Modern wars are by their very nature campaigns on multiple fronts of differing channels and importance that are not limited to just the tally on the battlefield itself. The current conflict between Israel and Hamas in Gaza is an example of this and, although agreed to due to US pressure, the resulting cease-fire is no less than a capitulation by Israel to the Arab aggressor.
A simple consideration of the facts, that Hamas still is in power, that it still has an ability to attack Israel may lead to this conclusion already. But beyond this are of course the wider implications for the terrorist entity and its ability to cause harm and to delegitimise and destroy Israel in future – its ultimate aim. This goal has sadly, on balance, received a boost however some may wish to delude themselves otherwise. If Israel is to succeed in returning its deterrent power and to bring true peace and stability to its citizens, a major re-haul of its strategic thinking is required. Currently there seems to be a vacuum in this regard, with most of the thinking left to very immediate tactical concerns at best, without a vision for a wider strategy including propaganda, diplomacy, realpolitik, and the key priorities for a better future and defence.
This current campaign of 2021 – known as “Operation Guardian of the Walls” is the fourth major Gaza campaign in 12 years, following Operations Cast Lead in 2009, Pillar of Defence in 2012, and Protective Edge in 2014. In the interim period there has been a constant war of attrition with Hamas sending rockets, UAVs and booby-trapped explosive balloons across the border injuring and sometimes killing civilians, burning fields and causing wider damage to infrastructure and the economy. The government has failed in its most basic duty to protect it citizens.
Meanwhile on the propaganda front Hamas, and its sponsors in Iran have used the conflict to fan the flames of antisemitism globally and try and paint a false picture of the aggressor as the victim. This has been done with collusion of hostile Western media, including but not limited to the likes of CNN, Sky and the BBC of course.
Reporters installed in safe and comfortable positions in Israel- either in Tel Aviv or Jerusalem, travel freely for a few hours to receive and propagate the distortions of the propaganda coming from Gaza and the also just-as-bad lies from the PLO in Ramallah.
Correspondents with a record of mendacity and anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic bias are provided with Israeli press cards and freedoms that they could never dream of in neighbouring countries or arguably in their own lands during times of war. This must stop. Israel must limit the movements and better vet the accreditation of foreign media within its borders. Networks such as Al Jazeera- which is funded by a hostile Arab nation- Qatar- must be banned from entry. Correspondents such as Jeremy Bowen and Orla Guerin of the BBC with decades long histories of bias and distorted reporting must not be allowed into the country in future.
Israel does not have a coherent public diplomacy policy, oftentimes statements are made by the notoriously leftist foreign ministry apparatchiks, whose apologetics are worse than their own broken English accentuated with heavy Yiddish-Germanic sounds that grate on the ears of the listener and punctuated with frequent “eh eh eh” noises that woefully contrast to the polished English of our enemies. The content is often weak because it agrees with the false narrative that there exists a separate “Palestinian” Arab people and that questions the inherent rights of the Jewish people to live in the land of Israel as the true and solely indigenous people there. It belies a greater misunderstanding that the roots of enmity are somehow economic and that if Hamas could only just stop trying to kill Israelis we could bribe them into loving us.
They do not understand that the motivation is a jihadist ideology that doesn’t want a non-Arab, non-Islamic nation to be sovereign in any part of the land, however tiny.
Such spokespeople must point to the fact that the Arabs have 22 states and one of those is Jordan which constitutes nearly 80 percent of the British mandate for Palestine. A mandate that was for a Jewish homeland - i.e. on both sides of the river but instead allowed the formation of Jordan, a Jew-free artificial Arab country on the eastern side. Jordan is a dictatorship ruled by a hereditary monarch that has a racist constitution that specifically states that Jews cannot be citizens or even own land in the state. Israel must repeatedly stress that this is the true Apartheid. and that ALL the Arab states are dictatorships with no free elections and practice some form of apartheid to various minorities that have generally lived there for hundreds of years since before Islam. Indeed, it is only in Israel that all citizens have equal rights, regardless of creed, religion or gender etc.
A strategy change would require a policy of attack and not defense – in Hebrew “Hatkafa” and not “Hasbara” which is the currently policy of explaining which is no better than trying to apologize for being alive.
To lose the propaganda/public diplomacy war is to lose half the battle. This PR campaign is there to bring pressure on governments and decision makers across the Western World. It seeks to undermine Israel’s right to defend itself and ultimately to exist. It seeks to pressure Israel by economic boycotts and threats of such to force it to make more retreats and concessions to weaken it militarily. A strategy change would require a policy of attack and not defense – in Hebrew “Hatkafa” and not “Hasbara” which is the currently policy of explaining which is no better than trying to apologize for being alive. It must assert that Gaza today is to all intents and purposes a country- having its own borders by land and sea and full control of its people and any attack on Israel will be an act of war between state actors and Israel is not a policeman that has to take account of judicial consideration when targeting enemy combatants in such circumstances.
On the battlefield itself, Israel decided not to conquer the Gaza Strip, probably based on the calculation that such a battle would cost many soldiers’ lives. This is particularly true because the army is constrained in its actions and would not be able to defend its forces properly lest it kill Gazan civilians. Israel does have the power to take Gaza in a day or two at most, but its defeat in the propaganda war is tying its hands. It must assert that the Gazan civilians are enemy civilians and while it should not target them directly, it must and should destroy all military and terrorist infrastructure and if there is collateral damage that is the fault of the enemy alone. If Hamas chooses to keep its rockets and cannons in civilian areas, Israel must respond and hit those buildings and positions and if many Gazans die the blame will only be on the enemy in general and Hamas in particular.
Today some in the Arab states- particularly in the moderate camps in Morocco, the UAE, Bahrain and even Saudi Arabia have no time for Hamas and see common purpose with Israel in its war against an Iranian funded terrorist group.
It should be borne in mind that in World War Two, the Allies killed five times more German civilians than there were British civilians killed and this did not make the Nazis right but actually made them responsible for the deaths of both sides due to the war of aggression they had provoked.
The final front is the economic one. Israel has enabled hundreds of lorries with goods of all kinds from food and medicine, to cement and building materials to cross from its territory into Gaza on a daily basis for the past 15 years. This has kept Hamas in power and this must stop. Gaza has a border with Egypt and it should use that, or it should spend its time building farms and factories for its own people rather than manufacturing terror tunnels and missiles. Israel has also facilitated the crossing of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to the Hamas in truckloads, on the basis of spurious claims such as it is used to pay their civil servants or it will serve to strengthen the Shekel against the dollar(!)…No rational nation pays its enemy and this policy is clearly madness. An all-encompassing economic boycott on Gaza will help lead to the natural collapse of Hamas.
The greater strategic question is what should be the long-term future for Gaza? In the short to medium term the priority should be the downfall of Hamas and other terrorist organizations including Islamic Jihad. In the longer term it is unsustainable to have a large and growing hostile population on Israel’s doorstep. The solution must be a re-settlement program for the majority of its inhabitants outside of the strip. Most likely this would be to Egypt or Sinai- from whence they had been ruled anyway up until 1967 but could also include any of the other existing 22 Arab states and funds from such philanthropical governments like Qatar (that has been sending billions to Hamas) could be redirected for such purposes.
Similarly, our European friends, who are helpfully facilitating antisemitic pro-Hamas rallies in Paris, London, Brussels etc could re-house some of them in their cities as well. Germany took over 1 million mainly Arab immigrants in 2015 alone so what would be a few more hundred thousand in the grand scheme of things and in the greater interest of Middle East Peace?
Israeli media remain mainly uniformly far-left in Hebrew and new ideas and strategies are not given air time for public debate leading to a general sense of desperation when actually there need not be one. The three main television channels in Israel: 11,12 and 13 pump out their daily propaganda giving their commentators- who are mainly Meretz supporters- a party that barely crossed the electoral threshold- the bulk of the airtime to express their opinions.
For example, in the recent war a regular, almost daily contributor was Miri Eisin, who typified all that is wrong with Israel’s defense and political establishment. Eisin a far-left American-born Reform Jew, reached the rank of Colonel in the IDF and was spokesman for Ehud Olmert when he was prime minister between 2006-8. The same Olmert succeeded in losing two wars- in Lebanon and Gaza before finally being sent to prison for corruption. Eisin a former paid apologist for this ex felon, expounded her views to the Israeli public on an almost nightly basis on the main networks. She told viewers that “clearly Biden is a better President (of the USA) for Israel than Trump ever was” she also advocated “rebuilding Gaza” economically after the war- as if the enemy needed more money to regroup and re-arm.
Another notable outburst came when an elected nationalist member of Knesset – Itamar Ben Gvir- was given a rare chance to speak- she decided to shout him down in the studio to prevent the audience being able to hear a word he had to say. Silencing critics is always the refuge of the far left who know they cannot win the debate by their arguments alone.
We must understand the root of this conflict has been the dangerous and treacherous policies of the Left that started during the Oslo Accords in 1993 and continued with the so-called Disengagement from Gaza. In the former the “Palestinian” Authority and statelet was created and tens of thousands of hostile and armed terrorists mainly from Tunis were allowed into the land of Israel.
The process started in 1993 with “Gaza and Jericho” first that gave them a foothold both in Gaza and Jericho and established the precedent that another Arab state would be founded in Western Eretz Yisrael. The Gaza disengagement of 2005 ethnically cleansed nearly 10,000 Israel Jews from the area and handed the territory to the Arabs. The Arabs would not have been able to build rockets, terror tunnels or fire onto Israel so easily had Israel not withdrawn from those places.
All retreats from territory by Israel have weakened the country and, in this case led to a massive military threat. There can be no sovereign entity except for Israel, between the Jordan river and the Mediterranean Sea for there ever to be peace and this must be the guiding force for a better future.
David Shalom is a former leader of Betar in the UK and a member of Arye Eldad's HaTikva party in Israel. He trained as a scientist in nano-chemistry and also holds an MBA and works in business development in Israel and Europe.