Barak Ravid
Haaretz (Opinion)
November 15, 2012 - 12:00am

Palestinians extinguish fire from the car of Ahmed Jabari, head of the military wing of the Hamas movement after it was hit by an Israeli air strike in Gaza on November 14, 2012. Photo by AFP

The decision to launch Operation Pillar of Defense was reached Tuesday morning by an inner ministerial group, known as the "forum of nine." The political-security cabinet did not convene prior to the operation; it convened a few hours after its inception, in order to authorize retroactively the operation's goals.

The operation launched on Wednesday afternoon, following a disinformation maneuver that involved not only the IDF and security officials, but also senior cabinet ministers. The goal was to lull Hamas and other terror organizations in Gaza into a false sense of security, in the hope that they would lower their level of preparedness for an Israeli attack and return to their normal routines in a fashion which would help the IDF identify the head of Hamas' military wing Ahmed Jabari, and assassinate him.

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu conducted a briefing for overseas ambassadors in Ashkelon, in order to emphasize that Israel would take action to stop the rocket fire from Gaza. Yet the briefing created the impression among the diplomats that Israel would not undertake a military operation in the immediate future. On Tuesday, Netanyahu visited Be'er Sheva, and met there with regional council heads from the south; this meeting also led the local politicians to believe that Israel would not launch an operation in Gaza in the near future. Also that day, Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak clarified that Israel would choose "the right time" for a response to the missile and rocket attacks from Gaza.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, following the meeting of the forum of nine, and also on Wednesday morning, Minister Benny Begin, who is considered a credible and forthright politician, was sent to be interviewed on a number of radio stations – this was also part of the disinformation ruse. In this interview, Begin stressed that the current round of violent escalation in Gaza had ended, and that Israel would act in the future should rocket fire from Gaza resume.

Netanyahu and Barak continued this disinformation campaign on Wednesday morning, when they paid a joint visit to the Northern Command, and toured the Golan Heights in order to review circumstances on the Syrian border. President Shimon Peres also participated in this disinformation maneuver by undertaking a previously scheduled visit to Sderot, during which he toured preschools and schools.

Monitoring of Hamas military leader Jabari began on Tuesday, but weather conditions prevented an attack at the time. The monitoring continued on Wednesday. As Netanyahu and Barak wrapped up their visit on the Golan Heights, they were informed that Jabari had been identified. They authorized the strike on him, and the current IDF operation went into motion.


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