Israel’s Strategy for Fighting Terrorists and Guerrillas Must Be Different from Its Strategy for Fighting Enemy Nations

June 11 2018

Israel’s basic grand strategy since the 1950s has involved fighting short decisive wars, preferably in enemy territory, with the goal of deterring its enemies from attempting future attacks. This approach—which Yagil Henkin terms the “Ben-Gurion doctrine”—proved successful against the Egyptian and Syrian armies, but is less suited to fighting unconventional wars. Thus Moshe Dayan developed an alternative strategy based on the belief that Israel, in Dayan’s words, “can’t prevent the murders of [Israeli] workers in orchards or of families sleeping in their beds at night, [but] what we can do is set a very high price for our blood, so high that no Arab locality, Arab army, or Arab government will want to pay it.” Exploring the ongoing tension between the two doctrines, Henkin shows why neither one was wholly adequate to the task of suppressing the second intifada:

When facing a real, immediate, and basic primal threat—such as a full-blown army that may invade—Israel’s immediate goal was usually to avoid escalation. Military action would be taken when Israeli believed that the enemy wanted escalation, or to defeat the enemy before he had a chance to act. But when facing terrorists, infiltrators, terror organizations, and their proxies, Israel has sometimes wanted to escalate the situation on purpose, in order to avoid future escalation. In other words: if terrorists hit us, we’ll hit them back until the “price” for their continued activities will be too “expensive” for them to pay. . . .

[After the outbreak of the second intifada], it emerged that . . . escalation [of the conflict by Israel] did not lead to de-escalation [by the Palestinians], leading the IDF to embark on the decisive Defensive Shield operation in 2002. That operation was designed not to convince the Palestinians that “the price of Jewish blood is too high to pay” but to take control of [parts of the West Bank] in order to destroy terror infrastructures, and ultimately to win a decisive victory over terror. In actuality, the failure of Israel’s attempt to employ the Dayan doctrine vis-à-vis Palestinian terror was what finally forced Israel to engage in a battle against the Palestinians to score a decisive victory.

Afterward, in light of the understanding that the Dayan doctrine could not be applied efficaciously to people living in territory under Israeli control, Israel adopted another strategy called “mowing the grass.” Although this is based on the Dayan doctrine (ongoing deterrence activities), another layer is added: periodically, it is necessary to conduct relatively large operations to hamper the capabilities of the enemy. This bears resemblance to Ben-Gurion’s doctrine regarding rounds of fighting that will crop up from time to time. . . .

The fact that Israel actively holds complementary security doctrines (or different parts of a doctrine) is not [in itself] problematic, because each one of them is designated for a different state of affairs: one is for war vis-à-vis regular standing armies; the other is for maintaining ongoing security at a price that Israel can pay (and with the hopes that its opponents cannot). The problems come from a tendency to mix the different doctrines. . . . Therefore, changes in the security doctrine are not always carried out in the right places, or in the appropriate ways, or necessarily for the correct goals.

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Read more at Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies

More about: David Ben-Gurion, Israel & Zionism, Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security, Moshe Dayan, Moshe Yaalon, Second Intifada

Zionists Can, and Do, Criticize Israel. Are Anti-Zionists Capable of Criticizing Anti-Semitism?

Dec. 12 2018

Last week, the New York Times columnist Michelle Goldberg defended the newly elected anti-Israel congresswomen Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, ostensibly arguing that anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism aren’t identical. Abe Greenwald comments:

Tlaib . . . has tweeted and retweeted her enthusiasm for terrorists such as Rasmea Odeh, who murdered two American students in a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969. If Tlaib’s anti-Zionism is of the Jew-loving kind, she has a funny way of showing it.

Ilhan Omar, for her part, once tweeted, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel.” And wouldn’t you know it, just because she believes that Zionist hypnotists have cast global spells masking Israeli evil, some people think she’s anti-Semitic! Go figure! . . .

Goldberg spends the bulk of her column trying very hard to uncouple American Jewishness from Israel. To do that, she enumerates Israel’s sins, as she sees them. . . . [But] her basic premise is at odds with reality. Zionists aren’t afraid of finding fault with Israel and don’t need to embrace anti-Zionism in order to [do so]. A poll conducted in October by the Jewish Electorate Institute found that a majority of Americans Jews have no problem both supporting Israel and criticizing it. And unlike Goldberg, they have no problem criticizing anti-Semitism, either.

Goldberg gives the game away entirely when she discusses the discomfort that liberal American Jews have felt in “defending multi-ethnic pluralism here, where they’re in the minority, while treating it as unspeakable in Israel, where Jews are the majority.” She adds: “American white nationalists, some of whom liken their project to Zionism, love to poke at this contradiction.” Read that again. She thinks the white nationalists have a point. Because, really, what anti-Semite doesn’t?

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, New York Times