Strategic Dilemma Policy of the Occupation Forces

Israel has made many statements, full of bubbles and threats, and it has set the goal of destroying Hamas, destroying it militarily and politically, capturing its leaders, and releasing prisoners. After nine months of continuous war, Netanyahu stressed that the battle of Rafah will be a decisive stage in Israel's complete victory and the end of Hamas' rule over the Gaza Strip.

However, in addition to Netanyahu and some of his government leaders, military leaders and commentators have also made statements that express a different reality. On the ground, none of the war goals set by Israel have been achieved. All of this puts the political and military leaders of the occupation forces in a dangerous strategic dilemma.

The question that arises is: what have the occupying forces done over the past nine months when they were unable to achieve any of their war objectives, despite the support of the United States and the near destruction of the military and firepower capabilities of the Gaza Strip, which has been led by Hamas?

The reality is that during these months, the occupation forces have achieved only tactical gains, which may have weakened the combat brigades of the resistance, but have not led to the elimination or the disbanding and disarmament of Hamas. On the contrary, the movement has returned to all the areas from which it had previously withdrawn, and the army has withdrawn from areas it had already infiltrated, due to the escalation of resistance actions, which has caused greater losses to the movement and the lack of sufficient support for its combat forces to be able to control land.

The Israeli army is also exhausted by the long duration of the war and is seriously short of equipment and ammunition, despite the broad support of the United States and the West. The confrontation on multiple fronts and the political and military split atmosphere over the vision for the future have exacerbated the complexity of the situation.

On the other hand, the US Institute for the Study of War said that Hamas is rebuilding its political and military strength. This is beyond doubt, as the war is not over yet and is likely to continue for some time. This has prompted Hamas to reorganize its forces in all areas where the Israeli army has withdrawn, taking into account existing military capabilities and battlefield developments.

Hamas is currently focusing on three main points:

1. Continue to carry out combat, political and administrative work, albeit at a slower pace than before, which is an important step in regaining control of the volatile situation.

2- Reorganization of infrastructure and manufacturing, including the reallocation of available resources; reinforcement of battalions damaged by military operations.

3- Conduct a recruitment process of young people to reorganize combat and administrative battalions.

System regression

Let us review some of the statements and assessments that reveal another side of the Israeli picture, and note the clear retreat from the goals announced at the beginning of the war, the atmosphere of despair and uncertainty that permeates the air. The enthusiastic view that military pressure could achieve goals and solve problems has disappeared.

We refer to the statement of the Israeli army spokesman Daniel Hagari, who told Israel's Channel 13: “Talking about destroying Hamas is an idea that takes root in the eyes of the public and in the minds of anyone who believes in us. Mistakes can be eliminated.”

After him, the commander of the 12th Brigade of the 252nd Sinai Division, which is responsible for defending the border with Egypt, appeared. The division was called up to fight in Rafah due to insufficient military strength. The commander of the division, Colonel Lilon Patito, issued a statement: He made an unprecedented statement on the Gaza war, saying: “It will take at least two years to dismantle the military capabilities of the Hamas movement in Rafah.”

He added: “The task of eliminating Hamas is not easy and will take time and enormous military pressure. Hamas is waging a guerrilla war in Rafah through independent groups, which makes it even more difficult to deal with it. Whoever believes that the sirens will stop next year will cast ashes in the eyes of Israelis.”

“Whoever says we will disband the Hamas-affiliated Rafah Brigade and return the kidnapped people is spreading false illusions,” said General Gadi Eisenkot, a minister in Israel’s wartime government.

“Hamas has changed its war tactics and is more focused on booby-trapping buildings,” Haaretz quoted an unnamed senior Israeli military officer as saying. “The army's estimates of Hamas' infrastructure are incorrect,” the newspaper added.

The commander of the 933rd Nahal Brigade Combat Division stated that “Israeli forces may continue to engage for months, even years, on the Philadelphia and Nezarim axis.” We can see in the last statement that there is a lack of a clear military vision or strategy. All the commanders know is the general idea that they may stay for months or years. Waiting for the political vision for handling the sector to become clear.

As for Israel’s Agriculture Minister Avi Dichter, he made it clear that “eliminating Hamas’s ability to rule the Gaza Strip is far from being achieved.”

Retired Major General Yitzhak Brik said: The army does not have the ability to overthrow the Hamas movement, and continuing the war will bring huge losses to Israel, leading to the collapse of the army and reserves in the short term, and will also cause the collapse of the economy and deterioration of international relations. He warned that participation in a new front will destroy Israel, referring to the escalation of the confrontation with Lebanon on the northern front.

Previous statements seemed to justify the Israeli army’s failure to achieve its war goals and eliminate Hamas after nine months of intense fighting that burned the green and dry land of the Gaza Strip. If what was achieved was nothing more than tactical objectives that were mismatched with the capabilities of that army, then there had to be a ladder down from the trees, and these statements attempt to fulfill that role.

Failed military strategy

Israel had developed a failed military strategy that was unfit to achieve its war objectives. As Liddell Hart, the first theorist of indirect warfare, said: “One of the reasons why wars are protracted is the mismatch between the means used and the ends to be achieved.”

The objectives of the war were beyond the capabilities of the Israeli army, as its officers and soldiers lacked the field experience needed to fight in complex built-up areas. It was also fighting in a completely hostile geographical environment and was severely lacking in intelligence information about resistance factions.

The Israeli army last fought a regular war in 1973. Since then, most of its wars have been air and missile wars, avoiding direct military intervention except on a very small scale. As a result, it lacks the field combat and intelligence experience of guerrilla warfare.

Notably, there was an increase in statements by army field commanders, including one by the commander of the 98th Division, who called on political leaders to “be worthy of the sacrifices made by the soldiers” and clearly and harshly criticized their divisions, prompting Chief of Staff Herzig Halevi to reprimand him and take disciplinary action for “damaging the prestige of the army.”

Like the commander, military spokesman Daniel Haggari stopped issuing statements after admitting the army’s inability to dismantle Hamas, suggesting restrictions were placed on military leaders to silence them.

But the situation has changed since then, and what was originally faced with penalties and disciplinary measures is now faced with silence, so the Chief of Staff ignored the statements of the commanders of the 12th Brigade and the commander of the Operations Department of the 933rd Nahal Brigade. This silence indicates that a directive may be issued to allow field commanders to make such statements and pave the way for a new phase in which the fighting stops and is replaced by a prisoner exchange agreement.

Therefore, it can be said that Israel's military campaign has exhausted its objectives and the occupation forces will not be able to add any additional gains, no matter how long the war lasts. On the contrary, its length could lead to its collapse, said Major General Ishaq Brik.

The New York Times confirmed this view, saying that senior Israeli generals hope to “start a ceasefire in Gaza, even if it means Hamas will temporarily continue to hold power,” and some of them believe that a ceasefire would be the best way to release about 120 Israelis from Gaza resistance factions, whether they are dead or alive.

The stance widens a rift between the generals and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who opposes any truce that allows Hamas to remain in power.

They believe that stopping the fighting in Gaza will lead to a halt to the confrontation on the northern front and attacks from Yemen and Iraq. The Israeli army also needs time to recover from the effects of the war and to prepare again. The political, military, economic and international arena need to be rebuilt after suffering huge damage, and it will take a long time to restore foreign relations.

All in all, Israel appears to be in a difficult situation. The failure to achieve the declared goals of the war, internal disputes within the political and military leadership, and the high human and material costs of the war are factors that are driving a reassessment of the situation and the search for a way out.

As the situation continues to develop, the question remains: Will Israel be able to find a way to achieve its stated goals, or will it ultimately be forced to accept a solution that fails to meet its original ambitions?

Time and the development of events on Earth are sufficient to answer this question.

The views expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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