevancy and status. They signify nothing and mean nothing, least of all in strategic terms. The Pali nutters have been killing Israelis for some decades now, and you’d be hard pressed to introduce some new method or rationale for it, in Tel Aviv or elsewhere. And the Mideast thugocrats and Palis have always defeated Israel, just ask them. It’s amazing. They’ve destroyed Israel at least a dozen times in my lifetime. They’ve got a perfect record at it. And tomorrow, when all the thugocrats leave town, Israel is going to taunt the Hamas nutters, and ask them where all their “friends” went. So much for points 1 through 3.

    Your point 4 implies that Israeli strategy involves destabilizing Morsi. The Israelis would have had to suddenly become as stupid as you and the Palis, in order for that strategy to be in place. To the contrary, it is quite important for Israeli strategy that the Morsi regime is consolidated and empowered. This should be intuitively obvious to you, but isn’t apparently. Spend some time thinking about strategy and what it is, would be my suggestion.

    • HooksLaw

      Correct – I do not see there being anything strategic in this.
      Its important for Israel that democracy is consolidated and empowered. But I take your point.

  • Swiss Bob

    The Israelis have impressed the hell out of me with their restraint, the US would have leveled Gaza.

    The Palestinians have shown yet again what scum they are. Shooting and beheading so called informants, released from jail by the authorities to be shot, beheaded and then dragged semi-naked behind motorcycles, these people are the lowest of the low and the more of them the Israelis send to Paradise the happier most people will be.

    • telemachus

      Swiss Bob-Any Labour Party(or indeed any other UK Party views are irrelevant in Palestine.

      Only the views of the Arabs, the Persians and the Yanks hold sway.

      Sadly all we hear in Western Media is comments as vitriolic as above about the Brave Palestinians.

      It all gets tangled with collective holocaust guilt and Islamophobia.
      We need to move on from stereotyping to look at Human Rights both for the Israeli’s and the Palestinians.

      Most UN Members favour a 2 State Solution.

      Well then Obama-Get this thru the Security Council and then enforce it with your military might before the Persians enforce a different solution.

      • Swiss Bob

        You side with the bigots, the racists, the homophobes, the sexists, those who mutilate the genitals of young females, those who think marrying nine year olds is acceptable and much worse, the killing of babies as an act of jihad and worthy of praise, the use of women and children as human shields, the people you praise as ‘brave Palestinians’ are not cowards, they are just hate filled lunatics, that is the side you are on.

        I side with the enlightenment.

        • HooksLaw

          yes a good word, enlightenment

        • telemachus

          It is very clear what category of the above you are
          On other threads we hear of brotherly love

          • Swiss Bob

            Please be more specific; then I have the option of sueing the arse off you.

            • telemachus

              We should get back to the issues.
              I was interested in the Hamas victory rallies last night
              I feel Hillary is on side now too

              • Swiss Bob

                A small car edged through the thick of the dancing crowd, four toddlers dangling
                out of the windows punching their small fists in the air triumphantly chanting:
                “We have won, we have won a victory over America.

                Like I said, lunatics the lot of them.

  • CraigStrachan

    Hamas learnt from Hezbollah’s tactics in 2006, then.

  • telemachus

    Israel are now finished as a force
    This has demonstrated that the brave Palestinians can call on America to rein them back
    Hillary appears and hey presto
    The Persians are watching with interest and will soon have the muscle to allow the Palestinian needs to hold sway

    • Archimedes

      “…the brave Palestinians…”

      Do shut up.

    • Vulture

      I think you’ll find, Telly, that Israel would sooner reduce Mecca and the surrounding sands to a sea of glass ( and they have the power to do so) rather than be pushed into the sea in a second Holocaust. The Jews are clever people – you don’t want to tangle with the Jews.

      • telemachus

        This is not to do with Jews as in ethnic or religion.
        It is more about a group of individuals from diverse backgrounds who feel they have the right to push out an indiginous population, in the case of those they originally pushed into the Gaza Refugee camps, to push further still, further into the sea.
        When the Persians have military parity it will still be conventional weaponry that will obtain a just solution for the brave Palestinians

        • Noa

          No. MAD becomes reality.

        • Augustus

          Naive and wrong as usual Telly. On 24th July 1922 the Council of the League of Nations, after having referred to the Balfour Declaration (1917) stated: ““recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country.” It is significant that the word ‘reconstituting’ is used, because this indicated a return or a resettlement. Furthermore, the mandatory power (Britain) is given power to focus on ‘the Jewish people’, and not only on the Jewish people in Palestine. This proves that the mandatory power was obliged to make it possible for Jews everywhere to be able to return the land of their forefathers.

          • telemachus

            And then they waged war in 1948 to drive what are now the Gaza Palestinians into the sea
            On Balfour, this was an anomaly at the height of British Colonial Hegemony
            Palestine had been continuously in the hands of (Palestinian) Muslims since the conquest ao Saladin in 1167.
            I guess that trumps any colonial Johnny come lately

            • Augustus

              No, in 1947 the UN partitioned the land into Jewish and Arab states, but the Arabs rejected the partition and refused to recognize Israel or make peace with it. The fact is that almost all Palestinian groups have been founded with the declared aim of destroying Israel by violence and by terrorist means. You should be ashamed to support them.

              • Malfleur

                telemachus knows no shame, just as he knows not how to spell indigenous.

                • telemachus

                  Think you need specs

              • telemachus

                Let us all move on to the 2 state solution now and forget history
                But a 2 state solution which recognises equality
                Time is running out
                Soon the Persians will enforce a one state solution

        • Get it right

          Are you also taking into account the hundreds of thousands of jewish refugees expelled or driven out of arab countries since ww2? You really should, they number aproximately the same as the number of palistinian refugees driven from what is now Israel.

          • telemachus

            That is wrong as well

            • Penny

              No it isn’t. I’m married to one of them.

    • Noa

      Been towed by a motorbike up the high street then, have you?

      • Harold Angryperson

        Now there’s a thought… ;o)

    • Swiss Bob

      Telemachus, AKA the Labour press office, an opinion on everything, always the party line.

      The fact that the Spectator allows you to ruin any debate with your multiple posting says a lot about the new management.


      • Ian Walker

        Sadly, my small-c conservative principles force me to defend the right of poor Telly to dribble his arse-gravy of an argument all over the blog, no matter how vomit-inducing and logic-shattering it may be. I hope our parliament will have the sense to do the same with the Press next week

        • Swiss Bob

          I wouldn’t mind if it (and it is not an it, it is multiple people posting under the same pseudonym) had anything original to contribute. ‘It’ is a classic troll, it disrupts dialogue, and that is its intent.

Can't find your Web ID? Click here