Gaza war and aftermath will be unique

The Jerusalem Post reports:

Israel is considering a large-scale incursion into the Gaza Strip during which it would present an ultimatum to the international community for the deployment of a multinational force as the only condition under which it would withdraw, defense officials have told The Jerusalem Post…

While Defense Minister Ehud Barak has said numerous times that a major operation in Gaza is inevitable, the IDF has been reluctant to recommend such an incursion for a number of reasons, especially the lack of a clear exit strategy.

Without a multinational force on the ground and with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’s Fatah party too weak to retake control of Gaza, a large operation seems unlikely…

“We are talking about the Second Lebanon War model,” a defense official said. “To go to war and tell the world that if they want a cease-fire and for us to leave then they will need to send a force to replace us.”

I hope it will not be precisely that, where the multinational force is incapable of preventing the enemy from rebuilding its capabilities, and indeed ends up protecting it from Israel. There will have to be several differences:

First, Hamas will have to be completely crushed, its weapons and infrastructure destroyed. It will have to be liquidated as a functioning organization. In Lebanon, although Hezbollah suffered severe losses, Nasrallah remains in control, Hezbollah fighters are returning to South Lebanon, and there are installations north of the Litani river where UNIFIL is not deployed.

Second, Israel will need to take control of the Gaza-Egypt border. In Lebanon, UNIFIL has not been willing or able to keep supplies from flowing across the Syrian border.

Even so, I see some serious problems:

The war itself will be fought in the glare of TV lights, against a very media-savvy enemy. This will be the most thoroughly covered war in history, even more than the 2006 war. Every civilian casualty or damage to property will be multiplied by 10 in the unfriendly media. International reactions will be quickly fed back via the US and Israel will be forced to back off in critical situations. The only way to avoid this will be to seal off the strip, shut down communications and exclude the press. Is this even possible?

What will happen to the thousands of Hamas fighters that Israel will capture? Will they be imprisoned? Where? For how long? Who will guard them? And what happens when they are released?

Peacekeeping forces are known to be very risk-averse. How will they prevent terrorist attacks on Israel? It’s easy to go somewhere, fire rockets, and run away. How will the multinational force prevent this? And if not, how will Israel be able to respond? She will certainly lose the freedom of action in Gaza that she now enjoys.

It’s often said that generals always prepare to fight the last war. One naturally thinks of things like new weapons in this connection, but there are other kinds of change to be taken into account too, such as the evolution of war from a primarily military struggle in which armies fight battles into one in which the political and media aspects overshadow fighting as the primary determinants of the outcome.

There is no question that Israel has a great advantage in the ‘fighting’ part. The question is whether or not she can modernize and improve her abilities to fight in the political and media theaters as well.

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