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Netanyahu’s ‘Long War’ Doctrine

The prime minister views Operation Protective Edge as only one episode in a long war in which Israel is engaged against those who seek its destruction.

by
Jonathan Spyer

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August 5, 2014 - 12:02 am
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As a number of former senior Israeli officials pointed out in the course of Operation Protective Edge,  Jerusalem had only two possible strategic options to choose from as it entered this fight.

The first involved seeking to inflict serious damage on Hamas’s military capabilities in an operation limited in scope. The goal of such a course of action would be to achieve deterrence against Hamas.  Implicit in this option is that, at its conclusion, the Hamas authority in Gaza would still be in existence — chastened, but alive.

The second, more ambitious option would have been to have pushed on into the Gaza Strip, and to have destroyed the Hamas authority there. This would have resembled Operation Defensive Shield in 2002. Israeli forces would have needed to remain in Gaza for months, or years, in order to suppress and destroy the continued guerrilla resistance which Hamas and other Palestinian groups would no doubt have undertaken.

This second option would also have required Israel to re-establish the civil administration in Gaza, taking responsibility for the lives of the 1.8 million residents of the Strip. This is because it would be politically impossible for the Ramallah Palestinian Authority to receive the Gaza Strip on a silver platter, as it were, from the Golani Brigade and its sister units of the Israel Defense Forces.

It is also likely that the insurgency which would have followed the destruction of Hamas rule would have proven a magnet for the jihadi forces which are currently proliferating in the neighborhood. ISIS and similar organizations are already in the Gaza Strip in small numbers.  But the “global jihad” would like nothing more than to find a platform from which to begin war against the Jews.

Given all this, it is not surprising that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to have chosen the first option.

Netanyahu, in stark contrast to his image in Europe and to a lesser extent in North America, is deeply cautious when it comes to the use of military force.

Indeed, the record shows that Israel elected to begin a ground campaign on July 18th only when it became clear from its actions and its statements that Hamas was not interested in a return to the status quo ante.

This caution does not come from a temperamental inability to manage military action. Indeed, the Israeli prime minister’s performance in recent weeks may go some way to dispelling the image which his opponents have sought to disseminate in Israel in recent years. That is, Netanyahu is a man who buckles under pressure and is easily swayed from his course.  This is the first time that one of Israel’s longest-serving prime ministers has led the country in a military confrontation. The general sense in Israel is that his performance as a leader has been relatively effective — setting clear and limited goals and pursuing them with vigor.

Netanyahu’s caution derives, rather, from his perception that what Israel calls “wars” or “operations” are really only episodes in a long war in which the country is engaged against those who seek its destruction.  In the present phase, these forces are gathered largely under the banner of radical Islam, though this was not always so.

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Top Rated Comments   
"This view notes the essentially implacable nature of the core Arab and Muslim hostility to Israel. So it includes an inbuilt skepticism toward the possibility of historic reconciliation and final-status peace accords."

So simple. Yet, so many people DO NOT understand this.

If the left decries "hate" so much, you'd think they'd direct their ire against those who are truly guilty of it.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I fear that Bibi is blinking. Maybe I am wrong, but I do not see how Israelis can live in southern Israel if a single tunnel remains. I pray that the Israelis will continue to discover and destroy tunnels. They will need technology to do that from the Israeli side.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hard to see how this analysis could be wrong. Winning the peace is as important as winning the war and there's no room for pansified half-measures.
Israel is fortunate to have Netanyahu.

It is also vital not to blink -- or to be perceived as having blinked.

Spanking the UN is high on the long-game list. It will be necessary to go around yet another benighted Harvard half-wit journalist chick, in this case Samantha Power.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (30)
All Comments   (30)
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A good solid whipping of Hamas, and eradicating as much of it as possible is a good short term strategy. Israel after all, has to conserve resources to go after Iranian nukes on their own.
If the Iranian madness was not in play, Bibi could wipe out Hamas, annex Gaza and the west bank and expel all PLO/Hamas leaders.
I at least hope Bibi would dis-arm the entire Gaza strip of every weapon, even the police, before this action is over.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Sisi has tamed the MB. There is no war of death.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
If this is the strategy for the long war I think it makes sense. There will never be a true peace with Islam because of its ideological tenets. Maybe Netanyahu understands the 'Hudnah" concept as good as the savages do. In spite of Obama, the UN, and the EU, Israel is in a better position for the time being, because it can build on its temporary alliance with Saudi Arabia, and may enlist support from Egypt, Jordan, and the Kurds for an attack on Iran. It looks like it has been left up to Israel to do the deed.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
I was in Israel on the heels of the Camp David accord (courtesy USN). Jimmy Carter was a hero, or appeared to be from the number of times I had his name shouted at me from smiling faces. Menachem Begin seemed popular as well. Anwar Sadat was assassinated for his peace efforts. 'Nuff said.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Conservatives should observe and mimic the Israelis.

What is going on inside the US is a relatively non-violent but existential war, between the activist Left (the US's radical Islam), and the large majority of normal people who just want to get on with their lives. Unfortunately, only a tiny minority of the large majority even know there is a war going on, and that it isn't going well.

Israelis are smart, and powerful, because they know full well who their enemies are and what their intents are. Israel has leaders. No doubt, they have large groups of people planning for many many contingencies. Their lives depend on it.

So do our lives depend on the war we are in. But our leaders are shoe salesmen named Boehner and Mitchell, whose goal is...selling more shoes while the shoes last.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
What "proreason" said...
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
This analysis seems sound. I especiially appreciate the long- term strategy idea presented here. It is remarkable that the major media of the world have no sense whatever of Israel's long- term strategic aims and situation. I also believe that the Prime Minister in choosing the less ambitious option chose the wiser one. As Jonathan Spyer points out correctly the cost of taking Gaza again would have been very great in many ways.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
It will not go on forever. One day Hamas will have rockets it can aim. Then Israel's greatest general, General "no choice" will appear. At that point Israel really will need the world's backing. (Good luck!)
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Israel must forget about world opinion and support if it is to survive.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The UNWRA has to go. It is nothing but a dagger at the heart of Israel, wielded by the cynical "moderate" Arab nations to make the Palestinians into eternal refugees. It is very similar to the outrage that stopped Israel from building nice homes for them; the Arabs world insisted they stay in the camps. Not mention that part of it actually IS Hamas.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
"This view notes the essentially implacable nature of the core Arab and Muslim hostility to Israel. So it includes an inbuilt skepticism toward the possibility of historic reconciliation and final-status peace accords."

So simple. Yet, so many people DO NOT understand this.

If the left decries "hate" so much, you'd think they'd direct their ire against those who are truly guilty of it.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
The problem is that the left is counting on the masses to NOT think. A strategy they've carefully constructed via the education system to ensure critical thinking is not necessary.
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jon,

Thank you for this, as usual, insightful analysis.

I thought these two recent analyses from Tablet further lay out the practicality of a long term strategy for Israel, due to both the time it affords Israel to build and to the apparently favorable demographics:

http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/178540/luttwak-zionism-history
http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/177456/settlers-one-state-solution
19 weeks ago
19 weeks ago Link To Comment
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