In the context of the recent developments, it is widely known that Hamas fighters have initiated incursions into settlements, villages, and at least one military camp along the Israeli border. These events have been extensively documented through numerous photos and videos circulating on social media, depicting kidnapped and deceased Israelis. Israeli Prime Minister (PM) Benjamin Netanyahu, in response to these actions, has declared that the State of Israel is currently engaged “At a war. Not an operation not rounds but at war”.
Furthermore, Vice Admiral Hagari has outlined the Israel Defense Forces’ (IDF) objectives, which encompass the evacuation of residents from towns on the Gaza border, cessation of hostilities within Israeli territory, reinforcement of the security barrier, and the initiation of airstrikes within the Gaza Strip, tasks seems rather predictable even from people having a minimum knowledge in Israeli foreign and defense policy.
The predictability of Israel’s response raises questions about the rationality behind Hamas’ decision to pursue this military operation. Nevertheless, it is crucial to acknowledge that Hamas’ leadership may have anticipated Israel’s response. Specifically, it could have foreseen the rapid mobilization of more than 50,000 troops by the IDF within the first 12 hours, aimed at reclaiming the communities captured by Hamas militants. Reports indicate that the IDF has already deployed four divisions to the border region and initiated extensive airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, resulting in over 200 Palestinian casualties. This leads us to ponder whether Hamas’ decision was indeed irrational.
2. Irrational Decision or Calculated Strategy?
This, rather brief, analysis seeks to establish our position based on four key conclusions. Firstly, it falls outside the scope of this op-ed to delve into why Israeli intelligence agencies may not have anticipated such a large-scale operation. However, the absence of any evidence suggesting that these agencies had forewarned the political leadership about Hamas’ operation could severely damage their credibility.
Secondly, analysts assert that Hamas’ decision may have been primarily driven by its intent to disrupt, or preferably, terminate the high-stakes negotiations between the State of Israel and Saudi Arabia. Recent overtures made by Israel to Islamic states, such as Morocco, to normalize relations with the Islamic world contradict the interests of certain states, particularly Iran. Footage from the Iranian parliament depicts members rising from their seats and chanting “Death to Israel.” As the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has, thus far, advocated for an immediate cessation of the escalation and the protection of civilians, we believe this rather equal distances policy leads the negotiations into, at least a temporary, halt.
Thirdly, as previously mentioned, one of the operational objectives outlined by the Israeli Security Council was to transfer operations to the Gaza Strip. However, given the statement made by Saleh al-Arouri, Deputy Head of Hamas political bureau, expressing readiness “for all-out war”, it is conceivable that the Hamas leadership was cognizant of Israel’s response. Nevertheless, conducting a full-scale military operation in Gaza, an area encompassing approximately 410 square kilometers with a population of 2 million Palestinians, presents a formidable challenge. Such an operation entails confronting not only Hamas militants but also thousands of Palestinians seeking to protect their properties. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s reference to Israel entering “a long war” may reflect an awareness of these complexities. The forthcoming days will reveal whether the Israeli armed forces will embark on a large-scale operation in Gaza. Should such an operation fail to produce significant consequences for Hamas and result in substantial losses for the IDF, it could be regarded as a setback for the State of Israel.
Lastly, in recent hours, Hezbollah has endeavored to open a second front in Israel’s northern border, diverting resources and attention away from the Gaza Strip. This development reduces the forces available to the IDF for deployment to Gaza and introduces the possibility of Israel, even temporarily, losing territory along the Lebanon border. Such an outcome would compound the challenges faced by the Netanyahu government, especially in light of Israel’s ongoing domestic political problems.
In conclusion, the Hamas’ decision, which initially appeared irrational, may not be as devoid of strategic calculation as it seems. The current situation places the onus on Israel to demonstrate victory, both domestically and to external allies and adversaries alike.
The forthcoming hours will prove crucial, with decisions made by both sides wielding significant influence over the short and medium-term developments in the region.