Another round of firing has ceased. They launched – how many was it this time? – rockets at us from Gaza, we responded by bombing them. They fired at us indiscriminately, we launched surgically-precise strikes at them. They tried to inflict as much civilian damage on us as possible, we did all we could to inflict as little civilian damage on them as possible
Our Prime Minister and Defence Minister promised that we would cause such massive damage to the Islamic Jihad military infrastructure that they would guarantee Israelis in the south peace and quiet for a while – and most important, that we let them know that we can find their leaders anywhere..
The Islamic Jihad in Gaza responded by firing more missiles on Israel, and Israel destroyed more of their infrastructure.
Hitting Tel Aviv, we all assumed, would be a red line which the terrorists had now crossed. Now, some Israelis hoped, the political echelons would release IDF’s full might and fury.
And so it escalated briefly: tanks on the border with Gaza, bomb-shelters in the South opened and stocked, the IAF raiding Gaza hour after gruelling hour…until the Arabs in Gaza decided they had had enough, and declared a ceasefire.
Israel denied any knowledge of such a ceasefire. But the next morning, the ceasefire was unequivocally in place.
Both sides stopped firing.
Our Chief of Staff, our Prime Minister and Defence Minister, our Government spokespeople, our political analysts – all assured us that we won this round and had achieved all the goals the IDF had set for itself. After all, objectively we certainly inflicted far, far more damage on them than they did on us.
In numbers of people killed and wounded on both sides and destruction of infrastructure, they certainly suffered way more than we did.
…And yet we didn’t really “win” more than this round.
The Hamas still reigns in Gaza; their political and military echelons are unscathed. They kept out of the fray. The goal was Islamic Jihad and their commanders were killed; but they can probably all be replaced before the end of next week.
Israel’s political and military leaders say that Islamic Jihad now knows we can get to them anywhere, bragged on radio, TV, and the print media how they have “restored Israel’s deterrence”.
Nonsense. We have zero deterrence.
The Arabs in Gaza will start firing again the moment that they decide it’s in their favour and their interests to do so. The Hamas, the Islamic Jihad, ISIS, Al-Aqsa Brigades – whichever terrorist gangs were running around before this latest flare-up are still running around there now.
Their armouries have not been depleted, their weapons-caches remain intact, their command-structures have not suffered one iota, their training-bases are still in place.
Yes, the dead will remain dead…and the terrorist commanders in Gaza, like the political bosses in Gaza, don’t care a fig for the lives lost. After all, dead civilians make excellent anti-Israel propaganda, while dead terrorists – even the highest-ranking commanders – can and will be replaced although they now know we can get at them.
Let us not fool ourselves: With all the heroic-sounding veneer, with all the resounding rhetoric that no terrorist who raises his hand against us will survive – we didn’t defeat the terrorists. However, we had specific goals against Islamic Jihad and we achieved them.
We probably didn’t deter Islamic Jihad terrorists from attacking us next time either.
They decided to begin the conflict after we killed their main operations officer, they decided on the level of its intensity, they decided when and how it ended, they decided when the ceasefire would begin, and they decided on the conditions for the ceasefire.
No Israeli in Sderot or Kfar Aza or Ofakim or Netivot or Ashkelon or Ashdod or Kiryat Malachi or Beer Sheva or anywhere else within 40 km (25 miles) of Gaza can now go back to normal stress-free life and relax.
Because as much as the terrorists decided unilaterally when this current ceasefire began, they will decide equally unilaterally when it will end.
They will resume firing rockets at Israel the moment that it becomes politically expedient so to do. We have no effective deterrence; we haven’t destroyed their military ability to attack us; we haven’t reduced by one iota their political will to attack us; our strikes against Gaza haven’t delayed the next round by so much as a nanosecond.
They still have everything to gain, and little to lose, by attacking us again because they value life for its media power, not to save their citizens.
And this seemingly-endless carousel of terror-rockets against Israel followed by pinpointed Israeli strikes against individual terrorists followed by more random rockets against Israel followed by a terrorist-dictated ceasefire followed by yet another round of this bloody Dance of Death is going to continue until our leaders, here in Israel, decide they have the determination to defeat the Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists in Gaza (and come to that the Hezbollah in Lebanon as well) once and for all.
That’s not going to happen soon. It has an expensive price tag attached to it.
Now this is no reason to despair. Israel is a resilient country with a resilient population, the most powerful military and the strongest economy in the Middle East – indeed among the strongest in the world.
We can absorb another round, another ten rounds, another hundred rounds like this last one, without being destroyed.
Yes there will be some tragedies: people might (chas ve-shalom) be killed, and we will mourn them. Our enemies cannot destroy us, we know that, they don’t know that – yet
But what kind of a national life is this? Perpetually waiting in tension for the next round of rockets to strike, endlessly knowing that the people we elected are feckless when standing against terrorists in Gaza.
It is inevitable that one day, one day we will at last realize that we have to take back Gaza, exterminate the entire terrorist infrastructure there, eliminate the terrorists themselves, restore Jewish sovereignty over the region, defeat the enemy despite the price to our armed forces, and bring peace – genuine, lasting, blessed peace – to our troubled country.
Until then…well, until then we can but live the best we can and look forward to the next round.
And most frustrating of all is that nothing I have written above is new. Everything here, with the sole exception of this final paragraph, is a word-for-word copy of what I wrote on 15th November 2019 at the end of Operation Black Belt (/news/353317 ) and again on 19th August 2022 at the end of Operation Breaking Dawn (/news/358435 ).
Daniel Pinneris a veteran immigrant from England, a teacher by profession and a Torah scholar who has been active in causes promoting Eretz Israel and Torat Israel.