The idea is to ‘remove the threat by not having civilians there,’ officer says.
By Malcolm Dash, IISS
Contingency plans, “Codenamed ‘Safe Distance,’ would see up to 250,000 civilians cleared out of border communities if they come under major attack by Hamas or Hezbollah” according to an Israeli officer.
It’s difficult to avoid cynicism when examining the latest, “contingency plans to evacuate up to a quarter-million civilians from border communities to protect them from attacks from Hamas, Hezbollah or other terror groups”. Whom the gods would destroy they first make mad is a line from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1875), it seems that the IDF Chiefs of Staff have become unhinged or plain “mad”. Why they are not imbued with the rich traditions of the IDF of victory and deterrence rather than its new penchant for withdrawal and “evacuation” i.e. surrender to the initiatives of the enemy?
If Tel Aviv, Jerusalem and Haifa come under threat, (envisage a Palestinian state, tunnels and missiles etc.), will the IDF evacuate citizens from these urban centers?? To where? To yet to be built littoral islets. What would be the psychological impact on Israel’s population? How will the population respond when its leadership offers up a strategy of “evacuation”? Assuredly the national morale and will to resist will be undermined and flight become preferable to resistance …And for those Israelis with foreign passports? Will the IDF recommend that they avail themselves of those passports!!.
Not since the 1967 Six Day war has Israel’s army really known the fruits of strategic victory (Some claim that the IDF was victorious in the Yom Kippur war. But if nearly 3,000 dead, thousands wounded, territorial concessions and financial indebtedness are associated with “victory”, then we need to consult an Alice in Wonderland thesaurus).
Every subsequent encounter with Israel’s enemies, (War of Attrition 1970-73, First Intifada, Gaza War 1987–1993 (2008–09) Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense 2012), have resulted in stalemate, territorial concessions and diplomatic reversals. It is time, indeed past time, to reconsider the role and concepts the IDF has adopted and develop doctrines of warfare that will both protect Israel’s citizenry and create opportunities for victorious strategic outcomes.
Perhaps Israel should examine our adversaries’ logic and concepts of warfare rather than the Western logic of planning backward with the objective of defending the status quo ante. Arab rationale appears not to conform to a pre-defined war aim and instead is characterized by creating a dynamic that sets in motion a march towards change and then to taking advantage of the later stage opportunities this dynamic provides, which is to further Arab interests.
Regrettably it seems that Israel’s officer class has been infected by the doctrine of progressive liberal left positions, nourished by the legal establishment that restrictive rules of engagement and proportionality should comply with the “noble” objectives of “humanistic” values. It would be “splendid” if Israel’s enemies played by the same set of rules. Sadly they do not.
Moreover, the IDF has taken upon itself the task of “social engineering” by wading into controversial issues, such as gender and gay integration and the involvement in promoting commercial activity among the Arab communities of Judea and Samaria. Sadly it seems that the IDF has long ago given up on its prime mandate of winning wars and rather sees itself as a juggernaut for social change.
The IDF is long overdue for a serious dose of reforms, it is inconceivable that soldiers risk discipline or even prosecution when making life or death decisions in mere minutes, if army lawyers deem their actions outside the rules, even if the engagement was a success. If the Allies had fought World War ll with a mandate to avoid civilian casualties and adhere to proportionality and Political Correctness, plus the threat of war crimes hanging over the heads of Churchill, Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Montgomery, Tedder, and Patton, I shudder to think what the final outcome of that titanic struggle would have been.
The IDF by its self-imposed restraints is fast turning itself into a glorified police force. It endeavors to be sensitive to the Arab/Moslem culture and tailor its operational responses accordingly. Such sensitivity does not win wars, no matter how much the progressive liberal left may applaud.
And as for the Arab/Moslem culture and its derivative methods and “rules” of engagement, which include, attacking from within civilian communities, horrifying beheadings, kidnapping and many other “inhumane” violations, with flagrant disregard for Geneva Conventions. All the while these Islamic forces of evil take advantage of the constrained freedom of action self-imposed by the IDF. Would the Chiefs of Staff really consider putting Israeli soldier’s lives at risk preferable, to offending some contemporary misperception and misapplication of moral humanitarian principles, or the threat of War Crimes?
When a deadly brew of politicians, lawyers, humanities brainwashed officer class and social engineers formulate the ‘rules” of engagement to meet with unattainable standards, you can be sure that victory will not be their guiding principle. By delegating increased authority to field officers and their men and relaxing the rules of engagement, the military will put the combat decision making process into the hands of well trained and experienced Israeli soldiers, rather than in those of mostly combat inexperienced legal adjuncts.
Israel’s army is a people’s army and its soldiers drawn from all walks of Israeli society, a society that strives to be just, moral and live by Jewish values. It is therefore unacceptable that Israeli “progressive” elites do not place their trust in its warriors who in the end pay the ultimate price. The IDF has become captive to legal sanction and political correctness so much so that it has forgotten that their mandate is to protect the state which cannot be done without a strategy for victory.
If the political leadership and the Israeli army do not adopt a strategy of “total war”, A war as a war “a la guerre comme a la guerre”, wherein the nation mobilizes its full resources to destroy the military capacity of its enemy and its will to wage war, then a debilitating war of “attrition” will be inflicted on the IDF for which it, and the Israeli public is ill equipped for.
This article was prompted by the headline “Israel plans mass evacuations if war erupts again”. If this concept had been the driving force during the War of Independence or on the eve of the Six Day war it’s more than likely that Israel would not have survived. Israel’s bold leaders, of yesteryear, pioneers of the return of the Jews to their homeland understood that Israel must take the war to the enemy and that nothing less than victory is the nation’s objective. It’s safe to assume that had the IDF of 1967 been faced with the dual threats of Hamas and Hezbollah, the then Chiefs of Staff’s contingency plan of action would have; in all likelihood produced the headline:
“Israel warns both Hamas and Hezbollah that they should plan mass evacuations of up to 500,000 of their border communities if war erupts again”
Now that’s a winning strategy!!!!
Malcolm Dash, Director of Operations, Israel Institute for Strategic Studies.