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Barak Hullman
Former Islamic History Scholar, Storyteller, Author and Podcaster. Every Question Deserves an Answer.

Major General (res.) Brik: Don’t Enter Gaza Now

General (res.) Yitzhak Brik speaking on Channel 14 (YouTube screenshot; used in accordance with Clause 27a)

Major General (res.) Yitzhak Brik served for 10 years as the Commissioner of the Israeli Military Ombudsman. His job was to examine the IDF’s preparedness for war. He predicted this war. He shouted from the rooftops. He had meetings with Netanyahu, the Chiefs of Staff and all of the upper echelons of the government. They ignored him. He had media exposure including a weekly column in Haaretz and interviewed weekly on Channel 14 TV. There’s an interview on YouTube from just two months before the massacre where General Brik talks about how the IDF is not ready and lays out in detail what will happen (and what did). He’s since been named “The Prophet of Wrath.”

As a service to my fellow English speakers who might not have the level of Hebrew to understand this very important interview, I’m providing this free translation below. What he says below could possibly save the lives of thousands of IDF soldiers. It’s important that people hear his message in English and share it.

Yinon Magal: Who’s responsible for what happened?

General Brik: Everyone is responsible, the politicians, the security establishment, the IDF.

YM: Is Netanyahu responsible?

GB: I think everyone is responsible. We’re all taking responsibility and that’s good. We’ll all also have to pay the price for this afterwards. There are those who will pay after the war and those that need to quit right now.

YM: To quit? What you’re saying is the Southern Command General and the head of Military Intelligence need to quit? Now? Before we go to war? Before this is over?

GB: Listen, when you’re facing a war over the existence of the state of Israel, and these two people were personally involved in this huge screw up, not just that the Military Intelligence didn’t know that there was going to be a war that Hamas has been preparing for years, using thousands of people and that there are warning signs, and that they’ve been doing exercises across from the fence [separating Israel and Gaza], and they know that a war could breakout, just like the Egyptians did in the Yom Kippur, coming close to the Suez Canal, again and again, and then the last time actually crossing it and we were at war. 

Hamas played the same game with us. We got used to it being an exercise. The reports reached the Head of Military Intelligence who was on vacation in Eilat, and also the Southern Command General. The advisors of the Southern Command General tell him, “drop it, it’s just an exercise. We’re familiar with it.” And instead of taking the battalions and the companies that he has under his control, putting them in their posts, he decides to gamble. Even if it’s just a 1% chance of war and 99% chance that these are just exercises, you still have to station the soldiers. What will it cost you? Get out of bed and get to your posts.

Then there’s a second warning and the head of Military Intelligence says, “it’ll be fine. Nothing to worry about.” Conceptia. “Hamas is deterred. They’re deterred.” So the facts don’t matter. 

The same thing with the Southern Command. Wake your people up right now. They’re already in place on the fence. Nothing. “Tomorrow we’ll meet at 8 am and we’ll discuss.” 

But there’s something else, that even when there are no warnings, you have to do it. You have to be ready at all times. That they also didn’t do. That means that everyone is sleeping. The IDF believes in the Conceptia that there’s no reason to get up early in the morning, to stand at their posts, even if it’s against orders, because…they’re “deterred.”

And we’re in the worst situation we’ve been in years. They killed our soldiers in their beds! 70 Golani soldiers were killed, the girls in the lookout posts…What happened to us? How can a person who clearly sees the situation, continue to lead a war that will take months?

You have to understand that there is tons of weight on their shoulders, on their consciousness, on their souls. How can you function in an effective way when you carry all of the brokenness and guilt on your back?

YM: Also the Chief of Staff?

GB: Listen, I’m talking about the people that were directly responsible for this. I think the Chief of Staff and others need to come to the conclusion after this war that they need to quit. 

YM: Also the head of the Internal Security Services (Shabak)?

GB: After the war they need to say Shalom. I think they’re already hinting at that. They said they take responsibility. To take responsibility means to do something, not just talk. 

We can’t replace everyone, but those two who were directly involved need to be replaced.

When you’re in a war you don’t make personal calculations. You make national calculations. And a new person can come into the role that doesn’t carry the feeling of being crushed, I’d even say the deep depression that they must be in. This person can function clearly, and enter the role to lead a war that will take months to finish. We need someone who doesn’t carry that.

YM: What about the Prime Minister, the Defense Minister? Did they also buy into the “Conceptia”? Do they also have to resign?

GB: Listen, everyone believed in the Conceptia. 3 or 4 days before this horrible event, all of the upper echelons of the IDF are sitting with the Prime Minister and they’re having a conversation, and they tell him, “Hamas is deterred.”

“Nothing to worry about, they are deterred.” They were so deep in this Conceptia to such a degree that after that they went out for Sukkot with peace of mind. Everyone was calm. They go on vacation. They even had a party next to the fence. 

Commanders brought their families onto the army bases, as if there’s no Hamas because…he’s deterred. Conceptia.

Do you know what this reminds me of? The Yom Kippur War.

The Egyptian army was spread out over the Canal. We see them with our own eyes. The Syrian army is on the Golan Heights. Dayan says they wouldn’t dare. We’ve deterred them. They remember the Six Day War. The facts and our capabilities don’t matter. He believed that they wouldn’t attack because they wouldn’t dare. 

When you go with this Conceptia and build an army based on how you believe things are and not facts, that’s how you end up in a situation where we are now. 

YM: I want to ask you about another Conceptia, not about them being deterred, but about them just wanting Qatari money, us doing an occasional operation in Gaza and that would keep them quiet. 

GM: There’s a total misunderstanding about what’s going on. We can’t live with them next door. That’s a fact and we could have understood it beforehand. And we never should have thought that we understood Hamas and that they would allow us to progress together with them, because they never changed and in short we screwed up big time.

If you ask me, today, Hamas cannot exist there. And I’ll tell you more than that, if you ask me how are we supposed to do that? So, also here, so that we don’t fall into a terrible trap, you have to do this with a level mind and wisdom. First of all Hamas and Islamic Jihad have to finish their role in life next to us and by us. 

Right now the state of Israel is surrounding them, strangling them, separating the North from South, telling all of the civilians, anyone who wants to live better move to the South. 

The siege has to be in such a way that no fuel, food, water, electricity enter the Strip. Let them dry out in their tunnels. If they don’t eat or drink for long enough, they’ll come out of their tunnels. 

You have to understand that the challenge of killing them is maybe one of the hardest challenges Israel has ever faced up until today, for any army it would be. You’re talking about 2 million people and 40,000 terrorists that are hiding in the city of tunnels, what the tunnels under Gaza are called. 

When you go out on a mission facing this situation and you want to only take care of the terrorists, it’s not just enough to enter Gaza. You have to take care of those tunnels below. You’re going to face a very difficult challenge. They’re just waiting for you to come into the Strip. 

Every street has IEDs, explosives, boobytraps, that means if the IDF goes in now, with infantry and tanks and of course the IDF is trying to think what will be. Also remember you are going to have friction with the population in their homes, the IDF will step on these IEDs, boobytraps, the terrorists in the tunnels will pop out, shoot, and then hide again. And we’re going to suffer a lot of casualties. 

And let’s say despite the death toll and losses on our side the IDF keeps pushing forward. You still have to take care of those tunnels and the 40,000 terrorists hiding under the ground, the whole length and breadth of Gaza. This won’t take a week or two weeks, this will take months. 

When you say that the IDF will go in and take a huge hit, and it’s going to have to be there for months to take care of the tunnels. And when you’re going to be in that swap for months they are going to attack you the whole way. 

YM: What are you saying?

GB: That means that you will have to constantly be bringing in ammunition, food, water, fuel, supplying our troops, evacuating the injured. This is a very complicated operation. You’re going to take very heavy blows. 

And so I’ve advised the IDF and I’ve told the Prime Minister and everyone, friends, you don’t fight a war based on rage and revenge. You use reason and understanding. 

I’m telling you today, if we strangle Hamas like we’re doing today. They will sit in those tunnels for months and they’ll run out of water, food and fuel. The air will get stale and they won’t have a way to come out of the tunnels. 

YM: So you’re saying don’t rush into Gaza.

GB: Don’t rush! Just let them strangle in the tunnels. I’m telling you after a few months of this they won’t be able to stay in the tunnels. They’ll start sticking their heads out. And then we’ll hit them. Some of them will surrender because no one can survive under those conditions for so long. 

So we need to take those few months, strangle them in their tunnels, hit every one that comes out, bring them to being weak, broken, and then start the big ground invasion that will finish them off once and for all.

Don’t enter Gaza now because we will fall into their trap!

But another thing, the second we enter Gaza, there’s no doubt that we can enter into a complete regional war in which we won’t only have the North and South, we’ll have Yehudah and Shomron [West Bank], tens of thousands of PLO terrorists will run into our settlements, who are not prepared to defend themselves properly. 

Tens of thousands within the state of Israel, rioting like what we saw during Guardians of the Walls in 2021, but it could be hundreds of thousands. We’re not ready for this. We haven’t prepared anything. 

Hezbollah just started with us. And now all of a sudden the Houthim from Yemen, maybe also from Iraq. They’ll fire at the US aircraft carriers off our coast, they’ll start shooting missiles even without Iran’s permission. And the party starts. A regional war. 

Then we’ll have thousands of missiles landing on us every day, with hundreds of them causing real destruction.  The water and electricity will stop working. Are we ready for that? Really not. 

That means from your desire to enter Gaza today and quickly, you’ll fall into their trap and you won’t be able to complete the mission of destroying Hamas and you’ll have to pull out of Gaza before completing the mission. You’re going to set into motion a whole series of events that you’re not prepared for. 

You need to do right now things that for 20 years the state neglected in order to be ready on the most minimal level for this threat.

YM: Like what? What do we need to do?

GB: For example, we have a problem with not having enough bomb shelters, we need to prepare the homefront for war. We need a national guard. Weapons and standby squads for Yehudah and Shomron.

YM: How long will this take according to your estimation?

GB: A few months, before we start this ground invasion. 

YM: Before we go into Gaza?

GB:  Before we go into Gaza. 

YM: But what do you do with 300,000 soldiers?

GB: So those 300,000 soldiers don’t need to sit on the border. 

YM: So what, they’ll sit there and wait for months? 300,000 soldiers?

GB:  They won’t wait. That’s what I’m saying. Listen, this running forward is from the Devil. What do you want to say, because we called up 300,000 soldiers we have to go into this pit? 

I said, let’s wait a few months. Let them start dying in the tunnels. Let them stick their heads out. 

YM: What do you do with the soldiers?

GB: They don’t have to wait there. If we’ve decided that we’re going to let the terrorists rot under the earth, send some home, prepare others for the mission until the entry. But we shouldn’t enter until they’re weak. Not like today. 

Send some of the soldiers home. Rotate them. Train them.

YM: Don’t go in now?

GB: I said, don’t go in now. Strangle them. Weaken them. Break their spirits. There won’t be electricity. There won’t be water. There won’t be fuel for their generators. They’ll run out of rockets and they won’t be able to fire. They won’t have material to build more tunnels.

YM: Just wait?

GB: Wait, but prepare for the regional war that will come soon. 

YM: Are you in touch with the Prime Minister?

GB: I was. 

YM: When was the last time you spoke with him?

GB: 3 days ago. I won’t give details of what I said. I can say that I told him what are the crucial things that need to be done now for a situation where things will get complicated and will start a regional war. How to deal with the missiles, air force bases, navy, ground troops. The riots that will break out within Israel. I gave a detailed breakdown of what needs to be done, line by line, that the government has neglected for 20 years. These are immediate things. There are some things that will take years, but there are things that can be done now and it will save us thousands of dead on our side.

YM: Can you tell us what those things are?

GB: No. But I can tell you anything I’ve already published in the media. We need today, in a short amount of time, to arm all of the settlements in Yehudah and Shomron. I was there and I spoke with 50 heads of security, just two weeks ago, before the war. I said, friends, when there’s a breakout and hundreds of armed rioters are running towards your settlements, a few standby units with a few pistols won’t stop them.

You need a standby company, not a few units. Not just a few people with guns. Also set up lookout points in the settlements. Do the same thing in the North with all of the towns there, also in the South. Within Israel we need a National Guard that needs to be set up now, today. We can do this within a few months. 

YM: That is, delay the war in Gaza for a few months?

GB: Of course. That’s clear. God willing there won’t be a regional war. At least we’ll be ready, even if there isn’t a regional war. Being ready might prevent one. The stronger you are the more you influence what’s going to happen.

YM: Don’t give a preemptive hit to Hezbollah?

GB: No way whatsoever. I hear all of the so-called experts, how they break things down, they all think they understand what’s going on, but very few people really know what our army is capable of. If you really understood the situation you wouldn’t be giving these suggestions. 

What do you mean give a preemptive hit to Hezbollah? Hezbollah today is spread out over hundreds of kilometers in Lebanon. They’re not just on the border. This is not a small target like Gaza where the whole air force has been attacking them nonstop and hasn’t stopped one rocket from firing on us. 

In Shomer HaChomot (2021) they fired on us 4000 missiles over 10 days and the entire air force couldn’t stop one rocket. So how are we going to stop the thousands of rockets that will fall on us from Lebanon? 

Let’s say you give a preemptive hit on Hezbollah. Let’s say you had a great success and you destroyed 50% of their capabilities. They have 150,000 rockets, all kinds of types including those that can hit precise targets. That 50% is 75,000. That’s a huge amount of power that can continue to destroy you, but more than that.

The pro-Iranian militias will join in, the Syrians, Yemen and Iraq, and they’ll also fire at us. That means that your preemptive strike will bring a regional war that we’re not prepared for. 

You might cause a great deal of destruction in Lebanon, but it will cause destruction for us as well. That’s what’s called dying with the Philistines [referring to Shimshon dying with his enemies]. Really an experience that we don’t need to go through. 

When can you do things? When you’re strong. It’s impossible to deal with the power that has grown in Lebanon…

YM: Listen, you’re really scaring us. All these years people have been saying you’re burned by the Yom Kippur War. 

GB: Right, that’s what they’ve been saying about me.

YM: But in the end it turns out that you were right, and it’s worth being burned by the Yom Kippur War…

GB: By the way, I’m also not burned by the Yom Kippur War. But one of the main problems of the state of Israel and all of the retired generals and others is that they’re protecting themselves, their own armored personnel carriers, don’t shoot at their personnel carriers, but this is not their private homes, this is the state. Stop confusing yourselves and just throwing out comments to the public.

You see them on Channel 12, retired generals just telling stories. “We’re the strongest.” “We gave them a blow.” They have no idea what’s going on today with the IDF. 

I know better than everyone. 1600 units in 10 years I researched in depth. Hundreds of investigations. The IDF paid billions for me to do this research. But because of organizational culture when you think you’re going up you’re actually going down. I put everything into my reports. I submitted my reports to every level of the government and the IDF. They promised me that not only was Brik right, he was right a million percent. 

But they didn’t read my reports and they didn’t do what I told them. 

YM: Who is “they”?

GB: “They” is the Chief of Staff and the generals.

YM: Who?

GB: Everyone! For the past 20 years take all of the Chiefs of Staff, take all of the generals, they simply dealt with, what I call the war between wars, they didn’t deal with building up the IDF for a war. They didn’t read the reports that the IDF is giving them telling them to prepare for war. They didn’t read the results of the investigations. They just threw dirt in the public’s eyes. Illusion is more important than reality. 

When I submitted my report they hounded me, like you said, they said I was burned by the Yom Kippur War. “What does he understand?” They did everything to shut me up. 

God forbid that I should reveal their bluff, that the public should hear about what I was saying.

YM: And those are the same people sitting today in the War Cabinet?

GB: Yes. Specifically. They are a significant part of the reason that the IDF is in the state that it’s in now.

YM: And Netanyahu?

GB: Listen, Netanyahu is not the head of the IDF. That’s one of our big problems, of Israeli governments and not just Netanyahu, there’s no national security strategy. There’s no government establishing what the goals of a war are, what’s the expected threat and what type of IDF we need to build for that. 

For that there’s Military Intelligence. What role did the Military Intelligence play? They were the Prime Minister’s secretary. Instead of handing over documents which the Cabinet was supposed to discuss with a look to the future and not just the present. They were just dealing with putting out fires, just what needed to be dealt with from hour to hour. 

Just one more word. When the IDF wasn’t responsible for itself, the government wasn’t paying attention to what the IDF was doing and every Chief of Staff got a budget and did whatever he wanted with it. One went this direction, the other went in the opposite direction, there was no set path to build the IDF on. 

Every Chief of Staff, according to whatever was in his head, dumped billions in the direction that he thought the IDF should go in contrast to whoever came before him because he thought he knew better than the guy before him.

The worst part is that instead of getting ready for this war, the Chiefs of Staff created the threat that they perceived and prepared for that, not the real threat.

They prepared for Hezbollah and Hamas, but didn’t prepare for riots in Yehudah and Shomron, riots within Israel proper, they didn’t take into account the Syrians and the others…

YM: Bottom line.

GB: Bottom line. Friends, don’t go into Gaza now. Strangle them. Take your time to prepare for a regional war. Let them die underground. When they raise up their hands we can give them the final blow.

Eldad Yaniv: I know you’re the only one asking the questions, but I’d like to ask a question with your permission.

You were right. There’s no question about it. You were right. You warned us. You were more serious than all of the others. I interviewed you on my show. 

YM: I have to say, you were a regular guest on Channel 14. Every week Eldad had you on his show. 

GB: I want to say to Channel 14 you were the only ones willing to face the truth. You didn’t hide it. You exposed it. Channel 12, like I said, suddenly remembered, where were they all the years that I was warning, saying things that no one else would say, simply, biased media.

EY: I admire you. I don’t just respect you, I admire you. And if I was the Prime Minister now you wouldn’t have time to give interviews in studios because you’d be right next to me. You wouldn’t be able to move. I’d tie you to me. I’d like to hear from you what you have to say about every plan.

But I wonder if now you’ve bought into the Conceptia of being the Prophet of Wrath? Because it could be in an alternative world we could do what you’re saying. Stop, organize and then go into Gaza.

But now that we have the world’s support like we’ve never had even when the state was established. 

Is there another way to manage the war and include your suggestions, but not to wait six months?

GB: You didn’t understand the essence of what I said. And I respect you a great deal. I’m not saying to wait is just to wait in order to prepare for a regional war. Who cares if the whole world is supporting us? Hamas is waiting with a trap. It’s threatening us in ways that we cannot win. We will have a huge amount of casualties. We won’t have the ability to take care of the tunnels because you’re going to be stuck in there with the whole IDF going in. You’re going to take casualties every day, every hour. 

So you want to go in because the whole world is supporting us and we’ll take the blow of our lives? Do we want to be there?

I say go in, but first let Hamas die in their tunnels. 

The point is not whether the world is with us or not. The point is to be smart about this so we can really wipe them out.

EY: So you’re saying we can go in two months from now?

GB: Yes, yes. I’m telling you, today they’re so ready for us, they’re highly motivated and they still have food, water, fuel, electricity, medicine, we have to strangle them so that we can win in the end. Not so that we’ll fail.

So give them a few months, two, three or four months, without water, without will, the people won’t support them anymore, they’ll look how to get out of their tunnels and then we’ll kill them. And then we’ll be much more successful.

EY: I understand because we’re talking about 40,000.

GB: 40,000. It’s not just a few weeks in the tunnels, it’s months. Friends, if they come to the conclusion that they can’t stay in those tunnels for months, they’ll come out and it will be much worse for them.

Noam Fathi: Maybe we can just bomb them with bunker bombs with limited troops entering and leaving, gathering intelligence about the tunnels, bombing those tunnels and cause a great deal of death and destruction and they’ll realize that there’s no way to win? Maybe they’ll surrender like Japan after the US dropped two atom bombs?

GB: I understand your question. You’re 100% correct. First of all the air force should keep bombing them. It’s not like we’re taking a pause. The air force continues hitting them including bunker bombs, something we haven’t used lately, unfortunately. 

Not just continue, increase the attacks, for two or three months. Additionally, we have to prevent any food or water getting to the North of Gaza from the South. Because surely there are tunnels that reach the South as well and connect to the North. 

We have to cut them off. I won’t go into how you do that. 

And break their souls, hit them from the air, anyone who comes out for a breath of air will die. 

This is how you fight a war. 

Dry them out, no food, water, nothing and then after two or three months of this enter Gaza. That’s how you win a war and there’s no other way.

YM: General in the reserves Yitzchak Brik, thank you for everything you do for the Jewish people.

GB: Thank you.

 

About the Author
Barak Hullman studied for a PhD in Islamic History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (MA at Princeton). He made aliyah from South Florida in 1995. He lives in Jerusalem, Israel with his wife and their 7 children (all born in Jerusalem). Barak is the author of two books, Figure It Out When You Get There: A Memoir of Stories About Living Life First and Watching How Everything Else Falls Into Place and A Shtikel Sholom: A Student, His Mentor and Their Unconventional Conversations, available at bit.ly/barakhullman. He has two podcasts, Jewish People & Ideas: Conversations with Jewish Thought Leaders (guests have included Yossi Klein Halevi, Michael Oren, Natan Sharansky, Daniel Gordis and others) at jewishpeopleideas.com and The Chassidic Story Project at hasidicstory.com.   Learn more by going to barakhullman.com.
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