Global Review had the honor and opportunity to interview Thomas Lennartz, Director (CO) of Middle East and Oriental Security Analysts (MEOSA) and of the Special Warfare Intelligence and Analysis Center. Middle East and Oriental Security Analysts conducts security policy studies and provides analyzes with a focus on the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa and Islamic-oriented countries and societies worldwide. Your research results and analyzes are available to GOs, NGOs as well as industry and trade in the states of NATO, EU and West. Middle East and Oriental Security Analysts is committed to the Atlantic idea.
Global Review: Mr. Lennartz, many Middle East experts claim that the Hamas war was an “intelligence failure” by the Mossad, IDF and Shin Beth, while others claim that the Israelis intelligence warned the Netanjahu government, but that the right-winged coalition was to obsessed with the judicial “reform” and a Saudi-Israel deal that it didn´t care about the warnings. Or was it LIHOP (Let it happen on purpose). What is your explanation?
Thomas Lennartz: Israeli Education Minister Joav Kisch literally stated: „We are responsible, we were busy doing nonsense…“
In the light of this statement, it is not impossible that the Netanyahu administration has different priorities and warnings were not heeded as they should have been, in hindsight. But this is a problem that intelligence agencies and their analysts face all the time and is therefore not unique.
A common saying about intelligence work in Israel says: “It’s not looking for a needle in a haystack, but looking in a pile of needles for the one that pricks you”.
There is no right or wrong approach in intelligence work, there is only success or failure, and the Israeli services have undeniably failed here…
Global Review: Tal Schneider claims in the Times of Israel that the Hamas attack is the result of Netanjahu´s policy to tolerate and prop up Hamas against the PA in the Westbank, so that a two state solution and independent Palestinian state becomes impossible because of this division.”Netanjahu´s policy has now blown up in our face”: Do you agree?
It is not uncommon in foreign policy to play opponents off against each other; just think of the British policy of the so-called “Continental Sword” in the 18th century, which stipulated that the second strongest power on the European continent should always be supported.
Here too, there is no right or wrong, just success or failure, it may go well or not.
My view here is that Netanyahu focused too much on the West Bank and viewed Gaza as a Quantité négligeable.
Global Review: It is astonishing that the Israeli media in the weeks before the Hamas war intensively discussed the lesson of the Yom Kippur war, but was similarily catched by a surprise attack. How could this happen?
Thomas Lennartz: The Yom Kippur War celebrated its 50th “anniversary” these days. It is not surprising that there was a discussion in Israel on this occasion. This attack by the Arab armies also hit Israel with little preparation at the time; here too, regardless of the special situation of the Jewish people on their most important, silent holiday, there is some talk of a failure of the secret services. It’s natural to reflect on this again 50 years later, despite the fact that the war was ultimately won.
Global Review: Some expert claim that the Hamas war was no surprise, as it was foreseeable. Hamas wanted to prevent a normalization, counter the efforts to make a bilateral Saudi- Israel deal without the Palestinian question and had to react to the provocations of Ben Gvir and Smotrich or Netanjahus UN speech where he showed a map with an annexed Westbank as part of Greater Israel. What do you think about this?
Thomas Lennartz: It is undeniable that the Netanyahu government is acting more than ill-fated in its domestic and foreign policy. The provocations directed at the Palestinians as a whole, not just at Hamas, can only be described benevolently as lighting a powder keg; the latent willingness to use violence among the various Palestinian groups has so been continually provided with new justifications within their populations.
A torpedo of the from the outset disapproved rapprochement between various Arab states, not just Saudi Arabia, and Israel was a welcome side effect.
Nevertheless, in my opinion, Hamas’s direct terrorist attack on Israeli civilians was unforeseeable in its magnitude and brutality.
Global Review: Some expert claim that the Israeli intelligence and IDF focused too much on Iran and its proxy Hesbollah in Syria and Lebanon which were speaking of “a final battle” and a “final Intifada” in the Westbank and forgot about und underestimated Hamas in Gaza? Do you agree?
I can only go back to my answer to your first question and quote Minister Joav Kisch again: “We are responsible, we were busy doing nonsense…”.
In my opinion it is clear that the wrong priorities were obviously set.
Global Review: Is this Hamas war a new quality and the first time since 1973 that foreign fighters entered and attacked Israeli territory on such scale? Was there not a wrong feeling of security that after Israel became a nuclear power, was equipped with and relied on hi tech weapons that it was not prepared for an asymmetric war?
Thomas Lennartz: If you want to call it a war. For me, this is still a terrorist attack and therefore it cannot be compared with the wars of 1948, 1967 and 1973, in which Israel was attacked by regular Arab armies and was in some cases on the verge of defeat.
In this case, things are different; despite all the terrible events, Israel’s existence is not threatened.
When it comes to a feeling of security through the possession of nuclear weapons – which Israel has never officially admitted, let us not forget that – this concerns interstate conflicts and is currently aimed at Iran. And as far as “high-tech weapons” is concerned, this term covers an almost insurmountable field of weapons and equipment technology, some of which can be used in asymmetric wars and others which cannot.
Furthermore, an asymmetrical war has been waged in the Middle East in and around Israel since 1948, and there is no need to prepare specifically for that.
Global Review: Netanjahu said that he wants to turn Gaza in a “deserted island”, but the quote is disputed and that the Gazans should leave and flee Gaza. But where should they go and won´t use Hamas the Gazans as human shields for their propaganda? Is a big bloodbath inevitable?
Israel has urged residents of the northern Gaza Strip to seek safety behind the Wadi Gaza towards Khan Yunis, that suggests the conclusion that the focus of an eventual Israeli ground offensive in the north will be near Gaza City.
Hamas is trying to stop the population from fleeing, following the strategy it has practiced for years of hiding behind civilians.
Under these circumstances, a ground offensive is likely to result in large casualties among the civilian population, which Hamas will try to use for its own propaganda purposes, even though it will be causally responsible.
Global Review: Some expert think Hamas has no chance against the Israeli IDF. However others point out that a ground offensive in Gaza or occupation would lead to a long and bloody house to house fighting as Hamas has organized a tunnel system comparable to the Cu Chin tunnel system of the Vietcong. Others claim that the Archille´s heel of the Israelis and the West was that they wanted to exchange hostages and leave nobody behind. This would give Hamas a big leverage and advantage, if Israel ws not willing to sacrifice them. What do you think about this arguments?
Thomas Lennartz: I know Gaza City, of course not the tunnel systems that Hamas built under the city. But even without these tunnel systems, Gaza City resembles a labyrinth. A fight from house to house, from cellar to cellar is not something I would wish for and would be a bloody affair for both the attacker and the defenders.
Therefore, I think it is likely that the IDF will act in a concentrated manner and try to paralyze traffic and logistic hubs and communication centers and otherwise bring to use commandos and their superior military equipment. Unfortunately, the use of chemical components does not seem to be ruled out.
Of course, the hostages are the big weak point; we will have to wait and see how Israel will deal with the problem, especially since they are not just Israeli citizens and a strong, if not decisive, foreign policy component comes into the play.
Global Review: How great is the possibility that Hesbollah and Iran will join the Hamas war, how would the other Muslim states and the international community react and what would this mean?
I am entering difficult territory with an answer. I still want to try it.
Iran has already denied any involvement in the Hamas operation, even though everyone knows that it supports Hamas and Hezbollah, at least when it comes to training and weapon-supplies. However, there is currently no evidence that the Mullahregime was directly involved in the terrorist attack.
As far as Hezbollah is concerned, despite the similarity of objectives, there are significant rivalries between the Shiite organization and the Sunnite terrorist militia.
At the moment, Hezbollah’s behavior seems rather half-hearted to me. They have to do something, but they don’t want to attract Israel’s concentrated power in Lebanon. Although Hezbollah is the strongest military force in Lebanon, there are also other players there who are not always sympathetic to Hezbollah.
Nevertheless, the danger of a two-front war for Israel is certainly real and growing.
Global Review: In the Newsweek op-ed Dan Perry summarizes and analyses the former Israeli reactions to the terror from Gaza and the Westbank: ”New Gaza War on Israel Highlights a False ‚Conception’”
He is calling for a “new conception”, but seems to have no idea what it could be. MEF and parts of the Knesset have the Victory Israel Caucasus. Is this a “new conception” or the only one being discussed at the moment? Is it possible to wipe out, eliminate Hamas or drive it out of Gaza as happened to the PLO in Lebanon?
Thomas Lennartz: Many people, experts or those who think they are, are expressing their opinions these days about what is happening in the Middle East, but the prophetic abilities of most of them – including mine – are very limited given the situation.
As far as the right or wrong concepts are concerned, it is easy to demand improvements or changes if you do not have to be responsible for the consequences yourself. Here again, no right or wrong counts, but, as already explained, only success or failure.
Personally, I have no doubts about Israel’s military victory, but I will not allow myself to be tied to a specific time frame.
Whether Hamas can also be eliminated politically depends on Israel’s future dealings with the Palestinians. If nothing happens here, the eventual expulsion of Hamas from Gaza will be just as temporary as the expulsion of the PLO from Lebanon.
Global Review: Which concrete measures should the West, the USA and the EU and Germany take to counter the Hamas war? Is it just about Hamas or not also against Islamism at all?
We are currently observing this in what is happening on the streets of our cities.
The West must not only counteract the threat of a new extensive war in the Middle East, but also the anti-Israel, anti-Semitic currents in its own countries.
Once again we are faced with the question: What is our system of values worth to us and how far should we go to protect it? The traditional understanding of “creating peace without weapons”, which is emphasized again and again, especially in Germany, seems to have lost its relevance in today’s complex world situation.
The West must accept that sustainable peace is much more difficult to achieve than simply through arms export bans and well-intentioned projects.
Global Review: Do you think the idea of a “New Middle East, the Abraham Accords, a Saudi- Israel deal and the India-Middle East Economic Corridor are finished or will suffer a serious setback by the Hamas war ?
Just today (October 14th) a headline in SPIEGEL-Online read: “Saudi Arabia stops rapprochement with Israel.” I fear that the processes that depend on the situation in the Middle East will have to cope with a number of setbacks in the near future.
Global Review: What do you think will be Russia´s and China´s reaction, sympathies and interests in this conflict, that of the Arab and Muslim world and the so called Global South? Who will be the driving forces of an escalation or a deescalation?
Thomas Lennartz: The interests of Russia and China are probably different here. Despite all calls for a ceasefire, Russia sees the conflict primarily as a welcome distraction from its aggression in Ukraine and can note with satisfaction that the West, and especially the Ukraine supporters, are being kept busy and tied up on a new front.
China, on the other hand, will see this new Middle East conflict as a disruption to its efforts to consolidate its “New Silk Road Project,” the primary goal of its recent efforts to bring calm to the Persian Arabian Gulf.
But there could also be a positive side effect for China, namely the impairment of the Western-Arab-Indian rival project on the “New Silk Road”, the new rail and shipping route that is supposed to connect Europe, the Persian Gulf and India.
Global Review: The Israel Victory Project in its publication doesn´t seem to have a clear idea what “victory” exactly means. As goals are mentioned to “eliminate” or “dismantle” then to “submit” Hamas. However it is not about a ceasefire, but a decisive victory which wants a sort of unconditionally surrender and capitulation peace which will bring a more sustainable constellation in the Middle East. If Hamas was eliminated and a victory/capitulation peace signed, the Palestinian question would be resolved and this would pave the way for a New Middle East. Do you think this is realistic?
Thomas Lennartz: The official statement on the Israel Victory Project is: “The Israel Victory Project steers U.S. and Israeli policy toward backing an Israel victory over the Palestinians to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. This new paradigm of defeating Palestinian violent rejectionism, seeks to convince Palestinians that the Jewish state will endure, drawing on Israel’s earlier and successful strategy of deterrence.”
The German Duden explains the meaning of the German word “Sieg” which stands for the English word “victory” with “success, which consists in winning in an argument, in a fight, in a competition, etc. against an opponent, opponent or similar, to have prevailed, to have overcome it, to have defeated it“ and names „recognition, breakthrough, success, achievement“ as synonyms.
Certainly terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and radical elements of the PLO stand in the way of a compromise peace, but current Israeli policy of the Netanjahu administration in recent years, which was obviously aimed at a surrender peace, is not conducive to this either, as well as the inability or unwillingness of the Palestinian National Authority under Abbas to stop the ongoing Palestinian acts of violence.
But be it as it may, the current brutal and inhumane terrorist attack by Hamas has, for now, reduced all peace efforts to absurdity and will bring Hamas to the brink of the abyss. Whether Hamas can survive militarily and politically seems at least doubtful.
Global Review: Do you think a Israeli unity government could be a solution also for the internal state crisis and maybe even the momentum a new constitution and reset? Or is the split in the Israeli society so deep rooted that Netanjahu will only use the war for a cleansing of the IDF and intelligence in order to get loyalists in the key positions?
Netanyahu is an autocrat at heart. Like many of his like-minded comrades, especially in Eastern Europe, he wants to adapt democracy to his ideas and transform Israel into another state. There will be no purges in the classic sense in the army and secret services; the process will take place gradually. Unpopular officers and civil servants are forced out of service or resign voluntarily, as happened in Poland.
The deep splits in Israeli society, a problem that is widespread in many Western democracies, could favor Netanyahu’s plans.
Global Review: How do you think the Hamas war will affect the US election and the Asian pivot doctrine of the USA as the Ukraine war?
The question should be: What impact will the elections have on the war in Ukraine, the situation in the Middle East and Asia?
If Republican hardliners come to power, the situation will fundamentally change for many and many things. It is currently difficult to estimate how profound such changes will be.
Global Review: What do you think Germany should do?
Thomas Lennartz: Peace remains the right goal. However, Germany must accept that sustainable peace is much more difficult to achieve than through mere declarations of intent. Our values are essential. We don’t need a new peace order, but rather a security and conflict order and a corresponding strategic approach in order to be successful in the future.