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The Gaza War Is Part of a Larger War with Iran; ‘Total Victory’ in Gaza Right Now Isn’t the Best Approach

An armored personnel carrier (APC) maneuvers near the Israel-Gaza border, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Israel, March 10, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen

Israeli history must be retold as a sequence of three long historical wars. The Iron Swords War does not stand on its own. The campaign in Gaza is a critical transition stage, both conceptual and practical, during which Israel is moving from defense to offense in a long war with Iran’s proxies. To realize its achievements, Israel needs a pause of a few years during which the strategy and military power for the offensive will be formulated.

True learning is required at the political and military levels, and national reconciliation is required. Decisive emergency steps will have to be taken to build a military power that is more suitable to the broader war.

Israel’s historical wars

The Iron Swords War is stuck. Despite impressive tactical performances by the IDF, Israel is trapped between war goals that are far from being realized in the Gaza Strip, and attrition from which there is no way out in the north.

On the political level, as the IDF deepens its destruction of the dusty Gaza cities and the US presidential election approaches, Israeli isolation is tightening and increasingly threatens Israel’s economic future and place in the family of nations. It is true that Israel is persecuted by international institutions that are inherently hostile to it and that a progressive political trend with blatantly antisemitic characteristics is on the ascendant. None of that changes the serious consequences of the continuation of the fighting on the international and economic levels.

Israeli strategic discourse is also stuck between supporters of “absolute victory” and those pursuing a hostage deal. It is no coincidence that these camps overlap the public fault lines of October 6. The obvious is only more apparent — the leadership is unable to separate the political discourse from the strategic discourse, between the political and the military.

Sometimes, the best way to get out of a conceptual and practical impasse is to take on a new perspective. The Six-Day War established a misleading standard according to which wars last a few days and are built in one piece. The reality is different. Wars are historical phenomena that usually last quite a bit longer than days. They are also much more diverse.

In the Second World War, for example, there were at least three sub-wars in its European context alone. They were the struggle for control of Europe and its resources; the German campaign in Africa, which was designed to cut Britain off from India; and the war in the Atlantic, which was designed to isolate Britain from America.

The strategic history of Zionism is also made up of several long wars. The first was the struggle between the rival national movements in Palestine-Israel. Zionism won that struggle in the War of Independence. That conflict was also a historical transition from a war between national movements to Israeli-Arab wars. Ben-Gurion understood this on the eve of the war. In a brilliant preparation process, he completely changed the concept, organization, and means of the Hebrew Defense Force. Thanks to these preparations, the IDF was able to switch from defense to attack in April-May 1948 when it implemented Plan D and a series of offensive operations, the first of which was Operation Nachshon. An accurate understanding of the nature of the expected war and the appropriate organization of the IDF in preparation for it led to the defeat of a coalition of Arab countries.

Over the following four decades, Israel successfully faced the threat of Arab armies combined with terrorism. Although the Arabs changed their strategy from time to time (for example, during the War of Attrition in the Suez Canal), the State of Israel managed to repeatedly defeat the military element that threatened it. The Israeli-Arab war actually ended with the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement and the Syrian refusal to escalate the First Lebanon War in 1982 into a wider Israeli-Syrian war.

The blow phase of the Iran-Israel war

Since the days of the security strip in Lebanon and even more so since Israel’s withdrawal from it, the Jewish State has been fighting a third war: an Iranian-Israeli war through Iran’s proxies. This war has a religious background and a regional nature. Like all wars, this one has its own military character, different from that of the previous Israel-Arab wars.

Unfortunately, Israel has conducted this war over the past 25 years with the wrong strategy. That strategy is based on the assumption that Israel is the strong side – that it is a regional power capable of deterring Iran’s emissaries through its advantages in firepower and intelligence quality without removing the military threat. On the military level, we mistakenly assumed that our military power – especially our air power – was adequate, and that the addition of the defense leg and other minor adjustments were not required. Regrettably, there are those even today who embrace Israel’s ability to destroy the state of Lebanon, as if that were an effective military answer to the threat of Hezbollah.

The current war in Gaza must be understood as one campaign within that larger war. And it is not just any campaign. The current campaign in the Gaza Strip is the stage of Israeli recovery and awakening.

At the political level, the October Seventh Attack was the moment of awakening and recognition of the failure of Israel’s current strategy. This is a parallel moment to the awakening of Europe on September 1, 1939 to the fact that the policy of appeasing Hitler had failed. But a political awakening is not enough. From May 1940, it took Churchill four years to build the necessary military capability and confidence and harness American assistance to take on the Nazis. All the while, Britain suffered painful defeats before the conditions were met for an attack in Europe in June 1944.

On the military level, the IDF attack in Gaza dismantled the organized military power of Hamas and took a huge toll on all Gazans, terrorists and non-terrorists alike. It does not appear that the continuation of the attack contains the potential for further significant achievements. Therefore, the current operations in Gaza should be perceived not as a stand-alone war but as one campaign within a longer war. This is a critical campaign designed to enable a historic transition from a strategy of containment and deterrence to a strategy of removing the threat and breaking the Iranian stranglehold. In the theory of the military campaign, a campaign that enables the transition from defense to offense is called a “systemic blow.”

Churchill could not go on the attack in Europe in May 1940 but had to spend time and effort building the conditions for it, and the same applies to us. An army that built itself according to the concept of “deterrence rounds” and did not imagine a decisive war in Gaza cannot be ready for such a war overnight. What conditions do we need to create that will enable us to realize the achievements of the war in Gaza and prepare ourselves for an attack?

On the military level, it is necessary to build the IDF in a way that will enable a relatively quick and effective removal of the military threat in Gaza and Lebanon. The IDF must be built to realize this goal without being dragged into a long campaign of attrition that harms us and serves our enemies. What are the military barriers preventing us from conducting this form of warfare?

In the Gaza Strip, the barrier is mainly the IDF’s limited ability to locate and destroy the underground infrastructure on a sufficient scale and at a sufficient pace. The success of Hamas in dragging us into a long campaign of attrition is due to the disconnect between our tactical success above ground and Hamas’ ability to sustain its organization underground.

In Lebanon, the barrier has to do primarily with Hezbollah’s firepower and precision attack capability. Every military planner understands that in the face of the power of the enemy’s anti-tank missiles in the north, a power that has only increased and been perfected during the months of the current war, and in the face of the ability the enemy has developed to penetrate our air defense systems, the State of Israel currently does not have a decisive short war option.

Beyond these two points, there are, of course, the vital matters of replenishing supplies, refreshing and retraining forces, renewing intelligence, better preparing the civilian home front and national infrastructure, and other preparations.

At the national level and within the IDF as well, Israel must unite and renew its internal forces. A leadership that will renew trust must be chosen and appointed.

If we understand the current campaign in Gaza as a blow designed to enable a transition from containment and defense to attack and decisiveness, it will be possible to see its historical achievements:

The October 7th attack exposed the wider Iranian plot to the world. Iran’s attack on Israel on April 14 made Iran’s intentions even clearer.
The war united the new regional coalition under fire under American leadership against the Iranian threat. Regional normalization born out of the campaign in Gaza is a critical achievement for the decisive campaign.
The operation in Gaza set Hamas’ capabilities back years and created the conditions for the return of our abductees in a deal, thanks to our control of the Strip and our right of veto over its rehabilitation. It will also allow military freedom of action in Gaza in the future in a way that prevents the re-emergence of a threat of the same severity.

The conditions we created must be realized, not eroded. Now it is necessary to return the abductees, return the displaced to their homes, and use the time we have gained through blood to prepare for the decisive campaign. Like Churchill, we too need a few years to rebuild in order to overwhelm the military forces on our border while solidifying the regional coalition and using it to neutralize Iran’s interference. Unless the unexpected happens and we reach the Hamas leadership and release the abductees militarily, it seems that the potential of the current campaign has been exhausted.

Conclusion

National willpower and fighting spirit are of course necessary conditions for victory, but they are not enough. A professional approach to the act of war requires examining the relationship between strategy, leadership, and concrete military capabilities. To win the Second World War, Britain needed a change of leadership in the government and among the armed forces, changes in the professional military concept, and the building of concrete military capabilities that were more suitable than those developed before the war.

The Iron Swords War achieved a temporary removal of the Hamas threat, allowing for critical political and military learning and essential time. Israel’s economy must be restarted to support preparations for the next campaign.

Israel would be well advised to avoid doubling the size of the IDF as a traumatic response to October 7. Instead, we should be content with a moderate increase in the size of the forces and focus on the two crucial variables described above: the capabilities to locate and destroy underground infrastructure, and to suppress the enemy’s launch capabilities in the north against both our forces and the home front.

The course of preparation must be led quickly, decisively, and without delay. We are nine months into the war, still running out of resources, and not preparing for an attack. Far from it.

The next campaign in the Thirty Years’ War with Iran and its proxies should begin with the rapid and effective removal of the Hezbollah threat in the north through the occupation of southern Lebanon at the same time as the destruction of most of the enemy’s missile capabilities. The removal of the threat from the north will make it possible to divert most of our forces to the recapture of the Gaza Strip, if necessary, and the implementation of a plan to stabilize it without Hamas. When the time comes, it will also be possible to consider the Israeli interest towards the Syrian regime, which relies on a drug economy and Iranian support.

Striving for “total victory” here and now stops us from taking vital preparatory steps and delays both learning and healing. It depletes our strength; it does not enhance it. Continuing to pursue “total victory” right now is a dangerous mix of politics and strategy. Victory requires the right combination of spirit, strategy and appropriate preparation. The historical role of the Iron Swords War is to create the conditions for the formation of all three.

Brig. Gen. (res.) Eran Ortal recently retired from military service as commander of the Dado Center for Multidisciplinary Military Thinking. He is a well-known military thinker both in Israel and abroad. His works have been published in The Military Review, War on the Rocks, Small Wars Journal, at the Hoover Institution, at Stanford, and elsewhere. His book The Battle Before the War (MOD 2022, in Hebrew) dealt with the IDF’s need to change, innovate and renew a decisive war approach. A version of this article was originally published by The BESA Center.

The post The Gaza War Is Part of a Larger War with Iran; ‘Total Victory’ in Gaza Right Now Isn’t the Best Approach first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addresses the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Jerusalem, Feb. 18, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Ronen Zvulun

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday departed for a highly anticipated trip to Washington, DC, where he will meet with US President Joe and Biden and deliver a speech before Congress this week as America grapples with the aftermath of Biden’s unprecedented decision to end his 2024 reelection campaign.

During his first trip to the US capital in almost four years, Netanyahu plans to visit the White House and also address US lawmakers on Wednesday. Netanyahu was originally expected to meet with Biden on Tuesday; however, several Hebrew media outlets reported that the meeting will likely be delayed due to Biden still being sick with COVID-19.

It is unclear how Biden’s shock decision on Sunday to drop out of the US presidential race will impact Netanyahu’s address to the US Congress. According to Israel’s Channel 13, Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer, a close confidant of Netanyahu, assured US officials that the speech will not include criticism of or against Biden following repeated requests by US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan for information about what the Israeli premier will say.

Netanyahu issued a statement following Biden’s announcement indicating the Israeli premier will underline the importance of bipartisanship in maintaining a close US-Israel relationship.

“I will seek to anchor the bipartisan support that is so important for Israel. And I will tell my friends on both sides of the aisle [in Congress] that regardless of who the American people choose as their next president, Israel remains America’s indispensable and strong ally in the Middle East,” Netanyahu said while leaving Israel for Washington, DC. “In this time of war and uncertainty it’s important that Israel’s enemies know that America and Israel stand together today, tomorrow, and always.”

The Israeli premier also expressed gratitude to Biden, stating that he will thank the US president for helping the Jewish state as he prepares to exit the White House.

“I plan to see President Biden, whom I’ve known for over 40 years. This will be an opportunity to thank him for the things he did for Israel in the war and during his long and distinguished career in public service, as senator, as vice president, and as president,” Netanyahu said.

Amid declining support for Israel among US liberal Democratic lawmakers, Netanyahu hopes to use his congressional address and White House visit to mend relations with Democrats, who have become increasingly uneasy over Israel’s war effort against the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas in Gaza.

Biden has come under heavy fire from Republicans as well as pro-Israel Democrats for what they’ve described as him turning against Israel amid the ongoing war in Gaza.

The US president expressed strong support for Israel following Hamas’ brutal invasion of southern Israel on Oct. 7, when Hamas-led Palestinian terrorists murdered 1,200 people and kidnapped about 250 hostages during their onslaught. In recent months, however, Biden has paused some weapons shipments to Israel and accused the US ally of “indiscriminate bombing” — a charge rejected by Israeli officials.

The Biden administration also discouraged Israel from launching a military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah to target some of the last remaining Hamas battalions, arguing such an operation would put too many civilians at risk. Experts told The Algemeiner at the time that Israeli forces needed to operate in Rafah in order to dismantle Hamas’ military capabilities.

More broadly, the relationship between the Democratic Party and Israel has deteriorated in the months following Oct. 7. Several high-profile Democrats, such as Sen. Elizabeth Warren (MA) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY), have suggested that Israel’s military operations in Gaza are tantamount to a “genocide.” Democratic lawmakers have also called on Biden to halt arms transfers to Israel, citing concern over mounting civilian casualties in Gaza.

While Israeli officials have expressed frustration about the Biden administration pressuring them to halt their military campaign, Netanyahu is expected to use his visit as a way to repair some of the damage. The trip could also serve as a way to make Israel’s case directly to the American public, which overall remains pro-Israel despite declining support among younger demographics.

The percentage of Americans that express “little or no confidence” in Netanyahu has increased by 11 points since 2023, according to an April poll by Pew Research Center. Among Democrats, a staggering 71 percent express “little or no confidence” in the Israeli leader. 

Anti-Israel groups have also organized protests in advance of Netanyahu’s congressional address. Far-left organizations such as Party for Socialism and Liberation and Palestinian Youth Movement are urging their supporters to “surround the Capitol” during Netanyahu’s address. Leaders of these groups have branded Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and have called for his arrest. 

The people charge Benjamin Netanyahu with genocide. When war criminal Netanyahu comes to Washington DC,” Palestinian Youth Movement wrote on Instagram, “the people of the world stand with Palestine and against the genocide committed by Israel with full support of the United States and impunity.”

In addition to meeting with Biden, Netanyahu may also speak with Republican presidential nominee and former US President Donald Trump. Netanyahu has requested an in-person meeting with Trump while in the US this week, according to Politico.

The Algemeiner could not immediately verify the report.

The post Netanyahu Heads to DC After Biden Quits 2024 Race, Says Israel Will Remain ‘Strong’ US Ally Whoever Is in White House first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say

Law enforcement officers detain a demonstrator, as they clear out a pro-Hamas protest encampment at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Los Angeles, California, US, May 2, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/David Swanson

The State Attorney’s Office of Cook County, Illinois has dropped criminal charges filed against three Northwestern University faculty and one graduate student who allegedly obstructed law enforcement’s efforts to clear an unlawful demonstration at the Deering Meadow section of campus.

According to a local National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate, the office said its decision is based on its “policy not to prosecute peaceful protesters.”

Charges against the four individuals were pursued by the Northwestern University Police Department, which said that they allegedly engaged in “obstructing a police officer during the protests,” a crime for which they could, if convicted, spend a year in jail and pay a $2,500 fine, The Daily Northwestern reported last week. They had already appeared before a judge and were scheduled to do so again in August.

The university had defended the recommendation of its police department and rejected the notion that the individuals acted peaceably, saying in a statement issued earlier this month that it “does not permit activity that disrupts university operations, violates the law, or includes the intimidation or harassment of members of the community.”

Many more protesters have similarly avoided punishment for the actions they took during a burst of pro-Hamas demonstrations at the end of the 2023-2024 academic year, according to a new report by The New York Times. Prosecutors in Travis County, Texas, for example, have dropped over 100 charges of criminal trespassing filed against University of Texas at Austin protesters, the paper said, and 60 other Northwestern University protesters saw their charges dismissed, with prosecutors calling them “constitutionally dubious.” The Times added, however, that some charges will stick, including those filed against someone who bit a police officer, and many students are still awaiting the outcome of disciplinary proceedings.

Per the report, “At the University of Virginia on May 4, as students were preparing for final exams, administrators called in police to break up an encampment. Police officers in riot gear used chemical irritants to get protesters to disperse and eventually arrested 27 people. The local prosecutor dropped the charges facing seven people after he determined there wasn’t enough evidence. He offered the rest an agreement: their charges would be dismissed in August if they didn’t have any outstanding criminal charges at the time.”

Prosecutors in other states have not been as forbearing. According to Fresh Take Florida, prosecutors in Alachua County, Florida charged seven University of Florida students, as well as two non-students, with trespassing and resisting arrest. The defendants have resolved to take their chances at trial, the news service added, noting that all nine have rejected “deferred prosecution,” an agreement that would require them to plead guilty, or no contest, in exchange for the state’s expunging the convictions from their records in the future so long as they abstain from committing more criminal acts.

One of the nine, computer science student Parker Stanley Hovis, 26, — who was suspended for three years — proclaimed earlier this month that they will contest the state’s cases.

“We did not resist arrest, and we are prepared to fight our charges,” Hovis said in a statement. “We’re standing in solidarity with each other, and collectively demanding that the state drop the charges against us.”

Jewish civil rights group have described the anti-Israel protesters across the US as posing an imminent threat to Jewish students and faculty while noting that many avert being identified by concealing their faces with masks and keffiyehs, a traditional headscarf worn by Palestinians which has become known as a symbol of solidarity with the Palestinian cause and opposition to Israel. Images and footage of the practice have been widely circulated online, and it has rendered identifying the protesters — many of whom have chanted antisemitic slogans, vandalized school property, and threatened to harm Jewish students and faculty during a weeks-long demonstration between April and May — virtually impossible.

On Thursday, one such civil rights group, StandWithUs (SWU), implored the US Department of Justice to crack down on masked protests at Columbia University by enforcing legal statues which are widely referred to as the “KKK Laws,” citing numerous antisemitic incidents of harassment and assault on its campus and the difficulty of punishing the perpetrators.

Dating back to the administration of former US President Ulysses S. Grant, the so-called “KKK Laws” empower the federal government to prosecute those who engage in activities which violate the civil rights of protected groups, as the Ku Klux Klan did across the US South during Reconstruction to prevent African Americans from voting and living as free citizens. StandWithUs alleges that five anti-Zionist groups — most notably Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) — currently operating on Columbia University’s campus have perpetrated similar abuses in violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which guarantees all students, regardless of race or ethnic background, has the right to a safe learning environment.

“We hope the Department of Justice will take this opportunity to restore justice on Columbia University’s campuses and hold bad actors responsible for violating federal laws,” Yael Lerman, director of the SWU Saidoff Legal Department, said in a statement.

Follow Dion J. Pierre @DionJPierre.

The post Pro-Hamas Demonstrators Avoid Punishment Following Wave of Dropped Charges, Reports Say first appeared on Algemeiner.com.

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France Says Israeli Athletes ‘Welcome’ at Olympics Amid Mounting Threats, Added Security Measures

The Olympic Village prepared for the 2024 Paris Olympics. Photo: Paris 2024 / Raphael Vriet

French leaders said on Monday that the Israeli delegation to the 2024 Paris Olympics is welcome in France, despite what critics described as “antisemitic” comments to the contrary made by a French politician two days earlier

At an anti-Israel rally on Saturday, far-left French lawmaker Thomas Portes said, “I am here to say that, no, the Israeli delegation is not welcome in Paris. Israeli athletes are not welcome at the Olympic Games in Paris.”

Portes called for Israelis to be excluded from the Paris Olympics because of Israel’s ongoing war against Hamas terrorists in the Gaza Strip who perpetrated the Oct. 7 massacre in Israel.

Portes later also told the newspaper Le Parisien that “France’s diplomats should pressure the International Olympic Committee to bar the Israeli flag and anthem, as is done for Russia” due to its invasion of Ukraine.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said Portes’ comments had “obvious antisemitic overtones” and “placed a target on the backs of the Israeli athletes.” He added, “I want to express my disgust at that. I want to assure the Israeli athletes of our full protection, like all athletes, but particularly them, also welcoming them.”

Darmanin also announced that Israel’s Olympic delegation, which includes 88 athletes representing the Jewish state, will have increased security and will receive 24-hour security from French police. He said the decision was made after taking into consideration the 1972 Munich Olympics — where 11 Israeli athletes and coaches were murdered by the Palestinian terrorist group Black September — and how Israeli athletes are a target for attacks, especially since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

France has experienced a record surge in antisemitic incidents since Oct. 7, when Hamas launched the war with its massacre across southern Israel.

French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné reiterated that the Israeli delegation “is welcome in France” for the Paris Olympics during his visit to Brussels on Monday, the French-language newspaper Le Monde reported. He called Portes’ remarks “irresponsible and dangerous,” and added that France “will ensure the security of the [Israeli] delegation.”

Paris Police Chief Laurent Nuñez said 30,000 to 45,000 police personnel will be working daily to ensure safety at Olympic sites and fan zones in Paris.

It was previously reported that Israel doubled its security budget for this year’s Games, which will be Israel’s 18th appearance in the Olympics. Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Miki Zohar told The Telegraph that the Israeli Olympic delegation this year, which is the second-largest Israeli delegation in Olympics history, has received threats but he did not go into detail. He added that delegation members will receive security details from Israel’s Shin Bet security agency but not everyone will have their own bodyguards.

“We try our best to make sure the athletes feel free but also safe and not afraid. We don’t want them to notice the security guards too much. We want them to feel confident so they can do their job,” he explained to the publication.

There have been calls to ban Israel from the Paris Olympics because of the Israel-Hamas war, but Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said in March there is no doubt that Israel will participate in the Paris Olympics.

The 2024 Olympic Games will take place from July 26-Aug. 11.

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