Over the past eight years, Israel has fought three wars in Gaza, each aimed at stopping Hamas from firing rockets into Israel, eroding its military capabilities, and ultimately deterring further attacks. In the first two, in 2009 and 2012, the IDF quickly struck at the most important accessible targets but, when that failed to compel Hamas to desist, had to switch to lower-intensity warfare and ground combat. This ultimately gave the impression that Israel chose to give up rather than get bogged down in a protracted conflict. In 2014, by contrast, the IDF pursued a strategy of gradual escalation. Moni Chorev explains the merits of such an approach:
Although [in 2014] the IDF had [a list of clearly identified military targets] for attack, the operation began with a low level of firepower, with a clear message relayed to Hamas that “quiet will be answered with quiet” and that it had the option of returning to a state of calm quickly and with little cost.
Once Hamas refused this option, attacks on targets in Gaza were stepped up. The idea of delaying the offensive climax in order to maintain an effective threat capability throughout the entire campaign requires a balanced distribution of attacks on targets over the operational timeline . . . and a continuous effort throughout the operation to identify new targets and prepare attacks on them. Steadily increasing levels of firepower intensity . . . makes clear to the enemy the cost incurred and the likely cost to be incurred further on, and causes it to appreciate the decreasing returns it can expect relative to its goals. It allows Israel to manage the operation while making optimal use of its combat resources, in line with the limited worth and importance of a localized campaign with temporary results against the backdrop of a larger, continued struggle. . . .
It is necessary to re-examine . . . the traditional aspiration to “shorten the period of combat,” that is, to attain a victory in the shortest possible time. . . . Deterrence operations are to a large extent directed at affecting the enemy mindset, and such effects take time to come to fruition. Seeking shortcuts can lead to the use of too much force at too early a stage.