The Geopolitics of the Conflict in Gaza: The Israeli Plans (I)

What hides under the Pillar of Cloud?

The military and political leadership of Israel picks the names for their operations with great care, including in Gaza, putting a special meaning into them. In 2008-2009, it was Operation Cast Lead, following  you would guess, a desire to blindly and violently conquer, and now Operation Pillar of Cloud, the meaning of which, apart from what was announced officially,  hides many plentiful additional motives.

When the operation in Gaza was already in full swing, the Israeli portal IzRus published a very interesting document put together some time ago, by a staff of experts in foreign policy (“Mate Medini”), and the central office of the Foreign Ministry for the Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman (1).

In it, in particular, is included an analysis of the reasons of the expected November 29 Appeal of the Palestinian leader Abu Mazen (Mahmoud Abbas) to the UN General Assembly with a request to assign to the Palestinian State the observer state status. In addition, the drafters of the document provided recommendations for Lieberman as to the Israeli reaction to such a move by the Palestinian leadership.

“The motives behind Abu Mazen’s decision to address the UN in November are ambiguous and varied,” the document said.  “The principal of these is a significant weakening of his position in Palestinian society because of an inability to cope with internal problems, especially in the economic sphere.”

In the memorandum Israel draws these conclusions:

“It is reconciled to the unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state recognized by the UN, Israel which completely undermines Israel’s own deterrent potential, and which will make impossible any future political settlement (of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict), which will be acceptable to the Israeli side.

Despite the fact that this is a difficult time for the Israeli`s and the step is fraught with serious consequences, in this case, the removal of the Abu Mazen regime is the only option. The other options – inaction or mild reaction – are tantamount to surrender and a recognition of the Israeli leadership’s inability to counteract the challenge. ”

Based on this, the Israeli leadership was given ambiguous advice:

“If the Palestinians decide not to appeal to the UN, then Israel must reach an agreement with the Palestinian Authority on the establishment of a Palestinian state whose borders remain intact during the transition period (to achieve stability in the Arab world, a new election in the Palestinian Authority and to clarify the relationship of the West Bank with Gaza).

If the Palestinians unilaterally address the General Assembly of the UN and get the status of a State, this step should be considered as crossing the “red line” and a violation of all agreements that will necessitate a strong reaction in Israel. ”

The whole course of events  proves that the Israeli military and the state machine operate in accordance with a predetermined plan, and it consciously and deliberately provoked the conflict in Gaza.

In reality, the Defense Minister Ehud Barak in September said that Israel may again “re-occupy parts of Gaza in a future conflict.” (2)
The impetus for the current round of violence was the killing by the Israeli`s of the commander of the Hamas military wing, Ahmed Jabari.

Military sources close to Israeli intelligence research center DEBKA reported that simultaneously with the removal of Jabari and in anticipation of retaliation, a status of high alert was declared in the south.(3)

To enhance the effect the Jabari funeral procession was bombed, killing five children and a 19 – year-old pregnant woman. (4)

Renowned Israeli analyst Aluf Benn wrote that “Ahmed Jabari was more of a major figure in the Gaza Strip in deterring rocket attacks, thus providing the security of Israel.” (5)

So it looks like a cynical murder. Jabari, after all, could have been quietly removed by the Israeli security forces, but it was done in a loud and demonstrative way. Consequently, the effects were calculated and expected.

Events around Gaza have, on the one hand, intimidated the Palestinian leadership, and on the other, served as a dress rehearsal for its removal.

Obviously, none of its leaders can agree with the “temporary borders” of a Palestinian state, which will be inscribed by the Israelis and in the described embodiment of the memorandum, will be perpetuated.

Similarly, the voting mechanism at the UN General Assembly has been launched, and Mahmoud Abbas cannot refuse, even if he wanted to.

Consequently, from December a truly great war against the Palestinians may begin… In preparation for this an unprecedented number of reservists have been called up by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), 75 thousand people, in addition to those already under the gun, which, according to experts, is at least three times greater than is needed in solving local problems in Gaza.

Simultaneously in the world there is a picture of an “inability to negotiate” of the Palestinians. This is clearly pointed to in the speech by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Ron Prosor at the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council.

He sharply criticized the Palestinian Authority’s intention to acquire the status of an observer at the UN. “The state dreamed of by Palestinians includes the Gaza Strip, which is ruled by Hamas. On behalf of whom do the Palestinians turn to the UN: on behalf of the Authority in the West Bank, or on behalf of the government of Gaza, led by Hamas?”(6)

Among other motives of operation Pillar of Cloud right now point to the possible preparation for a strike on Iran. The currently ongoing operation “clouds” the full-scale combat potential of the IDF and the parallel action to “neutralize” the possible future attacks on the flanks, which would be followed after an attack on Iranian facilities.

Equally important is the fact that Netanyahu is almost forcing the U.S. to “stop flirting” with moderate Islamists in the Arab world and completely identify with Israel in accordance with their strategic commitments. 

The U.S. Senate unanimously (!) adopted a resolution of unconditional support for Israel and condemnation of the “provocations” of Hamas.

Barack Obama has already called the unloved Netanyahu and assured him of his full sympathy. On behalf of the U.S. President Obama’s Deputy Assistant for National Security Ben Rhodes clearly stated: “We believe that Israel has the right to defend themselves, and the tactics of protection they decide on their own.”(7)

Another possible motive for the operation has been mentioned – the upcoming Israeli elections in two months.

According to the Independent, “the only reason for Israel to act was the deaths of three Israelis in a rocket attack.” However, it may have handed Prime Minister Netanyahu a reason.

The more the conflict escalates, the harder will be the reaction of Israel, and the more Israel will feel like a “besieged fortress” (8) that the parliamentary elections will inevitably turn to the ruling party.

This is evidenced by the fact that of all the political forces in Israel only the far-left Meretz condemned the operation, whose leader Zahava Gal-On said: “Israel has the right to self-defense, but the realization of this right by destroying Hamas leaders will not bring the desired result.”(9)

The situation in the immediate vicinity is estimated as quite favorable by Israeli strategists for any kind of show of force in Gaza.

Egypt, according to Tel Aviv, despite the transfer of some combat troops into the Sinai Peninsula closer to the scene, and after not quite overcoming internal chaos is not able to throw any serious military challenge to the IDF.

All that can be expected from it are mostly tough political declarations and diplomatic maneuvers.

Increased security measures have been taken on the border with Syria. Soldiers were strictly forbidden to respond to possible shooting and mortar fire from the opposite side without the approval of the command. The most probable forays it is estimated will be from antigovernment insurgents linked to al-Qaeda.

Their total number is estimated to be around 200 people near the border. In particular, under the control of the group “The Eagles of the Golan” is the ghost town of Quneitra which was completely destroyed by the Israelis during the 1967 war. The regular active Syrian forces have withdrawn inland. (10)

Lebanon is paralyzed after the killing of the head of military intelligence, which Hezbollah is accused of involvement in, but, as it turns out, Israel receives the biggest benefit of this so far.

Jordan has also entered a period of instability and may well be the next weak link in the “Middle East domino” by themselves opening a third wave of the “Arab Spring”. On this side of the border Israel is quite safe.

The question of starting and the scale of the ground operation in the Gaza Strip are still open. This is owing to concerns in the government about the possible reaction of the international community to Israel’s actions.

As practice shows, the ground phase of the operation leads to additional victims in the civilian population, which in turn strengthens the criticism of Israel, and, respectively, the pressure on it.

At the same time the head of Middle East Studies at the Brookings Institution, Daniel Byman believes, for example, that Israel may lose the gamble it has started in Gaza. (11)

A new factor compared to the time of the extremely tight Operation Cast Lead in 2008, which killed about 1,500 people in Gaza, is the “Arab Spring” and the ideological affinity of Hamas with neighboring Arab regimes.

It will not be easy for Israel, if Hamas holds on for any length of time. Israelis are unlikely to want to reoccupy the entire sector, and they will not get the support of Washington, which does not want to further complicate its relations with Arab countries.

In response to this view Amir Goren wrote in the Israeli opposition newspaper “Haaretz”: “The military operations aimed at eliminating the commanders of hostile groups are justified, but fruitless.

As long as they are cut off from the wider national context, not tied to the solution of the national problem, Israel is moving into a debilitating spiral, each time returning to the same place. “(12)


Dmitry MININ |Strategic Culture Foundation| Strategic Culture Foundation



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