Prime Minister Netanyahu is taking pride in the fact that Israel did not go to war during his term. He attributes this success to the deterring resolve Israel has displayed under his leadership. However, we will be able to back up his claim only after we ask: What is war? If the entry of armed forces into enemy territory is the only act that can be defined as war, then Bibi is right. But if war is also constant aerial attacks and tank fire from our territory into theirs – then Netanyahu is misleading the public.
During his term hundreds of rockets have been fired at us; factories and schools have been shut down; soldiers and civilians have been killed and injured, and Israel responded with numerous attacks in Gaza and in far away places. How can we define this state of affairs? Maybe we can call it a "series of incidents" or a "low-intensity war."
Last week Netanyahu toured the Gaza-vicinity communities and promised that the next government, if he heads it, would fortify thousands of structures in Israeli communities located just a few kilometers from the Gaza border. If Netanyahu's promise is sincere, it means that he does not believe in his ability to "tame" the enemy. What will the PM do? He will continue maintaining an armed struggle that is not war. The price of this concept will continuously rise, because Hamas and the rebellious Palestinian organizations are increasing the range of their rockets.
Netanyahu's strategy is the exact opposite of Olmert's strategy. The previous prime minister has been criticized for his rash decision to go to war over a provocation that did not warrant such a sweeping measure, but I believe Olmert was right from a strategic perspective, though, from a tactical standpoint, he erred. These tactical errors cost the lives of many soldiers, but since the Second Lebanon War Hezbollah has not provoked Israel even once. What situation we would be in now had Olmert adopted Netanyahu's restraint strategy? Think of it this way: If you knew that it was possible to shatter the Gazan savages' will to fight for the same price we paid to break the Lebanese savages' will to fight, would you not support such a move?
It is hard to reply to such a question, because no one can guarantee that a war which yielded good results on one front would yield similar results on another front. Let me remind you that Operation Cast Lead deterred the Palestinian terrorists in Gaza for only a short period of time. Is this because we did not complete the mission, or because there is no force in the world that is capable of imposing its will on Hamas and the rest of the terror groups in Gaza? My assumption is that force may not deter, but massive force will. We even managed to empty out the stockpile of suicide bombers during the second intifada. It turns out that the power of seduction of the 70 virgins who are waiting for the shahid in heaven is limited.
I have a theory on the difference between Olmert and Netanyahu when it comes to large-scale war. Olmert is in favor of returning to clear borders that define our national territory, while Netayahu has no boundaries. He wants Israel to grab whatever it can. He who favors clear borders grasps the geopolitical reality as all other nations do: There is my land, and there is my neighbor's land, and my neighbor will pay a heavy price if he desecrates my land. On the other hand, he whose borders are blurry will have a hard time deciding when the time has come to break the attacker's neck.