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


The Right and Wrong Ways for the U.S. to Support the Palestinians

Sept. 29 2023

On Wednesday, Elliott Abrams testified before Congress about the Taylor Force Act, passed in 2018 to withhold U.S. funds from the Palestinian Authority (PA) so long as it continues to reward terrorists and their families with cash. Abrams cites several factors explaining the sharp increase in Palestinian terrorism this year, among them Iran’s attempt to wage proxy war on Israel; another is the “Palestinian Authority’s continuing refusal to fight terrorism.” (Video is available at the link below.)

As long as the “pay for slay” system continues, the message to Palestinians is that terrorists should be honored and rewarded. And indeed year after year, the PA honors individuals who have committed acts of terror by naming plazas or schools after them or announcing what heroes they are or were.

There are clear alternatives to “pay to slay.” It would be reasonable for the PA to say that, whatever the crime committed, the criminal’s family and children should not suffer for it. The PA could have implemented a welfare-based system, a system of family allowances based on the number of children—as one example. It has steadfastly refused to do so, precisely because such a system would no longer honor and reward terrorists based on the seriousness of their crimes.

These efforts, like the act itself, are not at all meant to diminish assistance to the Palestinian people. Rather, they are efforts to direct aid to the Palestinian people rather than to convicted terrorists. . . . [T]he Taylor Force Act does not stop U.S. assistance to Palestinians, but keeps it out of hands in the PA that are channels for paying rewards for terror.

[S]hould the United States continue to aid the Palestinian security forces? My answer is yes, and I note that it is also the answer of Israel and Jordan. As I’ve noted, PA efforts against Hamas or other groups may be self-interested—fights among rivals, not principled fights against terrorism. Yet they can have the same effect of lessening the Iranian-backed terrorism committed by Palestinian groups that Iran supports.

Read more at Council on Foreign Relations

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terror, U.S. Foreign policy