The next Gaza war is fast approaching, with the terrorist group Hamas feverishly expanding its tunnel network to launch attacks inside Israel and Jerusalem now debating the shape and timing of its next move.
So get ready for the usual drama: Hamas will seize or kill Israelis by attacking through a tunnel; Israel will receive significant global support at first when it defends itself by counterattacking; Hamas will then ensure the deaths of Palestinian women and children by hiding its terrorists in homes and schools as Israel responds; the global media will promote images of Palestinian suffering while ignoring its cause; support for Israel will erode in Europe and then Washington; Israel will face war crime charges at the United Nations; and Jews around the world will come under attack.
Before long, Israel will succumb to mounting global pressure to halt its counterattack; Israel and Hamas will agree to a ceasefire; Hamas will portray the ceasefire as but a temporary respite before its next round of rocket fire and underground incursion; an increasingly isolated Israel will face a more energized global movement to isolate the Jewish state through sanctions and boycotts; and the Western intelligentsia will ignore Hamas’ genocidal motives, target Israeli settlements as the driving force behind the mayhem, and push mindlessly forward for the wholly unrealistic two-state solution.
Clearly, Israel didn’t deliver the deterring blow to Hamas during their seven-week war over the summer of 2014 that it had hoped because, just 18 months later, both sides are sliding toward the next round.
Today, along the border with Gaza, Israelis complain that they hear the digging of tunnels beneath their homes. “The fear among everyone here is constant,” one Israeli told Reuters. “I’ve heard the sound of a hammer and chisel and my neighbor says she can hear them digging under the cement. We’re stressed out.”
Hamas is hardly hiding its work. “East of the city of Gaza, there are heroes underground, digging through rocks and building tunnels,” Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya boasted in a Jan. 29 sermon on Al-Aqsa TV. “West of Gaza, there are heroes testing rockets every day. This is all in preparation – in tunnels underground, by means of missiles in the air, as well as in the sea, and everywhere. This constant preparation is for the sake of Palestine, Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, and for the sake of the Jerusalem Intifada.”
Two days later, in a ceremony also aired on Al-Aqsa TV, Hamas commemorated seven members of its Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades who died recently when a tunnel collapsed by parading one of its tanks. “As we welcome the man masked with a keffiyeh,” one speaker proclaimed, “let us point our index finger towards Heaven, and renew our pledge of allegiance to Allah and to the commanders of the Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades, and vow to continue on the path of Jihad and resistance.”
In response to Hamas’ tunnel-building and bluster, Israel’s military is drilling along the border to locate the tunnels and installing technology to identify them. In fact, the United States recently agreed to invest $120 million over the next three years to help Israel develop more sophisticated technology, with Israel investing the same amount on the joint U.S.-Israeli project. Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work and other top U.S. defense officials visited Israel in January, paving the way for congressional approval of the budget allocation.
With the “apparent urgency of the tunnel issue on all fronts,” State Comptroller Joseph Shapira submitted a draft report on the tunnel threat to Israel’s political and military leadership late last week, even though he hasn’t completed it. The draft, Shapira’s office said in a prepared statement, “points to gaps and failures, some severe, in the readiness for the tunnel threat and dealing with them.”
What the activity on both sides of the border amounts to, in the words of Knesset Member Haim Yellin, is a “race” between Hamas and Israel, as the former seeks a tunnel entry into Israel and the latter seeks the technology to prevent it.
Long term, Israel’s efforts to develop anti-tunnel technology could prove the underground equivalent of Iron Dome, the breakthrough anti-missile technology that largely protected the Jewish state from rocket attack during the last Gaza war. Unfortunately, such efforts also boost the chances of war in the short term, because Hamas may decide to attack through a tunnel before it no longer has the option to do so.
So war is coming and so, too, is the next cycle of the West’s moral confusion, Israel bashing and Sisyphean peace-making.
Lawrence J. Haas, senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, is author of the forthcoming book Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World.