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Chris Trotter: Winning Strategies

Chris Trotter,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Nov 2023, 5:00am

Chris Trotter: Winning Strategies

Chris Trotter,
Publish Date
Fri, 3 Nov 2023, 5:00am

When Hamas launched its assault, it was not attacking the long-standing strategy of Israeli governments, it was relying on it. It’s fighters entered Southern Israel with explicit orders to commit atrocities calculated to drive the “Zionist Entity” mad with pain. The raping, torturing and killing had to be on an unprecedented scale: heinous enough to leave Israel’s leaders with no option but to unleash hell upon Hamas – and its defenceless human shields.

Hamas’s strategy depended for its success upon Israel’s leaders being unable to detach themselves from the core mission of the State of Israel. No one has better expressed that mission than the Israeli general, Moshe Dayan. Sixty-seven years ago, in his eulogy for a fallen Israeli soldier, Roi Rotberg, Dayan declared:

“We mustn’t flinch from the hatred that accompanies and fills the lives of hundreds of thousands of Arabs, who live around us and are waiting for the moment when their hands may claim our blood. We mustn’t avert our eyes, lest our hands be weakened. That is the decree of our generation. That is the choice of our lives — to be willing and armed, strong and unyielding, lest the sword be knocked from our fists, and our lives severed.”

One cannot fault the patient cunning of Hamas. The attack of 7 October 2023 had been two years in the planning. Not this time the bloody minuet danced by Hamas fighters and the Israeli Defence Force since 2007, in which a few missiles are launched from Gaza and Israel responds with several tons of shattering explosives. Not this time the piling up of innocent Palestinian corpses until international opinion forces a cessation of hostilities.

No. This time, the butcher’s bill has to be huge. Large enough to force the Saudis and their allies to give up all talk of constructing a modus vivendi with Israel. Large enough to mobilise the global pro-Palestinian movement, fed and nurtured these two years past, even as the missiles were stockpiled and the unwitting targets of terror identified. Large enough to force the hands of Israel’s Arab neighbours. Large enough, if the plan succeeds, to set the whole world ablaze.\

And, in Benjamin Netanyahu, Hamas’ leaders had their ideal marionette. As predictable as the sunrise. As cynical as a scorpion. So full of contempt for his enemies, so full of admiration for himself, that any notion that the situation along the Gazan border had gotten much too quiet, or that Hamas had been playing much too nice for much too long, were, quite simply, notions that could not enter his head. Politically beholden to the ferocious West Bank settlers and their mad Orthodox allies, Netanyahu’s attention was pathetically easy to distract. So, a few West Bank Palestinian hotheads got shot? So what? In any choice between occupied Palestine and a martyr’s welcome in Paradise – Paradise is always going to win!

But, if Israel had been blessed with wiser leaders, and defended by generals who had read Sun Tzu, what might they have done to prevent the sword being knocked from Israel’s fist? The answer to that question – counterintuitive though it may seem – is “nothing”. That wise leader, would have recited the kaddish prayer for the souls of those who had perished. She would have vowed to do all within the power of her office to secure the release of the hostages. And, most importantly, she would have told the people of Israel that, this time, she – and they – were going to refuse to take the bloody bait that Hamas had laid before them.

As she spoke, Israel’s generals would be ringing the border separating Israel from Gaza with steel so tightly woven that not even a Judean mouse could pass through it. All its CCTV cameras would be replaced, along with every disabled listening device. Drones and reconnaissance aircraft would be sent aloft, circling like eagles above the jackals’ lair. But not one bullet would be fired at, and not one bomb would be dropped upon, the crowded streets of Gaza. Across that whole benighted enclave only the whoosh of Hamas’s missiles and the pop of Israel’s interceptors would break the pregnant silence.

And, only then would the Hamas commanders realise what had happened. Rather than the global media focusing upon Israel’s hideous retaliation, and nightly displaying the broken bodies of women and children. Rather than the streets of the world’s capitals being filled with pro-Palestinian demonstrators calling for the death of the Jews. Rather than remaining safely hidden behind a curtain of civilian blood, Hamas would realise, with a deathly chill, that the whole world was staring in horror and disgust, not at Israel – but at them.

Subdued and shamed, the Arab “street” would fall silent. Freed from the need to be seen standing should-to-shoulder with the battered population of Gaza, the leaders of the Arab nations would be free to take the calls from Israel’s prime minister, and receive her invitations to a regional gathering dedicated to ending the terror. Free, also, to speak to President Joe Biden, and receive from him Israel’s solemn promise to do all within its power to revive the Two-State Solution. With this promise in his pocket, President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority would also, finally, be free to sit down with the leaders of Israel, and talk.

Ah, but the deserts of the Middle East are full of such shimmering mirages. Promises made of nothing more than heated sand and air, illusions that lead only to despair and death. Israelis pride themselves on their physical, mental and spiritual toughness, and in their ears Dayan’s eulogy is always ringing:

“The millions of Jews, annihilated without a land, peer out at us from the ashes of Israeli history and command us to settle and rebuild a land for our people. But beyond the furrow that marks the border, lies a surging sea of hatred and vengeance, yearning for the day that the tranquillity blunts our alertness, for the day that we heed the ambassadors of conspiring hypocrisy, who call for us to lay down our arms.”

And so the Israeli jets scream out of the sky, and their block-busting missiles strike home – even in the heart of a refugee camp that was standing there in Northern Gaza when Dayan delivered his uncompromising declaration of Zionist rectitude. Netanyahu, untouchable as always, quotes Ecclesiastes and refuses to call for a ceasefire. The IDF’s tanks rumble across the border, and Hamas’ leaders, safe in Qatar, grin like the jackals they are.

And yet, the truth of Sun Tzu’s (544 ─ 496BC) words remain:

“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”

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