Why surrendering in Gaza on Nasrallah’s terms will lead to war with Lebanon

Opinion: A total victory in Gaza is not an empty slogan, but the only way to ensure that October 7 will never be repeated and lead to real peace in the Middle East
Brig. Gen. Amir Avivi |
As our soldiers are fighting in Gaza and girding up to fight on the Lebanese border, we as leading voices in the Israeli security milieu and reserve officers bear a special responsibility. Our utmost duty, above correctly reading the map and diagnosing the trends around us, is to acknowledge how the system was underprepared for October 7, and how achieving total victory in Gaza will best serve Israel’s security interests not just in the Gaza Strip but vis-à-vis Lebanon and the region. Describing “total victory” as an empty slogan, as Major General Giora Eiland did on this site, could not be further from the truth. Therefore, the worse thing we could possibly do is to politicize what the vast majority of Israelis view as absolutely indispensable.
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Some voices in that milieu, including that of Major General Giora Eiland, whom I greatly respect, call on Israel to give up on such nonsensical notions as finishing the job in the Gaza Strip, by not taking over Rafah and the Philadelphi Route. In so doing, they say, Israel will not only finish the war in Gaza as quickly as possible, but also avoid an unnecessary war in Lebanon. How can they tell? Well, based on statements by world leaders, and by Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
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 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
 Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
(Photo: AFP)
One of the most important lessons we learned after October 7, which I also described a year ago in my book “Heros of Our Own Story” (or “We Will Not Go Back” in Hebrew) was that Israel must never place its security in the hands of others. Nor should it ever submit to irrelevant pressure by elements who only aspire to promote their own interests at the expense of Israel’s vital security needs.
The IDF is currently progressing in Khan Younis and bracing for a critical phase in the war - the battle for Rafah that Eiland and others call to essentially give up, to go back to pre-October 7, and to dance to the tune of international trends, war fatigue, and the continuously failing strategy of appeasement. This is precisely what would lead us to ensure the next October 7 and have IDF soldiers’ blood spilled in vain. Israel knows how to push back on that pressure, and it should not guide keeping Israel’s vital security needs.
Yet even by examining US President Joe Biden’s statements it seems clear to him, too, that it is indispensable to finish the job. The US shifted from officially warning Israel against an operation in Rafah to simply stress how “a military operation should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the civilians in Rafah." That is basically the Israeli position. The IDF already offered plans to construct vast “tent cities” north to Rafah to ensure a safe passage and refuge place for civilians.
Yet the other part of that logic makes even less sense. Judging by statements made by the arch-terrorist Hezbollah’s Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, it is tempting to believe that all Israel needs to do in order to avoid war with Lebanon is to retreat in Gaza, and let Hamas off the hook. In his speeches, Nasrallah threatens that the war in the north “will not stop until Israeli aggression in Gaza stops.”
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IDF forces operate in Gaza
(Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
Yet why should Israel submit to menacing statements by Nasrallah, and why should we believe him? An oversimplified calculation that Nasrallah’s terms are clear, and so that makes the path to calm clear, is simply nonsensical. Nasrallah’s whole philosophy is based on the armed struggle. Without it, Lebanese would notice more boldly his organization’s destruction of what used to be the Middle East’s cedar heaven. Hezbollah would lose its reason to exist.
We also know it’s false because we can examine the pre-October 7 situation in the north. In our Israel Defense And Security Forum Research Department’s study, “Hezbollah: On the Brink of Eruption?” dated August 2023, we elaborate on hundreds of incidents along the Lebanon border just since early 2023, including ripping down security cameras, confronting soldiers, shooting attacks, launching 34 rockets at Israel on Passover, the Meggido suicide attack, and constructing military tents on Israeli territory. Should Israel go back to this level of conflict with Hezbollah?
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בניין הרוס ב א-נבטיה
בניין הרוס ב א-נבטיה
Aftermath of an Israeli strike on Nabatieh in S. Lebanon (
(Photo: Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
This precise attitude of defeatism led Israeli leaders to conclude the disastrous Gas Accord with Lebanon in October 2022. Against any common sense, Nasrallah’s “clear terms," then and now, led Israel to surrender a maritime territory larger than the Tel Aviv district simply to avoid war and “buy silence” for the following months. What we got is an unmatched domestic achievement for Nasrallah in Lebanon, and the very opposite of silence. Those same security voices that cheered on that agreement, inverse to what my colleagues and I viewed as quintessential to Israel’s security: a clear message that nobody should test our resilience to fight.
Surrendering to the terms of Nasrallah and Hamas in Gaza by retreating will serve our enemies well and push the notion of peace with Saudi Arabia further away than ever before. Our enemies understand assertiveness, not defeatism. Israel must finish the job in Gaza by annihilating all of Hamas’ remaining brigades, then ensure the IDF’s eternal freedom of operation in the Gaza Strip. No one will do that for us.
The objective of total victory in Gaza does not belong to any government or party; we hear it from combatants, commanders, evacuees, families of victims and hostages. And we know how vital it is given the humiliating failure of the Israeli containment strategy for decades around our borders. Now as our soldiers show immense bravery in the battlefield, they show the opposite of that defeatist attitude that calls to trust Israel’s security in the hands of others. Our security can only be trusted in our own hands.
Brig. Gen. Amir Avivi is the chairman and founder of Israel Defense And Security Forum - Habithonistim
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