By: Prof. Dr. Mohsen Mohammad Saleh.
Operation Al-Aqsa Flood, launched by Hamas’s Al-Qassam Brigades from the Gaza Strip (GS), has been an attack on Israeli settlements and military bases in the Gaza envelope. It has been an unprecedented strategic blow to Israel, the biggest such blow since its founding, 75 years ago.
In one day, we witnessed the largest Palestinian and Arab attack inside the 1948 occupied Palestinian territories, since the establishment of Israel. In just a few hours, Hamas forces took over 20 settlements and outposts and 11 military sites, including Israel’s Gaza Division headquarters from where all Israel’s major wars and battles outside the 1948 occupied territories have been organized.
Of all the wars that Israel has fought with the Palestinians since 1948, and even those fought against Arab armies, Israel is now suffering the highest death toll. In the 1967 war, no more than 750 Israelis were killed; in the three-month 1982 Lebanon invasion, no more than 650 Israelis were killed; in the July 2006 war, 104 were killed; and the only exception to these relatively low numbers was the 16-day October 1973 war that the Egyptian and Syrian armies fought and in which approximately 2,200–2,500 Israeli soldiers were killed. At the time of writing, on the fifth day of the operation, the Israeli death toll has reached 1,300, with 3,000 Israelis wounded.
We have seen the largest number of Israeli prisoners ever captured by the Palestinian resistance, over 150 prisoners, several of whom are senior officers in the Israeli army.
We are also witnessing both the biggest strategic military surprise and the most colossal failure of the security apparatus in the history of Israel, accompanied by extreme confusion and utter humiliation for the Israeli government.
The first strategic Implication of Operation Al-Aqsa Flood is the fall of the “Israel’s national security doctrine” based on the principles of deterrence, early warning, and quick military decision. A fourth principle was added in 2015, the defense principle. However, this time all four principles failed, and some of their basic strategies also failed, such as pushing the fighting into enemy territory, having defensible borders and establishing cordon sanitaire. Security is fundamental within the Israeli national doctrine and one of the foundations of Israel’s existence, providing safe haven for Jews from across the World, enabling Israel to crush and deter all resistance groups and armies in the surrounding strategic environment. The blow struck on October 7th emptied the Zionist project of its content, shaking Israel to its core, causing the “Promised Land” narrative to lose its appeal, and prompting some Zionist Jews in Israel to aspire to emigrate and return to their countries of origin. As a result, Israel’s political and military leaders initiated a massive mobilization and formed a “national unity” government in an attempt to restore the state of deterrence and their shattered image, through the brutal bombing of civilians and the total destruction of civilian facilities and services in GS.
The second strategic implication is to reveal to the World the centrality of al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem in the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim conscience. The mosque and the city are loved and revered by all these peoples and are a source of great inspiration, unifying and bringing together the Ummah’s forces and setting their compass in one shared direction. As such, the ongoing Israeli aggression against Jerusalem and its attempts to Judaize al-Aqsa Mosque have, over the recent decades, led to mass uprisings and explosions of confrontations with the Zionist project. Israel’s violations of al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem were a fundamental reason for Operation Al-Aqsa Flood that bore the Mosque’s name.
The third strategic implication is the provision of proof that the resistance project is the most effective tool for achieving the rights of the Palestinian people and defeating the occupation. This operation was the culmination of extensive meticulous preparations by Hamas and the other resistance forces to accumulate their collective power. As a result, they achieved qualitative leaps militarily, security-wise, and in terms of battleground experience, giving an extraordinarily strong, coordinated performance, reflecting the lessons learned from the four previous wars on GS. This came after rival Palestinian leaders accused the resistance’s rockets of being frivolous and comparing them to fireworks.
This operation should be understood as concurrent with the collapse of the peace process; the failure of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority (PA) to utilize the Oslo Accords to establish an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 occupied territories; successive Israeli governments ignoring the peace process; the expansion of Israel’s Judaization and settlement programs; and with Israel transforming the Palestinian Authority into a tool that serves Israel rather than the aspirations of the Palestinian people.
The fourth strategic implication is the failure of the Zionist project to subjugate the Palestinians. During thirty years of British occupation and seventy-five years since the establishment of Israel, the Intifadahs and revolutions of the Palestinian people did not stop…they ebbed and flowed. All forms of oppression, displacement, destruction and suffering failed to deter these people; and each time the Israelis thought they had subjugated the Palestinians, an Intifadah would be launched taking them back to square one, as was the case in the first Intifadah 1987–1993, al-Aqsa Intifadah 2000–2005, the GS wars, the Jerusalem Intifadah and others. Therefore, it was not strange when Israel’s Haaretz newspaper said, “we are facing the most difficult people in history, and there is no solution but recognizing them and ending the occupation.” Here, once again, is the Palestinian “genie” of resistance imposing its program on the world.
The fifth strategic implication is the failure of Israel to become the “policeman” of the region. Following its impotence and failure in dealing with the Palestinian resistance, the failures of the security doctrine and the deterrence strategy, Israel is no longer a force that the West can rely on to dominate the region, nor is it a reliable force for regional countries that want to resolve their disputes and conflicts with their enemies. It seems highly unlikely that Israel will ever repair its shattered image following Operation Al-Aqsa Flood.
The sixth strategic implication is that the premise of closing the Palestinian dossier while normalizing relations with Arab and Muslim countries, was false. It was thought that the Palestinians could be singled out and isolated from their Arab and Muslim environment, and the Zionist vision could be imposed while closing the Palestinian file. This is what Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu bragged about in his speech to the United Nations in September 2022.
Operation Al-Aqsa Flood has proven that the Palestinian people and their rights cannot be ignored; the resistance is able to have its say and impose its conditions on “the game.” The operation has proven that the peace process and normalizations are destined to fail as long as the occupation remains in Palestine. Moreover, the broad positive support of the Arab and Muslim peoples and the free people of the world, for the Palestinian people and their resistance, shows that the normalization process was always just on the official (and superficial) level, linked to the interests of some regimes. It will soon disappear, either with the disappearance of those interests or with the departure from power of advocates of normalization.
Finally, Operation Al-Aqsa Flood has left a profound impact on the course of the Palestine issue. It will be considered as a landmark in the history of resistance. It is likely that events after 7/10/2023 will be markedly different from those before.
Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations, 14/10/2023