Operation Protective Edge: Israel Won – So Far

The decision by Hamas to resume rocket attacks on Israel is short-sighted.

An IDF soldier traverses a tunnel used by Hamas gunmen for cross-border attacks (photo credit: REUTERS)
An IDF soldier traverses a tunnel used by Hamas gunmen for cross-border attacks
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Only the passage of time will tell if Israel has achieved the stated objective of Operation Protective Edge – “sustained calm” for the people of Israel.  But even and especially now, as Hamas is renewing its attacks against Israel, Israel appears to have made several important gains. Consider the following:
Hamas’s vast arsenal of Iranian-supplied munitions largely failed to inflict any significant damage, both due to use and Israeli defensive and offensive measures. Of the 3,356 rockets Hamas fired, more than two-thirds landed in open areas. Iron Dome batteries intercepted roughly another sixth, and the Home Front Command’s multi-layered civilian protection program, which combines ubiquitous access to bomb shelters and the dissemination of instant Red Alert notifications, doubtlessly saved additional lives.
The IDF responded to Hamas rocket fire every time, striking rocket launchers, command and control centers, and weapons depots throughout Gaza. These strikes have severely exhausted Hamas’s weapons arsenal – up to two-thirds of which have been depleted, according to IDF estimates – and significantly degraded Hamas’s rocket launching capabilities.
Hamas failed to carry out many of its intended ‘surprise’ attacks via drones, long-range missiles, and land invasions through offensive terror tunnels. While it is true that Hamas did manage to penetrate Israel and inflict some casualties, it nonetheless failed to achieve the specter of violence it intended.
Hamas actually squandered large quantities of time and resources. The terror tunnels were cynically constructed using concrete that Hamas diverted from Israeli-supplied humanitarian convoys intended for Gaza’s civilian infrastructure. OC Southern Command Maj.-Gen. Sami Turgeman told reporters that with the amount of concrete Hamas used in its tunnels, it could have built 100 kindergartens, two hospitals, 20 schools and 20 clinics. To paraphrase one observer, what took Hamas five years to construct, the IDF destroyed in two weeks.
Public opinion polling demonstrates that Hamas’s popularity is plummeting. Hamas started the war with the hopes of boosting the group’s declining popularity, yet those hopes have been dashed, since Hamas achieved literally none of its strategic objectives. A prisoner release by Israel, a lifting of the siege on Gaza by Israel and Egypt, and the construction of an air and sea-port on the Gaza coast – all of these demands are effectively off the table. Instead, Hamas leaders are, literally and figuratively, hiding underground to avoid Israeli airstrikes. They are widely seen, both domestically and abroad, as responsible for the destruction above.
Public support for Israel, on the other hand, has held steady. Across some American demographics, Israel gained support while carrying out the operation. Arguably, America’s support for Israel goes hand-in-hand with the reality that both countries face a common enemy and share core values. Hamas – among others, a US- and Israeli-designated terrorist organization, which openly calls for the eradication of Jews worldwide – not so much, the American public believes.
The Israelis implemented the operation not too hot, not too cold, but just right. The IDF hit Hamas targets surgically and ratcheted up the pressure methodically. After honoring multiple ceasefire agreements brokered by the international community and despite repeated ceasefire violations by Hamas, Israel is now better positioned, both militarily and diplomatically, than when the operation began. They look judicious but firm.
Unlike in previous conflicts, a quick weapons build-up is not in the offing. Hamas is weakened militarily and diplomatically isolated. Hamas’s main financiers, Qatar and Turkey, have been eschewed in favor of Egyptian strongman, Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, whose government made clear that Egypt is working to prevent Hamas from rearming itself by keeping the Rafah border crossing shut. A top Egyptian official told Ma'an News Agency last week that Sisi would be "willing" to open the crossing on the condition it would be monitored by the Palestinian Authority. In the world of Arab diplomacy, that's roughly the equivalent of Sisi telling Hamas, "How about never?"
The decision by Hamas to resume rocket attacks on Israel is short-sighted, since it will only bring additional destruction on an already-devastated population. With its rocket arsenal exhausted, tunnel network destroyed, and popularity declining, Hamas is firing from a position of weakness. If it continues to make what are widely seen as unreasonable demands, Hamas will continue to suffer even more setbacks.
Joseph Raskas served in the IDF and is a student at The George Washington University's Graduate School of Political Management.