Netanyahu’s 'Long War' Doctrine

In such a conflict, what matters is not a quick and crushing perception of victory. Indeed, the search for a knockout, a final decision in this or that operation , given the underlying realities, is likely to end in overstretch, error and non-achievement.  What matters is the ability to endure, conserve one's forces -- military and societal -- and to work away on wearing down the enemy’s will. Military achievement, as well as economic and societal success, are all weapons in this war.

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.

At the same time, this view does not rule out alliances of convenience with regional powers. As Netanyahu’s recent speeches have indicated, the Israeli prime minister is deeply aware that the immediate interests of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are largely coterminous with those of Israel.

All three countries are hostile to the Muslim Brotherhood and to the ambitions of Iran and its allies.  All three are deeply dismayed at the current U.S. administration’s softness toward and accommodation of these forces.  It is an alliance of the coldest, most pragmatic and most hard-headed type. Precisely for this reason, it works.

Egyptian President Sisi is locked in a war of death against the Muslim Brotherhood at home and sees the Hamas enclave in Gaza as an extension of his domestic opponents. The speech given by Saudi King Abdullah this week also held Hamas responsible for the current situation.

So for now, Israel is redeploying its forces outside Gaza, with the option and possibility of strikes back inside if a renewed ceasefire continues to prove elusive. The IDF will continue to maintain the pressure on Hamas, even as the rulers of Gaza participate in ceasefire negotiations managed by Sisi in Cairo.  There are reports of Israel establishing a de facto buffer zone inside the Gaza Strip, to reduce the ability of Hamas to fire short-range rockets at southern Israeli communities.

All this forms part of an effort to undertake the containment and incremental weakening of the Islamist entity in Gaza, in cooperation with whoever, for his own reasons, is willing to cooperate.

Netanyahu’s vision is a chilly one, though it is not ultimately pessimistic. It aims to provide firm, durable walls for the house that the Jews of Israel have constructed.  Within those walls the energies of Israeli Jews will ensure success -- provided that the walls can be kept secure, thus believes the Israeli prime minister. It is from the point of view of this broader strategic picture that the current actions of Israel need to be understood.  Operation Protective Edge -- like Cast Lead and Orchard and Lebanon 2006 and the others -- is intended as  a single action in a long and unfinished war.