With one hand tied behind our back

Published in The Jerusalem Post and Israel Hayom, August 1, 2014.

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In waging war on Hamas, Israel is badly handcuffed and handicapped: fighting with one hand tied behind its back and with ideological blinders on.


It is hard to win a war when you’re fighting with one hand tied behind your back. It’s even harder to win a war when you tie that hand back yourself. It’s harder yet still when you’re wearing ideological blinders and fail to see the full contours of the enemy.

In going to war against Hamas, Israel is indeed handicapped in so many ways.

Firstly, the IDF has frighteningly handcuffed itself in order to avoid excessive civilian casualties among the civilian population in Gaza – within which Hamas is purposefully embedded.

What army that is truly dedicated to crushing the enemy tells enemy forces which targets exactly it is about to attack — by warning the civilian population in particular neighborhoods to flee on very specific days and at specific hours?

Who drops warning flyers from the air and ‘knocks on roofs’ with null bomblets in order to give further notice that ‘we are coming in now’ — allowing the enemy to set its remote control booby-traps and run to hide while leaving women and children behind to stare-down the IDF?

Who ever heard of an army out to really defeat its adversary that telegraphs its every move in advance?

What army has its most elite troops tip-toe through the enemy tulips, being oh-so-careful not to trample on the rosebeds, looking only for tunnels and rocket launchers, instead of blasting its way forward with overwhelming power to the center of the enemy formations, seeking to decapitate its leadership?

The answer is the Israel Defense Forces, fighting with one hand self-tied behind its back.

We call this a ‘humanitarian’ way of waging war. Humanitarian for the other side, that is. I think it cruel and unfair to the citizens and citizen-army of Israel. Just think of the many Israeli boys would not have been buried this week were it not for Israel’s super-humanitarian and ultra-ultra-considerate combat doctrines.

Israel is furthermore handicapped in winning against Hamas by IDF leadership that has not prepared the army for full-scale ground warfare against the enemy. Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz said last year that he doesn’t believe that Israel will have a major ground war for at least a decade.

As a result, Israel doesn’t have sufficient well-trained and properly-equipped troops nor fully-developed battle plans for re-conquering the Gaza Strip and crushing Hamas.

The chief-of-staff and his team have unabashedly and decidedly chosen in recent years to deemphasize the ground army, investing instead in the air force, in cyber-warfare capabilities, and in small-scale special operations forces.

That’s fine, but it has knowingly come at the expense of the armored, artillery, infantry and combat engineering corps. The result is that IDF cannot have, does not have, and has not presented to the cabinet a truly serious plan for a much broader, deeper and lengthier ground offensive against Hamas. I suspect that the situation would be much the same were Israel to face the need to rout Hezbollah in Lebanon – and we yet will need to do so.

The army’s inability to present the political echelon with realistic options for an expansion of the offensive against Hamas has of course blind sighted the government and restricted the cabinet’s options. It’s no surprise that Netanyahu and Yaalon are hesitant go any further.

The result is that the IDF has more or less been marching in place for about a week, with large contingents of troops holding static positions inside Gaza (exposed to enemy fire) or whiling away in staging grounds just outside Gaza (again, exposed to enemy mortar fire). Sitting ducks.

ISRAEL IS FURTHERMORE crippled in the fight against Hamas by an invisible threshold that seems to have been reached in terms of the patience of the international community; a threshold that, alas, Israel seems to have resigned itself to.

After three weeks of fighting and much suffering to Palestinian civilians caught in the battlefield, the world has had enough. Israel’s credit almost has run out; its diplomatic maneuvering room mostly exhausted. This is largely because of US President Obama’s fickle friendship, and his unwillingness to understand the broader strategic stakes in this fight.

Finally, Israel is handicapped by lingering self-delusions about the Palestinians. This includes the erroneous notion that economic development and horizons of prosperity will moderate Palestinian society or undercut the radical Islamic leadership. Therefore Israel is supposed to be “careful” not to destroy too much Palestinian infrastructure and it “must be a partner” in rebuilding the Palestinian polity after the war.

Yet there is no evidence since Oslo that largesse bestowed upon the Palestinians moderates their political goals or behavior.

The additional hallucination is the nonsensical belief, now being revived in some left-wing corners, that Mahmoud Abbas and his so-called Palestinian Authority can be Israel’s salvation.

Abbas is part of the problem, not the solution, as the past decade has shown over and over again. His ‘security services’ cannot guarantee Israel’s security, neither in the Jordan Valley nor the Samarian mountaintops overlooking Ben-Gurion Airport nor the border crossings between Gaza and Egypt.

Until this country’s leadership rids itself of the hallucinatory belief that a Palestinian state in the West Bank or Gaza is going to rescue Israel from its security and diplomatic dilemmas, it is going to be very hard to make hard-nosed decisions about using the military to truly rout and/or deter the Palestinian terrorist armies on our borders.

David M. Weinberg is a think tank director, columnist and lobbyist who is a sharp critic of Israel’s detractors and of post-Zionist trends in Israel. Read more »
A passionate speaker, David M. Weinberg lectures widely in Israel, the U.S. and Canada to Jewish and non-Jewish audiences. He speaks on international politics and Middle East strategic affairs, Israeli diplomacy and defense strategy, intelligence matters and more. Click here to book David Weinberg as a speaker

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