I just got back from my anniversary vacation last night, so I’ve not had time to catch up on my email or blogging yet. However, I did come across a rather interesting piece on Israel’s strategy that is surprisingly hopeful. Here’s the punchline:
Evaluations of Israel’s actions must take into account the bewildering complexity of challenges it faces. Take the fight against Hamas, for example. Israel has tried the range of non-diplomatic and coercive means to discourage Hamas from targeting its citizens. It pulled every Israeli soldier and civilian out of the Gaza Strip, agreed to a series of cease-fires, and, with Egypt, blockaded Hamas’s territory. Still, Hamas launched Qassams, killed soldiers, and smuggled advanced weaponry. Israeli leaders faced a dilemma—continue the status quo and allow 1 million Israelis to live under Hamas attacks or move to a military option that will undoubtedly harm Palestinian civilians.
When Israel finally opted for a military operation, Hamas’s tactics forced the IDF to balance military necessity with its ethical restraints. Battling enemies who fire rockets from Palestinian schools and civilian areas as a matter of policy, the IDF compromised military effectiveness to protect enemy civilians, allowing Hamas more breathing room. In the words of British Colonel Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, “Many missions that could have taken out Hamas military capability were aborted to prevent civilian casualties. During the conflict, the IDF allowed huge amounts of humanitarian aid into Gaza. To deliver aid virtually into your enemy’s hands is, to the military tactician, normally quite unthinkable. But the IDF took on those risks.”
Israel faces similar challenges across the spectrum—Iran’s nuclear program, Hezbollah and Hamas rockets, neighboring regimes falling, flotillas, protesters willing to die, international pressure, and terrorism, to name a few. Outnumbered by hostile forces, both on the ground and in the international community, Israel is further restricted by an ethical code that limits its responses to enemies for whom all Israelis are legitimate targets. Somehow, Israel usually manages to find a balance, striking a blow to its adversaries while remaining within the bounds of military and Jewish ethics. This is no easy feat. Though its responses often seem haphazard and excessively violent, the long view indicates that Israel’s mix of diplomacy, deterrence, and force keeps its citizens safe and minimizes extended bloodshed.
In a reality in which there are often no good options, Israel just might know what it’s doing.
- Hamas asks MKs to Protect IDF Radio (israelnationalnews.com)
- Israel attacks Hamas terror squad, killing 3 (jta.org)
- Hamas: Israel so suffer ‘consequences’ of IDF Gaza strike – Ha’aretz (news.google.com)
- IDF strikes Gaza Hamas militants ‘planning to kidnap Israelis’ – Ha’aretz (news.google.com)