The Economist newspaper discussed the fact of Israel might lose the war in Gaza, as John Alterman, senior vice president and holder of the Zbigniew Brzezinski Chair in Global Security and Geostrategy, and director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, DC, wrote an article that says, Israel may harness war with… Hamas this time.
According to Alterman, the Israeli army is characterized by a record of victories that arouses the admiration of many.
It won conventional wars in 1948, 1967, and 1973; Thanks to him, Israel forced the Palestine Liberation Organization to abandon the armed struggle in 1996.
It has also deterred Hezbollah since its 2006 campaign limited or destroyed the organization’s military capacity.
The army’s strength doesn’t stem only from US support, but because everything related to it – from its doctrine, organization, and training to its leadership and personnel – makes it the most effective fighting force in the Middle East.
Most discussions of the war in Gaza assume that Israel will ultimately win.
For this reason, the risks facing Israel are so great, and the advantage it enjoys over Hamas is so great, that any outcome other than victory is inconceivable.
The most important questions are what is the time frame and what is the cost?
Despite these assumptions, it’s possible that the war in Gaza will be the first war in Israel’s history that the army fights and loses.
Such a loss would be disastrous for Israel and deeply damaging to the United States.
This matter, specifically, must be taken into consideration.
The IDF has largely avoided the checkered history that has plagued the United States since the Vietnam War began, after which it began a record of mixed results.
The US Army ended its clashes in Lebanon, Somalia, and Haiti without achieving decisive victories, but they were on a small scale.
The post-9/11 wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Syrian-Iraqi border region were serious efforts with real resources behind them, but years of fighting, billions of dollars, and thousands of US deaths failed to achieve victory.
Israelis sometimes claim that there is no comparison between the wars they fought on the borders of their country in an effort to survive, and the long-range US campaigns.
They also claim that the public in Israel is united on survival, while the Western population is fickle in comparison.
They say that Israel will win because it must, but what if the lesson for the United States is that even weak parties can fend off strong parties with the right strategy?
Viewing Hamas’s attacks in Israel as a reason for drawing comparisons between it and the Islamic State and al Qaeda can distract from what is really important: that Hamas’s concept of military victory, like those of other organizations, is about achieving long-term political results.
Hamas doesn’t see victory in one year or five years, but rather by engaging in decades of struggle that increases Palestinian solidarity and increases Israel’s isolation.
In this scenario, Hamas angrily rallies the besieged population of Gaza around itself and aids in the collapse of the Palestinian Authority government by ensuring that the Palestinians view it as a weak appendage of Israeli military authority.
At the same time, the Arab countries are increasingly distancing themselves from the option of normalization, the Global South is strongly siding with the Palestinian issue, Europe is retreating from its support or silence regarding the violations of the Israeli army, and an US debate is launched about Israel, which leads to the destruction of the partisan support that the Hebrew state enjoys in America, since the early seventies.
Complaints about a regional war suit Hamas well, which has sparked global debates about the cost of an alliance with Israel.
Israel’s ability to maintain its solidarity through this process is not Hamas’ primary concern.
Rather, its goal is to distance Israel from its international partners and turn it into a pariah state in the eyes of Hamas.
Hamas doesn’t need to be strong to pursue this strategy; She just needs to hold on.
Instead of relying on sufficient power to defeat Israel, it seeks instead to use Israel’s much greater power to defeat Israel.
Israel’s power allows or drives it to relentlessly kill Palestinian civilians and horrifically destroy Palestinian infrastructure while defying global calls for restraint.
All of these things advance Hamas’ war aims.
Hamas doesn’t care about losing a series of battles on its path that it sees as long, as happened before, but Hamas’ improbable successes on October 7 will inspire future generations of Palestinians who cherish even small victories against impossible odds.
While Hamas seeks to reclaim Jerusalem, this goal is similar to Jewish views on the coming of Christ and Christian views on the Second Coming.
It’s necessary to work on it regardless of the possibility of seeing it in life.
Israel is betting on its ability to kill enough Hamas fighters quickly enough to achieve victory, and will sort out the details after that Hamas’s goal is to hold firmly to the impasse.
So, what should Israel do to ensure the defeat of Hamas?
There are two interrelated matters of paramount importance, neither of which are entirely military:
The first part is to restore global support, which Israel appears to have handed over to a corrupt and violent terrorist organization that seeks to slaughter innocents.
This is crucial in neighboring countries, most of which share Israel’s hostility to Hamas.
When Israel reaches the point of seeking a withdrawal from Gaza – and despite recent claims that it won’t seek a withdrawal, it will still need to – it will require the cooperation of countries like Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia to guide the process of rebuilding the region.
These countries will need to support the flow of supplies, provide some police protection, finance the reconstruction process, and legitimize any governing authority that may emerge.
Israel will also need help revitalizing the Palestinian Authority, which has been faltering for years.
While none of these countries is deeply committed to the Palestinian cause, all have been offended by what they see as Israeli indifference to Arab lives.
They won’t be willing to intervene on the backs of Israeli tanks, and will feel little responsibility to protect Israel from its actions.
They are not eager to take responsibility for Gaza, but they are able to advance some of their own interests in Gaza and prevent the threats they face from taking root there.
Israel must deal with these governments directly now.
It must make sure their voices are heard, begin to convince them that a stable Gaza is possible if they have a role in it, and convince them that a stable Gaza would serve their interests.
The second part, which is related, is that Israel needs to separate Hamas from the surrounding population, and ensure that any Palestinian solidarity that emerges from this war is centered around a strong alternative to Hamas.
Israeli targeting practices play a role here, but realistically, that alternative organization or movement will need credibility to advance Palestinian aspirations to prosperity and self-determination.
If a large number of Palestinians feel that the only future awaiting them is misery, a large portion of them will seek to impoverish those responsible for their renewed calamities.
Common enterprise, a sense of dignity, and a sense of power go a long way in motivating vulnerable populations, and if violent armed groups provide the only way to achieve these things, then these groups will enjoy an unquestioned advantage in Palestinian life.
Israel would be much better off with a strong Palestinian movement, one capable of sometimes standing up to Israel, not just surrendering to it.
The Palestinian Authority under Mahmoud Abbas has failed in this regard, and as a result Abbas’s approval ratings barely break single digits.
Former Shin Bet chief Ami Ayalon argued that the Palestinians need a political horizon, but it is broader than that.
Palestinian misery has many forms – and Palestinians share responsibility for it – but they must feel that it can end.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spent much of the week in the Middle East spreading these and other ideas, but he didn’t appear to have had much success.
Israel appears to be in fighting mode.
If we read her public statements as an indicator, they show that she didn’t think nearly enough about what victory would look like, and Blinken was unable to change her view.
Hamas is said to have planned its October 7 action for years, unsure of its success, but reasonably certain of Israel’s response.
Israel cannot afford to lose the war, but in her efforts to prevail, she can.