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Politics of Military Force in the 2nd Gaza War

After the initial phase of Pillar of Defense the situation in Gaza has escalated. Both sides appeared ready to “climb the mountain of conflict”. Looking back, it would be beneficial to understand the mechanics behind this altercation and what possible ramifications developed from the Second Gaza War.

 

Following the assassination of Ahmed Jabari, the leader of Hamas’ militant wing, Hamas has proceeded to fire into Israel. Most notably of the weapons used in this new Hamas offensive is the Fajr-5 rocket. This weapon system allows Hamas to target Tel Aviv, Israel’s unofficial economic capitol and home to over forty percent of Israelis. Targeting Tel Aviv became an important part of the Hamas battle plan.

 

It was speculated by many that the Fajr-5 rockets were mostly disabled with the opening salvo of Pillar of Defense. Along with Jabari, these missiles were supposed to never bother Israel again. Quite clearly, the Fajr-5’s survived and presented a danger to Tel Aviv.

 

Although the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) failed to destroy all of the Fajr-5 rockets as was intended, this is not a horrible black eye for the IDF. After all this could have been a “use it before you lose it” strategy on the part of Hamas. In other words, though the rockets made it through the initial assault, the survivability of the rockets going forward was in doubt. Therefore, it could have been a rational choice to fire the rockets. Hamas would have been better served with the few remaining Fajr-5 rockets fired, than waiting for the IDF to destroy them on the launch pad.

 

However, to say that Hamas has fired on Tel Aviv because it is severely wounded and looking for any leverage it can find fails to take into account several key facts. Namely, this argument gives the IDF an undeserved pass. The point of Pillar of Defense was to cripple the Hamas missile infrastructure. Before the conflict, Hamas had only fired smaller mortars and rockets into areas surrounding Gaza. With the provocation of an IDF attack in Gaza, Hamas fired on a much more significant target with weapons the IDF should have destroyed. There is plenty the IDF has to account for in this conflict.

 

Further, life does not take place in a vacuum. So when Hamas fired on Tel Aviv consequences beyond a tit-for-tat munitions exchange will follow. Particularly, Hamas looked as though it had positioned itself for a ground invasion of Gaza. By successfully firing rockets on Tel Aviv, rockets that were supposed to have been destroyed the day before, Hamas called into question the significance of Pillar of Defense in particular and in general the IDF’s air power.

 

In military policy circles, the “Air Power Supremacy Myth” has often been the subject of debate. The belief that air power alone can win wars has always had a muddled past thus becoming a topic of “controversy”. But outside of War Departments the world over, the “Air Power Supremacy Myth” is not answered by flashy power points and succinct policy briefings. This myth is tested by fire and blood. In the mind of Hamas, and for that matter other proponents of the continuing significance of ground combat, Pillar of Defense proved air power alone is not enough to gain a military-political victory. Air power missed the mark.

 

Unable to destroy all the Fajr-5 rockets and other elements of the Hamas missile infrastructure, Hamas attempted to force Israel to invade. If not for the political intervention of the United States and the Egyptian military, the Gaza war would have turned into a quagmire. Both Israel and Palestine would have found it hard to claim victory. Both sides used their military powers to position themselves for the settlement.

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