Opinion: Recent security escalation, including rocket fire, proves the government has forgotten the lessons learned in the last two wars against Hamas, during which it became evidently clear that no agreement can ever placate the terror group

The recent security escalation – namely the flurry of terror attacks in which 14 Israelis were killed, the riots on the Temple Mount and the resumption of rocket fire from Gaza – all point to the collapse of the Israeli blueprint for maintaining security, formulated over the past year.

In Gaza, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s government adopted a policy that sought to maintain calm by granting Hamas, which ruled Gaza, and the public in the Strip a string of benefits – including enormous economic reliefs, as well as allowing unprecedented number of Palestinian workers into Israel – aimed at improving the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave.

תומכי חמאס מפגינים בג'בליה
Protestors waving Hamas flags in the Gaza Strip, April 2022 (Photo: AP)


Since the benefits had been granted, Israel has experienced the longest period of calm on the southern border since its disengagement from Gaza in 2005. And yet, the price Israel is set to pay is not merely economic, since the Hamas can abuse this quiet to intensify and build up its forces for future attacks.

Bennett, Defense Minister Benny Gantz and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi initially said the country’s policy towards Gaza would be that of zero tolerance for incendiary balloons or rockets launched from Gaza, which would be met with a tough Israeli response.

This policy, which provided important calm to the residents of the south, had lasted about 11 months before it collapsed.

כוחות מג"ב בהר הבית
Israeli security forces on the on the Temple Mount, April 2022 (Photo: AFP)


Those who sit atop the country’s security and political echelons knew that this policy of retaliation had an expiration date, the problem is that they had failed to make the adjustments needed to make this policy long-lasting.

As far as the defense establishment is concerned, Hamas has failed twice to meet its end of the deal agreed upon following last May’s war. First, by fueling the al-Aqsa Mosque riots in order to ignite Arab world, and twice by allowing the Islamic Jihad and other militants to sporadically fire rockets into Israel.

Still, Hamas has yet to pay a price for these two infractions.

Israel, for its part, through sweeping concessions is trying to force the terrorist organization to go back to the path of mainly verbal resistance.

פלסטינים מנופפים בדגלי פלסטין וחמאס בהר הבית
Palestinians waving the Hamas flag on the Temple Mount, April 2022 (Photo: AFP)


The government is acting as though it has forgotten the lessons learned during the last two wars against Hamas in both 2014 and 2021 – during which, it became evidently clear that no agreement can actually placate and appease any of Gaza’s terror factions.

The latest rocket fire on Friday was not even met with military response. Instead, the government decided to change strategy and punish the population: i.e. not to allow some 12,000 Palestinian workers to enter Israel with the hope they’ll pressure the Hamas’ leadership to change its ways.

Not only will this strategy most likely fail, it’s also a 180 degrees pivot from the government’s policy that puts the economy in Gaza at the forefront of potential peace, and a need to differentiate between militants and civilian population.

So, why harm Gaza’s general population instead of Hamas’ military wing? How can Israel change its entire policy seemingly overnight?

The top echelon of the IDF sees the situation differently. It apparently sees Hamas’ effort in calming the tensions on the border, among other things by thwarting unauthorized rocket launches. If a rocket is fired, it’s because it “flew under Hamas’ radar”.

Last week’s Israel Air Force attacks in Gaza – following yet another rocket attack – were significant since they damaged important facilities for Hamas, which in turn does not want another round of fighting against Israel.

תקיפת צה"ל בעזה
The IDF’s attack in Gaza, April 21, 2022 (Photo: AFP )


The army’s task now is to avoid a situation where Hamas feels it needs to respond with force, and thus spark another round of cross-border fighting at the tailend of the holy month of Ramadan.

Ahead of Ramadan, the Shin Bet, the IDF and the Israel Police have all focused their attention on the Temple Mount – most probably in order to avoid the re-run of last year’s riots in the contested area – which led to the May war with Gaza’s terror factions, as well as to the racially motivated riots that scorched Israel’s mixed cities.

While the defense establishment was preoccupied with the Temple Mount, Hamas fueled rampant unrest in both Jerusalem and the West Bank, all while allowing Gazan militants to fire rockets into Israeli territory unabated.

The defense establishment also overlooked the Islamic State cells that started cropping up in the territories, as well as the dangerous gaps in the country’s separation barrier – which Israel famously dubs an important tool in its fight against Palestinian terrorism.

In the past, when rockets were fired on Israel’s northern communities from Lebanon, no one sought to explain which militant faction carried out the attack, and whether or not it was sanctioned by the Hezbollah terror group. There was an enemy that harmed the security of the citizens of the state and the army fought against it. No excuses. No explanation needed.

רסיס הרקטה בשדרות
A rocket fired from Gaza landed near a residential home in the southern city of Sderot, April 2022 (Photo: Matan Tzuri)


Israel must do everything to maintain peace within its own borders. We have enough domestic social, economic and security challenges to contend with as it is.

And yet, the country must also understand that it cannot turn a blind eye and act as if an arrangement can be made with Gaza.

At the end of the May war, the government promised that “what has just transpired will transpire no more”.

Yet here we are, a year later, and for the residents of southern Israel – who must still contend with rocket fire and incendiary balloons from Gaza – nothing has changed.

The defense establishment needs to broaden its perspective – not just when it comes top the Temple Mount – recalculate its route and define its mission anew: To protect Israel’s south at all cost.

As reported by Ynetnews