According to an article a few days ago in the Jerusalem Post, the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya recently conducted a crisis game exploring Israel’s response to a “an attack from Sinai, in which 17 people were killed and dozens wounded when two rockets hit Eilat.”
The security cabinet, comprising former senior officials, ordered a strike on the Gaza Strip, where the terrorist attack was said to have been planned by the Army of Islam, while at the same time coordinating with Egypt, the United States and the international community.
The prime minister – played convincingly by the former head of the National Security Council, IDC Prof. Uzi Arad – ruled after hearing the views of his security cabinet members (Eitan Ben-Eliyahu as defense minister, Roni Milo as foreign minister, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yitzhak Eitan as chief of staff, Ya’acov Perry as director of the Shin Bet (Israel Security Agency), and Col. (res.) Lior Lotan as director of military intelligence) that the IDF should retaliate immediately with a massive air strike – but not a ground operation – on terrorist targets in Gaza.
“We have to react,” he said. “We cannot wait.”
In the second stage of the simulation, major parties in the region played by academics and former officials – including Hezbollah, Syria, Egypt, Iran and al- Qaida – decided, for the most part, not to get directly involved in the escalation following the Israeli military strike, which, according to a mock report on CNN, killed dozens in Gaza.
In the third stage, the US ambassador (played by Michael Singh, managing director of The Washington Institute for Near East Policy) vetoed a Security Council resolution condemning Israel’s excessive response presented by the German ambassador (played by Dr. Daphne Richemond-Barak, head of the International Law Desk at IDC) and supported by other members of the council.
There are a few peculiar aspects to the report (which may be more a function of the Jerusalem Post coverage of the event than the crisis game itself). First, there is no mention of any actions taken by Hamas, arguably the second or third most important actor in the crisis. Hamas has been acutely aware of the potential dangers to itself and Gaza by actions taken by more militant Islamist groups since the 5 August 2012 attack by unknown gunmen against Egypt-Israel border crossing at Kerem Shalom that left 15 Egyptian soldiers dead, and is almost certainly taking measures to prevent the reoccurrence of such attacks. It also has a very strained relationship against the Army of Islam, having threatened or used force against it in the past. Oddly, al-Qa’ida is mentioned as a player in the game, although they have little presence in Gaza. There is no discussion of the repercussions of an Israeli strike for the Palestinian Authority, which has recently faced a wave of austerity protests (and which Israeli decision-makers would have little interest in destabilizing). It isn’t at all clear what the target of a “massive airstrike” that “killed dozens” would be, given that the Army of Islam is small and has no real infrastructure to target.
If any readers participated in the simulation or have further information, please feel free to add it in the comments section below.