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Sunday, November 25, 2012
Israel Tests Brains, Not Brawn Gaza Strategy

[Dr. Aaron Lerner - IMRA:

"According to the security strategist, deterrence will be measured by how
Iran internalizes the technological and intelligence superiority shown in
the eight-day fight, as well as Egypt’s resolve in working with the U.S. and
others to enforce the cease-fire and stem the flow of weapons smuggled into
Gaza from Sinai."

Cynics might note that in the past information to the public regarding the
extent of the flow of weapons Egypt was allowing into the Gaza Strip was at
times either understated or simply almost nonexistent when Israeli
authorities believed it served Israel's interests to do so. ]

Israel Tests ‘Brains, Not Brawn’ Gaza Strategy
Nov. 25, 2012 - 04:39PM By BARBARA OPALL-ROME Defense News
http://www.defensenews.com/article/20121125/DEFREG04/311250010/Israel-Tests-8216-Brains-Not-Brawn-8217-Gaza-Strategy

TEL AVIV — Despite domestic pressure to escalate its fight against
Gaza-launched rockets, Israel’s agreement last week to a U.S.- and
Egyptian-brokered cease-fire marked a leap of faith in the deterrent effect
of the surgical standoff attack.

Compared with the so-called “crazy landlord” strategy employed in the
six-week Lebanon war in 2006 and the three-week Gaza operation four years
ago, a cool and calculating landlord presided over the eight-day Pillar of
Defense campaign, which ended Nov. 21 without a ground war and with
historically low casualties.

There’s an expression in Hebrew that aptly describes the strategy put to the
test in recently concluded combat. It’s called “mo’ach, lo ko’ach,” meaning
brains, not brawn.

While Gazan casualty figures remain in dispute, with Israel claiming 120
killed and 900 wounded, compared with the 163 killed and 1,200 listed by the
Hamas Health Ministry as wounded, even the higher estimates pale next to to
the 1,400 killed and thousands wounded in Israel’s 2008-2009 Cast Lead
campaign.

At the end of hostilities, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said it operated
against 1,500 targets, including 19 command centers, 30 senior operatives,
hundreds of underground rocket launchers, 140 smuggling tunnels, 66 terror
tunnels, dozens of Hamas operation rooms and bases, 26 weapon manufacturing
and storage facilities, and dozens of long-range rocket launch sites.

More than 1,500 rockets were launched from the Gaza Strip during the
fighting, 875 of which landed in open areas. Of the 573 rockets designated
by Israel’s Iron Dome system as threats to life or property, there were 421
interceptions, a success rate of about 85 percent.

Impact on Deterrence

“Our objectives were achieved in full. Hamas received a painful blow,”
claimed Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak as the truce took effect. Barak
cited strengthened deterrence as the leading objective.

But skeptics warn of the heavy price Israel will pay when Barak’s stated
strategy of “maximum casualties to terrorists, minimum casualties to
civilians” ends up weakening Israeli deterrence. They note that despite an
intensive standoff attack, Hamas-based militants fired only a fraction of
their estimated 10,000-strong rocket arsenal. And instead of uprooting or
paralyzing the regime in Gaza, critics say Hamas gained diplomatic
legitimacy through the negotiated cease-fire, despite its designation by the
U.S. and European Union-as a terrorist organization.

As for Israel, any diplomatic legitimacy and security perks to be gained by
heeding international calls to end the fight without a ground war will be
meaningless, so the argument goes, if the other side is not sufficiently
deterred.

“Those Islamic extremists in Gaza — exponentially more so than the secular
leadership still clinging to power in the West Bank — are influenced only by
death and destruction,” many here said.

“If the other side does not fear for their very survival, they cannot be
deterred,” a former senior Israeli military commander said.

Skeptics point to the five rockets launched from Gaza barely an hour after
the cease-fire went into effect.

“Surgical strikes have been extremely effective, but it remains to be seen
if the scalpel alone can deter the other side,” the former commander said
last week.

At a news conference announcing Israel’s agreement to halt the fighting,
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu acknowledged the concerns of those
pressing for escalation.

“I know that there are citizens who expected much harsher military activity,
and it could very well be that such action will be required,” he said. “But
at this time, the correct thing for ... Israel is to maximize the
opportunity for an extended cease-fire.”

Netanyahu attributed his decision to strategic changes sweeping the region,
and alluded to a greater task at hand in Iran and White House pledges of
additional support.

Tactical Targets, Strategic Message

Retired Brig. Gen. Avi Benayahu, a former IDF spokesman who directed Israel’s
public relations strategy during the Cast Lead operation, said circumstances
drive strategy. Operation Pillar of Defense was not a war, he said, but a
“punishing operation.” Historically low enemy casualties should not
necessarily affect deterrence in a negative way, he said.

“There’s a direct correlation between the level of firepower and
international legitimacy, just as there often is linkage between the effects
of firepower and deterrence,” Benayahu said. “But that’s simplistic; there’s
more to the story.”

In the previous Gaza campaign, Israel’s leaders felt compelled to bring in
ground forces to ease “the trauma” of the Lebanon war, he said.

“In Cast Lead, Hamas and other Gaza-based terrorists were our operational
targets, but our strategic message was directed to Hezbollah [in Lebanon],”
he said. “This time around, our strategic message was directed at Egypt,
Iran and other players in the region.”

According to the security strategist, deterrence will be measured by how
Iran internalizes the technological and intelligence superiority shown in
the eight-day fight, as well as Egypt’s resolve in working with the U.S. and
others to enforce the cease-fire and stem the flow of weapons smuggled into
Gaza from Sinai.

An IDF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, said deterrence will be
measured in the coming weeks and months and should not be judged by residual
rockets launched in the days following the cease-fire.

When asked whether the operation’s comparatively low death toll could sap
deterrence, as many here argue, he replied, “You don’t need to kill
civilians in order to strengthen deterrence. That’s exactly what the other
side hopes to achieve.

“They know we don’t intentionally target innocents, but their entire
strategy is based on exploiting these poor people. They’re counting on high
casualties in order to delegitimize us. So why play into their hands?” said
Mordechai, an Arabic-speaking former infantryman and intel officer with
years of operational experience in the West Bank and Gaza.

“Don’t be misled by the low civilian casualty figures. Once Hamas leaders
and their remaining combatants emerge from underground and witness the
damage wrought from our surgical strikes, they’ll internalize the heavy
price paid for their latest escalation.”

Mordechai’s intelligence background influenced a revamp of the informational
strategy used in planning and executing Operation Pillar of Defense. To
begin, Israel chose a name that resonated well with international audiences,
unlike Cast Lead, with its harsh connotations when translated from Hebrew.
More important, unlike in the earlier operation, where journalists had to
petition Israel’s Supreme Court for permission to cross into Gaza, the IDF
provided reasonable access to events taking place on both sides of the
border.

Mordechai’s office also embedded public relations specialists in IDF
intelligence and operational directorates, with immediate access to
information of unfolding events. In parallel, the IDF took full advantage of
Facebook, Twitter, text messaging and other new media tools.

“We took a strategic decision that in this campaign, we had nothing to
hide,” Mordechai said.

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