Since the beginning of this month, Israeli media outlets have been publishing a day by day account of the Gaza war last summer, which mentions the Israeli army’s failures. The most serious admissions were those made on video by Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defence Committee member Ofer Shelah, and before him by Yoav Galant, former commanding officer in Israel’s southern division, regarding the military investigations conducted by the army. The video was aired by Israeli television.
It is interesting that the Israeli admissions were circulated immediately by Hamas-run media outlets and became the talk of hour in Gaza. This is because the Israeli reports that were translated from Hebrew to Arabic highlighted the weakness of the Israeli army and the courage of the Palestinian fighters. The Israeli leaks, said Hamas, are “an additional acknowledgment of the Israeli occupation’s defeat and the resistance’s victory in the Gaza war, and that all of the attempts have failed to lessen the defeat.”
Indeed, Hamas is elated at the Israeli admissions, perhaps rightly so, as the movement is interested in showing the positive side of the daily clashes with the Israeli army after failing to achieve the stated goals of the war. These were the lifting of the Gaza siege, opening the border crossings and establishing a seaport and airport. The Israeli leaks were circulated amongst Palestinians in an unprecedented move, thus providing the testimony needed by Hamas in light of the prevalent dissatisfaction and complaints in Palestinian circles in Gaza due to the fact that Hamas was unable to keep its promises to improve the situation post-war.
Despite this, not all of the leaked Israeli admissions are positive, as they may have implicit intelligence motives, an issued feared by Hamas. Such motives may include the exposure of military secrets needed by Israel, especially since the Israelis are not denying the great losses they sustained last summer. However, publicising the losses and testimonies from dozens of soldiers and officers raises a number of questions regarding ulterior motives because Israel is an arrogant state; it does not accept defeat nor does it publicise its defeats to the Israeli public. It may, though, be attempting to use the leaks to gain security information regarding the fate of their soldiers who have been missing since the war.
Hamas media published an Israeli military investigation which referred to what it called the “skilfulness” of the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades’ fighters while capturing the soldier Hadar Goldin in southern Rafah. This means that Israel’s intensified talk about the Gaza war’s daily events proves that it does not possess confirmed information regarding the fate of its missing soldiers and Hamas will only disclose such information in the context of a swap deal.
Talk of the Israeli leaks even reached social networking sites, as Hamas activists and those closely affiliated with the movement began circulating the details. Some of them considered them to be part of Israeli culture, which constantly assesses and evaluates the army’s performance. Others viewed them as a way to lure Hamas into revealing its security information, while a third group saw these leaks as a chance for the Palestinians to reconsider their mistakes in the war. A fourth group of Hamas supporters and members believed that the Israeli leaks were a prelude to exaggerating the military capabilities of Hamas in order to prepare Israeli public opinion for a new war on the people of Gaza.
Hamas, which is familiar with the Israeli army’s military history, is aware that the admission of failures and mistakes usually only comes years after wars have ended. However, Israel’s public admission of these failures less than a year after the war on Gaza is of concern to the Islamic movement, despite the fact that it also welcomed these admissions.
A prevalent assumption within Hamas nowadays, after Israel has continued to voice its failures and mistakes, is that the leadership of the Israeli army is seeking to prepare for a new war in Gaza and wants to pave the way to kill and destroy more than before in the upcoming war. It is also believed that the Israelis are preparing the army to accept losses without complaint.
Hamas circles discussed the Israeli admissions for several days, regarding them as a good indicator for the military performance of its military wing, without noticing the suspicious and questionable aspects. However, a few days after the publishing of the Israeli leaks, the Hamas media outlets published a list of goals that Israel is seeking to achieve by means of these frank admissions.
While it is also possible that the leaks have been made with a view to turning Israeli public opinion against a new war on the people of Gaza by highlighting the potential casualties that will result, Hamas generally remains concerned that the next war will be even more devastating. For that reason as much as any other, the resistance movement is addressing the issue with a great deal of caution.
Translated from Felesteen newspaper, 26 April, 2015.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.