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Hard Analysis

So far, so good. Israel is systematically destroying the network of tunnels under the Israeli-Gaza border while Netanyahu is playing his cards close to his chest. In South Africa the cacophony of howls, lies and distortions emanating from the usual quarters goes on unabated. Cape Talk Radio has tried to steer a reasonable balance. The major powers are providing cover for Israel, at least for the present. After all, Israel is fighting their fight as well!

The big Gaza/Hamas (is there a difference and, if so, does it matter?) propaganda ploy now is KIDS. The Westerners, for some strange reason, love KIDS. So Hamas, which normally regards KIDS only as potential martyrs, now uses them as propaganda fodder. The more the merrier so far as they are concerned. It must be tough being a KID in Gaza right now: as far as Hamas is concerned you are worth more dead than alive for the present.

It’s crazy of course, but “crazy” is real. Much of history has been made by psychotics. But let’s try to look beyond “crazy” to rational and re-examine the proposition I made yesterday. Here is what Martin Sherman has to say plus some of the comments, one of them at least critical. It is not entirely free of a bit of traditional right wing craziness but has some important points to make.

What do you think?

Mike Berger

Into the Fray: Like a rudderless ship in a stormy sea

By Martin Sherman, JPOST

Just as Hamas uses its civilians as human shields against Israeli military attacks, so the Israeli government uses its civilians as human shields to fend off diplomatic attacks from the international community.

The most righteous of men cannot live in peace if his evil neighbor will not let him be.
 Wilhelm Tell, Act IV, Scene III, by Friedrich von Schiller, 1804 

The object of war is not to die for your country but to make the other guy die for his.– Gen. George S. Patton Jr.

There is always a cost to defeat an evil. It never comes free, unfortunately. But the cost of failure to defeat a great evil is far higher.
– Jamie Shea, NATO spokesman, BBC News, May 31, 1999, on civilian casualties inflicted by NATO in the Balkans.

As Operation Protective Edge – which could have been dubbed “Pillar of Defensive II” or “Cast Lead III” – drags on, it is becoming increasingly clear that the government is misconstruing its role..


Running the country vs. leading the nation

It seems to believe that its primary role is to run the country, rather than lead the nation. This is a disastrously inappropriate misperception of its task

The manner in which the current round of military operations is being conducted clearly reflects a state of mind preoccupied with tactical management of existing realities, rather than strategic leadership, which strives to forge new realities.

The objective of the campaign – articulated as the restoration of calm – makes any other conclusion difficult to reach. Indeed, when “calm” is chronically impermanent, the desire for a return to the precarious status quo ante has a ring of despairing resignation to it, and conveys little hope of any better realities.

This debilitating syndrome was diagnosed in a perceptive opinion piece titled “Defeatism at its worst” (Jerusalem Post, July 14) by Anya Zhuravel Segal – who interestingly enough served on Binyamin Netanyahu’s staff prior to the 2005 disengagement from Gaza: “We are facing a deep crisis of political leadership, and a deep disbelief in our power to shape reality.”

Sadly, it is difficult to imagine a more fitting characterization of the mindset of Israel’s leadership in recent years, underscored not only by the definition of the objectives of military campaigns undertaken, but by the means employed to wage them.

Tactical brilliance, strategic imbecility

There can be little disagreement that Israel has cutting- edge technologies that few countries can compete with at its disposal. While this impressive technological superiority has resulted in several brilliant tactical achievements by the military, on the strategic level Israel has displayed what can only be called utter imbecility, precipitating situations which have considerably degraded its security.

Ever since the disastrous decision not to preempt the Arab attack in October 1973, which brought the country to the brink of annihilation, and cost it thousands of needless deaths, Israel – and Israelis – have paid heavily for policies of restraint and retreat, whether almost immediately, or with the passage of time.

Nearly all Israel’s subsequent strategic initiatives have involved restoring/transferring territory to defeated aggressors, in exchange for unkept – and often unkeepable – pledges. In every case the areas relinquished have, sooner or later, become platforms on which attacks are planned, prepared and perpetrated against Israel.

As a result of Menachem Begin’s 1977 decision to surrender the strategic expanses of Sinai, Israel faces an increasingly grim situation on its long southern border. The peninsula is descending into one of the most savage areas on the planet, ruled by brutal jihadi warlords increasingly putting Eilat and its booming tourist industry, without which its very viability will be imperiled, at risk.

Strategic imbecility (cont.) 

Faced with an evident lack of Egyptian ability and/or will to cope with the unfolding realities, a situation is emerging which eventually will become intolerable for Israel, one which can only be addressed by jeopardizing the peace treaty with Cairo, which constituted the rationale for relinquishing the territory in the first place.

The 1993/1995 Oslo Accords led to the deployment of armed Arab forces, drawn from the ranks of murderous terrorist organizations, within mortar range of the nation’s parliament. With it came an unprecedented wave of bloody terror, currently held in check only by the effects of 2002’s Operation Defensive Shield, subsequent redeployment of the IDF in the area, and the construction of a multi-billion dollar “separation barrier.”

The 2000 unilateral withdrawal (or more accurately flight) of the IDF turned southern Lebanon into an huge arsenal for the Shia-extremists Hezbollah, bristling with missiles that rained terror and destruction on millions of Israelis in 2006. The poorly conceived and inconclusive Second Lebanon War resulted in a dramatic increase in the deadly ordnance directed at Israel.

True, Hezbollah has refrained from using it up to now. However, the fact that the organization did not join Hamas in the current round of fighting may well have more to do with its involvement in the civil war in Syria, an indication that it is loath to engage on two fronts, rather than an effect of any durable deterrence attributable to a memory of the 2006 engagement.

Indeed, its huge accumulation of offensive weapons, coupled with persistent reports of extensive cross-border tunneling, hardly seem indicative of a diminished appetite to continue battle at an opportune moment in the future.

The most imbecilic of all 

Then came, arguably, the most imbecilic strategic initiative of all – the unilateral abandonment of the Gaza Strip (a.k.a. disengagement) and the expulsion of the Jewish residents from their thriving communities, which generated around 10 percent of the output of the economy and ample employment for its Arab residents.

So far, for Israel this “inspired” decision has resulted in three (and counting) military campaigns, massive disruption of the socioeconomic routine, ongoing trauma and occasional tragedy.

For the Palestinians the consequences have been far more calamitous – except of course for the cruel, corrupt cliques into whose clutches the disengagement delivered them, who have grown prosperous beyond their wildest dreams.

It would be hard to conceive of any policy initiative more counter-productive – indeed, self-obstructive – than this. Unless of course one looks at the current government’s efforts to end the hostilities in the south.

For, despite the precarious and perilous impermanence of the status quo ante, the major – if not the only – demand the government seems to be raising for a cease-fire is the restoration of the situation that led to the current fighting.

Worse, at the time of writing, the government was reportedly mulling some face-saving concessions for Hamas – ensuring that it could not only claim victory by remaining defiantly undefeated, but could flaunt tangible “achievements” – as it did after November 2012’s Operation Pillar of Defense.

Emerging exasperation 

But as the government stumbles on in a seemingly aimless – albeit, pyrotechnically impressive – endeavor, there are signs of growing public exasperation with its performance and eroding confidence in its competence.

These were succinctly articulated by Zhuravel Segal in her previously cited op-ed, in which she echoes many of my thoughts: “I do not believe for a second that Israel, a country with outstanding…logistical accomplishments, cannot stop rocket fire from Gaza. What I see clearly, though, is incredible negligence and lack of systematic, long-term planning effort on behalf of Israel’s top political brass and…the prime minister…These days we are rallying behind our prime minister’s wartime rhetoric as if we were facing an enemy that could actually stand up to the concerted effort of a modern democracy with first-world diplomatic and military means at its disposal….”

‘Defeatism at its worst’

She goes on to lament, in a tone of bitter disillusionment tinged with bewilderment: “… we send our very best people to fight a bunch of fanatics who assemble smuggled rockets at home and hide in tunnels under their wives’ washing machines. Is this really the best we can do? If it is, I am deeply disappointed in Israel’s long-term planning capability…This is defeatism at its worst. It hurts us where it really matters and turns us into an indefensible victim yet again, a complex one hopes Israel would have by now shed.”

There is much to heed in Segal’s anguished words.

For while Israel’s highly effective civil defense apparatus has functioned admirably, reducing the casualty toll to the barest minimum, the ongoing imagery of Jews, forced by a Judeophobic militia to scurry for cover, and cower in shelters, is becoming increasing unacceptable, and is, or at least should be, incompatible with the founding ethos of the country.

The prattle that presents the retaking of Gaza as an invalid strategic objective is ludicrous and should be discounted with disdain.

Retaking of Gaza as a moral imperative

It is becoming difficult to bear the claims that the mighty IDF – portrayed as the strongest army in the region, capable of prevailing over any of Israel’s enemies, or combination thereof – cannot take an objective, barely 11-km. wide and 50-km. long, with no significant topographic barriers to impede its advance.

Such a measure is the only way the government of Israel can discharge its moral duty toward its citizens. To refrain from undertaking this task is a moral abomination on several levels, implying that, just as Hamas uses its civilians as human shields against Israeli military attacks, so the government of Israel uses its civilians as human shields to fend off diplomatic attacks from the international community.

Yes, such a measure will involve casualties – on both sides. But the blame for the blood shed must be laid squarely at the door of those who called for Israel to hand over the Gaza Strip to its sworn enemies – and of those who could have prevented it but, because they preferred privileged positions over political principle, did not.

Retaking Gaza cannot be avoided, only delayed for a less opportune and more hazardous occasion, when the enemy will be better prepared, and casualties higher.

Dismantling of Gaza as a moral imperative

In a recent report, the Post’s Yaakov Lappin wrote: “The experience of Israel’s military planners tells them that toppling the Hamas regime…is not necessarily in Israel’s long-term strategic interests. It remains far from clear who might replace Hamas, and Gaza could turn into a Somalia-like strip of land filled with Islamic State militias that cannot be deterred at all.”

This sort of claim be must rejected out of hand. Indeed it was precisely this kind of thinking that induced Israel to deal with the PLO lest it end up with Hamas. Israel agreed to deal with the PLO and got Hamas….

No matter what Arab regime is installed in Gaza at the end of the fighting, there is always the risk of it being replaced by more implacable and inimical successors.

Israel cannot determine who will rule Gaza…unless it does so itself.

To do this, it must impose unconditional surrender on Hamas and begin the systematic dismantling of Gaza and the relocation of its population in third party countries, as I first proposed two decades ago in “Why we can’t dump Gaza” (Jerusalem Post, December 9, 1992), and in numerous subsequent Into the Fray columns.

Frittering away a unique opportunity

Today Israel has a unique opportunity to eliminate the menace of Gaza and offer its non-belligerent population a better life elsewhere. It is difficult to imagine the current benign circumstances reoccurring:
(a) support of Israel in the US is at near-record highs, outstripping that for Palestinians (even among Hispanics and Blacks);
(b) there is deep hostility for Hamas in Egypt under Abdel Fattah al-Sisi;
(c) the Arab world is distracted by the internal tumult raging across it, with little time or resources to devote to the Palestinian issue;
(d) Hezbollah is entangled in the Sunni-Shia wars in Syria/Iraq, and unlikely to engage in an additional front against Israel.

So in the words of the sage Hillel, “If not now, when? The question is, will the government rise to the occasion.

Will it be equal to the challenge? Or will it let the country continue to drift, rudderless in the stormy sea that surround it – until an unexpected wave swamps it?

Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.

Lifted from Israpundit where it was Posted by Ted Belman @ 12:13 am | 25 Comments »

25 Comments to Into the Fray: Like a rudderless ship in a stormy sea

  1. NormanF says:

July 19, 2014 at 1:37 am

Moshe Feiglin has proposed this solution: emptying Gaza would constitute a message to the Arab World that creating an Arab state on Jewish land is not Israel’s problem. It would also make clear to the Arabs Israel is here to stay and when they attack Israel, they will lose more then just their honor and their lives. When the Arabs wage a war of aggression against Israel, they should forfeit the privilege of living alongside Jews. Is peaceably expelling Jew-hating Arabs a difficult proposition? Yes – but the costs of war and social trauma should not be paid for by Israel’s Jews. And like with the Czech expulsion of Fifth Column Germans from their country after World War II, its the only solution that will eliminate perpetual conflict with Israel’s Arab neighbors. For strategic and moral reasons, the Disengagement must be reversed and Gaza must become without Arabs, a permanent part of the Jewish homeland. There is no other solution that will allow Israel to live in peace and safety in its own land.


  1. bernard ross says: July 19, 2014 at 3:52 am

Martin Sherman aptly describes the rudderless ship being sailed by those not up to the task of leadership. He also hints that the reason for this situation is a a result of political and diplomatic pressure on the state of Israel by the international community. He further suggests that succeeding governments have risked Israeli lives in order to appease and assuage this evil and pernicious international community. Certainly it appeared to begin with Golda Meirs decision to sacrifice Israeli lives to appease the US need to shed Jewish blood first. Since then the evil internationals have continued to thirst for Jewish blood.

What is missing from this predicament is the transparency and honesty of the leadership coupled with their massive arrogance that they know best what decisions to make in the light of this evil pressure. I would suggest that the opposite is true. At least Livni and the left transparently reveal that they are foreign agents who suggest that Israel should do what the foreigners want or the foreigners will damage Israel. The right pretends that problem does not exist but appear to act as if the problem exists under the table in massive proportions and thus end up implementing the same policies as the left.

I think there is a great need for Israel’s leadership and political community to honestly present the threats being made, towards Israel, to the Israeli public and who is making the threats. Furthermore, the GOI should be making studies as to what ways, what methods these threats can be countered and/or weathered. The true situation and the available remedies should be given to the public and they should make the decisions based on real knowledge. Perhaps the public, instead of kowtowing is willing to take risk in order to act independently and perhaps they are willing to sacrifice some economic growth for security and strength. Right now it appears that politicians have been appointing themselves as sages and withholding the most important information affecting the nation, and the diaspora, from the public. If the US is making evil threats then all jews should know, the same with the euros. One cannot proceed intelligently if the greatest threat is kept hidden.

The appearance of a foreign stranglehold on the people of Israel and the diaspora needs to be brought to the light of day. All decisions appear to be made kowtowing to this stranglehold, therefore the Jewish people have a right to know the truth so that they can begin to devise real solutions to the actual problems. We might find that the best solution lies in an opposite path. That instead of acting humbly and defensively that perhaps Israel should adopt an aggressive posture focused purely on independent survival; seizing, land, assets and resources of neighbors in order to operate under sanctions.

Israel should cease to accept the role of being the door mat of the world. It should act at the level of its military rank. it should kick butt, bloody noses, and strike fear into others. that is what will give it the alliances that will make it independent. Israel needs resources and it should forge military alliances that guarantee those resources. It should look more to Africa than to europe in order to get those resources.

Topaz says: July 19, 2014 at 4:53 am

Finally! From your mouths to the people’s ears.

My mother used to say that “To be a doormat, you had to lie down first.” And it is time for Israel to reveal the threats AND what Israel is giving away free to the US and the world.

There was a military commander yesterday who was interview by Wolf Blitzer!!!!!! This said REPEATEDLY that the ONLY goal is to dismantle the current tunnels!! This is madness and this is murder of IDF soldiers by their own government who sends them into battle with both hands tied behind their backs. If this is true, then Israel is fighting to lose.

And the treasonous leadership is ALREADY talking appeasement negotiations AGAIN!

CuriousAmerican says: July 19, 2014 at 5:26 am


Moshe Feiglin has proposed this solution: emptying Gaza would constitute a message to the Arab World

Where would you expel the Gazans to?

Egypt?! Egypt is at peace with Israel, and actually supporting Israel against Hamas. Egypt might as well be your ally, in this situation.

So where should Israel expel the Gazans to?

Jordan?! Israel has a peace treaty with Jordan? Do you want to walk the Gazans through Israel to Jordan. Do you think Jordan would take them?

Lebanon? Do you want to ship 1.8 Million Gazans to Lebanon? Do you think Lebanon will take them? Do you think the world will not notice – not that you care; but you will care if the term “ethnic cleansing” is used.

Do you have an explanation prepared for the press why the removal of 1.8 Million Gazans is NOT ethic cleanings?! Do you think the world will accept your explanation, or will you insult them if the world does not accept your explanation?

I understand your point, NormanF; but evacuating Gaza will not work.

Geography prevents removal. The Gazans are not next to an enemy you could dump them on.

Israel should re-occupy the Philadepi Route.

Maybe set up a fence between Gaza and the re-taken Philadelphi Route. So that Gaza is surrounded on all 4 sides by Israelis. There is no easy way out of this. Or Israel would have handled it earlier.

Anger may be appropriate in this situation, but do not let it impair your judgement.



4 responses to “Hard Analysis

  1. Stephen July 20, 2014 at 7:37 pm

    As a Jew living in South Africa under an Israel-bashing government, activists and media i am besieged by a frenzy of vicious and demonizing Zionophobia and increasing direct Judeaphobia. The words apartheid, ethnic cleansing and genocide have been so abused that they have lost all their meaning. If this is happening in the current context can you imagine how the emptying of Gaza with millions more victimized Palestinian refugees would be received, not only here, but around the world. The local community would be more at risk. But this is not about us. it is about how Israelis can best protect themselves as a moral imperative with a moral army against terror operating within a civilian population.
    The comments about leaderless strategy, alarmist cowering rhetotic and “is this the best Israel can do?” are well made but I cannot support the human cost that is proposed.
    It is a zero sum game and has always been the dilemma.


    • Mike Berger July 20, 2014 at 8:56 pm

      Skipping the irritating rhetoric in some of what Sherman writes his central point is more-or-less the same as the one I made: Hamas is incorrigible. Most of the Palestinians are infected with the same virus according to available evidence. So short of Israeli surrender, the conflict will never stop until Israel is so weakened that some chance event or set of circumstances swamp it. If this analysis is correct then Israel will be compelled to take the kind of drastic step that I suggested. So “drastic” versus creative “muddle through”. Both are dangerous but when do you know that “muddle through” is about to collapse? And will it be too late? These in broad terms are the real issues that I and Sherman in a more confident way are trying to address.”It is a zero sum game and has always been the dilemma”. But what’s your answer?


      • Stephen July 21, 2014 at 12:13 am

        We all want Hamas to be smashed. Whether this is realistic or not I don’t know but the current Middle East is throwing up some strange bedfellows. With Egypt, Jordan and the Saudis at her back allows Israel to be more persistent in destroying the tunnels and as much Hamas infrastructure and weaponry as possible . For the first time due to a sharper and more aggressive Israeli information focus (took a long time) the world media cannot just ignore Hamas human shield war crimes or be able to carp on about lifting the blockade when it is obvious cement and materials allowed in for the purpose of building housing, schools etc have been used to construct terror war tunnels. The IDF of course under Geneva Convention international law is fully entitled to take and keep control of a hostile entity for as long as it takes without being accused of being an occupying power. But it must be accompanied by a long-term strategy to demonstrate to the Gazan people that electing Hamas was a huge mistake and the love for their children and their own future must eclipse their hate of Israel.
        They are living in a deluded bubble of Hamas promises for glorious victory over Israel. And this is where we perhaps have differences. You seems to be buying in to the alarmist rhetoric of the Netanyahu government to which Zhuravel Segal objects amid growing exasperation of which she calls “Defeatism at its worst….. with a victim complex which one hopes Israel would by now have shed”. Israel is far too powerful to be cowered into submission or so weakened as to be swamped and the Palestinians must be afforded no delusions that this is ever a possibility. At the same time a Greater Israel is as dishonestly imagined.
        My answer is that I don’t want to be too simplistic from my position of ignorance as to what is realistic for Gaza or not. My first prize is for Hamas to be eradicated by the IDF but then what? ISIS? Israel being held to be responsible for more sullen Palestinians? Is the revolting prospect of moving out a whole population the only option? Can the Gazans not be shown a more hopeful future they claim to crave without Hamas? A long-term strategy is vital for both Israelis and Palestinians to shed themselves of their victim complex and find leaders who can lead the aspirations of their people and not keep trapped in the agenda of their own ideological dishonesties..This requires both political will and risk. I was one of the biggest ideologists. It has not worked. Israelis have moved beyond the point, besides the demented Zionophobic social media and fringe activists delegitimisers, where the Jewish state has to be justified Or portrayed by its own leaders for their own political ends as being existentially threatened by “fanatics who hide smuggled rockets under their wives’ washing machines”


  2. Geoff Boner July 20, 2014 at 2:06 pm


    I have mentioned previously that my son-in-law comes from a Moshav on the border of Gaza. At present his father and two of his sisters and families stay there. Today a tunnel was discovered which leads from Gaza into this Moshav, Nativ ha-asara. Luckily it was discovered before it was used to attack the moshav.



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