Israel’s Strategic Vacuum

Haim Assa, who served as Yitzhak Rabin's strategic advisor, laments the lack of strategic thinking behind the military operation in Gaza and wonders if Israel fears a political settlement?

al-monitor A Palestinian stone-thrower walks past smoke from burning tires during clashes with Israeli security forces in protest of Israel's military operation in Gaza, at Qalandia checkpoint near the West Bank city of Ramallah, Nov. 16, 2012.  Photo by REUTERS/Mohamad Torokman.

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turkey, strategic plan, qatar, military operation, military, israel, elections, egypt, citizens

Nov 16, 2012

There is no one in the political system who can propose a different political framework between us and Hamas, without being viewed as a spineless traitor — and that is Israel's greatest misfortune

We have already attacked Gaza in the past — by land, by air, by sea, by space. They called it "Operation Cast Lead." The generals were gratified, so were the politicians. But the residents of the South? Not at all. Cast Lead ended with a threat aimed at Hamas — if you launch those rockets again, we'll get back at you. They launched more rockets; Israel did not respond. So they launched again — and now it's 70 days before elections, and it seems we'll have "Cast Lead II" that will also end with a threatening finger. Afterward they will attack again, and again we won't retaliate until the next elections, and so on. Everyone is happy, except for the Southerners — they are the ones who suffer.

Defense ministers acquire rocket-interception batteries like hotcakes, but these are useless to us. Some military experts say that due to the Iron Dome missile-defense system, Israel is not required to resort to a military assault operation. That is not true. So, land-based military operations don't create deterrence, and missile-defense systems don't help either. Does that mean that all is lost? What is the right thing to do? The political answer is: Another military assault, more anti-rocket interception batteries. Why? Because the government must prove, "we are not suckers." Again — Tylenol for the terminal patient.

Not one of the politicians will put his or her finger on the critical point — the broad strategic-political context that includes the military issue. There is not one politician who will come and place on the table a long-range program to stop this insanity that repeats itself like Russian roulette, for the children of the South. Everything will be resolved by a hollow, irresponsible cliché. This operation is destined to share the same fate as the Trachtenberg Committee on socio-economical changes in Israel — whitewashing and sleight of hand — when everyone's eyes are fixed on the elections, and no one dares to propose the one, logical solution. The logical solution is to attempt to create a different political foundation framework, starting from alleviating the blockade on Gaza (MILAN anti-tank missile rockets reach Gaza anyway) — something that will help us create normal relations with Turkey and Egypt and encourage the Qatar approach of investing in Gaza, and reversing the process of Israel's delegitimization. No political person today from the center of Israel's political map, will propose this type of strategic viewpoint. Why? Because it is viewed as left-wing. It is viewed as traitorous and spineless, the viewpoint of weak-brained bleeding hearts. That is Israel's great misfortune. The neo-conservative concept has conquered Israeli society and overpowered it unconditionally.

What remains for us, in these strange elections to be held in another 70 days, it that no broad viewpoint exists: not on the Right, not on the Left, and not in the Center. Nothing, just a parade of some unemployed celebs looking to make a living in the name of Boy Scout ideology. They equip themselves with their reconnaissance-company-commander credentials of the past century, in other words –''security firsters," who place Israel's security issues above everything else. Israel is approaching a situation where all its borders will resemble the border with Gaza. What then? This Russian roulette will grow and encircle the heads of all Israeli children, and continue turning faster and faster? The next elections, and the elections after that, will take place here to the tune of rockets that will be launched from other places as well, not only from Gaza. The endless debate will continue: Should we act with restraint, or should we launch a land-based military operation?

Is it possible that Israeli strategic thinking has descended to such trivial levels as the conquest of a town square in Gaza or the liquidation of a few leaders? Yes, it is possible, and that's not by chance. Whoever thinks that this trivial thought-pattern is the fruit of deep military or security thinking, is in error. The roots of this thinking are directly connected to the neo-conservative approach represented by the right-wing Republicans in the United States, whose fruits are presidents Bush the father and Bush the son. This is the mindset that led to the foolish American campaign in Iraq — the campaign from which Obama extricated the United States by the skin of its teeth. Unfortunately, tiny Israel has been ensnared by this folly, to the extent that the simple word-combination "political settlement" will turn into the ashtray in which everyone will extinguish their burning cigarettes.

Israel as a society is stuck culturally and politically; leadership is needed to shake it out of the ashes. It needs a first-rate political-cultural leader who can create an overarching strategic doctrine that stems from far-sighted vision — a leader who is not worried about the number of mandates he does or doesn't have. We are in a political limbo that is entirely rooted in the stupid approach that is mainly based on mandates. Lots of mandates. Elections, ladies and gentlemen. And as my grandma said: What is the difference between a money-hungry tycoon and a power-hungry political schmatta (floor mat)? Both of them create the same alienation; citizens are alienated from themselves, from the society in which they live, and from their country. There is not much difference between this type of estrangement and the kind that creates a social gap and economic powerlessness. It is the same type of oppression.

The author served as Yitzhak Rabin's strategic advisor.

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