Post-mortems on “Operation Breaking Dawn”
Aug 12, 2022 | AIJAC staff
Last weekend, Israel fought a three-day mini-war with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), a Gaza-based terrorist group which is a proxy of Iran. The IDF labelled this conflict “Operation Breaking Dawn” – and AIJAC’s Judy Maynard has prepared a fact sheet summarising all the details of what happened, and the relevant background.
This Update builds on Judy’s work by featuring some post-mortem analysis of the conflict, including a focus on some of its longer-term implications.
We lead with Times of Israel editor David Horovitz. He makes five main points about the conflict – Israel achieved its quite limited goals; it exhibited better public diplomacy than in past conflicts; Israel’s Iron Dome missile defence system proved remarkably effective; it was notable that Hamas stayed out of this conflict; and Iran will not be chastened by the performance of its proxy PIJ. He has interesting nuances about all these points – for instance, IDF public diplomacy success does not mean international coverage was fair this time around, and while Iron Dome is remarkable, it cannot prevent PIJ’s rearmament and yet another round of violence in the future. For all the valuable details, CLICK HERE.
Next up is top US foreign policy analyst Danielle Pletka, who draws some bigger picture conclusions after this conflict. Key conclusions are – the Palestinian cause remains in the hands of the most extreme actors such as PIJ; Iran is playing the US for a fool by holding nuclear negotiations while encouraging proxies like PIJ to unleash violence; and hopes for any Israeli-Palestinian two-state peace deal remain very distant, while no Israeli concessions can help change this. For Pletka’s explanation of each of these points, CLICK HERE.
Finally, Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid offers his take on this conflict and on PIJ. He looks at the history and ideology of PIJ, and its record of vicious terror attacks. He argues both this week’s conflict and PIJ should be seen as part of a larger Iranian-led war against both Israel and free nations more generally, and that Israel has a right to self-defence against this. For Eid’s unique take, CLICK HERE. Eid also had a second insightful piece on how Iran is harming the Palestinian people.
Readers may also be interested in…
- More good post-mortems of “Operation Breaking Dawn” from military reporter Ron Ben Yishai, former Israeli National Security Advisor Meir Ben-Shabbat, academic Uri Dekel, Arab affairs correspondent Yoni Ben Menachem, and American analyst Enia Krivine.
- More on the Iranian role in the fighting from Herb Keinon and Orly Azoulay. Plus, more on Iron Dome’s achievement from Shoshana Bryen.
- Hamas reportedly tried to muzzle journalists from reporting on PIJ rockets falling within Gaza and killing Palestinians before backing down.
- Comments on problematic media coverage of this conflict from Ariel Behar and Jack Wolfson.
- British columnist Brendan O’Neill points out the incongruity of supposed leftists rooting for PIJ.
- A report on the background and circumstances of the 49 Palestinians killed in this weekend’s fighting, concluding that a majority of those killed in Israeli airstrikes were terrorist operatives.
- An analysis suggesting Hamas stayed out of the fighting because it wants to focus on trying to take over the West Bank, while consolidating control over Gaza.
- Scholars Orde Kittrie and David May call for change as the UN appoints a new Human Rights Commissioner to succeed the controversial Michele Bachelet. Plus, former Australian federal minister Neil Brown offers some very witty comments on the UN’s Human Rights mandarins.
- Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC’s daily “Fresh AIR” blog:
- AIJAC’s media releases – one on last weekend’s conflict, once it began last Friday, and another on the ceasefire that ended it on Sunday night.
- Oved Lobel on the assassination of al-Qaeda head Ayman al-Zawahiri and what it teaches about the relationship between al-Qaeda and Iran.
- AIJAC video profiles of founding Israeli PM David Ben-Gurion and his successor Moshe Sharett.
Modest success for Israel, self-serving restraint by Hamas: Insights on Gaza flareup
1. Limited goals, achieved
In three days of fighting, Israel achieved its vital, relatively modest declared objectives: It thwarted a “concrete” bid by Palestinian Islamic Jihad to carry out a murderous cross-border attack on soldiers and/or civilians. It eliminated key commanders of the group’s leadership, including orchestrators of previous deadly attacks. It destroyed some of Islamic Jihad’s assets in Gaza. It arrested further Islamic Jihad operatives in the West Bank. And it cut the link that the terrorist group was trying to establish between Gaza and the West Bank, whereby Islamic Jihad attempted to deter Israel from tackling its terror plans in the West Bank by threatening to target Israel from Gaza.
It did all this without Hamas entering the conflict, without triggering fighting on other fronts, and without an upsurge in violence in Jerusalem or in mixed Arab-Jewish cities.
It initiated a preemptive operation, and it managed to bring that operation to a conclusion when those declared objectives were largely achieved.
2. More effective public diplomacy
Israel maintained fairly solid diplomatic support from its allies, led by the United States.
And in the no less important field of public diplomacy, it proved almost unprecedentedly fast and effective in debunking allegations that it had killed civilians in a potentially major incident in Jabaliya on Saturday night.
After initial reports that an Israeli airstrike had killed at least seven people, four of them children, the IDF immediately indicated that this was not the case — that it had not been operating in the area and had reason to believe that the fatalities were caused by a failed Islamic Jihad rocket launch. It rapidly backed up those claims by releasing video footage that it said showed the initial rise, and then the rapid fall back to earth inside Gaza of the rocket in question.
The IDF also challenged Palestinian reports that it was responsible for civilian deaths in at least two other incidents, again blamed on Israeli strikes but ascribed by the IDF to failed rocket launches, though without releasing supporting materials.
Many news outlets cited the Israeli account of the Jabaliya incident, and the rapidity and credibility of the Israeli counterclaim likely impacted some international reporting on other contested incidents as well.
Official Israel can atypically pat itself a little on the back for its rapid response — in stark contrast, say, to the inglorious handling of everything from the Mavi Marmara deaths in 2010 to the destruction of the Gaza tower block housing AP and other media offices last year.
But the “success” is relative. That same video showing the Jabaliya rocket fail also showed numerous other Islamic Jihad rockets snaking their devastating way out of Gaza, aimed deep into Israel, intended to kill and maim as many Israelis as possible.
Israeli public diplomacy may have reduced, a little, the waves of international criticism leveled at Israel that accompany every round of Gaza-Israel conflict. Fairer international coverage would highlight the terror groups’ indiscriminate fire at Israeli citizens, their use of Gaza’s populace as human shields, and the foundational context that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005 to the pre-1967 lines, has no civilian or military presence there, and no territorial claims. In short, every round of conflict with Gaza since Hamas seized power there from Fatah in 2007 — and that includes this preemptive round — is a consequence of Gaza-initiated aggression and/or threats.
The IDF was able to quickly get out material, like this map, showing that widely-reported incidents of Palestinian civilians getting killed were being caused by misfiring Islamic Jihad rockets. (Photo: IDF)
3. Iron Dome vs. relentless rockets
Constantly improving, the astonishing Iron Dome rocket defense system intercepted almost every rocket and shell that was headed toward populated areas. About 1,100 projectiles were fired at Israel over the three days of fighting, and thanks to the combination of Iron Dome, reinforced rooms and a disciplined public, there were no Israeli fatalities.
Without Iron Dome, and the multiple other systems Israel has introduced and is perfecting to tackle short-, medium- and long-range rockets and missiles, life here, to put it simply, would be untenable. Israel would not be able to tolerate enemy attacks, and would have to follow an infinitely more aggressive strategy against its assailants — with devastating consequences.
Nonetheless, Iron Dome and the complementary defense systems are not hermetic. They are not panaceas. And thus even relatively unsophisticated enemies, such as Islamic Jihad, are able to bring much of Israel to a halt at moments of their choosing.
Furthermore, for all the astonishing intelligence-gathering that enabled the IDF, for instance, to pinpoint Islamic Jihad’s northern commander Tayseer Jabari in his Gaza City apartment, and for all the astounding precision capabilities that enabled the IDF to wipe out that apartment without causing widespread damage — all that intel and precision bombing, in this conflict and in all preceding conflicts, have not enabled the IDF to halt incoming rocket fire from Gaza. The IDF strives endlessly to make it harder for enemies to fire — with planes and drones patrolling the Gaza skies, with strikes on rocket launchers and crews and stores — but still the rockets fly. And in the pauses between rounds of conflict, the terror groups restock and improve their rockets.
4. Hamas restraint
Israel got to start, conduct and end this round of fighting broadly as it hoped because Hamas chose not to get involved. This was not because Hamas has abandoned its strategic goal of destroying Israel, but because it does not believe it can destroy Israel right now.
Israeli officials believe Hamas chose not to get dragged into this conflict because it was deterred by last year’s Operation Guardian of the Walls, and because the outgoing coalition has offered economic carrots as well as sticks to Gaza, notably including 14,000 work permits, that Hamas does not want to lose.
Nobody should delude themselves that Hamas is becoming less of a strategic threat to Israel. If anything, the reverse is true. It chose to exercise short-term restraint when under pressure to join its ally-rival in battering the loathed Zionists, because it assessed that this better serves its long-term anti-Israel ambitions.
Hamas’ leader in Gaza Yahya Sinwar: One notable fact about this operation was Hamas’ decision to remain on the sidelines. (Photo: Anas-Mohammed, Shutterstock)
5. For Iran, not a bad week’s work
It has been suggested that the depleted local leadership of Islamic Jihad pushed for Sunday night’s ceasefire in defiance of its leaders abroad, including in Tehran, who wanted to fight on. Iran, which funds Islamic Jihad, does so solely in the cause of harming Israel and Israelis, and was therefore most unlikely to have been urging a halt.
While Israel can legitimately express satisfaction with the narrow results of a modest resort to force, Iran, nonetheless, will also be feeling more than satisfied with its work. Its nuclear program is proceeding apace. And, in the meantime, its relatively small investment in a proxy terror group on Israel’s southern border brought much of southern Israel to a halt for a week — including the pre-operation lockdown and the three days of fighting — and unsettled central Israel too.
Just think what we can achieve, they will be musing in Tehran, if we unleash Hezbollah.
A Short War in Gaza
By Danielle Pletka
AEIdeas, August 08, 2022
The Gaza conflict over the weekend demonstrated once again how the Palestinian “cause” remains in the hands of the most extreme elements of Palestinian politics, such as these fighters from Palestinian Islamic Jihad (Photo: Anas-Mohammed, Shutterstock).
Over the weekend, a ceasefire took effect, ending—for now—the three-day war between US-designated terrorist group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and Israel. It is a testament to how far the fortunes of the Palestinian cause have fallen that a scroll through the New York Times app (top to bottom) doesn’t touch the story. Here’s what this brief conflict teaches us:
- The fate of “Palestine” is in the hands of the most extreme elements in Palestinian politics. Fatah, the party of Palestinian president-for-life Mahmoud Abbas, has hewn the middle road—some terrorism, some extremism, some corruption, some cooperation with Israel, lots of grandstanding, not much governance. Hamas, the terror group that controls the Gaza Strip, has been hard put to govern; its popularity has shrunk as the group has failed to deliver any tangible improvements. Hamas blames the Jews; Hamas’ subjects are quietly unsure whether the Jews are to blame, or just Hamas. They don’t dare say so. Terrorism is what Hamas is good at, but it has been outbid by Palestinian Islamic Jihad. PIJ has been behind a continual stream of killings in recent years, and its sponsors in Iran have been pleased. As a result, the Israeli government decided to take out PIJ’s top two leaders. Short war, several dozen deaths in Gaza, end of war.
- Iran plays the United States for a fool. This is not news, but Tehran’s efforts to elevate PIJ should not go unnoticed in Washington. The leadership of the Islamic Republic is not interested in the fate of Palestine; it is interested in the fate—the eradication—of Israel. As the Biden administration prostrates itself before Iran’s nuclear negotiators in Vienna, the Tehran regime ups the ante in Gaza, spending money, funneling arms, and otherwise seeking to embroil the Middle East in war once again. PIJ is its tool for the moment, but it has many others. That’s why concentrating only on nuclear Iran, and not on terrorist Iran, missile-proliferating Iran, human rights–denying Iran, is a mistake.
American foreign policy expert Danielle Pletka: “Tehran’s efforts to elevate PIJ should not go unnoticed in Washington.” (Photo: Paul Morigi. Flickr | Licence details).
- Land for peace is not a serious option. There are any number of excuses to explain away why Israel’s wholesale withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 did not earn Jerusalem peace. It didn’t solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict; Israel still controls Gaza’s borders; the West Bank is still regularly subjected to Israeli writ; the question of Jerusalem is unsolved, etc., etc., etc. Israelis have their parallel complaints about Palestinian governance, terrorism, extremism, subjugation to Iran, etc., etc., etc. But here’s the bottom line: It won’t matter how much land Israel gives up, because Palestinian maximalists own the decision-making, and they and their sponsors’ goal is the destruction of the State of Israel.
None of these conclusions are Earth shattering—perhaps why the New York Times is more concerned with Caroline Kennedy’s visit to Guadalcanal. But they underscore a painful reality: The issue of a free, sovereign Palestine will not be solved, and the fate of the Palestinian people is increasingly a matter of indifference to everyone.
Danielle Pletka is a distinguished senior fellow in foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where she focuses on US foreign policy generally and the Middle East specifically.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad is part of a global war against free nations
The terror group has longstanding ties with Al-Qaeda, Iran and the worldwide jihadist movement.
JNS.org, August 9, 2022
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei meets with PIJ Secretary General Ziyad Al-Nakhaleh and other officials. The PIJ does not attempt to hide its client relationship with Iran. (Photo: Khamenei.ir, Licence)
On Aug. 5, as squadrons of Gaza militants from the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) approached an Israeli border post, Israel initiated “Operation Breaking Dawn,” striking PIJ targets. The operation included a precision strike that took out top PIJ commander Tayseer al-Jabari.
What is this shadowy organization, what are its goals and capabilities and what is the nature of the threat it poses to the State of Israel? Fortunately, this information is publicly available; sadly, it paints a picture of a militant faction capable of immense violence. Moreover, PIJ operates under the command and control of the world’s top terror sponsor—the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has provided the group “millions of dollars in direct funding, as well as training and weapons.”
Despite being a Sunni movement, PIJ is inspired by Ayatollah Khomeini and the Iranian Revolution of 1979.
In 1981, PIJ’s founders were expelled from Egypt after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat by the related Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ). EIJ, under the leadership of Ayman al-Zawahiri, merged with Al-Qaeda in 1998. In the 1980s, PIJ leaders moved to Lebanon, where they “cultivated a partnership with Hezbollah” and Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran began funding PIJ via incentive payments for successful terror attacks in 2000. In 2016, Iran’s funding for PIJ was reported at $70 million annually. According to the U.S. State Department, Iran provides the majority of the PIJ’s budget.
PIJ does not hide its relationship with Iran. In 2002, PIJ’s then-leader Ramadan Shallah met with Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and said: “The Palestinian Islamic Jihad is another fruit of the Ayatollah Khomeini’s fructuous tree.” In 2012, at the height of the Syrian civil war, PIJ moved its headquarters from Damascus to Tehran. That same year, Shallah stated: “The weapons used by [PIJ]—the whole world knows that they come mostly from Iran or were purchased with Iranian funding.” PIJ is designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, as well as the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and Japan.
Starting in the 1990s, PIJ became a pioneer of modern suicide bombing. In 1995, PIJ targeted IDF personnel at a bus depot and followed up with a second bomber who targeted emergency responders. During the second intifada of 2000-2005, PIJ carried out more than 400 attacks in which 134 Israelis were killed and 880 injured. Since its allied terror group Hamas took over Gaza in 2007, PIJ has repeatedly carried out rocket attacks on Israeli families. Notably, in August 2019, it fired a rocket barrage directly at an Israeli music festival and in November 2019 fired hundreds of rockets at Israel.
Palestinian human rights activist Bassem Eid: Given the nature and goals of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and its Iranian patron, Israel had no choice but to defend itself (Photo: Wikimedia Commons | Licence details)
PIJ’s goal is to replace Israel with an Islamic theocracy. In this regard, it is part and parcel of a global movement that includes organizations like Al-Qaeda, which was intimately linked with the origins of PIJ. However, PIJ has long been a tool of Iran, which considers Israel the “Little Satan” alongside the “Great Satan” of the United States. Khamenei has threatened, “We regard Palestine as an organ of our body. … The only solution is the elimination of the root of this crisis, which is the Zionist regime.”
Israel seeks peace with its Arab neighbours and has normalized relations with several of them under the framework of the Abraham Accords. PIJ is not representative of the will of the Palestinian people, who with Israel shares the dream of a two-state solution within the borders of the pre-1948 British Mandate. Instead, PIJ is a violent terrorist organization armed and funded overwhelmingly by Iran, and used by that rogue nation as a pawn in a global war on free nations. Faced with such a fierce foe and its dangerous patron, Israel has no choice but to defend itself.
Bassem Eid is a Palestinian human-rights activist, political analyst and journalist.