The most important thing Israel achieved with Tuesday morning’s complex assassination effort was taking the initiative, writes Major General (res.) Amos Yadlin, former head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate, in News12 Wednesday. Israel is no longer in a reactive mode, retaliating after every rocket and incendiary balloon, which was the strategy of the Bennett-Gantz security team.
The Islamic Jihad attempted to create synergy between the suicide by a hunger strike of one of its security prisoners and rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. They fired 104 rockets and braced for a proportionate response. The IDF responded with attacks against a reported 16 targets, and the other side figured the incident was complete. And then, the IAF, relying on stunning intelligence, took out three top Jihad commanders in three different areas of Gaza, within seconds of one another.
The fact is, Israel’s reactive strategy has led to a huge drop in the fear it was inflicting on the enemy. The Al-Quds news website survey last week asked 587 respondents, “Has Israel’s deterrence declined?” 63% said yes, and 37% no.
Things may start to look different now.
According to Yadlin, the execution of the three commanders in the safety of their homes, surrounded by their families, is an unmistakable warning to other terrorists, both in Jihad and Hamas. The gloves are off, and the IDF will get its man. This also includes terror attacks in Judea and Samaria. The IDF has been taking the initiative on a daily basis there, seeking contact with the enemy and arresting multiple suspects, and when armed Arabs try to put up a fight, Israeli soldiers don’t hesitate to defend themselves, often leaving terrorist bodies behind.
“The IDF and the Shin Bet demonstrated an impressive ability to attack precisely, in several locations at the same time, with a minimum of collateral damage (the damage to those not involved is unfortunate but proportionate), and based on very accurate intelligence,” notes Yadlin. “This premier league performance that illustrates the power of the Air Force in planning and applying force with precision, and the commitment of the reservists to the mission and possible mobilization later in the campaign, constitute a strong message to our enemies, who have already rushed to celebrate the disintegration of Israel from within.”
Major General (res.) Amos Yadlin, 72, enlisted in the IAF in 1971. He flew an A-4 Skyhawk during the Yom Kippur War, and in the early 1980s was among the first Israeli pilots to fly the F-16 Falcon. He was also among the eight pilots who bombed Iraq’s Osirak nuclear reactor in June 1981. Between 2004 and 2006 he served as Israel’s military attaché to the United States. When he returned to Israel, Yadlin became head of the IDF’s Military Intelligence Directorate. After he retired from the IDF, in November 2011, he was appointed director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies.
Yadlin insists that to achieve the goal of boosting deterrence in Gaza and beyond, Israel must be ready to respond strongly against Hamas, too, if it intervenes in the conflict. If Israel conveys a willingness to contain Hamas’s aggression, the objective of restoring deterrence will be eroded and the effect of targeted deterrence against the Islamic Jihad will be offset.
Yadlin, who is affiliated with left-wing opposition parties (he ran to the Knesset on Labor’s list in 2015) is pleased that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly managed the preparations and the planning of Operation Shield and Arrow with Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and the security apparatus, led by the IDF and Shin Bet. “Preservation of the advantage of surprise probably requires such conduct,” he wrote. “However, it is evident that the Prime Minister is much more comfortable working with the IDF and Shin Bet than with his coalition partners, who were probably not in the picture during the operation.”