Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

Israel and Hamas: Every War Must End

November 23, 2012 1:23 pm 1 comment

IDF forces exit the Gaza Strip as part of Operation Last Dawn, the final stage of the Gaza Disengagement, which occurred in the summer of 2005. Photo: wiki commons.

At a time when the political discourse in Israel is focusing on how the current operation in Gaza should have come to an end, it is useful to look at a classic book on international affairs called “Every War Must End.” The author of this study is Fred Ikle, who was not only an undersecretary of defense in the Reagan administration, but also a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the head of the prestigious RAND Corporation in Santa Monica, Calif.

The book really is about what perpetuates wars unnecessarily. Ikle’s analysis was written with the Vietnam War in mind, but he has revised it since then. He appears to have been mainly concerned with how states handle guerrilla wars. Some of its principles are useful to review in the Israeli context, if mistakes that many other countries have made are to be avoided.

Ikle’s first principle is that the purpose of the use of force is to defeat the military forces of the enemy. This is not as obvious as it seems. Many states locked into difficult guerrilla wars eventually turn to “punishment” strategies that are used to break the will of their adversaries, or what he calls “peace through escalation.” When a state is stuck in what appears to be a stalemate, there will always be people who look for more extreme solutions, hoping that the use of more force will change the situation fundamentally.

Ikle reminds his readers that the use of force against the civilian population will not work. Despotic rulers will not seek peace simply because his soldiers and civilians are suffering from the war. The U.S. tried punishment strategies in the Korean War against Kim Il-sung and in the Vietnam War against Ho Chi Minh and failed to get either leader to seek a peaceful outcome. The Iranians tried to punish Iraq’s allies in the Iran-Iraq War by striking their oil infrastructures, but by expanding the conflict they only brought in the U.S. against them.

Thus there are unintended side effects for a state adopting punishment strategies that can be totally self-defeating. In the current Gaza conflict, it is Hamas that is using a punishment strategy by striking larger numbers of Israeli cities and reaching northward as far as Tel Aviv and the outskirts of Jerusalem. But what Hamas has done is to create far greater solidarity on the Israeli side rather than break the will of the Israeli public. Rather than splitting the Israeli public it has put Tel Aviv and Ashdod in the same boat, thereby forming a strong Israeli consensus for waging a war to stop the rocket attacks.

A second issue that Ikle raises that perpetuates modern wars is the existence of outside support for the guerrilla forces a state might be fighting. This is not just a matter of the supply of weapons or funding, it is has a broader impact on the morale of guerrilla fighters involved in an insurgency against a well-equipped army. If they are isolated and have no reinforcements coming they are psychologically more prone to halt their fight.

Israel has acquired experience in this area in the last decade. One of the cardinal strategic errors in the 2005 Disengagement was the decision of Prime Minister Sharon to withdraw Israel’s military presence from the Philadelphi Route along the Gaza-Sinai border, after which the number of supply tunnels increased dramatically. Prior to the Disengagement, only short-range rockets were fired at Israel, like the Qassam, that was manufactured in Gaza. But in 2006, suddenly the longer-range Grad rocket that is manufactured in Iran was fired for the first time at Ashkelon, indicating how the improved lines of supply to Hamas was changing the battlefield.

It became extremely difficult to reach a decisive outcome in the war in Gaza and defeat Hamas as long as it had this link to external sources of supply, like Iran. In comparison, the IDF was able to defeat Hamas and other organizations in the West Bank in 2002, during Operation Defensive Shield, partly because their forces had no external source of supply. Israel continued to seal off the outer perimeter of the West Bank — the Jordan Valley — and did not pull out from this strategic area, as it had withdrawn from Philadelphi Route. As a result, the war in Gaza continued from the Disengagement until today, while no such armed conflict on a similar scale erupted in the West Bank.

There is a third issue that Ikle raises that sometimes keeps conflicts going for longer than they should: a pessimistic outlook in Western democracies has taken hold that guerrilla forces cannot be defeated. As a result many people tend to doubt the ability of their own armed forces to win modern wars and popular support for guerrilla conflicts tends to evaporate very quickly.

In Israel it is frequently stated that “only a political process can vanquish terrorism.” But what happens to “political solutions” when Israel confronts an organization like Hamas that is unwilling to compromise on its rigid ideology of muqawama and armed struggle against Israel?

Yaakov Amidror, who is now the National Security adviser, wrote a study showing that historically counterinsurgency wars have actually been won by the West when certain conditions were fulfilled.

Amidror reviewed the U.S. victory in the Philippines in 1954, the British victory in Malaya in 1952 and that in Oman in the 1970s as classic textbook cases. More recently there was the counterinsurgency campaign waged by General David Petraeus, who converted what looked like an American defeat in Western Iraq to a victory against al-Qaida in 2007.

What emerges from all these theoretical writings is the obvious point that wars against terrorism come to an end if they are won. But it is important to remember that victory is not achieved in these kinds of wars with a photograph of the enemy emerging from a bunker holding a white flag. In Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, as Amidror wrote, the wave of suicide bombings that the Palestinians employed against Israel came to an end. That result alone constituted a victorious outcome.

In the Gaza conflict we just had [Operation Pillar of Defense], the stated goal of military operations was to bring to an end the constant rocket fire on Israel by Hamas and other organizations which receive sanctuary in the territory Hamas controls.

If the cease-fire stabilizes in the weeks ahead, then the IDF will have achieved its stated goal. But to preserve what it has accomplished, Israel and the U.S. will have to put in place arrangements for the Philadelphi Route to prevent Iran from replacing all the weaponry that Israel has destroyed. Closing the outer perimeter to a territory where an insurgency war is being waged has been proven time and again to be a prerequisite for assuring stability in the long term.

Hamas escalated its rocket war on Israel in 2011 and especially in 2012, largely because it felt that the regional balance of power had changed with the outbreak of the Arab Spring and the rise of Islamist regimes, especially in Egypt, where the Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists became the dominant political force. It did not feel regionally isolated any longer. The Hamas leadership assumed that it could attack Israel while hiding behind the protective umbrella of President Muhammad Morsi of Egypt and Prime Minister Erdoğan of Turkey.

Israel demonstrated that nothing would deter it from exercising its right to self defense, even in the era of the Arab Spring. Hamas miscalculated. Essentially, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt felt strongly that now was the time for it to consolidate its control on power and not to get drawn into the military adventurism of Hamas, despite the full ideological identification of the former with the latter. But this change appears to be tactical in nature.

Thus Egypt played a constructive role at the end of this round of conflict in the Gaza Strip, but it remains to be seen whether this shift becomes permanent or is only temporary. The ideological hostility of the Muslim Brotherhood movement in Egypt against Israel remains stronger than ever and was just demonstrated this week in statements made by its supreme guide, Mohammed Badie. In any case, Israel will continue to have to rely on itself for its security, backed by the national fortitude that the Israeli people convincingly demonstrated all throughout the Gaza crisis.

This article originally appeared in Israel Hayom.

1 Comment

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Music Coldplay Begins Concert With Broadcast of Charlie Chaplin’s Iconic Speech in ‘The Great Dictator’

    Coldplay Begins Concert With Broadcast of Charlie Chaplin’s Iconic Speech in ‘The Great Dictator’

    British rock band Coldplay started its set at the Glastonburg Festival on Sunday by broadcasting excerpts of the iconic speech Charlie Chaplin delivered in The Great Dictator, the 1940 political satire in which the famous filmmaker/movie star played a Jewish barber. “I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone,” Chaplin begins his address. “I should like to help everyone, if possible, Jew, Gentile, black man, white. We all want to help one […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Two Decades Before Cleveland’s First NBA Title, LeBron James Walked Onto a JCC Court

    Two Decades Before Cleveland’s First NBA Title, LeBron James Walked Onto a JCC Court

    JNS.org – The seed for the city of Cleveland’s first professional championship in a major sport in 52 years may have been planted at the Shaw Jewish Community Center on White Pond Drive in Akron, Ohio, nearly 20 years ago. That’s when a tall, lanky kid from Akron named LeBron James walked onto the hardwood court and changed the game of basketball forever. Coach Keith Dambrot, now the head basketball coach at the University of Akron, conducted those sessions that attracted […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    North American Studios Look to Israel for Next Animation Hit

    JNS.org – In 2008, Yoram Honig was a producer and director living in Jerusalem, fresh off his first international hit, when the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA) came to him with a challenge: build a film industry from scratch in Israel’s capital. “When we started here, was nothing in Jerusalem,” he said during an interview in his office in the Talbiya neighborhood. Now, the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, which Honig heads as an arm of the JDA, pumps 9 million shekels […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Sports Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic Gold Medalist Gabby Douglas to Wear Leotard With Hebrew Letters in National Competition

    Olympic gold medalist Gabby Douglas will wear a leotard bearing Hebrew lettering when she competes at the P&G Gymnastics Championships over the weekend. Douglas’ Swarovski-outlined outfit will feature the Hebrew word “Elohim,” meaning God, on its left sleeve. The Hebrew detailing honors the athlete’s “rich heritage of faith,” according to apparel manufacturer GK Elite, which produced the leotard and released a preview of it on Wednesday. The company said Douglas’ sister, Joyelle “Joy” Douglas, created the Hebrew design. The outcome of the P&G Championships will help […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    British World Heavyweight Champion Should Be Banned From Boxing for Sounding Like Hitler, Says Ukrainian Competitor

    Britain’s world heavyweight champion, Taylor Fury, should be banned from boxing for making Nazi-like comments, a former world champion from the Ukraine said on Thursday, ahead of their upcoming match. “I was in shock at his statements about women, the gay community, and when he got to the Jewish people, he sounded like Hitler,” Wladimir Klitschko told British media, according to Reuters. “We cannot have a champion like that. Either he needs to be shut up or shut down in the ring, or […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Shows Cooking Skills and Humor on Chopped

    Rabbi Hanoch Hecht just made television history; but, unfortunately, he couldn’t have his rugelach and eat it too. Hecht became the first rabbi to compete on the hit show “Chopped,” where contestants are forced to use four random ingredients in their recipes, and have 20-30 minutes to create an appetizer, a main course and a dessert. A contestant is eliminated after each round. Hecht, 32, said that while the dishes and utensils were new, the kitchen was not kosher, so he couldn’t taste […]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Music Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox Entertainer Stars in Pepsi Max Commercial as New Face of Company’s Israel Campaign (VIDEO)

    Orthodox singer and entertainer Lipa Schmeltzer is starring in a new Pepsi Max commercial for the company’s campaign in Israel. The commercial begins with a bunch of Jewish men eating at a restaurant, when Schmeltzer walks in and tries to decide what to order. An employee at the obviously Israeli eatery offers him a variety of foods, but the entertainer in the end decides on a bottle of Pepsi. Everyone in the restaurant then joins him, drinking Pepsi Max and dancing to […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Book Reviews Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    Jewish Author’s ‘Messy’ Draft Transforms Into Rock Star Novel on Amazon

    JNS.org – “Writing is a messy process,” says author Elizabeth Poliner. “People who don’t write fiction would be surprised to see what early drafts could look like.” But readers wouldn’t know “what a mess it was for the longest time,” as the Jewish author puts it, when reading Poliner’s critically acclaimed latest book, As Close to Us as Breathing. The volume garnered Amazon’s “Best Book” designation in March 2016 as well as rave reviews from the New York Times,W Magazine, NPR, […]

    Read more →