Four lessons for Israel to defeat its enemies after the Gaza offensive

Forget about deterrence, target the rockets first, fight one front at a time, and get it over with quickly.

Moshe_Arens_cropped-150x150By Moshe Arens

It’s time to take a look at Operation Protective Edge and what beckons beyond, because it seems we need to prepare for another round. We have to quickly absorb the lessons of this 50-day war, of our losses, and of the more than 4,000 rockets and mortar shells that fell on Israel.

Hamas was not defeated and is not about to disarm. It will certainly restock its arsenal of rockets aimed at Israel’s civilian population, to be launched at a time of its choosing. And we should not forget that another 100,000 rockets are aimed at Israel in Lebanon in the arsenal of another terrorist organization, Hezbollah. So what are the lessons?

First lesson: You cannot deter terrorists — not the individual terrorist, not Al-Qaida, not the Islamic State, not the Nusra Front, not Hezbollah and not Hamas. Their planning horizon stretches into centuries, their belief in their cause is immutable. No single blow will deter them from further terrorist acts, and they are certain of ultimate victory.

Israel should have learned this by now. Ehud Olmert’s government thought Operation Cast Lead would deter Hamas from launching rockets at Israel once again, but Hamas prepared for the next round. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thought Operation Pillar of Defense would deter Hamas from launching rockets at Israel once again, only to be forced to initiate Operation Protective Edge two years later.

Some want to believe that the punishment Hezbollah took during the Second Lebanon War has deterred it from provoking Israel again, but they should realize that Hezbollah used the intervening period to build up an arsenal of over 100,000 rockets of longer range and greater accuracy. It is prepared to renew aggression against Israel at the time of its choosing or when ordered to do so by its mentors in Tehran.

Second lesson: Underground tunnels dug by Hamas over the years represent a danger to Israeli communities at the edge of the Gaza Strip. Quite possibly Hezbollah has dug tunnels under our northern border. But it should be clear that the rockets directed at Israeli targets are by far the greater danger. The tunnels are a local danger; the rockets are a danger to all Israel.

Sustained rocket attacks can bring life in Israel to a standstill, even as the Iron Dome system, at great cost, intercepts most of the rockets. But Iron Dome can be saturated; the terrorists in the south and north have learned that. Therefore, the first priority of any military operation must be the elimination of the rocket threat.

This is far more important than discovering the tunnels. Besides, there are ways to deal with the tunnels that are far less costly than sending in the ground troops. These methods should have been implemented long ago and must be implemented now. But the first priority is to stop the rockets from coming down on Israel.

Third lesson: Israel is facing a terrorist threat on two fronts – Hamas in the south and Hezbollah in the north. It should try to avoid dealing with both at the same time.  Hezbollah is mired in the fighting in Syria, so it’s obvious whom to hit first.

There are classic examples of how to wage a two-front war by dealing with one front at a time. There’s the famous World War I battle when the Kaiser’s Germany faced the Russians in the east and the French and British in the west. Gen. Paul von Hindenburg, leading the German Eighth Army, defeated the Russian armies of generals Alexander Samsonov and Paul von Rennenkampf; then Germany was free to face the west. Those who have forgotten this piece of history should read Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s great book “August 1914.”

Fourth lesson: Israel’s wars have to be short. We’re not built for long wars of attrition. The longer the war the more casualties on both sides and the greater the impatience around the world. Whatever has to be done must be done quickly. That must be the government’s instruction to the Israel Defense Forces.

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