The circus has come to town

The truth is that Hamas has not been deterred at all – not this week when we blew up the tunnel, and not during our most recent largescale foray into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge.

Hamas tunnel found in southern Gaza (photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
Hamas tunnel found in southern Gaza
(photo credit: IDF SPOKESMAN’S UNIT)
In an extremely prominent and public way, the IDF recently publicized that it had found and destroyed another Hamas tunnel.
“A tunnel in the southern Gaza Strip has been located and destroyed.
Hamas has been deterred,” Defense Minister “Bogie” Ya’alon proudly claimed in a press conference that had been hastily convened by OC Southern Command.
This act, it seems though, was more a sign of befuddlement than of sharp strategy.
The entire country – including the media – was caught up in this absurd media circus surrounding the detection and demolition of one single tunnel that Hamas built in the Gaza Strip. Everyone’s been reacting as if we had located a tunnel that had led right up to a kibbutz within Israeli territory and all its inhabitants had just been saved from imminent death.
The architect of this plan could not have foreseen, though, that later in the day (April 18) an entire bus would explode in Jerusalem and of course capture all of the headlines, overshadowing the “rare security incident” that had taken place that morning in Gaza.
But if one ignores the media spin, political slogans and generals’ declarations for a moment, we might succeed in focusing on the facts.
The truth is that Hamas has not been deterred at all – not this week when we blew up the tunnel, and not during our most recent largescale foray into Gaza during Operation Protective Edge in summer 2014. We did succeed in dealing an enormous amount of damage to terrorist infrastructure, but we did not crush the Hamas leadership or its capability to continue producing weapons and digging tunnels.
Hamas is an Islamic fundamentalist terrorist organization whose goal is to destroy the State of Israel. Over the years, it has learned that when it attacks Jewish communities, Israel retaliates with low-intensity, calculated measures. Senior Israeli political and military leaders make threatening statements, but do not follow up with action. Immediately following the end of Operation Protective Edge, Hamas went right back to producing huge amounts of munitions and digging tunnels in Gaza at top speed. Granted, it’s become more difficult for Hamas to smuggle in materials, much of its funding has been cut off and as a result it’s been finding it difficult to pay for weapons, and it is feeling pressure from Gazans who are suffering dearly. But Hamas is not affected by such trivialities, because it is motivated by its goal to destroy the Jews. Hamas’s leaders are not scared by statements made by Israeli generals at press conferences.
The Gaza Strip is full of tunnels, and Hamas has been digging vigorously in the last few months, apparently unhindered. The Shin Bet has intel regarding a certain number of them, and IDF observation units have discovered others.
It is general knowledge that Hamas is busy arming and preparing itself for the next round of war – and the one after that, as well. Hamas continues to receive donations from governments and organizations around the world so that it can rebuild the Gaza Strip, but these funds are channeled straight into the rebuilding of Hamas military infrastructure – including tunnels – and weapons procurement.
The world’s superpowers have been ignoring what’s going on in Gaza for years. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, though, since they’ve also been ignoring what’s happening in Syria, Africa, Kurdistan and lots of other places in the world that don’t directly affect New York, London or Paris.
We must accept that in the current reality it comes down to us against them. The State of Israel stands alone against Hamas.
And against ISIS. And against Hezbollah.
No one’s going to help us.
What this means is that if we want to survive, Israel needs to recreate serious deterrence like we had in years gone by when our enemies were actually scared of us. We need to deal with the groups that present the largest risk to us. In order to create serious deterrence, it is not enough just to talk about it. The survival of the State of Israel cannot be ensured by issuing political proclamations and empty threats.
In order to win, we must take action. In order to tip the balance of power in our favor, we must step out of our comfort zone. We must initiate actions and not just react to attacks as we have been doing these last few years. And when we do react, we must act with force and determination, not with calculated, proportional means. We must back up our threats with deeds, and take the initiative instead of being dragged in against our will.
It is a terrible sign when the entire country gets caught up in the excitement of finding one measly tunnel when so many more lurk just under the surface, filled with guns, rockets and men just waiting for the next opportunity to kill us. Our generals, politicians and even military correspondents were all swept up in this mad circus because of one single tunnel. Now we know for sure that we’re are in serious trouble.
And while we are prancing around celebrating, Hamas continues to dig.
They never stop digging. Words don’t make them stop digging. But Israel somehow began believing that words will be able to stop the missiles. But they don’t. Instead of talking, we need to carry out more offensive actions such as destroying Hamas military infrastructure, and carrying out targeted killings and preemptive attacks. We were successful in such ways in the past, and our professional army is still capable of carrying out such actions today.
But our leadership will need to demonstrate courage and initiative and stick tight to our vision if this is to happen.
The recent attack on the bus in Jerusalem was a very serious incident, but it is not necessarily a sign of an impending upsurge in terrorism.
I believe this was a confined attack that was carried out in an area that was already rife with tension.
Will more attacks follow it? Will they be carried out by individual attackers, or are they part of a greater plan carried out by a larger organization? These are the questions we need to strive to answer.
The writer is a former brigadier-general who served as a division head in the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency).
Translated by Hannah Hochner.