Opinion

Former deputy chief of Israel Defense Forces: We’ll have to fight a war in Gaza

Israel Defense Forces Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yair Golan says Israel is refraining from a ground operation in Gaza out of an overblown fear of casualties.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan (left) at a ceremony for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 68th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's residence in Jerusalem. May 12, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shakes hands with Deputy IDF Chief of Staff Yair Golan (left) at a ceremony for outstanding soldiers as part of Israel's 68th Independence Day celebrations, at the President's residence in Jerusalem. May 12, 2016. Photo by Yonatan Sindel/Flash90.
Amnon Lord (Israel Hayom)
Amnon Lord
Amnon Lord is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper “Makor Rishon.” His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in “The Jerusalem Post,” “Mida,” “Azure,” “Nativ” and “Achshav.”

For former Israel Defense Forces Deputy Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. (ret.) Yair Golan, the question is not whether Israel will fight a war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but when.

Golan, who is reportedly thinking about going into politics, sees four issues that Israel must address: the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu; the way the IDF is handling the Hamas threat; the bureaucracy’s betrayal of Israel’s citizens; and what is taking place in the historical-national sphere.

“There was a period of hope for peace in Israel. We all know that’s no longer realistic,” Golan told Israeli daily Israel Hayom. “The peace narrative has been replaced by [Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s narrative of fear. Now we need to transition to a narrative of self-assurance and pride.”

Golan thinks the political entanglements that led to a decision to hold a new election were unnecessary.

“If things were normal [here], the two big parties would have set up a coalition that nothing could bring down. Seventy Knesset members, a solid majority that would also represent the people of Israel. The ideological differences between the Likud and Blue and White [parties] are slim to none. In a functioning world, a centrist coalition would have been formed, neither right nor left, which would do things that most of the Israeli people want. Without the diversions from the haredim [ultra-Orthodox] or the extreme right.

“All that needed to happen was for the elected prime minister—still Benjamin Netanyahu—to say, ‘People, if I’m indicted, I promise to resign. Then we would have had a great coalition.”

Golan added that “politics has never been nice” and that Netanyahu “didn’t invent dirty tricks.”

Still, he says, Netanyahu’s political tactics are his primary complaint about the prime minister.

“He is establishing a politics of identity, which radicalizes itself. This is a type of politics that kills any ability to carry on a dialogue. This is a type of politics that deals less with content and more with images and labels. Netanyahu is to a large extent responsible for these past politics.”

Golan also touched on the trial of former IDF soldier Elor Azaria, who was convicted of manslaughter for shooting an immobilized Palestinian terrorist in an incident in Hebron that sparked controversy not only in Israel, but worldwide.

“It was a fair trial,” said Golan. “By the way, he got the punishment he was expected to receive because ultimately, there’s no such charge as ‘intent to commit murder.'”

“We are debating about how to move forward to a place that is good for the country. I need to know that the intentions are pure. Then I can ask things of a soldier who comes from a left-wing or right-wing or religious background. Here, there are no ‘backgrounds.’ Here, we represent the government. But the moment the army becomes ‘left-wing and defeatist,’ the courts become ‘destroyers of Israel’ and the chief justice of the Supreme Court is ‘not a Zionist,’ they day isn’t far off when a soldier will say he cannot serve here,” Golan warned.

When asked if at an earlier stage of his military career he ever imagined that the Palestinians in Gaza would be capable of firing rockets at most of Israel, Golan replied: “I think that the [2005] disengagement from Gaza was very bad in the way we implemented it. But do I miss accompanying convoys carrying bombs to Gush Katif? Does anyone miss chasing rock-throwers at Al-Shati [refugee camp]? In Jabalia? In the first five years of the Second Intifada 147 Israelis were killed in Gaza. Since 2005, 121 Israelis have been killed there, including all the soldiers who died in all military operations.”

On the question of why Israel doesn’t invade Gaza, Golan said “they’re afraid. Afraid of casualties. It wouldn’t mean 500 dead. We give the enemy too much credit. Fighting in Gaza doesn’t come without a cost—fighting in an urban setting is fighting on the ground.”

And what would follow a ground incursion?

“The equation is imaginary. There is a public aspect—the assumption that if we go into Gaza we’ll be bogged down there for years is wrong.”

Amnon Lord is an Israeli journalist with the daily newspaper “Makor Rishon.” His articles and essays about media, film and politics have been published in “The Jerusalem Post,” “Mida,” “Azure,” “Nativ” and “Achshav.”

This column first appeared in Israel Hayom.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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