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Wednesday, January 2, 2013
(Quiet for quiet dilemma) Conclusion - Amos Yadlin - In the Aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense The Gaza Strip, November 2012

From Israelís point of view, the dilemma will remain: Should Israel act
against the buildup by Hamas and Islamic Jihad while it is taking place, or
accept it and take care of it only during the next conflict?

Conclusion - Amos Yadlin - In the Aftermath of Operation Pillar of Defense
The Gaza Strip, November 2012
Institute for National Security Studies
Memorandum 124

It rained the weekend before Operation Pillar of Defense. Israel endured the
barrage of rockets from Gaza, did not respond, seemingly returned to
routine, and prepared a tactical surprise for Hamas. When the skies cleared,
Israel embarked on an operation with very carefully defined goals: to
restore Israeli deterrence, to strike a serious blow at Hamas, and to
restore peace and quiet in the south. The goals were remarkably similar to
the IDFís objectives in 2006 during the Second Lebanon War. The main
difference was that this time the political echelon, which had approved the
IDFís recommendations for the operationís goals, did not subsequently
lambaste the operation or differ on its modest goals. When the operation
ended after eight days of blue skies, the storm returned, providing an
additional reason to avoid a ground invasion.

As in the Second Lebanon War, some 200 rockets landed daily in the State of
Israel, this time in the southern part of the country. Once again, the
Israeli Air Force was the main means by which the IDF struck at the enemy,
and once again, there was no decisive ground operation to stop the
short-range rockets. The mechanism for cessation of hostilities, however,
was different: no UN Security Council resolution, no pushing Hamas back from
the border, and no UN force deployed to enemy territory in order to help
maintain a ceasefire and deal with weapons smuggling or a renewed military
buildup. And despite the similarity in the results and in the use of force,
there was no commission of inquiry, and reserve generals did not blame the
chief of staff for failing to carry out a ground invasion. Winograd 2 and
Goldstone 2 have not been realized.

In terms of the goals set at the beginning of Pillar of Defense, the
operation was successful, and appears to have met the modest goals defined
for it. Hamas was seriously impaired: in the first hours, its strategic
arsenals were destroyed, primarily the long-range Iranian rockets that were
intended to shock Tel Aviv by the dozens, and the arsenal of unmanned aerial
vehicles was also damaged and taken out of action. Ahmed Jabari, head of the
Hamas military wing, was killed, and a number of other senior officers were
wounded; hundreds of concealed rockets were struck; homes of senior
terrorists were destroyed; and important buildings in the physical
infrastructure of the Hamas government were damaged.

It would be a mistake to take Hamasís victory celebrations to heart. On the
contrary, if Hamas is not reading the situation correctly and is lying to
itself, then the chances that it will lose the ďlearning competitionĒ are
great. Learning and implementing the lessons of every campaign are extremely
important. After a round of hostilities, the winning side tends to neglect
the learning process and is then surprised during the next round, whereas
the losing side tends to undertake an in-depth investigation and intensive
learning process, and it then prepares an appropriate response for the next
round. Consider, for example, the Arab learning process after the Six Day
War and the neutralization of the Israeli Air Forceís power in 1973, in
contrast to Israelís learning process after 1973 and its implementation of
lessons learned, which led to the crushing defeat of the Syrian air force
and aerial defense in 1982. Hamasís lies about hitting the Knesset, shooting
down an F-16 jet, and striking Tel Aviv and Ramat Hasharon are reminiscent
of the lies that Arab regimes told in the 1960s and 1970s.
Even if the IDF and the State of Israel believe that they won the battle, it
is important that Israel conduct an investigation into the eight days of
fighting. This would be an investigation rather than an inquiry: an
investigation seeks information on how to conduct the next battle more
effectively and properly, whereas an inquiry seeks to discover who is at
fault. The political echelon can appoint its own internal Winograd
commission, without public or media pressure and without the expectation
that heads will roll or that a senior political or military figure will be
removed from office. The chief of staff can also appoint a group of senior
reservists to examine the systemic, strategic, operative, and logistical
questions connected to the campaign.

What follows are a dozen major issues that should be studied so that lessons
can be learned in preparation for the next battle, which will occur sooner
or later:

1. Why did the Israeli deterrence achieved in Operation Cast Lead erode?

Four main factors that led to the erosion of Israelís deterrence can be
named. One, the regime change in Egypt led to an assessment by Hamas that
Israel would be very cautious in responding to rocket fire from Gaza. Hamas
believed that in contrast to the Mubarak regime, which was hostile to it, an
Egyptian government led by the Muslim Brotherhood would allow it greater
freedom of action than in the past. Two, the strengthening of small
terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip that fired on Israel created
tension for Hamas, pitting its responsibility as a government against its
commitment to the ďresistance,Ē which it values highly. From time to time,
especially when Palestinian civilians were killed by the interception of
squads from the small organizations that fired at Israel, Hamas was forced
to join in the firing. Three, Hamas also built a strategic array of
long-range rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv, and its self-confidence was
partly based on the assumption that Israel was familiar with these systems
and would seek to avoid escalation so as not to be attacked by them. The
fourth factor that led Hamas to believe that it was deterring Israel was
Israelís policy of weak and ineffective responses to the rocket fire in the
south since the end of Operation Cast Lead, making clear to Hamas that the
price for firing on Israel was minimal.

If it is difficult for Israel to address the issue of the Egyptian regime
and the small organizations, then it is important to convey the message that
despite Egyptian support, Hamas will not receive immunity and that Israel
places responsibility for the activity of the more extreme organizations on
Hamas. On the issue of the military buildup and Israelís responses, the
lesson is clear: it is important to make every effort to prevent Hamas and
Islamic Jihad from rebuilding their strategic arsenals, and if a trickle of
rockets begins, the Israeli response must be such that it will affect Hamasís
considerations in deciding whether to resume firing, that is, it must be a
much stronger response than in the years between 2009 and 2012.

2. The military buildup: How could Hamas have been prevented from
accumulating an arsenal of rockets that enabled it to fire missiles
throughout the battle and even to threaten Gush Dan?

The Hamas military buildup after Operation Cast Lead is a main factor in the
erosion of Israeli deterrence, and preventing future buildup is a key
parameter in assessing the results of the conflict with a territorial
terrorist organization. There are three main strategies for preventing
military buildup: physically blocking the channels within the Gaza Strip
through a ground invasion; attacking the channels of the buildup at their
origins in Iran and along the route to the Gaza Strip; or transferring the
mission to a third party (as in UN forces in Lebanon on the basis of
resolution 1701 or Egypt and the US on the basis of their commitments after
Cast Lead). A ground invasion aimed at sabotaging the possibility of
smuggling rockets into the Gaza Strip was not undertaken in either Cast Lead
or Pillar of Defense. Attacks that are more decisive and effective than
those launched in the past four years against routes used in the buildup and
mechanisms of the buildup should be considered. It is still not clear
whether there is a serious Egyptian or American commitment to address a
future buildup. The issues of whether the incoming administration in the
United States will be more decisive in acting on this matter than the
outgoing administration, and whether the Egyptians recognized the explosive
power of the arsenals in Gaza (which from Israelís point of view are
strategic) have tremendous importance for the stability of the ceasefire
that was achieved. Israel must have a more effective plan to address the
buildup of Hamasís military strength if the Egyptians and Americans fail to
handle this issue. In this context, it is important to emphasize that the
buildup of Hamasís military strength also violates the important principle
of the demilitarization of a future Palestinian state and reduces Israelís
willingness to take risks in a future peace agreement.

A principled discussion of the State of Israelís willingness to act against
the buildup of its enemies is also required. In the past, Israel acted
against buildups that threatened its security: the Sinai campaign, the
attacks on nuclear facilities in Iraq, and, reportedly, Syria. Refreshing
the security doctrine on this issue and developing criteria for preventing a
buildup is an important topic for examination.

3. Is the asymmetry with Hamas correctly understood? Is it clear what the
systemic rationale of the enemy is and what would be considered victory?

There is an asymmetry in Israelís favor between Israel and Hamas with regard
to armament and military capabilities. However, a battle must never be
evaluated on the basis of the number of weapons fired or the number of
casualties on either side. Alongside the asymmetry in armament, there are
reverse asymmetries that hamper the use of force and achievement of the
operationís goals: asymmetry in goals, asymmetry in evaluating the results,
and asymmetry in the strategic ramifications of the battle. Although Israel
would regard a change in the security situation, improved deterrence, and
securing a state of calm in the south as accomplishment of the operationís
goals, it is also very sensitive to the loss of life among its civilians and
soldiers and is curtailed in its use of force because of broad ethical and
legal restrictions. Hamas, as a terrorist organization, has a much simpler
goal: to avoid defeat and to maintain its ability to fire rockets at Israeli
towns and cities while striking as many citizens as possible and Ė compared
to Israel Ė without regard for its own citizens and infrastructures. Before
embarking on an operation, this dramatic asymmetry requires broad thinking
about the results that can be achieved and the way in which they will be
presented by the asymmetric adversary. It is necessary to identify and
assess the points of vulnerability that, if hit, will disrupt Hamasís
rationale and cause it serious damage despite the asymmetry. From this point
of view, the strike against the head of the Hamas military wing and the
neutralization of its strategic arsenals is an important intelligence and
operational achievement. Israel needs to identify additional arsenals,
primarily the elements of power of the military wing of Hamas, for the sake
of a wide-scale attack with a significant systemic effect.

4. The range of military tools available to Israel in relation to the
goals of the operation

Israel seemingly has two levels of action: the low level Ė aerial attacks
with the limited goal of restoring deterrence, and the high level Ė a ground
invasion whose goal is to conquer Gaza and topple the Hamas government. This
is a simplistic approach that does not allow a larger range of targets to be
defined for the operation or greater flexibility for the political and
military echelon.

In fact, Israel has at least two aerial levels of action and two ground
levels of action. During Pillar of Defense, only the first level, a limited
surgical aerial attack, was chosen.
Undoubtedly, the ghost of the Goldstone report was hovering in the rooms
where the list of targets was approved. The Israeli Air Force can actually
carry out in one day the number of attacks it carried out in one week in
Gaza. A more wide-scale and higher-volume attack on a larger number of
valuable targets could create a more significant deterrent effect. Care
would of course be taken to act in accordance with international law and the
appropriate ethical guidelines. The fact that Hamas is also the government
in Gaza and that it can be regarded as a state entity makes it possible to
define many more sites as legitimate targets of attack.

There are also at least two levels of a ground maneuver. The first level is
a maneuver in open areas and the subdivision of the Gaza Strip through a
number of ground efforts aimed at establishing blockades against smuggling,
reducing the scope of rocket fire, generating friction with the military
wing, and creating a bargaining chip for an arrangement at the end of the
operation. The second level Ė toppling Hamas Ė requires conquering the
entire Gaza Strip and destroying the terrorist infrastructure in the same
manner as occurred in Operation Defensive Shield in Judea and Samaria
(2002). Clearly there is a direct connection between the price paid in
opting for a higher level of operation and the attempt to achieve more
significant goals. The transition from the goal of restored deterrence to
that of a new arrangement or defeat of the adversary requires that
additional resources be invested, and it is fraught with risks to the forces
who undertake the maneuvers as well as risks of escalation with Egypt and
the Arab world and the loss of international legitimacy.

The art of war entails employing the correct combination and timing of
firepower and maneuvers, thereby throwing the enemy off balance and
achieving the goals of the campaign at a low cost. The most important
question on this issue is the following: Did Pillar of Defense employ the
correct combination of firepower and maneuvers, and were the timing and
scope of the military moves sufficiently innovative and surprising, such
that we can determine accordingly how to prepare for the next round in a
manner that makes better use of the range of Israelís military,
intelligence, and political tools in order to achieve its goals?

5. The rocket threat to Gush Dan: What is the significance of attacking
Tel Aviv?

In Operation Pillar of Defense, for the first time in history, rockets were
fired from Gaza at Gush Dan. This was not a surprise: as far back as 2010,
the head of Military Intelligence reported to the Knesset Foreign Affairs
and Defense Committee that Hamas had rockets that could reach Tel Aviv. The
residents of Gush Dan learned the meaning of a 90-second warning before the
rockets fell, and they reacted in a satisfactory manner. Nevertheless,
heavier salvos in the future would paralyze the city economically and
perhaps cause its evacuation. In this operation, the enemy did not pay any
special price for firing at Tel Aviv. The possibility of defining rocket
attacks on Gush Dan as a red line should be discussed.

That said, it is important to react with the requisite degree of proportion
to Hamasís claim that the attack on Tel Aviv was ďhistoric.Ē Suicide
terrorists caused death and destruction in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv to a much
greater degree than the rockets that did not even reach Tel Aviv.

6. The Iron Dome system: How not to become intoxicated by success

The concept of anti-rocket and anti-missile defense embodied in the
development and operational deployment of Iron Dome batteries is a first-
time and unique strategic achievement. A great deal has been written, and
justifiably so, on the success of Iron Dome in preventing damage to the home
front, enabling it and the military to function under fire and providing the
political echelon with strategic flexibility, room for decisions, and more
time. However, it is precisely as a result of this success that it is
important to examine the cost-benefit ratio of the various components of
this security concept and particularly offense versus defense, as well as
the overall effectiveness of the system against high-trajectory precision
weapons (against which we cannot afford an interception rate of less than 80
percent when directed at strategic targets) and the potential of this system
to cultivate a tendency to avoid decisions about winning the battle.

7. Point of departure: What should have been the point of departure?

It is necessary to examine in retrospect when it would have been appropriate
to end the armed conflict. The first question that must be asked is whether
it was even appropriate to stop without a sufficient lever for an agreement
and without hitting Hamas hard, dealing it a blow that would at least ensure
that deterrence had been achieved. Both the political and the military
echelons, especially the former, must investigate this issue. Even if it was
correct not to escalate the aerial assault and not to carry out a ground
invasion because of US pressure and weighty considerations vis-ŗ-vis Egypt,
it is important to examine the timing of the cessation of hostilities. If it
had been decided in advance not to launch a ground invasion, would it not
have been appropriate to end the operation after 48 hours and to leverage
the Egyptian Prime Ministerís visit to Gaza in favor of a unilateral
ceasefire? There is always tension between the desire to continue the
operation in order to enhance the military success and create conditions
favorable to bargaining for a post-operation settlement on the one hand, and
the fear of entanglement, loss of life, harm to non-combatants, and regional
escalation, on the other hand. In operations in which there are significant
achievements during the initial aerial assaults (striking senior officials,
destroying strategic arsenals), there is a great deal of logic to ending the
operation early, especially if it is clear that international conditions do
not allow for expanding the operation to a ground invasion. The advantages
and disadvantages of every point of departure must be analyzed and compared,
and conclusions must be drawn that will enable planners to formulate the
manner of departure in the next round at the point that is most appropriate
from Israelís perspective.

8. The regional environment: Another limited operation that
successfully contained the battle to one theater

Since the end of the Yom Kippur War, the State of Israel has succeeded in
containing the conflicts it initiated within one theater. This is a
significant strategic achievement, but it should by no means be taken for
granted. Strategic interests, proper communications with neighboring
countries, limited operations, and strong deterrence of terrorist
organizations like Hizbollah have given the IDF the freedom to operate on
one front. It would be appropriate to delve deeply into the circumstances
that made this possible, and before and during each such event to ensure
that there is an accurate assessment of the potential for expansion and
escalation and that Israel is prepared for this potential in terms of its
deployment and ability to modify the goals of the war.

9. Egypt: The ceasefire agreement and containment of potential conflict

Egypt emerged as a main ďwinnerĒ of the operation and proved its ability to
serve as an effective mediator between Israel and Hamas. It would appear
that the negotiations in Egypt were tilted in favor of Hamas. The first
drafts presented by Egypt were unacceptable from Israelís point of view, and
even the final document has elements that are disadvantageous for Israel.
This is a major topic for investigation by the political echelon.
Cooperation with Egyptian security agencies once again proved to be a
prominent and crucial factor behind the positive discussions and the
reduction in the risk of escalation. However, it appears that Israel has
missed the opportunity for direct dialogue with political figures in the
government who are not in the security and intelligence services to
establish a political relationship with the new regime in Egypt, headed by
President Morsi. It is important to share Israelís considerations, concerns,
limitations, and red lines with Egypt even before the next round of
hostilities, in order to postpone it and to create an effective mechanism
for ending the hostilities if they erupt.

10. Abu Mazen: How did the armed conflict affect the balance of power
between Fatah and Hamas within the Palestinian arena?

The chairman of the Palestinian Authority was the main loser in the latest
round of hostilities in the south. He was unable to promote Palestinian
interests through his policy, whereas Hamas achieved a degree of success as
a result of the policy of violent resistance that it promotes. However, it
would appear that his being sidelined generated a strong desire among the
international community to help him by voting in favor of a Palestinian
state in the UN General Assembly. It is necessary to understand how the
latest round of hostilities and its results will affect future elections in
the Palestinian Authority and the chance for internal Palestinian

11. Israel-US relations: Identifying the limitations of US support

The United States has been an important factor in international support for
Israelís defense of its citizens and recognition of the legitimacy of Israelís
actions. The US has also contributed to strengthening Israelís ties with
Egypt. It is important to examine the extent to which the US curtailed
Israelís freedom of action during the operation (the time and the scope of
the operation), or alternatively, the extent to which it allowed Israel
freedom of action. The US probably played a key role in preventing a ground
invasion. In addition, the contribution of Secretary of State Hillary
Clintonís visit to achieving the agreement for cessation of hostilities
should be analyzed. These factors were very important in the recent round of
hostilities, and they can be expected to be important in the next round as
well. If the right insights are not drawn from an investigation of the
event, the advantages of the important strategic relationship with this
superpower will not be maximized.

12. The limitations of the use of force in light of the Goldstone report In
the current round of hostilities, the IDF acted with extreme caution
stemming from a basic desire to minimize the harm to non-combatants. It
appears that this goal was achieved and that the scope of damage inflicted
on terrorists from Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Resistance
Committees was much greater than the harm to non-combatants. However, it is
important to understand what price Israel paid for this policy: Did ethical
and legal constraints excessively impair IDF operations and undermine
achievement of the military goals? Was Operation Pillar of Defense conducted
properly from the legal point of view? It is worth investigating and
examining the costs and benefits of such a policy in preparation for
comparable outbreaks of fighting in the future.

In Sum

For now, a state of calm exists in the south, and deterrence has apparently
been restored, although its strength and duration can only be measured in
retrospect. If indeed discussions on the provisions of an agreement (which
were supposed to begin 24 hours after the ceasefire) are underway, they are
being conducted far from the public view. Most of the agreementís clauses
are problematic for Israel, and in the future it will be important to
ascertain whether it is, as the Defense Minister claimed, ďan unsigned and
worthless documentĒ or whether it is a document that constitutes a political
achievement for Hamas, with the potential to undermine stability in the
future (because of conflicts over buffer zones, the alleged siege, and
smuggling), challenge Israelís legitimacy, and limit Israelís freedom of

It is important to remember that the battle in Gaza did not take place in a
vacuum. The military success of Israel on the one hand, and the political
success of Hamas on the other, rendered Abu Mazen the main loser in the
operation, but also helped him recruit an overwhelming majority to upgrade
the Palestinian Authorityís political status in the UN.

Looking to the future, it seems that the most important parameter for
determining the timing of the next round of hostilities is the military
buildup of Hamas and the other organizations.

When will the terrorist organizations in Gaza have sufficient
self-confidence based on their restored strategic arsenals to allow them to
engage in a military conflict with Israel?

From Israelís point of view, the dilemma will remain: Should Israel act
against the buildup by Hamas and Islamic Jihad while it is taking place, or
accept it and take care of it only during the next conflict?

A thorough investigation of the twelve parameters listed in this article and
implementation of the lessons learned from the investigation can ensure
better preparedness by the IDF and the State of Israel for the next
conflict, including its political, military, and legal aspects.

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