I have a new piece in the current issue of Strategy & Tactics covering Israel's Operation Cast Lead. For those who may not recall, Cast Lead saw the Israelis bomb and invade Gaza last January in an effort to stop Hamas' daily rocket attacks.
The operation was well planned and executed, with the Israelis killing more than 700 Hamas fighters, destroying dozens of arms cashes, and hundreds of smuggling tunnels. Cast Lead also helped restore the credibility of Israel's deterrent, something which had been lacking since the inconclusive Lebanon War of 2006.
Interestingly, Israeli intelligence made good use of disgruntled Fatah operatives, Hamas main rival, several dozen of whom were killed when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip in a coup in 2007. Fatah sources pointed out the location of smuggling tunnels, terrorist homes, and arms caches.
Israel has also been aiding Fatah in the West Bank, with intelligence sharing and limited cooperation between the Israeli Army and Palestinian Authority security services. The Israelis seem to be adopting the age old counter insurgency tactic of co-opting some of the locals and using them to fight the insurgents. Its an idea that has worked time and again, most notably in Iraq, where Sunni insurgents turned on al Qeada.
Of course this begs the question, is Fatah any better than Hamas? Hamas is a religious organization offering a variety of social services tethered to a political program centered on the destruction ot Israel. Fatah is a more or less secular but corrupt thugocracy, it is at best and worst, like the entrenched government of Egypt's president for life, Hosni Mubarak. Mubarak stay afloat because of a few billion a year in American dollars. Perhaps Fatah can be kept up with a few hundred million Israeli shekels?