I think it’s very unlikely they will be able to do another Tel Aviv strike. Hundreds of air strikes in the last 24 hoursIsrael’s leadership taken by surprise, in a conflict it failed to see coming
On one of the most shattering nights in recent Israeli history — with hundreds of Hamas rockets battering the country, and a violent minority of Israel’s own Arab populace targeting its Jews — the most disconcerting moments were those that showed the nation how profoundly our political leaders and security chiefs were taken by surprise.
Hours after Hamas launched what appears to have been its most concentrated rocket assault on central Israel, with a reported 130 rockets fired from Gaza, the prime minister, defense minister, army chief and Shin Bet head convened a joint press conference late Tuesday whose goals were plainly to reassure a nation under attack and to urge the population to heed life-saving security precautions.
The call to the public to head to safe rooms and bomb shelters as and when ordered came through loud and clear. Not so the reassurance.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that Hamas would pay a heavy price for its aggression, and that its leaders’ “blood is on their heads” — the kind of language that he has used often in the past in situations far less threatening; routine words for a situation that was anything but.
Sounding still further out of touch, IDF Chief Aviv Kohavi told the worried watching nation that the army was “fully deploying our air defenses to thwart the rocket fire, with great success, even if not hermetically” (emphasis added).
Israel’s astonishing Iron Dome missile defense system has indeed been achieving great success, reportedly hitting up to 90% of the incoming rockets at which it has been directed. But what the evidence of the previous few hours had shown was that Hamas and its fellow terror groups were nonetheless able to maintain their attacks almost at will, firing so often and so intensively as to occasionally evade even the most sophisticated defenses. Barely four hours later, Hamas proved the point, unleashing another colossal rocket barrage everywhere from southern Israel to north of Tel Aviv.
Of the political and security quartet, only Shin Bet chief Nadav Argaman indicated tacit recognition that Hamas, rather than Israel, was setting the agenda in an escalation Israel’s intelligence assessments had failed to predict. Keeping his remarks to a minimum, Argaman said curtly that it was “insufferable” for a terrorist group to be threatening Israel, and that “now is not the time for talking.”
What was highlighted in the plea for help Tuesday night from Revivo — a former Likud election campaign chief and robust ally of the prime minister — was that the authorities failed to fully internalize where all those processes might lead. When parts of the Arab sector erupted overnight Tuesday — with Lod at the forefront, but violence too in Jaffa and Acre and other Jewish-Arab areas — the police were unprepared, and the government was, as with the rockets, forced frantically to react to events that others were setting in motion.
This current conflict could yet become considerably more complex for Israel to handle. Hezbollah, the other quasi-state terrorist army, across our northern border, has far greater rocket and missile capabilities than Hamas, ready to fire the moment that Iran gives the signal. Relatively speaking, the West Bank has thus far been conspicuous in the disinclination of its residents to enter the confrontation, despite the best efforts of Hamas. One of the many reasons the government and the IDF have for years preferred not to engage in major conflict with Gaza is precisely the concern that it could trigger major conflict on multiple fronts.
The events of the last two days, and the evident surprise by which the government and military have been taken, underline the long-bewailed consequences of our years of political dysfunction, marked by endless election campaigning, narrow bickering and transitional government — a paralyzing concoction antithetical to strategic thinking and clear policymaking.
Where Gaza is concerned, “there is no policy,” the former Mossad officer Sima Shine opined on Tuesday afternoon. For years, said the former national security adviser Giora Eiland, there has been no serious, strategic government discussion of options for Gaza.
Gloating at having briefly shut down the Knesset, disrupted Jerusalem Day, and sent half the country dashing for shelter, Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh declared late Tuesday that his Gaza-ruling terror group had created “a new balance of power” with Israel. As the Shin Bet’s Argaman said, that is “insufferable.”
At the leadership’s disconcerting press conference, Defense Minister Benny Gantz cautioned Israelis: “We must not be dismissive about the situation we are in.”
Rarely was advice more appropriate and necessary.
'We must not be dismissive about the situation we are in,' defense minister says, as rockets hit nationwide and Arab riots spread. Rarely was advice more appropriate and necessarywww.timesofisrael.com