Geopolitics

Israel – America’s Ukraine 2.0?
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 17 Oct , 2023

The multi-pronged Hamas attack in Israel on October 7 caused enormous casualties in the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF). Details of killed in first  24 hours of the action published by IDF include: 19 killed in Unit 414 Nesher (Vulture) in Camp Urim; Gaza Division Signals Battalion commander and Multidimensional ‘Ghost’ unit commander killed in Camp Re’im; 11 killed in ‘Sayeret Matkal’ – Israel’s premier SOF (Special Operations Force)  unit; commander of ‘Shayetet 13’ (naval SOF) killed; 5 killed in ‘Shaldag’ (airborne unit) and many grievously wounded; Brigade Commander of 933rd Nahal infantry brigade along with Commander of the Brigade Reconnaissance Battalion and his deputy, and many others KIA at Kerem Shalom checkpoint.

All SOF units suffered casualties in Hamas ambushes and while clearing areas seized by Hamas. The IDF Southern Command’s Gaza Division practically collapsed and Israel’ response was slow because of the large number of casualties of the signal intelligence personnel and destruction/damage to their infrastructure. Killing of key unit commanders also contributed to the slow response. It indeed was a big psychological blow to the IDF.

Much has been written how Hamas circumvented the AI-enabled surveillance and intelligence system. However, new facts indicate there is more than what meets the eye. The foreign minister of Egypt has said 10 days before the Hamas attack he told Israeli o Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that something “big” is going to happen. Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry has also issued a statement saying that the Kingdom had been warning of an “explosive situation as a result of the continued occupation and deprivation of the Palestinian people’s legitimate rights.”

Hamas was practicing the attacks in plain sight and posted clips of these attacks by land, sea and air) on social media in September 2023 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MYSUQh2wWtw). It is difficult to believe these were not noticed by Israel’s Mossad, Aman and Shin Bet, and the CIA. Now Barak Ravid, quoting unnamed Israeli officers, writes that Israeli intelligence picked up signs of irregular Hamas activity in Gaza the night before the Hamas attack. But top IDF and Shin Bet leaders decided not to put military forces on borders of the enclave on high alert (https://www.axios.com/2023/10/12/hamas-attack-israel-intelligence-failure-high-alert-shen-bet). Ravid says that IDF and Shin Bet declined to comment on his story when asked. 

Ravid further wrote that despite consultations between the IDF and Shin Bet, Netanyahu was informed only the next day – after Hamas attacked. This appears  to be spin doctoring. With so many indicators and Israel’s past history of even knowing what is cooking inside Iran in its nuclear pursuit, why were border units not alerted? Why would the border NOT be alerted the moment unusual Hamas activity was noticed? Was this not a ‘cardinal sin’ not expected of Netanyahu, Mossad and Shin Bet?

It is quite possible that the aim was to let the attack happen and then go lock, stock and barrel after Hamas. The miscalculation perhaps was that Hamas would not be able to inflict this number of Israeli casualties. Nevertheless, Israel’s hierarchy cannot absolved from the blood of Israeli lives lost by not putting the borders on full alert despite the activities and earlier encounters with Hamas.

It is important to note that it was the US that initiated the historic Oslo Accord on September 13, 1997, with Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat signing the agreement at the White House. But despite having the wherewithal to push through this agreement and executing the two-state theory, the US never intended to do so. As of now, the US is desperately looking to open a second front against Moscow, having failed to achieve its utopian dream of defeating Russia in Ukraine.

The alacrity with which the US has moved to assist Israel (without Israel asking for it), a second aircraft carrier moving in and Antony Blinken and Lloyd Austin descending on Tel Aviv, indicates the strategy to ignite another regional conflict was planned in Washington. After all, planning conflicts around the world is the forte of the CIA in consultation with various think tanks. It does not matter if the world economy suffers and supply chains are choked as long as America is not hurt physically and can continue to reap strategic and economic advantages from the conflict.

The advice to Israel to bomb Syria and Lebanon in addition to Gaza possibly also came from the US. Pitching in token US SOF for advice and maybe limited action matters little because it is the IDF that will bear the brunt of the casualties clearing the labyrinthine tunnels of the Hamas in Gaza (and of Hezbollah in Lebanon?) even though Israel may have to use gas, smoke and chemicals like the Americans did in Vietnam.

The US would want Russia and Iran to be drawn into the conflict, not China although Hamas is already using Chinese ammunition. The US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller says America is asking China, which has ties with Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, to use its influence to help prevent Israel’s fight with Hamas militants from spreading through the region.Ironically, the US fails to acknowledge that its warped policies to wage war and plunder the  West Asia had to have fallouts which are catching up now.

The US first said that there is no evidence of Iran’s involvement in the Hamas attack on Israel. However, it has now warned Iran to stay out of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The Hamas attack killed many civilians but civilians are getting killed in the Israeli bombing of Gaza as well. Israel has asked Gazans to get out before the ground assault begins. However, complete vacation is unlikely because of multiple reasons. It is as difficult to clinically separate Hamas and Palestinians because a certain measure of overlap is unavoidable.

Moreover, Hamas has a large number of hostages which it would use selectively. It is easy to say that the attackers should not bother about hostages, but then one must be prepared for video clips of them being abused and butchered individually appearing on social media later. After all, this is the type of savagery the Islamic State, Taliban and other organizations have been practicing to motivate and attract more volunteers.

Complete eradication of Hamas is impossible although some leaders may be killed and their infrastructure damaged. Witness the efforts of the US to eradicate Al Qaeda, Taliban (to name few) plus the US finally handing over Afghanistan to the Taliban. The US may be calling this an Israel-Hamas war but together with its foolish policies in the region, this is a setting for a clash of civilizations – Muslims versus non-Muslims, with some other actors supporting both sides. That is why there is support for Palestine all over the world – including inside Israel, France, Paris, Middle East, South Asia and elsewhere. Over one million have volunteered in Iran to fight on the side of Palestine.

Surrounded by Arab countries, Israel already has a demographic disadvantage with a 1.6 percent population growth rate and Palestinians being part of Israel’s population. Israel is an undeclared nuclear power and militarily strong. It is unlikely to be attacked like Ukraine.But if America’s interest to promote the clash of civilizations is allowed to proceed, Israel may face an asymmetric threat from all directions, not from the direction of Gaza alone. This could be catastrophic. According to one estimate, Israel’s maximum mobilization potential is limited to about 6,50,000 and the Taliban  havealready been saying that if Israel’s neighbouring countries grant passage, they can capture Jerusalem in no time. After Israeli bombing in Lebanon, the Hezbollah has put up flags with “revenge” inscribed on them.

The US is sitting pretty as its mainland is not involved and it only has to extend military support to Israel in the form of air support, air defence, munitions and the like. It has begun evacuating  American citizens from Haifa on October 16. However, the time is not far when today’s spectacles on the streets of Paris and London overwhelms America as well. The saner thing for the US would be to diffuse the situation as best as it can and help reach a lasting solution between Israel and Palestine.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army.

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