War Has Changed, but Territory Still Matters

In observing maps of the progress of the war in Gaza, one can see something very old-fashioned: the IDF is moving from north to south, gradually expanding the territory under its control. Meir Finkel argues that in doing so Israel is rediscovering basic strategic truths that it had thought were obsolete:

Losing territory is a painful loss for Israel’s enemies. Hamas in Gaza wants to “return” to Jaffa, Ashdod, Ashkelon (Majdal), and indeed the rest of the state of Israel, either through direct occupation, by exhausting Israel until it collapses, or by exerting enough political pressure to force the “right of return.” . . . Territory remains as important to Israel’s enemies as it ever was.

Holding territory is also a bargaining chip in diplomatic negotiations. This was the case with Egypt and Syria in the agreements on the separation of forces at the end of the Yom Kippur War, and later in the framework of the peace agreement with Egypt, which insisted on the complete return of Sinai.

The occupation of territory [also] gives the IDF a clear asymmetrical advantage. This exploits enemy vulnerabilities and maximizes the IDF’s strengths. Only the IDF can occupy territory, clear it of the enemy, defend it against counterattack, use it to reduce the threat of infiltration, and hold it as a bargaining chip for diplomatic negotiations. None of Israel’s enemies can occupy territory and hold it for more than a few hours.

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Strategy

The IDF’s First Investigation of Its Conduct on October 7 Is Out

For several months, the Israel Defense Forces has been investigating its own actions on and preparedness for October 7, with an eye to understanding its failures. The first of what are expected to be many reports stemming from this investigation was released yesterday, and it showed a series of colossal strategic and tactical errors surrounding the battle at Kibbutz Be’eri, writes Emanuel Fabian. The probe, he reports, was led by Maj. Gen. (res.) Mickey Edelstein.

Edelstein and his team—none of whom had any involvement in the events themselves, according to the IDF—spent hundreds of hours investigating the onslaught and battle at Be’eri, reviewing every possible source of information, from residents’ WhatsApp messages to both Israeli and Hamas radio communications, as well as surveillance videos, aerial footage, interviews of survivors and those who fought, plus visits to the scene.

There will be a series of further reports issued this summer.

IDF chief Halevi in a statement issued alongside the probe said that while this was just the first investigation into the onslaught, which does not reflect the entire picture of October 7, it “clearly illustrates the magnitude of the failure and the dimensions of the disaster that befell the residents of the south who protected their families with their bodies for many hours, and the IDF was not there to protect them.” . . .

The IDF hopes to present all battle investigations by the end of August.

The IDF’s probes are strictly limited to its own conduct. For a broader look at what went wrong, Israel will have to wait for a formal state commission of inquiry to be appointed—which happens to be the subject of this month’s featured essay in Mosaic.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Gaza War 2023, IDF, Israel & Zionism, October 7