Photo: Emil Salman
PM Netanyahu and IDF chief Gantz. 'The hesitant leaders are better than those rejoicing over war'
Photo: Emil Salman
Eitan Haber

In praise of restrained leadership

Op-ed: Israel needs leaders who match the spirit of the era, who understand that there isn't one war which ends all wars.

Bleary-eyed from sleepless nights and with aching muscles from running quickly into secured spaces, about a million residents in southern Israel and millions more across the country are asking themselves: Well, how will it end?



Everyone is expecting good news, salvation and comfort, but deep down they know that Operation Protective Edge will be followed one day, if not tomorrow than the day after tomorrow, by Protective Edge 2, Protective Edge 3, and so on and so forth.


Do the readers remember when Operation Pillar of Defense took place in Gaza? Five years ago? Ten years ago? No, it was in November 2012, less than two years ago. And Operation Cast Lead? Generations ago? Well, Cast Lead took place in February 2008. At the time we also "crushed the terror infrastructures." At the time we also went out to "target the Hamas rule."


In Pillar of Defense we attacked 1,500 terror targets, and in Cast Lead the Palestinians claimed that 1,200 people had been killed. In between, we killed wanted terrorists in successful targeted assassinations, unearthed tunnels, destroyed "terror infrastructures," and these days were back to square one. Code Red sirens are sounding again, Air Force planes are flying over Gaza's skies again, and we are again praying for the IDF's soldiers. Return home safely.


I assume, without having any organized information, that the political and military echelons' hesitations before Operation Protective Edge stemmed and stemmed and stem from the abovementioned reasons. The prime minister, the defense minister and the chief of staff know that even if the IDF deals Hamas a serious blow, in one or two years they or their successors will be asked to instruct the forces to enter the Gaza Strip once against in order to "crush the terror infrastructures" and "target the Hamas rule," or any other organization which will rise to power until then. And so on and so forth.


On this background only, the decision makers should be praised when they torment themselves before running into a battle. Unlike leaders in the past, including those who had rich military experience, they ponder, examine, check and hesitate.


From past experience, and mainly from the experience of others in Israel's wars, they know that the hesitant leaders are better than those who rack their brains rejoicing over war and against the wall. Because the rejoicing is followed by tears and profound questions.


Even today, there are senior political and military officials in Israel (mostly retired) who still live the memory of the seventh day of the Six-Day War. The military victory was so big at the time that senior IDF commanders parking on the banks of the Suez Canal couldn't understand and believe their eyes: A week or two after the humiliating defeat in that war, the defeated Egyptian army opened a heavy bombardment on IDF soldiers and killed them. How is it possible? They asked, surprised. And until they came to their senses, the IDF paid with a lot of blood.


This is the source of the calls voiced by different officials – to destroy, to exterminate, to shatter, to ruin, to recapture the Gaza Strip and crush the terror infrastructures. But what will happen on the day after?


In the 21st century, the political and security-related picture has completely changed. We live in an island surrounded by a hostile ocean which wishes to destroy us, that "villa in the jungle" Ehud Barak once referred to.


We need leaders here who match the spirit of the era. Leaders who understand that there isn't one war which ends all wars. Leaders who know that in most cases today there is no knockout in the results of a war.


We may be longing for the results of the Six-Day War, but such a war will not repeat itself. Greater armies than the IDF are ending wars around the word these days with question marks. It seems that there are no longer exclamation marks at the end of a war. That's the situation, even if we wish to deny it.


So what's the solution? The bitter knowledge that a military solution is unlikely and that the days of "once and for all" are over.


Will the solution be diplomatic? Perhaps. With Egypt and Jordan it has succeeded so far. With the Palestinians? There's always hope. But it's good that the IDF is holding both its hands up in the sky somewhere.


פרסום ראשון: 07.11.14, 09:13
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