The assassination of three senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists is a welcome change of tactics against those who incessantly fire rockets at Israel’s south.
Named “Operation Shield and Arrow,” this latest operation appears to be in response to more than 100 missiles fired at Israel the previous week. It is my hope that this is just the opening gambit in a much wider operation.
The Israeli military and political hierarchy should look further than the most recent skirmish and see the wider war, with a fuller understanding of the long-term battle it can initiate, and respond accordingly.
It is important to understand that Israel is not at war with Islamic Jihad.
Israel is at war with a murderous Palestinian rejectionism that is more than 100 years old, and now being bolstered and supported by outside actors like Iran and its proxies. Islamic Jihad is just a small part of the enemy’s military capabilities, maybe even the smallest.
Nevertheless, the battle lines that were drawn long before the State of Israel was established, remain.
Their goal is to defeat Israel and Israel’s goals must be, in turn, to defeat its enemies.
Israel’s goal is victory, and thus it must use war as “a continuation of policy by other means,” as the famed Prussian military strategist Carl von Clausewitz once wrote.
This does not mean to push them back, place them on the defensive or, in today’s parlance, to “mow the lawn.” The thing about mowing a lawn is the grass will eventually grow back.
“Mowing the lawn” means a lengthy battle of attrition and a war that will never end.
We have to be more optimistic and more strategic in order to see how the war be won and how Israel can be the victor.
Israel needs to move away from sending messages, militarily or diplomatically, meant to move towards a short-lived ceasefire.
This has not worked for almost two decades, and will only send hundreds of thousands of Israelis to their shelters or safe rooms for the foreseeable future.
Despite Israel spending billions on its defense, deterrence is currently lacking.
Our enemies might fear our advanced weaponry, but they need to also fear our ability to use it to crush them in a concerted manner.
Israel needs to use all the tools available in an unpredictable manner. If not, our enemies only grow stronger and more emboldened.
Our enemies are busy creating new strategies and the Iranian-led alignment of several terrorist groups, some with the military capabilities of whole nations, should greatly concern us.
Our full response to this should not end with the killing of a few senior military operatives. It must be more powerful and paradigm-shifting.
Israel must send a very clear message that anyone who is involved in any way with a terrorist organization is a target.
The model must be the assassinations of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi in 2004. Neither held the weapons fired on Israel, but they stood at the top of a genocidal terrorist pyramid that controlled the means of operation for war.
The rules of the game must change in a shocking and surprising way. We need to use the arrow first and then the shield, not the other way around.
We have lived for far too long in an absurd situation in which our enemies decide when the round of conflict begins, how long it lasts and to what level.
Israel’s goal cannot be mere temporary peace and quiet.
We must have arrows not just permanently pointed at our enemies, on every level, but primed and ready. Our enemies should be shocked and surprised by their use, in both timing and ferociousness.
This is the way to defeat an enemy, by changing the paradigm.
Israel has the advanced military technology needed to defeat all its enemies in one fell swoop, but our enemies know the Jewish state’s calculations well and play within these rules to our disadvantage.
That is why we need to change the rules and our calculations. We need to think about how to end the war and how to defeat our enemies.
Developments in the region are not in our favor, so we must act now.
“Operation Shield and Arrow” can be turned into something more strategically significant. It needs to be open-ended. It needs to focus more on the arrow than the shield. It needs to send a clear message that this is part of a new strategy to force our enemies, on all levels, into retreat and submission until their defeat becomes a reality.
Nave Dromi is the director of the Middle East Forum Israel office and author of the new book “Rifle Full of Roses,” which examines how radical agendas have influenced the Israel Defense Forces in recent decades.
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