After years of fighting against Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Gaza, the IDF is seen in their eyes as a weak, flimsy army, without courage, afraid to act on the ground.
What they perceive as victories are seared into the minds of Hamas and Jihad leaders and increases their motivation to act. In addition, the times between the rounds of conflict in Gaza against Hamas and Jihad are shortening and causing damage to Israel’s economy and the residents of the south.
The State of Israel has become a country that builds separation barriers, fences and concrete walls costing billions of shekels, and has also turned its Air Force into a one-dimensional army.
Israel gave up on its ground forces and the ability to operate in a multi-dimensional manner, all so that no one would be harmed, God forbid. If the IDF had acted this way in the past wars, we would not have survived here, and if the IDF continues to act this way in the future, we will not survive here.
The Air Force alone is not capable of winning wars.
Operation "Guardian of the Walls" and all the previous rounds in Gaza clearly show that. During the ten days of the operation, the Air Force destroyed infrastructure, tunnels, roads and houses in Gaza, dropped smart bombs costing billions of shekels, and was unable to stop or even reduce the rate of rocket fire by Hamas towards Israel in the operation.
Hamas launched 400 rockets every day at our cities, and a total of 4360 rockets in ten days. The Air Force also caused almost no deaths among Hamas and Islamic Jihad militants. The cost to the Israeli economy in the ten days of the operation directly reached NIS 16 billion, in addition to the severe damage to the social and economic fabric in the south in the long term.
For years, the IDF prepared a fraudulent plan, in which it was supposed to put the ground forces a few hundred meters beyond the fence in the direction of Gaza, to give Hamas the feeling that the IDF intended to attack Gaza, and then, according to Hamas' practice, it was supposed to put thousands of its militants into the attack tunnels below the ground to defend themselves from an IDF ground attack.
At this stage, the IDF's plan was to attack the tunnels from the air when thousands of Hamas terrorists are in them and kill about a thousand of them. In practice, the plan was not carried out as planned, due to the high command's fear that one of our forces might be harmed.
And so, instead of actually putting the ground forces across the fence, we created an illusion through the media as if we were putting the forces in the direction of Gaza. However, the enemy is not stupid, Hamas observations detected that the Israeli forces are not crossing the fence, and the enemy did not put their men in the tunnels. When the Air Force attacked the tunnels, they were empty and almost no Hamas militants were injured.
Thus, we burned into the minds of Hamas and Islamic Jihad that the IDF is afraid of losing fighters, and therefore does not initiate ground operations in order to win. We have lost deterrence during every round in Gaza, while our enemies are becoming more motivated to continue threatening us.
We have lost much of our fighting spirit, as well as the initiative, and have become a weak army that hides behind separation barriers and fences, and only activates the Air Force. The IDF's ground units have lost their ability to fight due to the fear that if they operate, they will be injured. In recent years, this has led to a lack of training and the non-implementation of new weaponry in the army, and the fighters, brave and willing to fight, feel that they are not trusted and avoid using them.
The result of this is a loss of motivation, a lack of trust in the IDF's high command and the escape of the best officers from the regular army. The concept that has taken root in the IDF's high command in recent years is to almost always use the Air Force and avoid using the ground army in almost every context, in order to avoid losses.
This concept has eroded the capabilities of the ground army, the competence of its soldiers and the ability to integrate in the next multi-arena war, and thus also the ability to win the war.
The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad realize that the IDF has no intention of defeating them.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad also understood that if the patience of Israel's security and political echelons runs out, as indeed occurred during Operation Breaking Dawn, at most there will be Air Force planes shooting at infrastructure targets in Gaza, ending like the previous rounds without defeating the enemy.
After every round, Hamas and the Islamic Jihad can return and threaten again to launch rockets at Israel, and after a short period of time hold another round and thus freeze the economic and social activity in the cities and communities surrounding Gaza, a situation that the State of Israel cannot afford.
The situation is worse even than that and goes beyond the boundaries of the Gaza Strip. The army fears that the continuation of the rounds against Hamas and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza could lead to a regional explosion and a multi-arena war for which the IDF is also unprepared, which greatly increases the fear in the army to take offensive action.
The IDF is looking for every possible way to maintain peace even at very heavy costs of the complete loss of deterrence. The security and political echelons are looking for mediators like the Egyptians, who will help Israel ameliorate the murderous intentions of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The leaders of Hamas and Islamic Jihad are sitting in their holes pleased with themselves that the State of Israel is doing everything it can to ask them to be good children. They see this as a major weakness in the fighting spirit and in the motivation of the IDF commanders to fight.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad well understands that there is a huge difference between the empty declarations of the Israeli political and security establishment about the power of the IDF to hit them, and the bitter truth. The IDF therefore entered a mode of maintaining silence at all costs so as to let sleeping dogs lie.
Thus, over the years, the army dealt with ongoing security, and not with its preparation for the next multi-arena war, and therefore the conduct of the army led to the loss of the value of victory and complete deterrence.
The new Chief of Staff must lead the IDF on a new path and make a 180 degree turn in order to return the value of victory to the IDF, along with a fighting spirit, motivation, determination, adherence to the mission, taking back the initiative - and thus restore deterrence.
The IDF's readiness must be rebuilt for the next multi-arena war so that it can face very difficult challenges in the near and more distant future.
I hope we are not too late.
Major General (res.) Yitzhak Brickwas a recipient of the medal of courage in the Yom Kippur War, a former Commander of the IDF Military Colleges and Ombudsman for Soldiers’ Complains. He is a member of the Israel Victory Project and of the "Habithonistim" movement.