Israel thought that Gaza was up for grabs and that it would be easy to eliminate the Palestinian resistance groups there. That's why many voices within Israel are calling for the re-occupation of the Gaza Strip and the elimination of Hamas, Islamic Jihad and other factions. Moreover, these same voices are also placing pressure on the Israeli prime minister to make a quick decision about being even more aggressive. In deciding to embark on a war, Benjamin Netanyahu, has gone down a path which will lead to the fortification of the Gaza Strip, forcing Israel to make serious calculations in the future.
Israel is confused about the latest war on Gaza. It lacks adequate intelligence regarding resistance capabilities and does not know where military resources are stored. Hence, the mighty Israel Defence Force is behaving like a mad dog, hitting anything and everything without actually diminishing the capabilities of the resistance groups.
While many sites have been hit, Gaza's arsenals have not; Israel has killed almost 1,500 Palestinians, most of them civilians, in the process. Houses have been damaged and destroyed, leaving "military sites" largely untouched. Pedestrians have been killed in Gaza's streets and markets, as well as hospitals and UN schools. The victims include many women and children.
It is obvious that the Israelis have not gathered enough intelligence to wage a successful war and have started to blame each other. The intelligence services blame the military and vice versa. They are overcome by a sense of loss. Israel's "unbeatable" army did not have clear goals and is no longer capable of working with any sense of professionalism or its legendary sel-professed "morality" as it targets and kills women and children. In short, it has lost face and become a laughing stock in military circles; its prestige among Israelis has also plummeted, as they feel less secure than before.
What is the cause of this decline? It is likely to be due to a change on the part of the Palestinian resistance groups who have used Israel's security concerns to their own advantage. In previous wars of aggression against Gaza, the Israeli intelligence services had their network of spies within Palestinian society at every level. They could furnish minute details about prominent individuals and organisations, making them easy targets for the Israeli army.
The Hamas-led Palestinian government in Gaza has worked hard to get rid of Israeli spies and agents in order to starve the Israelis of intelligence. However, every time that Hamas arrested an Israeli spy, the Palestinian Authority in Ramallah sprang to their defence saying that he or she was a nationalist and that Hamas was guilty of arresting people for political reasons. Nevertheless, Hamas has been able to reduce the number of such collaborators significantly, reducing Israel's intelligence-gathering capability.
Although Israel possesses sophisticated technology, human resources remain the most effective means to garner intelligence. Hamas has been careful with its own security by minimising the use of electronic devices, many of which function as electronic spies by transferring information to the enemy on a regular basis. The Palestinians have paid a heavy price for using mobile phones and the internet but during this current war, resistance leaders have turned-off their phones and deprived Israel of being able to eavesdrop.
Neutralising aircraft and artillery
The ability to neutralise military aircraft and artillery is important and regional anti-Israel resistance groups have used this strategy in Lebanon in 2006 and Gaza in 2012. Despite possessing no sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons, or access to an air force as strong as Israel's, the resistance groups have developed the ability to reduce the destructive capabilities of airborne and artillery attacks by placing essential equipment deep underground.
This strategy meant that Israel was unable to defeat Hezbollah during its 2006 war against Lebanon and failed to achieve a victory in its 2012 offensive on Gaza. Failing to hit combatants and military targets, Israeli air force pilots resorted to bombing civilian populations and homes instead. Israel was responsible for the deaths of 1,200 Lebanese in 2006 and 1,400 Palestinians in 2008/2009. The Israelis hit what they believed were resistance launching pads or hiding places and were surprised to find that they themselves were still being targeted from the self-same "liquidated" locations. Israel was taken by surprise every time and this affected their military data.
The Palestinians have learnt well and have built another Gaza underground. This is the difference between the resistance groups and Arab regimes. The former endured sleepless nights and fatigue in order to be prepared, while the regimes "fought" in suits and went on diplomatic missions. A struggle requires dignity, steadfastness, hard work and strength. Fighting is no joke and one must understand that you cannot kill someone's children without paying the price.
These tactics give the resistance the ability to continue the struggle and counter-attack. They have taken the Israelis by surprise.
Actions speak louder than words, and the Palestinian resistance groups have shown this to be the case. The approach is very different to that of the Arab regimes, who think that they can win over the people with a few bold statements. They have shown time and again that they are all talk and no action.
In Gaza, the situation is very different. The Palestinian resistance movement has just gone about its task of producing and storing weapons in complete silence; there's been no gloating or boasting about their military developments and capabilities produced out of next to nothing. Thus, they kept the enemy in the dark. In fact, they have surprised us all with their creativity, producing basic but effective anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons, and training their fighters in naval tactics.
While it is clear that the resistance factions all have their own style, each one of them works to their strengths while working cooperatively to maximise gains. Gone are the days when individual groups made bold claims about themselves following successful operations. The resistance used to take credit for operations that were never carried out and were thus able to deceive and ultimately defeat Israeli forces several times during the First Intifada. It is obvious that the groups have undergone a major change in mentality.
Ceasefire and immunity
Ceasefires have played a significant yet negative role in Palestinian history, especially in instances of defeat. In 1936, the people of Palestine protested for six months against the British Mandate occupation and their leaders swore to continue fighting until independence was achieved. However, Arab intermediaries who prevented any concrete progress soon ended the revolt and Britain promised, deceitfully as it turned out, that it would meet popular Palestinian demands.
The revolt ended and Palestine was lost. Arab armies advanced during the 1948 war but the regimes later accepted the terms of a truce, which changed the course of the war as Palestinians were expelled from their homes in what has since been termed "ethnic cleansing". The First Intifada, which started in 1987, ended with the recognition of Israel and UN Security Council Resolutions 243 and 338. What history shows us is that the Palestinians have continued to make many sacrifices only to come up short due to the passing of several resolutions. Yet, I think that this time will be different and that the resistance groups will work hard to demand and achieve the lifting of the siege on Gaza.
The resistance must beware of accepting any Arab intermediaries in potential ceasefire agreements. Arab governments do not respect their responsibilities towards justice for Palestinians and are not willing to stand firm in the face of Israeli opposition to ceasefire terms.
Instead, the resistance must choose as an intermediary a country that has enough self-respect to stand up to Israel if it does not meet such terms or refuses to implement them. In any case, we should not be looking to achieve a ceasefire agreement if the resistance feels that it can continue the fight and place Israel in a corner, holding it accountable for its actions. Perhaps this time it is possible for us to demand certain conditions from Israel for its people cannot handle much in terms of fear. We must use this as a tool to place pressure on the Israeli government.
Will Israel dare to attack Gaza in the future if it fails to contain Palestinian resistance on this occasion? Personally, I think not.
It is true that the Palestinian people have suffered great losses this time but these are the sacrifices that will prevent even greater losses in the future. The innocent blood that has been spilt in Gaza is the armour that will prevent Israel from doing this again on another occasion. These civilians have died for the sake of life and for the sake of the people and the nation and it is in this way that we have overcome the so-called invincible army.
Translated from Al Jazeera net, 27 July, 2014
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.