Part 2 of series by Ron Ben-Yishai
An examination of the words uttered and written by the leaders of Iran, Hizbullah, Hamas, and even Syria, easily reveals their aspirations. The Muqauma (resistance) strategy has a clear and defined long-term objective – bring about Israel's end as a sovereign Jewish entity – as well as two intermediate objectives.
The first midterm goal is to make Israeli society crumble on the inside, in a bid to prompt Jews to emigrate and undermine their motivation to defend themselves, to the point where one military blow (either nuclear or conventional) would suffice to achieve the final objective. The second midterm goal is to gradually minimize Israel's territory, in a manner that would turn our population into a convenient and concentrated target for mortar shells, rockets, missiles, and terror attack, while making it difficult for the IDF to offer protection. This territorial objective also has a religious aspect: Liberating every centimeter of Palestinian land, which in their view belongs to Muslims.
In the face of this well-formulated and clear strategy, which is prompting the buildup of appropriate military capabilities, the State of Israel is in a fundamentally inferior position. Why? Because we do not have an agreed upon national strategy that would enable us to derive diplomatic and military midterm goals as well as IDF buildup and operational methods. Therefore, the operations and wars we embark on because we're forced to, or on our own initiative, just like peace negotiations, are to a large extent being managed in line with the preferences, qualifications, and caprices of the politicians and top army officials who happen to lead the country at the time (as well as with those of top US Administration officials.)
There are quite a few examples of this: The Six-Day War, whose objectives and results were determined by IDF major generals as well as brigade and regiment commanders on the ground; the first Lebanon War, which was a war of choice that facilitated Hizbullah's establishment; the settlement boom in the territories and in the Gaza Strip in the 1970s and 1980s, which prompted a demographic threat and social schism in the State of Israel; and the hasty unilateral withdrawal from the South Lebanon Security Zone and the Gaza Strip, which gave the Muqauma a boost and motivation, because they were perceived as a surrender to the pressures exerted by guerilla and terror. Not to mention the Second Lebanon War, which only featured tactical objectives – and they too were unfeasible.
In some respects, the situation toady is even worse, because the government and its diplomatic and security conduct are zigzagging among three different strategic doctrines. This wastes precious resources and time and produces an image of confusion and befuddlement, which encourages the enemy and despairs our friends and potential friends in the Arab world.
The 3 doctrinesThe Olmert Doctrine aims to secure permanent borders for the State of Israel and remove Syria and the Fatah-led Palestinian Authority from the "axis of evil," via peace treaties and territorial concessions. The outgoing prime minister aims to end Hamas' Gaza regime – via a large-scale military move – and bring back Mahmoud Abbas' control under the auspices of an international or Arab force. As to Iran, Olmert backs a preemptive effort to thwart any nuclear threat against Israel. Should the sanctions fail, we should not shy away from a preventative strike, once it turns out that Tehran will be acquiring military nuclear capabilities within a short period of time.
The Barak Doctrine also aims to finalize Israel's northern border, neutralize the Syrian threat, and disconnect Damascus from Hizbullah via negotiations and an agreement on the Golan that is acceptable to Israel – more or less in line with the position presented in the Shepherdstown Talks. As to the Palestinians, Barak believes that eventually we should reach a final-status agreement in line with the Clinton outline finalized in Camp David in 2000. Yet not now. Under the current circumstances, we should continue to "manage the conflict," in the aim of preventing a Hamas takeover in the West Bank and yet another Intifada. In Barak's view, only once it becomes clear who the master is in the Palestinian territories – Hamas or Fatah – we shall engage in talks with it on a final-status agreement or a temporary ceasefire to last dozens of years.
Barak's security doctrine dominant (Photo: Ariel Hermoni, Defense Ministry)
On the Iranian front, Barak believes that we should prepare various strike options, but refrain from utilizing them as long as there is no concrete and substantial threat. His objective at this time in building up the military options (for a preventative strike, pre-emptive strike, and proper response in case we are attacked) is to deter Iran from producing a nuclear bomb and press the international community to impose meaningful sanctions against it. Yet Barak is preparing deterrence and defense capabilities to the longer run, in the face of the possibility that Tehran will acquire the bomb and Israel will be forced to live in the shadow of this threat.
Then there's the Livni Doctrine, which isn't completely clear. It is apparently a combination of the two other doctrines. For example, Livni (influenced by her friend Condoleezza Rice) believes that Israel can exist and prosper even if Iran possesses nuclear weapons. These three doctrines have a common denominator: The aspiration to maintain a solid Jewish majority in the State of Israel and maintain America's unqualified support for Israel's security. Should elections be held and the Likud form the next government, we shall have to adjust to a fourth strategic doctrine, which will apparently be essentially different than the three doctrines which the current coalition zigzags amongst.
Yet while Olmert was the one to set the tone on the diplomatic front, Barak's doctrine is dominant in the security arena. This doctrine, which was formulated along with Chief of Staff Ashkenazi, is similar to the classic Ben-Gurion doctrine, with changes and modifications to the conditions faced by the IDF today. We should keep in mind that today's enemy is not regular armies that aspire to physically conquer Israel, as was the case until the Yom Kippur War; Israeli society and its values have changed, and globalization has granted the economy, media, and international institutions power and influence that can turn a military campaign from victory to defeat and vice versa.
Still, the security doctrine endorsed by Barak and Ashkenazi is more or less identical to the principles formulated by David Ben-Gurion – what's different today is the implementation of this doctrine, that is, the IDF's operational doctrine.
Part 3 of series by Ron Ben-Yishai to be published Friday