The Gaza operation, in perspective

Given the fact that it is only a matter of time before Israel will once again have to go into Gaza for one reason or another, perhaps we need to recalibrate our goals.

 MEMBERS OF al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, at a gathering for movement commander Khaled Mansour, slain on the first day of Operation Breaking Dawn, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, August 8.  (photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)
MEMBERS OF al-Quds Brigades, Islamic Jihad’s military wing, at a gathering for movement commander Khaled Mansour, slain on the first day of Operation Breaking Dawn, in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, August 8.
(photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH90)

In the waning hours of the IDF’s brief Operation Breaking Dawn in Gaza last weekend, as multiple blows were delivered to the Islamic Jihad terrorist organization, the Israeli media chose to deploy a rather uncommon adjective to describe the outcome.

“Fenomenali”, one talking head after another opined, Hebraicizing the English word “phenomenal” to sum up the army’s impressive and rapid-fire achievements.

And to be sure, it appears that Israel’s exploits truly were superb.

On offense, the IDF was able to eliminate some of the Palestinian terrorist group’s most seasoned and senior field commanders, tracking them down in their hiding places and sending them on to the next world with precision strikes in the heart of Gaza that nonetheless minimized civilian casualties.

Meanwhile, on the home front, the Iron Dome anti-missile system’s interception rate was a remarkable 96 percent, which saved countless Jewish lives and limbs.

 Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, on August 6, 2022.  (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90) Iron dome anti-missile system fires interception missiles as rockets fired from the Gaza Strip to Israel, on August 6, 2022. (credit: YONATAN SINDEL/FLASH90)

And the operation was carried out so quickly and smoothly that most of the international community did not even have enough time to berate Israel endlessly for having the nerve to defend itself.

In that sense, the undertaking can certainly be deemed to have been an overwhelming success, and the government together with the men in uniform deserve praise for their decisive action.

And yet, amid all the political punditry, military commentary and Arab affairs analysis that was offered, two critical points seem to have been overlooked.

Overlooked points on Operation Breaking Dawn

TO BEGIN with, the victory over Islamic Jihad was, unfortunately, neither final nor complete. Sure, the terror group was battered badly and will be licking its wounds for some time. But it was neither dismantled nor destroyed, even if it was demoralized.

Revealingly, as the operation came to a close, a number of online polls began circulating which essentially asked the same question: “Who won this round of fighting?”

For that is what it was: just another round in a seemingly interminable struggle. And while Hamas chose to sit on the sidelines this time, does anyone doubt that they are merely waiting for the proper moment or future opportunity to provoke and attack Israel?

So while we can and should certainly savor the weakening of Islamic Jihad, we must not fool ourselves into thinking that the terrorist safe-haven in Gaza is no longer a threat in either the short-term or long-term.

And that brings us to the second point, which is no less crucial.

Even though Operation Breaking Dawn coincided with the anniversary of Israel’s 2005 pullout from Gaza and the callous expulsion of its Jews, there was nary a mention of this painful irony in the media’s breathless coverage.

For the umpteenth time in the past 17 years, Israel was compelled to go back into Gaza, be it by land or by air, to forestall the terrorist threat that was greatly enhanced by its own original sin of withdrawal.

ONCE AGAIN, the folly of leaving Gaza was on full display for all to see, as Islamic Jihad succeeded in firing more than 1,100 rockets over the course of approximately 30 hours, from August 5 to 7. That averages out to about one rocket every two to three minutes, and air-raid sirens were sounded from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem to the Negev.

Sure, some 20 percent of the terror group’s rockets either misfired or landed in Gaza itself.

But the fact remains that due to the lack of a physical Israeli presence in the area, the terror group was able to build up a sizeable arsenal and bring life in southern Israel to a halt for several days, which is simply intolerable.

And they will surely do so again once they have had a chance to rebuild.

Simply put, had Israel not withdrawn from Gaza in the first place, the waves of warfare since that disastrous decision would have been averted.

It is not clear to me how the names for military operations are chosen, but I would like to think that in some way, the latest action in Gaza, Operation Breaking Dawn, was inspired by the verse in Genesis (32:25), where it states, “And Jacob remained alone, and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of dawn”.

“And Jacob remained alone, and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of dawn.”

Genesis 32:25

However, as you may recall, in the biblical account, Jacob’s opponent admitted defeat and went so far as to bless our patriarch.

Of course, no one expects Islamic Jihad to start praising or blessing the Jewish state.

But given the fact that it is only a matter of time before Israel will once again have to go into Gaza for one reason or another, perhaps we need to recalibrate our goals and follow in the footsteps of our biblical forebear. If and when we are next forced to wrestle with our foes, let us do so until their surrender is total and complete. 

The writer served as deputy communications director under prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the Likud leader’s first term of office.