Wednesday, March 8, 2017

HAMAS Tunnels

Hamas is still tunneling. With or without the state comptroller’s report, it tunnels almost without respite, and without paying much heed to the incessant Israeli chatter regarding the war that ended two and half years ago.

Israel plainly doesn’t really know how to prepare for the next war; only for the previous one. That was the case, too, with the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Hamas is still tunneling, 24/7, in shifts.

It’s hard to believe amid the crescendo of 2014 recrimination generated by Tuesday’s comptroller report, but the fact is that Hamas has already got at least 15 tunnels under the border with Israel.

Right now.

Meanwhile inside Gaza, a subterranean network thrives — criss-crossing over tens of miles — transferring supplies, enabling gunmen to move around at will.

Residents of Tel Aviv, who are living amid years of construction for a city subway project, can only be jealous of the dizzying pace at which the diggers move beneath Gaza and at the border.

The IDF has upped its preparedness and training to try to confront the tunnel threat. There has been much talk of the barrier Israel is constructing to block the cross-border tunnels. But nobody expects such a barrier to be completed within the next couple of years. Despite the comptroller’s report, with its repetition of the familiar litany of failures, therefore, Israel still lacks an effective defense against the Hamas tunnels. Israel also still lacks an effective response to Hamas’s ongoing rearmament.

This is where the ongoing failure lies.

Nobody wants to start another war by taking preemptive action. And therefore, it is clear that in the event of another round of conflict with Hamas, Israel will again be vulnerable to attack via cross-border tunnels. And if that next round of conflict develops into a full-scale war, the IDF will not encounter too many Hamas fighters above ground. There’ll all be in the internal Gaza tunnels.

For decades, the IDF has trained for warfare via columns of tanks, taking control of enemy areas. Has it trained for battle in the arena Hamas has now prepared for it inside Gaza? Given the insistence on looking backward rather than ahead, as exemplified by Tuesday’s report and the clamor it has attracted, one doubts it.

If there is one useful conclusion to be drawn from the comptroller’s report, much more useful than his comments about the tunnels, it is his assertion that IDF military intelligence failed to accurately gauge Hamas’s appetite for war. At the very beginning of 2014’s Operation Protective Edge, the assessment of IDF military intelligence was that Hamas was eager to end the fighting. At a series of briefings in the early days of the war, military intelligence declared that Hamas was weak, had been dealt punishing blows, and wanted to cry uncle.

Those assessments, for some reason, overlooked what Hamas considered to be its achievements, as well as its conviction that it was scoring many points in Gazan and wider Arab public opinion. Those assessments, for some reason, failed to internalize Hamas’s desire to continue fighting, and its belief that it was poised at a historic turning point. Military intelligence missed its mark.

Hamas was wrong to believe that the war would enable it to dramatically change the Gaza reality, by pressuring Israel into lifting the security blockade and/or consenting to the construction of sea or air ports. It was wrong, but its confidence meant it was not looking for a swift end to the fighting.
Ahead of the next conflict, Israel should realize that gauging the true intentions of Hamas — and of Hezbollah, in southern Lebanon, for that matter — is far from simple.