In the past 30 years, three parameters have been determining the IDF’s success or failure rate in military confrontations: The level of deterrence achieved and the extent to which the enemy was weakened militarily as result of fatalities and damage to its military and terrorist infrastructure; the casualties and damages suffered by Israel, including property damage and moral blows sustained by the home front; and the diplomatic and PR damage suffered by Israel in the regional and global theater.
In the recent round of escalation on the southern front, we can say that the IDF scored achievements in two of the three above parameters. Israel ended the latest round of fighting with relatively few casualties and minimal damage to our home front. We also did not stir any unusual reaction in the regional and international arenas.
This makes us feel good, of course. However, it appears that the contribution of the latest round to the overall deterrence vis-à-vis terror groups in the Gaza Strip was not significant. This was attested to by the fire that continued even after all the major Gaza groups announced that they accept the ceasefire.
Will ground op make a difference?Rogue Gaza Strip factions have an agenda aimed at producing flare-ups, and Hamas does not have the ability or sufficient determination to enforce its authority on them. Hence, it is doubtful whether the blows sustained by Islamic Jihad and the Popular Resistance Committees, as well as the suffering of the Gaza population, will prevent another round of escalation in the Strip within a few months or even weeks.
What’s even more disturbing is the reasonable assessment that even if the IDF embarks on a ground operation in Gaza, we cannot be certain that the outcome would be a substantive, long-term lull after our forces leave the Strip. What wasn’t achieved in Operation Cast Lead would be even more difficult to achieve in the current regional and international state of affairs.
It is even possible that several rounds of escalation that would follow each other and end with similar results as the latest round would secure stronger deterrence in the long run than a one-time, major ground incursion.
What is certain is that the combination of high-quality intelligence information with offensive means that fire accurately and Iron Dome batteries that minimize home front damage presents Israel with unutilized potential to ultimately defeat the Grad and Fajr missiles.