Israelis are livid. Their fury is directed not only at Hamas for massacring over 700 people, wounding thousands and abducting at least 130 including women and children, but also at the Israeli government, led by Benjamin Netanyahu, and the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) for failing to prevent this terrorist invasion.
How did Israeli security forces — among the most sophisticated in the world — not foresee Hamas’s attack? A postmortem is already underway, but what is clear is that Netanyahu’s government was caught napping, distracted by its attempts to force through unpopular judicial reforms. This stole attention away from the worsening security situation in Gaza, the West Bank and the border with Lebanon. Now, Israelis have paid a heavy price.
Netanyahu has, in his many years as prime minster, opted for a policy of containment of Hamas. But while his robust rhetoric has fostered his image as a “security first” leader, his actions have actually strengthened Hamas’s position and undermined the more moderate Palestinian Authority. This outcome was no accident: it was a policy meant to sabotage chances of a peace settlement with the Palestinians, which would have been wildly unpopular with Bibi’s supporters. It will become clearer later whether Israeli intelligence missed vital information, or knew and its warnings were ignored by the government.
Another failure during the early hours of Saturday morning’s attack was the army’s inability to recognize the breach in the security fence between Gaza and Israel, contain the influx of terrorists into Israel and respond swiftly to protect towns near the border. It took forces many hours to arrive at centers of attacks and free civilians. Their ability to counter the attack was hampered by Hamas’s assault on the military base that houses the Gaza Division of the IDF. Other bases in the region were understaffed and unprepared. Urban warfare, especially where civilians are held hostage, is extremely complicated and slow, and the Israelis were on the back foot from the outset.
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