Why Israel won – The seven mistakes Hamas made in the Gaza war

Hamas made several strategic decisions which on paper, and based on past experience, should have given it an advantage to a point that it could have forced Israel into a better cease-fire agreement. An agreement which would have improved Hamas’ position in future confrontations with Israel. Hamas wanted to get permission to open an airport and a seaport in Gaza so it could smuggle people and heavy weapons without interference from Egypt or Israel. However, this time the well-planned strategy did not work.

Mistake #1:

Hamas kidnapped, murdered, and hid three Israel teenagers who were on the way home after school. The plan was to keep their whereabouts as a secret and drag Israel into a long and difficult negotiation for their release (which would have turned out to be their bodies). This tactic worked very well during the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. It also worked very well for Hezbollah in the killing and stealing  the bodies of three Israeli reserve soldiers in 2006.

However, this time Israel reacted very quickly with an all out massive search for the missing soldiers. The bodies were discovered three week later in the West Bank. Israel responded by jailing again Hamas terrorists that were released in the Gilad Shalit deal. This was a humiliating punishment to Hamas who celebrated their initial release as a major accomplishment. Hamas responded by firing rockets into Israel.

Mistake #2:

Hamas was aware of Iron Dome’s capabilities from previous confrontations. Israel published again and again that the anti-rocket defense system’s success rate was 90%. According to Hamas’ calculations 10% penetration out of hundreds missiles, fired at Israel major metropolitan areas,was enough to cause substantial damage and force Israel to its knees. During the war, Hamas tested Iron Dome’s weaknesses by firing to a wide range of targets. It fired to the northern city Haifa, to the eastern city Jerusalem, and to Tel Aviv in central Israel.

However, the Iron Dome success rate was closer to a 100%. Throughout the war Hamas failed to cause any significant damage. During the war my daughter worked in Azrieli towers, the tallest buildings in Tel Aviv, and a primary target of Hamas’ rockets.Yet, despite the danger and because of the total success of Iron Dome, my daughter continued to go to work every day. I’m bringing it as an example of the total failure of Hamas’ strategy to create chaos and bring life in Israel to a standstill.

Mistake #3:

In previous wars Hamas was able to stop the fighting any time it wanted to by showing video clips of injured innocent people in hospitals in Gaza and blaming Israel for it.

However, not this time; with the exception of overreaction by the US administration and the usual condemnations by the UN, most of the world had enough with Hamas. The world’s public opinion was more objective than it was in past confrontations. Israel’s willingness to humanitarian cease-fires (based on Israel’s terms) whenever Hamas asked for them, helped Israel in getting a worldwide understanding of who was the aggressor and who was being attacked. Hamas didn’t help its cause by repeatedly breaking humanitarian cease-fires. It showed the world that the terror organization had no compassion for the suffering of its own people. The public executions in city squares of innocent Palestinians revealed Hamas’ true face.

Mistake #4:

Hamas counted on the usual acts of solidarity by the Arab world, an automatic action in past confrontations with Israel. A tool which was used effectively to isolate Israel in the world and force it to make concessions in favor of Hamas.

However, the Arab Spring taught the world a lesson of what extremist terror organizations can do. This lesson was learned in moderate Arab countries better than anywhere else. For that reason, this time around they supported Israel in its war against an organization that threaten their existed as well. Even the Palestinian Authority did not rush to its aid. Thus, Hamas was isolated and powerless to control the direction of the conflict.

Mistake #5:  

Hamas knew that it didn’t matter how many casualties it suffers, or how badly Gaza is damaged, it could still claim victory if the organization could kidnap at least one Israeli soldier (the more kidnapped Israelis the better). Hamas built a massive underground tunnel system for one purpose; to be able to get behind Israel’s front line to kidnap soldiers and then disappear into the heart of Gaza, not to be found. The truth must be told that Hamas came close several times to succeed in doing just that.

However, the IDF was prepared for such eventuality and practiced for it again and again. Soldiers were told to do everything in their power not to allow Hamas fighters to escape with a live soldier. At one point during the war, in the southern part of the Gaza strip, an Israeli soldier was not accounted for. Israel acted quickly and violently to isolate the area . The operation lasted for few days until it was determined that the missing soldier was dead. No Israeli soldier was kidnapped alive in the war. As of now Hamas is holding on to two bodies of dead Israeli soldiers. Their return for proper burial in Israel is a top objective for the Israeli government.

Mistake #6:

Over seven years, Hamas dug tunnels into Israel. Israel knew about some of them, but not all. Hamas planned to use the tunnels to infiltrate deep into the country. To conduct mass murders and create panic inside Israel on a scale not known before. Some say that this was one of the most dangerous threats that Israel had faced since its inception in 1948.

However, the failure of Hamas’ rocket attacks to cause chaos in inside Israel, and the timing of the war, which caught Hamas by surprise, got Hamas off balance. Theoretically, thousands of Hamas fighters could have walked into Israel with heavy weaponry and wreaked havoc.  In reality, very few Hamas fighters crossed the border. Almost all of them were spotted and killed immediately. Some were able to inflict  casualties. Israel destroyed many of the tunnels, but no one is certain that none remained. In the end, the tunnels into Israel did not have an impact on the war’s overall outcome.

Mistake #7- The biggest mistake:

Hamas did its homework and counted on the IDF to behave in a certain way. The IDF was known to be aggressive.  Hamas counted on the Israeli government, headed by none other than hawkish Benjamin Netanyahu and his relatively new defense minister, Moshe Yaalon, to remain true to their previous political statements in being as aggressive as possible.They expected the IDF to drive into the heart of Gaza with a large army. An army which was too large and too exposed to attacks by street firefights who were willing to die for their cause. On paper, the deeper the IDF entered Gaza, the better it was for Hamas; in such narrow streets, densely populated with civilian population, tanks were either useless, easy targets, or an inhumane way of fighting.

Hamas built a massive network of tunnels inside the most densely populated areas of Gaza with the intent to attack the IDF from all sides while hiding behind their civilian population. Once in Gaza, the IDF had two choices, either to stay in Gaza and suffer heavy casualties (and potentially multiple kidnapping of its soldiers), or withdraw with its tail between its legs. Israel would have paid a heavy political price for using its massive army in such densely populated area. In the eyes of Hamas, the more damage and more killing Israel would have done in Gaza, the better it was for Hamas.

However, despite all the provocations by Hamas, and growing internal pressure by Israeli citizens including members in his own government to stop the rocket launches by capturing Gaza, Netanyahu was not fooled. He stayed the pre-planned course of the war and used the air force to pressure Hamas into ending the war on Israel’s terms.

In the end, Hamas was defeated and forced to agree to a cease fire that did not fulfill any of their initial demands.


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