Australia/Israel Review


Dawn Breaks

Aug 29, 2022 | Ron Ben-Yishai

Scenes from a short, but uniquely successful, three-day conflict (Images: Flickr)
Scenes from a short, but uniquely successful, three-day conflict (Images: Flickr)

The aftermath of a successful operation in Gaza

 

Some 66 hours passed from the moment acting Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid gave the green light for the IDF and Shin Bet [Israel’s internal security agency] to take out high-profile Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) commander, Tayseer Jabari, to the moment the terror group was compelled to agree to a ceasefire on Sunday, August 7. 

The usage of the word “compelled” here is crucial. PIJ leader Ziyad al-Nakhaleh, who was in Teheran at the time, as well as the organisation’s other leaders in Gaza and Damascus, had no choice but to accept what the Egyptian mediators offered, even though it asked for no significant sacrifice from Israel.

The ceasefire lacked any form of substantial political or military content, and did anything but put the organisation at ease. It was essentially an unconditional surrender for PIJ, for the sake of Hamas and Gaza residents.

In return for the restraint shown by Hamas throughout the few days of fighting, Israel immediately resumed its obligations vis-à-vis Gaza that were agreed upon before the operation, such as allowing workers with permits to cross the border to return to their jobs inside Israel. 

There is no doubt that “Operation Breaking Dawn” was an outright Israeli triumph in all aspects: military, political, and financial. It showcased Israel’s impressive ability to manage a security crisis, which involved not only the IDF and Shin Bet, but also the Government and civilians, who displayed great determination and compliance. 

The Israeli public, with the cooperation of the Shin Bet intelligence unit, soldiers and commanders, pilots, and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operators, also took part in making this operation a memorable Israeli victory. 

The spirits of PIJ would have been raised by any sign of Israeli weakness. Casualties on the Israeli side would have likely caused the terror group to prolong its offensive. 

This time around, instead of mourning losses at home, Israelis came out of the operation feeling uplifted that justice had been done. This is contrary to previous Gaza campaigns, in which Israeli casualties and material losses sometimes blinded us from seeing the accomplishments.

This morale boost has directly influenced the political echelon, especially Lapid and Defence Minister Benny Gantz, who approved the daring plan presented to them by the IDF and Shin Bet. 

However, it must be noted that the IDF and Israeli civilians were blessed with a lot of luck. Many things had the potential to go wrong, yet the odds were in Israel’s favour.

The missiles fired by Israel’s jets almost always landed exactly where they were supposed to, the intelligence was flawless, and the collateral damage, i.e. innocent Gazan civilians, was kept to a minimum. 

There’s no point in dwelling on the poor management of PIJ’s military wing, but it is important to pay attention to the organisation led by al-Nakhaleh. The absentee leader was far too eager to please his patrons in Teheran, and thus allowed the IDF and Shin Bet to manage the operation in ideal circumstances.

Nonetheless, it’s important that the Government and the IDF investigate and learn lessons from this campaign – not just from the failures, but also from the accomplishments. Luck may not be on Israel’s side next time, and “next time” may be just around the corner.

The main takeaway from this operation is that precise political and military preparations are necessary for success in the battlefield. This kind of preparation calls for resources – mostly time – hence the IDF must plan and conduct exercises to prepare for operations where Israel is not the initiator, who automatically has the upper hand.

We must also applaud the restraint of Lapid and Gantz, who kept quiet, thus setting the stage for IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi and Shin Bet Director Ronen Bar to surprise the PIJ with a multidimensional blow. Less than three minutes into the mission, the PIJ was already thrown off balance, giving Israel the upper hand. Had Lapid and Gantz disclosed the plan to additional parties, the surprise attack may not have been possible.

Israel also stood strong in refusing the PIJ’s ridiculous terms for a truce proposed to the mediators, while at the same time showing readiness to end the fighting. 

Both the entry and exit strategies of the operation were managed perfectly, especially considering the common mistakes the winning side sometimes makes by neglecting the diplomatic and political fronts upon victory. 

Still, the operation neither solved the problem in Gaza, nor promoted any solution. PIJ was not obliterated. It still has the ability to cause harm both in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Additionally, we must not forget that this round of fighting was conducted under ideal circumstances – against a cruel yet very limited enemy, in a small battlefield in which Israel not only has the authority to impose a blockade, but can also gather intelligence and maintain mobility very easily.

An operation in Lebanon or Syria, or both simultaneously, will require the IDF to activate all its units and function under much tougher conditions. Moreover, the phenomenal 97% success rate of the Iron Dome in Operation Breaking Dawn cannot be seen as a standard in the case of missile attacks from Hezbollah or Iran.

The launchpads used by PIJ during this operation were very limited, and no UAVs were activated at all. Thus, the IDF’s air defence systems enjoyed ideal circumstances. Operation Breaking Dawn was not representative of potential conflicts the IDF may get caught up in in the future. 

Nonetheless, Israel came out of this operation with three major accomplishments.

Firstly, thwarting a strategic attempt by PIJ to impose restrictions on Israeli action against its members in the West Bank, who want to carry out deadly terror attacks against Israeli citizens.

Secondly, deterring Israel’s regional enemies, such as Iran, Hezbollah, and Hamas. They sat on the sidelines and watched as Israel’s impressive intelligence bodies and Air Force managed to isolate PIJ from Hamas and Iran, and maintain international legitimacy throughout the conflict.

Thirdly, strengthening Israel’s regional and international status and relations with the countries that are part of the Abraham Accords, Israel proved that it is indeed ready and capable of fighting to secure its civilians and sovereignty.

Ron Ben-Yishai is Security Affairs Correspondent for the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronot. A veteran war correspondent, Ben-Yishai has covered many military conflicts in different regions and in 2018, he won the Israel Prize, Israel’s most prestigious civic honour. © Yediot Ahronot (ynet.com), reprinted by permission, all rights reserved.

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