Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel represents the worst intelligence failure for Israel in 50 years. Hamas armed, planned, and executed an attack that Israelis liken to September 11, 2001. Just as the 1973 surprise attack on the Jewish state on Yom Kippur led directly to the collapse of Golda Meir’s government, today’s attack should end Benjamin Netanyahu’s political career.
The failure of intelligence is immense. Some journalists treat mechanized paragliders as a new tactic, but on November 25, 1987, two Palestinian terrorists paraglided into Israel from southern Lebanon, killing six soldiers inside an Israeli base. Nor has Netanyahu explained how Israel’s monitoring by both electronic and human means failed to pick up the extensive planning to enable this operation.
There is certainly an Iranian hand behind Hamas terror. A video of one kidnapping records commands in Persian, suggesting an Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps presence. But Netanyahu’s singular focus on Iran also opened a path for Turkey to bolster Hamas capabilities. Hamas planners operate from safety in Turkey. Even as Netanyahu embraces President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey sought to smuggle rocket-making material into Gaza.
The Middle East is not black and white. There are different flavors of extremism, each equally murderous. Netanyahu’s fault was not understanding the complexity, and essentially falling for an elaborate game of good cop-bad copy. The simple truth is both Iran and Turkey hate Israel more than they hate each other.
So what now?
Israeli strategists often describe “mowing the grass” as they refer to the occasional operations to degrade Hamas rocket-making and terror infrastructure. Kicking the can down the road has never been a long-term solution, though; it is time to tear up the lawn. Hamas, like Hezbollah before it, will hunker down and wait until international opinion changes against the backdrop of civilian casualties. Indeed, Hamas might even try to hasten such an event by firing weaponry from apartment buildings and schools. Israel should put its own security above finger wagging from Western officials with no skin in the game.
Why should any Israeli listen to President Biden or National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan anymore after they masterminded the gifting of $6 billion to Iran in the latest hostage ransom scheme and even more in previous sanctions relief and non-enforcement?
The United States also must prepare for a wider war. If Hamas has taken Israelis hostage an effort to draw out the crisis, and Iranian agents are directly involved, the pressure will be immense for Israel to strike deep in Iran, perhaps at the Supreme Leader or at the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps leadership. Iran would respond so that Israeli policymakers might rationalize, “In for a penny, in for a pound.”
Nor will any Iran-Israel War be limited to just those two states, given Iran’s conception of Hezbollah as its deterrence. Iranian-backed militias operating in Iraq and Syria also have drones and perhaps missiles they can contribute to the fight.
Netanyahu bears ultimate responsibility for Israel’s failure, but the Biden team’s Iran strategy enabled an enemy never willing to divorce itself from an aggressive ideology that prioritizes the destruction of the Jewish state over bettering the lives of the Iranian people themselves.
Never forget: Wishful thinking never brings peace; it only guarantees war.
Now a 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Michael Rubin is a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Dr. Rubin is the author, coauthor, and coeditor of several books exploring diplomacy, Iranian history, Arab culture, Kurdish studies, and Shi’ite politics, including “Seven Pillars: What Really Causes Instability in the Middle East?” (AEI Press, 2019); “Kurdistan Rising” (AEI Press, 2016); “Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes” (Encounter Books, 2014); and “Eternal Iran: Continuity and Chaos” (Palgrave, 2005).