Let diplomacy win, because an army can’t
Op-ed: The IDF can destroy every house in Gaza and kill any terrorist emerging from a tunnel, but in the 21st century war is won in the negotiating room.
It’s clear that the IDF can win the battle technically. Israel has enough planes and explosives to crush, bomb, destroy and level every house in Gaza along with its inhabitants, and enough ammunition to kill anyone emerging from any tunnel from now until eternity. But this is not the way to win the wars of the 21st century and this is not the way to defeat terror.
Because every casualty will generate 10 people filled with revenge who have nothing else to look for in this world apart from revenge. And every bombed tunnel will be replaced with another improvised hole, and those left in the heart of the destruction will emerge from it, more determined than ever. The more they were oppressed, the more they grew and spread,” we are told, as a warning sign as well: In the wars of the modern world, oppressed populations cannot be defeated only by force of weapon.
The last war which ended with a complete surrender of the defeated side was World War II, and there too the military defeat alone did not create the new Germany, which is almost completely clean of Nazism ideas. It took international cooperation and a perennial rehabilitation program for the German population to complete the victory over the concept of evil.
In the wars that followed, in most of which the United States participated with extremely excessive force, other things happened. Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq, Libya and Somalia – where there was no internationally-backed diplomatic agreement, thousands of soldiers died in vain, trillions of dollars were wasted and nothing good happened.
And yes, the US – like Israel – had enough deadly weapons to send the entire world back to the Stone Age, not just Gaza.
The attempts to eradicate or siege or crush the Gazan terror began in 1971 with a crazy dream of Ariel Sharon, who was at the time a glorified warrior who filed Gaza with bulldozers and tanks and killed hundreds of terrorists and uninvolved people, and they are going on 42 years later without any conceptual change. Only the fighters have changed. Those who started the work are already turning grey. Some of those who are still going, too young to die, will eventually die. In the meantime, more and more civilians will get killed, unless we let diplomacy win.
Now, same as then, neither side will be able to present a victory image. The winner will be the one who sensibly and quietly, while the army uncovers tunnels and does what needs to be done, picks up the phone to world leaders and arranges a humanitarian ceasefire with the support of whoever’s support we need, and later, if the ceasefire is maintained – arranges talks.
Not direct talks and not talks requiring fundamental concessions from Israel, of course, but just talks in which a vigorous mediator runs from one room to another – and here and there the sides’ representatives sit nervous and jumpy like cats – and offers the two sides bonuses which are vital for each of them. For us – calm; for them – reconstruction. For us – a relief from the southern threat; for them – demilitarization and getting civilian life back on track. Why should we agree? Because we long to live and we will not be able to endure 10 military funerals a day for long. Because we seek a normal life even when we don’t know what to do anymore to make it happen. And because we can’t be alone, as we are not alone in this world. Whether we like it or not, the world is out there, and without it and without its support, what shall we do? And why should they agree in Gaza? Because unlike us, their leaders declare their willingness to fight to the very last drop of blood, but this willingness is only declarative. In Gaza, like in Sderot, not only children want to live. In Gaza they are not allowed to talk: Hamas is maintaining a cruel dictatorship in which people without civil rights are not allowed to open their mouths in any event. But like every political organization, Hamas also understand that it cannot wreak havoc forever, and that it must offer its subjects a carrot in addition to a stick, otherwise they will rise up to destroy it.
The Hezbollah precedent
And why should the Western world agree to donate money to Hamas and guarantees to Israel, and even create an international emergency force which will stand between the rival sides and supervise them as well as the Golan Heights force has been doing for many years now? Because in countries which are no longer forced to fight, diplomatic prestige and global power are measured not only in bleeding victories but in rational agreements. Each of the major world and regional powers will gladly take part in writing the detailed, technical, very non-festive agreement which will restore some calm in the region.
But they will violate it, you’ll say. That’s very possible: That’s why the stick must be as huge and terrifying as the carrot must be sweet and pleasant. At least like the arrangement with Hezbollah, which has so far – for nearly eight years – guaranteed that there will be no rocket fire from Lebanon. Apart from a few amateur missile collectors who went crazy and launched something, Hezbollah has been holding fire because it’s worthwhile for it to hold fire. Not because we defeated it. You do remember that we didn’t defeat Hezbollah? Even eight years ago, at the beginning of the 21st century, the IDF was incapable of defeating a terror organization in the north. Even then, what worked in everyone’s favor was a sort of agreement. Not filled with glory, not an image of a complete surrender and not a victory image either.
Whoever learns anything from experience in the Middle East knows that diplomacy must be given all the force that an army is not entitled to use. Quietly and without making any statements to his people who support the battle, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is sitting wherever he is sitting now and arranging an agreement. When it’s ready, he’ll be able to present it as a big victory in his impressive way.
So let the army do its job, and let Netanyahu and diplomacy win.