First, Shana Tova to everyone, including readers who might feel that my thoughts are either naïve or represent ideas contrary to a conservative Likud outlook on Israeli security. Rosh Hashanah is about new beginnings, and while it has meant “Next year in Jerusalem” for Jews around the world, the reality of perpetual wars with Hamas or Hezbollah have turned this cherished phrase into something different. Next year could be another war in Gaza if Hamas launches rockets (they never stopped and continued until the cease fire) or a conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon, or continued tensions with Iran. Iran, by the way, is most likely still building a nuclear weapon, Hezbollah is still entrenched in Lebanon, and in all likelihood Hamas is building another tunnel someplace in Gaza in order to smuggle in more rockets. Military power has its limits and while Israel wins every engagement with its various enemies, it hasn’t “destroyed” them or the threats they pose.
There following is a way in which Israel can leverage its current position of military, economic, and political power over Hamas and others. Military might costs lives, money, and international support, therefore a more proactive strategy involving peace should be addressed this year. Instead of being inclined to simply expect a war every three or four years, in hopes that the Palestinians or the world in general will simply forget about the conflict, it’s better for Israel’s long term security to preemptively begin a new path towards peace.
Israel simply doesn’t have the economy to sustain never-ending war. A recent Haaretz article titled IDF’s Hezbollah warning may not be spin maneuver highlights both the human and financial costs of wars, as well as the fact that Israel isn’t always full prepared for every and all wars:
The IDF says the summer’s war in Gaza cost 8.6 billion shekels ($2.4 billion), almost as much as the Second Lebanon War of 2006 fought against Hezbollah, a much stronger organization than Hamas.
The treasury estimates the cost of the Gaza war at 6.2 billion shekels (the dispute is primarily over which budgetary line items should be considered direct costs of the war, rather than how much each item actually cost).
But it’s hard to avoid the impression that the defense establishment is asking the state to take out its pen and sign a check quickly. And Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has already said “many billions” more will be needed for defense, before the fighting in Gaza has even been investigated.
As I’ve written several times before, the Gaza war did reveal some serious gaps in the IDF’s preparedness in everything connected with fighting terrorist or guerrilla organizations, especially among the ground forces. There were problems with training, a lack of suitable equipment and flaws in operational plans.
At the same time, the army expended enormous quantities of ammunition in both air and artillery strikes. This is the IDF’s standard practice during wartime. First, it thinks that, given the urgency and risks, almost all means are legitimate. Second, it thinks there will always be someone to pick up the tab for replenishing its arsenal once the emergency ends.
Yet if this is what the army spent on a limited war against Hamas, in which it refrained from penetrating deep into Gaza’s urban areas, one can only imagine what another war against Hezbollah would cost. These are costs the Israeli economy will have trouble bearing over time.
Whereas I love Israel just as much as the “Stand With” people who would never dare question anything, or rarely if ever wonder how costly and debilitating wars are to an economy and society, I’ve been accused of being naive or worse because of my view that never-ending wars are unsustainable Those 8.6 billion spent on bombing Hamas this year could have been double or triple if the fight was against Hezbollah. Furthermore, not only did Hamas chip away at U.S. support, but the terrorists continued to launch rockets until the very end. Most importantly, 73 IDF soldiers died in the latest Gaza war and a far greater number of soldiers were wounded. This death toll, and the numbers of wounded could be far more with other adversaries, as stated in the Haaretz article.
Therefore, a new path to security should be pursued before the next war. Contrary to all the people who believe the current PM is a staunch adversary against all terrorists, Netanyahu once shook hands with this guy, and once stated, “the Palestinians must understand that they have in our government a partner for peace, security and economic development of the Palestinian economy.” Although wars and bloodshed have taken place since the following words in 1997, Benjamin Netanyahu at one point in history spoke of peace with the Palestinians, with Syria, and worked towards a road map for sustained security. Here are his words in a 1997 CNN interview:
“We have fashioned an agreement that says that the key to continuing the negotiations for peace is reciprocity,” he said. “For the first time since the Oslo accords, we actually have the idea that these mutual undertakings have to be done mutually.”
…Netanyahu applauded Arafat’s conciliatory words to Jewish settlers who remain in Hebron and suggested settlers and Palestinians hold meetings that would help establish a peaceful co-existence.
Netanyahu also said he hoped to resume peace talks with Syria, but he indicated Israel would not change its stance on the disputed Golan Heights. “We view the Golan as a territory of critical importance to our security. Syria thinks otherwise.”
Netanyahu also urged the United States to continue its role in facilitating Middle East peace negotiations.
“There is a larger reality here. Our part of the world is still not tranquil, is still unstable, is still one that requires a major effort to produce peace,” he said.
In this article, Netanyahu sounds like a left wing, “anti-Israel” and naïve advocate of talks with Syria, applauding “Arafat’s conciliatory words,” requesting the “United States to continue its role in facilitating Middle East peace negotiations,” and for (his words now, not some left-winger) “continuing the negotiations for peace.” If Netanyahu in 1997 can say all these things, after the 1967, 1973, and 1982 wars against enemies that all posed greater threats to Israel than Hamas, he can do so today.
When a peace process is once again commenced, with Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni, or Yair Lapid, or any future PM, the enemies of Israel will have to sit back and wait for another time to cause havoc. Hamas didn’t launch rockets while Kerry was in Israel. Also, whereas Ms. Livni was appalled by Abbas’s recent UN speech, she doesn’t believe the peace process is “dead” and states the following in a recent NPR interview:
“I don’t want to use that word because I believe that peace is the interest of Israel and the Palestinians, and therefore I am trying to revive it each and every day.”
“Both sides need this peace, but this is also an American interest. And by supporting peace, it’s not being pro-Israeli against Palestinian or pro-Palestinian against Israel. It’s being pro-peace, and I believe that the United States shouldn’t give up the peace process or peas just because of what we see now.”
Therefore, another round of talks, with Secretary of State Kerry next year or sooner, should commence before the next Hamas rocket, or Hezbollah kidnapping, or any other potentially destabilizing event.
Instead of trying to equate ISIS with Hamas and ignoring the sentiment of many Americans who have had enough of war, as stated in my latest Jerusalem Post article, Israel should act preemptively with peace as a weapon. All of Israel’s enemies will be deterred from their inevitable goals of luring Israel into another war, or conflict, if an ongoing dialogue brokered by the U.S., and aimed at a lasting peace, is engaged and pursued. Even with the recent war looming in the minds of everyone, Netanyahu should embark on a proactive plan at a negotiated peace, with concessions that also address security issues. The huge chasm that exists between Israeli and Palestinian leaders should be lessened by the reality that every year without peace, Hamas, Hezbollah, and others can plan an attack that provokes Israel into war. Even if a permanent peace can’t immediately be achieved, the words of Yossi Beilin should be addressed by all sides in this New Year:
Only an interim or gradual agreement will work. Such an accord, which means the establishment of a Palestinian state immediately within a bigger area than the Palestinian Authority today, and a timetable for reaching a full peace agreement, may be the only feasible solution at the moment.