Israel's strategic blunders pave the way for the next Gaza war

Israel has, in the eyes of the Arab World, made Hamas look like a victim of Israeli aggression and compromised its own long-term position by acting too strongly but not definitively in the short-term.

Dr. Joe Tuzara

OpEds Dr. Joe Tuzara
Dr. Joe Tuzara

Israel's disappointing performance against Hezbollah in 2006 Lebanon War did not reflect a "failure of air power," but a failure of political and military leaders to properly assess the enemy, set achievable goals, apply an effective strategy and adequately manage public expectations, a RAND Corporation study concluded. 

Learning from its mistakes, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) conducted a more successful campaigns against Hamas in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in 2008–09, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, the deadliest operation of them all.

Still, the threat that is most engaging the Israelis for now is an invisible one: the Hamas tunnels, and particularly those designed to run beneath the border into Israeli territory, a focal point of the 2014 battle in Gaza.

Israel's war against Hamas is still a strategic failure. And to have inflicted such damage on the Palestinians with no lasting strategic gain is especially inexcusable .

Just as a third Lebanon war is possible, all indications suggest or tell us the next war between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas, that rules Gaza, is inevitable. 

Now, Israelis see worrisome signs that the next war will be waged underground. In response, the Israeli government is stepping up efforts — and developing secret high-tech methods — to detect and destroy the labyrinth of tunnels Hamas is building to attack Israel as well as to circumvent a tight embargo that Israel and Egypt imposed around Gaza.

Given Israel's lack of strategic depth, IDF commanders are rethinking their concept of border security by investing in fences, surveillance and reconnaissance devices together and in cooperation with an enhanced cross-border intelligence with Egypt and Jordan.

Israel's political and military leadership displayed strategic blindness on several accounts, denying the IDF victory.

Consider why this is a flawed strategy: Israel embarked on a Gaza war but opted not to win the war. In that, Israel may have damaged its deterrence capability irreversibly.

Since the withdrawal of the Israeli army from Gaza, and the dismantling of all Israeli settlements there in 2005, Palestinian Arab terrorism has neither been diminished nor eliminated.

What's next? Will the 4th Gaza war be another useless operation that shows that Israel can't be deadly serious? 

After a protracted battle in Gaza, do we expect the Israeli military to say once again that it is not yet time to defeat Hamas?

Does ‘mowing the grass’ instead of destroying the roots of the weeds actually make Israel safer?

Hamas has paid no political price at all for its continued use of civilians as human shields, firing rockets from schools, mosques, booby-trapping civilian homes, United Nations (UN) refugee centers and turning hospitals into command centers.
Quite the contrary, the IDF's long-held threat management strategy, which is often called "mowing the grass" was a strategic failure that makes Israel's recovery from these mistakes difficult, if not impossible. 

Besides, there is no guarantee that isolating Hamas will prevent them from waging an endless cycle of violence and indiscriminate killings of innocent civilians in Eretz Yisrael.

Had the IDF opted for the decapitation of Hamas leadership and ending its rule in Gaza Strip, the prospect for an all-out war would be inconsequential.  

Israelis and Palestinians now perceive a sense of "deja vu all all over again."  The IDF failure to annihilate Hamas leadership and infrastructure at the culmination of Operation Protective Edge is one of the most serious strategic blunders and paves the way for the upcoming war in Gaza.  

Today, Gaza is experiencing a severe humanitarian crisis that truly defies logic: Instead of alleviating the desperation and sufferings of Palestinians in Gaza, Hamas continues to escalate its murderous rage while bankrolling its resources in rebuilding underground tunnels for a surprise attack on Israel.

If cross-border tunnels were used to attack Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned to retaliate with "greater force" than deployed in the 2014 Gaza war. 

Israel has crossed the Rubicon in Gaza, and is still undetermined to wage a grand war to end all wars in the Levant. Will the next Gaza war be the last war for Israel? Who knows?

If past is prologue, there are unintended consequences for dilly-dallying when it comes to protecting Israeli interests.

Any political solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict or a two-state solution for that matter, is nearly impossible when you consider the menacing reality that Israel faces from multitudinous array of threats and multi-front attack from its enemies, most notably Iran and its proxy, Hamas and Hezbollah.

Hamas is a cruel terrorist organization that does not respect life, human rights or the concept of truth, an organization which exists for evil purpose of exterminating Israel.

The Iranian-backed terrorist group paid no political price at all for its continued use of civilians as human shields, firing rockets from schools, mosques, booby-trapping civilian homes, United Nations (UN) refugee centers and turning hospitals into command centers.

Israel has, in the eyes of the Arab World, made Hamas look like a victim of Israeli aggression. In other words, Israel has compromised its long-term position by acting too strongly, but not definitively, in the short-term.

Hamas' conflict with the Jewish State remains deeply ideological.

For advocates of the Palestinian Narrativeit is always Israel that is to blame for Palestinian terrorism. And yet, it was Hamas violence that prompted Israel to blockade the Gaza Strip, not Israel’s actions that caused Hamas to initiate what has escalated into a full-on Israeli ground incursion.

Incredibly, despite documented violation of ceasefires, human rights abuses, Geneva Convention's provision for the Protection of Victims of International Conflict, which "prohibits the use of civilians as military shields," the impertinent Obama administration, European Union and UN are directing their wrath primarily at Israel, and protecting Hamas from total defeat, so that they can proclaim victory from the ruin and devastation they authored. 

Instead of deriding attempts at concealment and denial of myriad flagrant war crimes by Hamas, the cynical UN which is supposed to promote the cause of international peace and security has allowed despots, tyrants, terrorists and anti-Semites disguised as diplomats, to consistently excoriate Israel.

The UN persistently blames Israel for everything, anything and whatever it does or didn't do in defending itself from Palestinian terrorists, thus fanning the flames of violence and incitement in the volatile region.

To top it all, Oslo was not just a tactical error which led to the Second Intifada and thousands of dead Jews and Arabs, but also a strategic and ideological error from which Israel is suffering even today, long after the Intifada has been suppressed.

Strategic mistakes were made because Israel assumed that compromise was an effective tactic when dealing with Arabs. In the Middle East, where an offer of compromise is understood as an admission of weakness. In the Arab world, compromise and negotiations are meant for losers.

The message is clear: peace means negotiations and compromise. Why should Israel settle for less when it can get more using its power and influence?

In Israel's perspective, nothing is possible unless one treats a terrorist threat directly and aggressively through a complex combination of military and diplomatic force.

Will a full occupation and annexation of the Gaza Strip be the only way to end the war in Gaza?

In time of war, speed is the essence of success. Now is the time for the Netanyahu government to make it right, something they should have done a long time ago: Without hesitation or doubt, Israel must end the festering conflict in Gaza by overthrowing and destorying Hamas, once and for all.

The writer was clinical research-physician-general surgeon for Saudi Arabian, Philippine and American healthcare systems and is currently an American freelance writer as well as op-ed contributor.