Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jeremy Corbyn and the Socialism of Fools

From WSJ, Sept. 10, 2018, by Walter Russell Mead:

At the root of his bigotry is a Marxist hatred of capitalist U.S. ‘imperialism.’

Jeremy Corbyn, Sept. 10.
Jeremy Corbyn, Sept. 10. 

That Jeremy Corbyn, who hopes someday to occupy the office previously held by Winston Churchill, Benjamin Disraeli and William Pitt, is an anti-Semite seems no longer in question. No anti-Israeli terrorist entity is too drenched in Jewish blood for him to cheer on. Hamas, Hezbollah, the mullahs of Iran—their sins against freedom of speech, against freedom of assembly, and against women and gays may be crimson, but if they hate the Jewish state enough, Labour has a leader who will wash them as white as snow.

But not all anti-Semites are alike. Different forms of anti-Semitism can have very different consequences. What kind does Jeremy Corbyn profess, and how does it relate to the rest of his worldview?

Mr. Corbyn and his colleagues in the hard-left Labour elite are, above all, modern. They don’t hate the Jews for killing Christ as medieval Christians did. They don’t think the Jews use the blood of gentile children to make matzoh. Whatever some of the less enlightened members of Mr. Corbyn’s base among the British Muslim community may think, the secular Labour elite doesn’t blame the Jews for rejecting Muhammed.

Nor is their hatred racial. Mr. Corbyn’s worldview is blinkered and sadly skewed, but he is neither wicked nor delusional enough to imagine that the Jewish “race” is competing with the “Aryan” Anglo-Saxons to dominate the world.

It is Zionism that drives Mr. Corbyn’s anti-Jewish passion. He is not anti-Israel because some or even many of Israel’s policies are wrong. He is existentially anti-Zionist. He does not believe that the Jewish people are a nation. From this point of view, the notorious U.N. Resolution 3379 of 1975 got it exactly right: Zionism is racism, and the Jewish state is racist to the core.

What elevates the Jewish state from an irritation to an obsession in the Corbynite world is Israel’s relationship with the U.S. The U.S. is the center of international capitalism. Destroying American capitalism and the imperialist system it imposes on the world is the overarching goal of the Marxist zealotry that drives Mr. Corbyn’s worldview and justifies his sympathy for otherwise dubious regimes. The Iranian mullahs may hang homosexuals and stone the occasional adulteress, but in the all-important struggle against American imperialism and its Zionist sidekick, they are a natural and necessary part of the Resistance.

It’s a short step for hard-left Labour from hating Israel to finding “Zionist” conspiracies on every side. Marxism typically rejects liberal democracy as a sham. Rich and powerful capitalists make all the big decisions: They control the political parties, they control the press, and they use the facade of democratic politics to amuse, befuddle and ultimately control the masses. From this standpoint, conspiracy thinking isn’t a sign of ignorance or emotionalism; to the contrary, perceiving the hidden plots of our true rulers is a necessary and vital step in seeing through the myth of liberal democracy.

The hard-line Marxist and the classic anti-Semite agree that the world is really run by a cabal of greedy men behind closed doors. But where the Marxist sees capitalist string-pullers, some of whom may happen to be Jewish, the anti-Semite sees only Jews. This is the meaning behind the famous statement, once popular on the European left, that anti-Semitism is the “socialism of fools”: the anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are too narrow and miss the real point.

But for Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour colleagues, the perceived special relationship between American imperialism and Zionism collapses the distinction between the socialism of fools and the “real” thing. The urban legend that “the Jews” control America’s Middle Eastern policy and that Jewish power forces the U.S. to march in lockstep with right-wing Israeli governments is also an organizing principle of the Corbynite worldview. The supposed control exerted by Zionist Jewish billionaires over American politics makes the fight against imperialism also a fight against a powerful Jewish conspiracy.

Those ideas, as any serious student of American politics or of the American Jewish community knows, are nonsensical. In every presidential election of the 21st century, American Jews have given significantly more money and votes to Democratic than to Republican candidates. If the American Jewish community controlled American politics, President Trump would still be hosting a television show and there would be no U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem.

Yet myths are no less powerful because they are false. Mr. Corbyn’s outlook will lead any government he forms into deep trouble and frustration, but that in itself won’t keep him out of Downing Street. Liberalism today may face its deepest crisis in the country that gave the liberal tradition to the world.

Shutting Down the PLO

From WSJ, Sept. 10, 2018, by The Editorial Board:

The U.S. stops indulging Palestinian hostility to Israel.

The Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization.
The Washington office of the Palestine Liberation Organization. 

The Trump Administration is blowing the whistle on the Palestine Liberation Organization, and it would be hard to identify a more overdue reality check in U.S. foreign policy.

The Administration announced Monday that it is closing the PLO’s Washington office, citing lack of progress on peace negotiations. The PLO began as a terrorist organization but was allowed to open an office in Washington in 1994 after the Oslo accords produced hope for a new era of reconciliation between the PLO and Israel.

That hope has never been fulfilled, notably since the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat began the second intifada after walking away from the historic and generous Israeli peace offer brokered by Bill Clinton in 2000. Long-term indulgence of the PLO’s recalcitrance has had the effect of allowing a toxic and reflexive anti-Israel sentiment to build in international institutions, not least among academics and students on U.S. campuses.

The Trump Administration has tried to revive the Israeli-Palestinian talks, but it has also shown less tolerance for Palestinian resistance. Last November Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas used his speech at the United Nations to call for the investigation and prosecution of Israeli officials by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The Trump Administration said then that the PLO’s Washington office was at risk of closure.

Mr. Abbas’s call for an investigation of Israel by the ICC was consciously provocative, and the PLO’s Washington office would have known that. The U.S. Congress said in 2015—before Donald Trump became President—that the Secretary of State was required to certify that the PLO wasn’t trying to use the ICC against Israel.

In a speech Monday to the Federalist Society, White House National Security Adviser John Bolton made clear the U.S. will push back hard against any ICC investigation involving members of the U.S. military or the country’s allies.
“The United States... will use any means necessary to protect our citizens and those of our allies from unjust prosecution by this illegitimate court. We will not cooperate with the ICC.”
Meanwhile, late last month the U.S. announced it is permanently cutting funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, or UNRWA, a primary source of Palestinian financial support for decades. The numbers are significant. The U.S. decision will cut off more than $300 million from UNRWA’s $1.24 billion budget. By now the U.N. agency is essentially a shadow government in the Palestinian-held territories. In Gaza alone, there are 274 UNRWA schools with a student population of 280,000.

The point of all this isn’t to be vindictive but to show Mr. Abbas and the PLO that they can't continue to underwrite anti-Semitic textbooks and anti-Israel terrorism without consequences. If the Palestinians want to be treated with the respect of a peace partner, they have to first show a desire for peace.

U.S. Military Looks Toward Greece Amid Strains With Turkey

From WSJ, Sept. 11, 2018, by Nancy A. Youssef:

Talks proceed on expanded operations, including using more air and naval bases

Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets the staff of Navy Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, at the Ministry of Defense in Athens on Sept. 4.
Marine Corps Gen. Joe Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, greets the staff of Navy Adm. Evangelos Apostolakis, chief of the Hellenic National Defense General Staff, at the Ministry of Defense in Athens on Sept. 4. 

ATHENS—The U.S. military is in talks to expand its operations in Greece, including using more air and naval bases here, signaling a potential move toward the eastern Mediterranean amid growing tensions with Turkey, officials said.

There are both geopolitical and geographical factors that make Greece an appealing site for the U.S. military, the officials said. Politically, U.S.-Greek relations are at an apex and both nations have concerns about their North Atlantic Treaty Organization partner, Turkey, U.S. officials said. Geographically, Greece has ideal weather for year-round flight training, and is home to both Greek and NATO bases.

Perhaps most importantly for the U.S., both the current Greek government as well as its leading opposition are receptive, U.S. officials said during a visit in recent days. Officials said they see an opportunity for increased use of Greek facilities and for staging more troops here on a temporary basis.

“The geography of Greece and the opportunities here are pretty significant,” Marine Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him, citing Greece’s proximity to U.S. operations in Syria and North Africa.

The U.S. has begun expanding its use of Greek bases. This spring, unarmed MQ-9 Reaper drones began operating out of Greece’s Larisa Air Force Base.

... the 2016 attempted coup by opponents of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s purchase of Russia’s S-300 missile system and U.S. support in Syria of Kurdish fighters, a group whose members Turkey considers terrorists, have all contributed to tensions between the two countries, heightening Greece’s appeal.

Since 2015, the Turks have added restrictions to the kind of operations the U.S. can conduct out of Incirlik. In response, the U.S. has shifted its resources to places like Qatar to conduct operations in Syria.

For years, the U.S. military has used the naval base at Greece’s Souda Bay, on the coast of Crete, the only port in the region that has the water capacity for aircraft carriers to dock. In May, the carrier USS Harry S. Truman conducted a four-day port visit in Souda Bay. The following month, President Trump’s plane stopped into Souda Bay to refuel en route to the talks in Singapore with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

But Souda Bay now is at capacity, one U.S. official said, leading to demand for other options.

For Greece, more U.S. port visits and training exercises would mitigate the security threat from Libya and Turkey, the latter about which Greece is “deeply worried,” the U.S. official said. On Sunday, Greek officials said they arrested two Turkish military personnel for illegally trying to cross the border, and later released them, an incident that prompted statements by the armies of both countries.

Greece is “looking around this neighborhood and recognizing the same instability…that we have,” the official said.

Greek diplomatic officials didn’t directly address the military cooperation talks, but noted the country is strategically situated and already meets the NATO defense spending target of 2% of its gross domestic product.

At an event in the city of Thessaloniki this month, Greek Minister of Defense Panos Kammenos praised U.S.-Greek relations through the decades. “We will move together to the future,” he said. “Military agreements expand and this will help Greece in being a strategic partner throughout the Mediterranean.”

The region also is the focus of other big powers. China has expanded its footprint in the eastern Mediterranean and Russia uses Syria as a key staging area for its operations in the region. Greece also has a longstanding relationship with Russia.

Regardless, Greece is “a pretty good bet,” the U.S. official said.

Stronger US Resolve in the Middle East

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 942, September 7, 2018, by Prof. Hillel Frisch:

US Special Operations Forces in Iraq
-photo via Wikimedia Commons

...The latest example of Donald Trump’s single-minded purpose in the Middle East is his decision to continue to maintain a small but highly selective US military presence of some 2,000 troops in Iraq.

The official justification for this decision is the need to continue the fight against the remnants of ISIS across the northern reaches of Iraq. No one should be fooled by this as the threat that ISIS and its predecessors posed to the US was neutralized long ago by an effective homeland security agency.

... the real reason why the US is staying put in Iraq is to prevent it from becoming an Iranian client state, as Lebanon has become and as Syria might soon become. 

The investment of 2,000 troops, most of whom serve as advisors and trainers of the Federal Army of Iraq, is worth its price in gold in achieving this objective compared to the 100,000 American troops who were on the ground before the massive withdrawal in 2010...

The rivalry for control over Iraq between the US and its allies and Iran is not only military (with the US supporting the strengthening of the Federal army and the Iranians attempting to sap its strength by enhancing the power of the militias) but political as well.

In the recent elections, the US was clearly rooting for the success of Abadi’s “Victory” coalition while the Iranians even more bluntly backed the “Conquest” coalition, headed by the leader of the largest Shiite militia, a former exile in Tehran and an Iranian stalwart.

The official results will only intensify the underlying rivalry between the two external powers. Abadi’s coalition did less well than the Iranian-led coalition. Fortunately, Abadi has a slightly better chance of wooing the third-largest coalition of parties whose support is essential to forming the new government.

Unfortunately for the US, this third bloc is headed by a mercurial former Shiite militia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, who as leader of the al-Mahdi army in the first years of the American invasion fought bitter battles against US forces. Campaigning on an anti-Iranian ticket, he recently backtracked to attack Abadi for making a statement that Iraq will abide by the Americans’ renewed sanction regime on Iran, a move that shows he is playing hard to get to increase the price of his coalition’s loyalty.

The good news for the US and the coalition of Arab Sunni-led states anxious to contain Iran is that the Arab Shiites of Iraq wish to preserve their independence from Iran and fear their close foreign neighbor more than the distant US.

Rational economic interests go a long way towards explaining why this is the case. Iraq produces more oil than Iran, 4.3 million barrels per day compared to 3.2 million for Iran (though with smaller known reserves and significantly less gas). Why would the 40 million Iraqis, hard pressed from long and bitter internecine fighting, want to share their wealth with 80 million Iranians?

Yet, more spiritual considerations (not entirely divorced from mundane material concerns) also indicate an Iraqi Shiite identity jealous of its independence from Iran and its clerical leadership. A search in Google Trends of Ali Sistani, the Shiite leader in Iraq, reveals almost total lack of interest in this personality in Iran, yet great popularity in Iraq, Bahrain, and Lebanon. Ayatollah Khomeini and his ideological principle of vilayat-e-faqih – the idea that all legislation and actions of the Islamic regime must be vetted by the Supreme Spiritual Leader – are highly popular in Iran but have little currency in Iraq.

This underlying quest for independence from Iranian tutelage justifies President Trump’s wager that 2,000 troops might be worth maintaining to prevent the new fall of Baghdad. The least it could do is stave off the Iranians sufficiently for Iraq’s government and citizens to decide for themselves what the nature of their relationship with Iran will be.

From WSJ, Sept. 7, 2018, by Sune Engel Rasmussen in Beirut and Michael R. Gordon in Washington

Iran is signaling that it will buck U.S. efforts to roll back its military presence in the Middle East, moving to cement foreign alliances and continuing to project power abroad despite sanctions that have helped put intense pressure on its economy.

Tehran signed a long-term security pact with Syria in August, and has kept up the flow of arms and financial support to proxy forces around the region, according to U.S. officials and a person close to Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia...

Members of Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary units in Baghdad in June.
Members of Iran-backed Iraqi paramilitary units in Baghdad in June. 

Iran’s defiant stance comes as its currency plummets and foreign investors pull out, largely due to rising tension between Washington and Tehran. In May, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the 2015 nuclear deal, which administration officials indicated was part of a broader effort to curtail Iran’s activities in the Middle East, and said he was reimposing sanctions.

“In my judgment, what Iran is doing today is simply a continuation of what they have been doing for a long time, which is to harden themselves, build what alliances they can and prepare for the day” when conflict with the U.S. might erupt, Lt. Gen. Michael Nagata of the National Counterterrorism Center said at a conference Wednesday hosted by the Institute for the Study of War, a Washington think tank.

U.S. officials acknowledge Iran hasn’t stepped back from its assertive posture and say Iranian shipments of missiles and some advanced arms around the region have even accelerated. But they also note that the toughest sanctions are yet to come.

Iran has long sought to spread military power and political clout beyond its borders. 

  • It is a major backer of the Assad regime in Syria, which is gearing up for what could be a decisive battle in its more than seven-year war with rebels. 
  • Iran has also long supported Shiite militias in Iraq, and 
  • has been accused in recent years of supplying arms to Houthi rebels in Yemen fighting a coalition led by Iran’s rival, Saudi Arabia...
  • Lebanon’s Hezbollah militia is central to Tehran’s strategy, and it has spearheaded Iran’s intervention in Syria on behalf of the Syrian regime. Iran has maintained its financing for the militia’s war effort, according to the person close to the group...

Iran’s economy, however, is under growing stress. The value of the rial has fallen almost 70% this year, from 45,000 to the dollar in January to 140,000 on Wednesday, a historic low. The Iranian parliament’s research center forecasts the economy to shrink between 3.8% and 5.5% in the coming Iranian fiscal year, which starts next March.

A Houthi fighter secured a June rally in San’a, Yemen.
A Houthi fighter secured a June rally in San’a, Yemen. 

...Iranian analysts also say that many of Tehran’s foreign operations are also inexpensive, allowing it to pick its fights and prod its enemies.

...While Tehran has rebuffed the Trump administration’s demands that it withdraw from Syria, it has pulled its forces out of the southwestern areas near the Israeli border at the behest of Russia, which sought to accommodate Israeli concerns.

Yet such moves are an example of Iranian “strategic patience,” not a withdrawal... “Iran might have decided to slow down. But it’s a passing phase.”

From WSJ, Sept. 9, 2018, by Michael R. Gordon:

In the spring, President Trump ...vowed to quickly wrap up the fight against Islamic State and bring the troops out “very soon.”

...Now, with a climactic battle looming for Syria’s plan with Russia and Iran to retake rebel-held Idlib province, Mr. Trump is making a course correction—in tune with national-security officials determined to push back against longstanding adversaries.

The administration is keeping 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, imposing sanctions on businessmen close to President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and plunging more deeply into diplomacy.

President Trump, shown addressing a rally in Billings, Mont. on Thursday, is making adjustments to U.S. policy in Syria.
President Trump, shown addressing a rally in Billings, Mont. on Thursday, is making adjustments to U.S. policy in Syria. 

The principal objectives are to roll back Iran’s role in Syria and ensure that Islamic State can’t make a comeback, U.S. officials say.

Ousting Mr. Assad, who has succeeded in strengthening his hold on power over two U.S. administrations, is no longer a U.S. priority, senior officials acknowledge. But U.S. officials are still trying to foster a more inclusive political arrangement inside Syria while breathing new life into the nearly moribund international negotiations over the country’s future.

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Tehran on Friday, with the Turkish president, to discuss the future of Syria’s Idlib province.
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani met in Tehran on Friday, with the Turkish president, to discuss the future of Syria’s Idlib province. 

...The Trump administration’s evolving strategy has three main components.

On the military front, the administration’s new emphasis on delivering Islamic State an “enduring defeat” will extend the deployment of U.S. troops at least into next year, U.S. officials said.

The legal mandate for keeping U.S. troops in Syria is still linked to support of Kurdish and Arab fighters who are trying to finish off Islamic State. But the move has implications for the diplomatic wrangling over the country’s future as extending the U.S. mission against Islamic State will also prolong the presence of U.S. forces and their Syrian allies in oil-rich areas of eastern Syria that the Assad regime is eager to control...

On the diplomatic front, the Trump administration has sought to reassure nervous allies that the U.S. intends to be active in the deliberations over Syria’s future, isn’t rushing to disengage militarily and is prepared to impose costs if the Assad regime and its Russian and Iranian allies proceed with the Idlib offensive.

That message was delivered this month on a trip to Israel, Jordan and Turkey by James Jeffrey, the former U.S. ambassador who has been named as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s new special envoy for Syria, and Joel Rayburn, who moved to the State Department from the White House National Security Council.

The administration hasn’t said publicly what actions it might take if the Idlib offensive goes ahead, even without the use of chemical weapons. But it sent a signal on Thursday of what might be in store by imposing sanctions on several Syrians and Lebanese citizens who have supported Mr. Assad, including Muhammad al-Qatirij, whom the Treasury Department said is facilitating fuel shipments to the Assad regime from Islamic State-controlled territory.

There have been other signals as well: On Friday, the U.S. Central Command announced the start of a live-fire exercise involving more than 100 Marines in southern Syria near the al Tanf base, which is occupied by a small U.S. force. Iran and Russia have demanded the Americans vacate the base, near the border with Jordan and Iraq.

Finally, Mr. Trump’s forays into public diplomacy have changed, at least for now. Instead of trumpeting the imminent departure of U.S. troops this month, he urged Mr. Assad not to “recklessly attack” Idlib...

For now, Mr. Trump appears to be persuaded that withdrawing from Syria quickly could play into his adversaries’ hands. Maintaining the president’s backing for his new Syria strategy may be its proponents’ biggest test.

Cutting UNRWA’s Support Is a Necessary Step despite expert advice

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 941, by Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen, September 6, 2018*:

UNRWA elementary school in Gaza
photo by Muhammad Sabah

With the sole exception of Palestinians, international law does not grant refugee status to generation after generation of any group until the end of time. The American decision to cut funding to UNRWA is therefore a correction of a false reality that was established with the aim of perpetuating, rather than solving, the Palestinian refugee problem.

The US administration’s decision to cut funding for UNRWA is a bold decision that should have been made in the last century. The Palestinian refugee phenomenon is not unique in human history, but the international approach to it – especially in its treatment by the UN and its institutions – deviates from any universally accepted measure.

Nevertheless, Israeli security experts warn against the consequences of this decision, which they believe may undermine stability. This is a classic response of experts who cling to a familiar reality rather than take necessary steps that venture into an unknown.

This response reflects natural human anxiety about changing reality. Consider workers who inform management that they need a raise. The management is faced with a dilemma. To cover the cost of a wage increase, there would have to be a corresponding increase in the price of the products, which could drive buyers towards the competition. If no corresponding increase in the price of the products is made, production will cease to be profitable. Either way, the factory will face difficulties and might close down. In view of these concerns, the management might refuse to raise the workers’ wages, warning: “You are marching towards an abyss.”

This is a classic, rational dynamic that causes people to avoid taking a step that, while desirable, could have risky consequences. Karl Marx presented this behavior as a surrender to what he called “false consciousness.” The workers continue to be exploited through the argument that they are better off preserving the existing situation.

A change in an undesirable reality begins, therefore, when people are willing to shake off their familiar understanding of reality in anticipation of a new and potentially better one. Such daring requires the willingness to pay the possible price of disrupting an existing system. Moses faced such a difficulty when he went to Pharaoh with the demand “Let my People go.” Pharaoh’s immediate response created an even more difficult situation for the Israelites, leading Moses to complain to God: “Why did you send me to Pharaoh?”

This dynamic is familiar to every leader who would introduce change. Experts will always be on hand to supply convincing reasons why the status quo should be preserved, with all its problems. Because it is familiar, it is labeled the lesser evil.

Here lies the substantive difference between the vantage point of experts – such as intelligence officers who are responsible for warning about what could happen if a familiar, stable pattern is disrupted – and that of leaders. 

While a leader must pay close attention to the warnings of experts, he must have the boldness to act when necessary to change realities that require correction. 

As David Ben-Gurion said, experts specialize in what has already happened – not what is going to happen.

*Maj. Gen. (res.) Gershon Hacohen is a senior research fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies. He served in the IDF for forty-two years. He commanded troops in battles with Egypt and Syria. He was formerly a corps commander and commander of the IDF Military Colleges.

Time for Hamas to lose in the Israel-bashing casino

From BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 940, September 5, 2018By Prof. Hillel Frisch*:

IDF artillery forces fire into the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Protective Edge, 2014
- photo by IDF via Wikimedia Commons

The accumulated deterrence achieved in the three previous rounds of wide-scale fighting between Israel and Hamas in 2008-9, 2012, and 2014 has come to a temporary halt. Israel must start preparing for a massive fourth round – a round in which Israel will, one hopes, replicate the cumulative deterrence it scored against the Arab States in 1973. This would mean subjecting Hamas to a threshold of pain sufficiently unbearable to induce it to stop fighting Israel altogether. 

The three previous rounds of wide-scale fighting between Israel and Hamas, in 2008-9, 2012, and 2014, can be seen in retrospect as a winning streak for Israel. Every round secured greater deterrence. Before the 2008-9 round, Hamas launched on average 1,000 missiles per year, but that figure declined to 400 between the first and second rounds in 2012, and then to fewer than 250 between 2012 and 2014.

Then, after 2014, “the land became quiet for nearly four years” (in Scriptures, it was usually forty).

Fewer than 80 missiles were launched during that period, most if not all by the wayward Salafi organizations, which is why many of them fell in Gaza itself. There were no casualties and almost no damage from these launchings. The professionals with the real firepower in Gaza – Hamas, the effective ruler of the Strip; and Islamic Jihad – stayed out of the fray.

This relative peace changed dramatically after the initiation of the “March of Return” violence at the end of March 2018.

Why the change? And why is Hamas winning this latest round of violence after having been intimidated for so long?

There’s a clear answer. Hamas was finding it increasingly difficult to stave off pressure from thousands of families whose sons were not released in the 2011 Shalit deal nearly seven years ago. Hamas leaders live in an area where they meet their constituency at every turn, in the refugee camps where many live, in the mosques, and in the universities and colleges. To be clear, their constituency is not the general public, for whom Hamas cares nothing. It is the hard core of 50,000 or so families in Gaza who support Hamas and Islamic Jihad through thick and thin.

The solution to the accumulating pressure was the “March of Return” campaign.

It was members of this constituency who came to the security fence every Friday afternoon (especially late in the afternoon, when the sun, which sets in the west, blurs the vision of the IDF soldiers facing it). It was they, or a few hundred of them, who were willing to put themselves at risk confronting the IDF. Among them were professional Izz al-Din troopers who dashed to, and sometimes through, the fence to destroy any equipment left in the area. They were easily identifiable by their fit physiques, purposefulness, agility, and speed – truly, the “Nukhba” (“elite”), Hamas’s crack troops.

The total number of people who participated in the “march” is 20,000 at the most (and is probably substantially fewer). The figures were subsequently exaggerated by both Hamas and the IDF. Even if accurate, this figure means that 98.5% of the population of Gaza and over 90% of the relevant age cohort (15-35) stayed home.

Worse, the expectation that West Bankers, Arab Jerusalemites, and even Israeli Arabs would do battle with Israeli security forces during the campaign failed miserably. The months that followed were the quietest by far in these areas since 2013, when terrorism picked up once again in the Jerusalem area and other sites in Israel.

Hamas was faced with the question of what to do next. Not only did pressure from the families of the prisoners increase, but others in the hard core wondered why they should be the only Hamas adherents to take any risks, especially since they have been paid only 40% of their salaries since 2014.

The leaders of Hamas took a risky decision – to escalate with missiles, but in a very selective and limited way. It was risky because Hamas not only well remembered 2014 but knew it was facing a new Minister of Defense who talks and acts like Putin and who has vowed in the past to destroy Hamas rule in Gaza.

The move to escalate was a gamble, and Hamas won. The key to its success was its calculation to limit the missiles to the Gaza envelope.

Hamas, who are experts in Israeli politics, calculated that striking the 20,000 Israeli inhabitants who live in the Gaza area is worth less than a seat in the Knesset during an election year. Expanding the strikes to Ashdod, Ashkelon, or Beersheba, mainstays of Likud support, would have forced the Netanyahu government to respond in a massive way. This is why Hamas did not strike wider.

The Israeli government responded just as Hamas hoped it would – with limited, tit-for-tat strikes in which Israeli civilians and military personnel paid a higher and higher price.

This is not acceptable. Israel must start preparing for a massive fourth round. There’s simply no other way.

The alternative is brokering a prisoner deal that will soon be followed by more rounds of limited Hamas violence conducted to achieve other demands – and the list is a long one, from terminating limitations on Gaza fishing (read, enhancing the possibility of arms smuggling from the Syrian coast), or lifting limits on dual-purpose imports such as cement and steel beams (for underground tunnels and missile storage facilities).

Despondent? Don’t be. The good news is that the fourth round may be like the fourth round against the Arab States, the Yom Kippur War. There was no change in the level of hatred of Israel among the Arab states when they made the decision to end war-making against the Jewish State. It was sheer pain that made the Yom Kippur War the last in which the Arab states actively sought war with Israel.

The fourth round with Hamas might generate the same kind of thinking. Its members will no doubt continue to hate the Jews and the Jewish State as much as before, but the pain might prove sufficiently unbearable to induce a change in behavior if not a change of heart.

*Prof. Hillel Frisch is a professor of political studies and Middle East studies at Bar-Ilan University and a senior research associate at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.