Don’t Exaggerate the Mistakes of the Gaza War

For the past few weeks, the big news in Israel has been the state comptroller’s much-awaited report on the 2014 war in Gaza, which was generally understood as a damning account of the government’s conduct. To Gershon Hacohen, public discussion of the report has “blown out of proportion” two of its claims: that the IDF and the Israeli government did not treat the threat of attacks via tunnels with enough seriousness, and that the diplomatic-security cabinet acted in a disorganized fashion, in part due to poor management by Benjamin Netanyahu himself. Hacohen suggests a different perspective:

The tunnels are a tactical threat, [not, as the report implies, a strategic one,] to which even today, despite significant advances, there is only a complex and incomplete response. It is true that the tools our forces had at their disposal during the operation were far from perfect. [But it] is not because of [specific mistakes] that there is [now the] potential for public panic over the tunnel threat.

[Rather, Israelis] have trouble recognizing that there are threats for which we cannot provide an impenetrable security solution. We need to examine how we developed the overreaching expectation of the national leadership and the security forces that they manage wars with complete responses for every threat. . . .

This is a particularly difficult problem for those who consider the idea of physical separation from the Palestinians to be strategic and security gospel. The premise of separation is: “They are there and we are here, and between us, there is a fence.” But the advocates of separation must provide convincing security solutions for future threats to our spatial arrangement. . . .

Of the report’s conclusion that the cabinet managed the conflict poorly and could not agree on the goals of the military operation, Hacohen writes:

It is certainly irresponsible to begin a project without outlining an inclusive and well-defined planning framework. However, we tend to ignore the significant uncertainties inherent in managing a war. In the great school of war, it is not possible to describe the outcome from the beginning. . . . The basic conditions upon which expectations for the end of a campaign are based can change as the campaign itself changes once operations begin. . . .

The president of the U.S. manages wars in an intimate group that does not include his political opponents. Israel’s government, on the other hand, has suffered since the War of Independence from a structure in which the prime minister finds himself prevented from fully disclosing all of his considerations to cabinet members. You cannot analyze the prime minister’s conduct . . . without considering the fundamental limitation on holding an open strategic debate.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Benjamin Netanyahu, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Israeli grand strategy, Israeli politics, Palestinian terror, Protective Edge

While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy