What Would Victory Mean in Gaza?

(BESA Center for Strategic Studies-Bar-Ilan University) Col. (res.) Shay Shabtai - Decision/victory is the only optimal outcome of a military campaign. In the last three decades, deterrence has become the desired outcome of an IDF military campaign, while decision/victory has essentially disappeared as the primary goal. This pushing aside of victory and centralization of deterrence was largely due to the limitations the State of Israel and the IDF placed on themselves regarding the use of force. The goals of these limitations were to reduce casualties among IDF soldiers; reduce civilian losses from rockets hitting the home front; reduce enemy collateral damage; reduce international criticism of Israel over its military conduct; and avoid the need to provide a civil response to the needs of a local enemy population. Israel's belief that it can rely on intermittent deterrence operations was painfully shattered on Oct. 7. It took a severe blow to national security to force a review of the security doctrine and a rediscovery of the concept of victory/decision. It was quickly understood that victory/decision is required in the current campaign and probably also in future campaigns. Tactical victory is not about killing all opposing military soldiers or terrorist operatives, but about breaking their ability to fight as a combatant framework. In the current war, operational victory does not mean the threat of guerrilla warfare and terrorism has been removed from Gaza, but that Hamas' ability to cause damage, especially to the Israeli civilian home front, is declining dramatically. Strategic victory is the removal of the enemy's ability to pose a military threat in the operational arena for many years to come. It is achieved by continuing military operations in order to weaken the enemy's guerrilla warfare and terrorism capabilities until they either stop completely or are reduced to the scale of individual events. Grand victory in Gaza would mean a years' long process until the creation of fundamental change. A civilian authority would be established with an effective police force and the capacity for civil, economic and law enforcement governance. The population would implement a basic approach of coexistence with Israel. Yet such a process does not yet appear practical or feasible. This means the Israeli military will continue to fight guerrilla and terrorist operatives in the strip alongside extensive activity by a local civilian government with an effective police force and international and regional economic and civil backing. But the absence of a fundamental change in the situation on the ground is likely to lead to a long-term erosion of security quiet and the re-creation of challenges to Israel. The writer is a senior researcher at the BESA Center.

2024-03-27 00:00:00

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