The IDF Seeks a Way Out of the Cycle of War with Gaza

In January 2013, two senior Israeli officers published an article analyzing a then-recent seven-day military operation in Gaza, arguing that such short, limited wars—conducted primarily from the air—could never achieve decisive results, and only delayed the next conflict. The IDF has conducted numerous such campaigns in the years since—including one earlier this month—with some variation in tactics and outcome, but not much has changed. Lazar Berman examines the problem, and its possible solutions:

A number of vectors have converged to create the confounding reality Israel finds itself in today, not least of which is the military conception of ground maneuver as a liability rather than the key to victory. During Israel’s early decades, the IDF’s operational concept rested on aggressive maneuver by its ground forces into enemy territory, quickly moving the fight away from population centers to deliver decisive defeats to adversary forces.

Ground maneuver refers to the use of large ground forces to slice through slower enemy formations where opportunities arise, breaking the enemy’s cohesion, complicating its war plans, and shattering morale. The air force played a number of vital supporting roles in those battles, especially in destroying enemy airpower to open the way for IDF tanks to shatter Arab armor.

Yet since the 1980s, the IDF has shifted to greater use of air power and artillery, preferring to conduct only limited ground offensives or avoiding them altogether. At the same time, the Iron Dome has kept civilians safe while the fighting goes on. This approach, Berman notes, has its drawbacks, as seen from the repeated war in Gaza. And Israeli generals are seeking new ideas.

Paradoxically, as Israel’s tactical capabilities from the air continue to improve, the strategic effectiveness of its air campaigns steadily declines. While IDF spokespeople send out videos of missiles homing in on a specific window in an office building, and boast of the Iron Dome’s interception rates, the battles are coming more frequently and enemy capabilities are growing.

There is hope for a way out; . . . recognition that the IDF’s approach must change has spread among the senior military leadership. . . . The new concept recognizes the need for decisive victory through ground maneuver. But it proposes a new type of maneuver, one that emerges from the understanding that territory is no longer the asset Israel’s enemies are trying to protect. Instead, it is their ability to maintain their rocket fire on Israel’s home front that must be suppressed.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza Strip, IDF, Israeli grand strategy

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden