Israel Harel

Next week will be the 45th anniversary of the Yom Kippur War, the last war in which the IDF won a definitive victory, on two battlefields. Since then, and against immeasurably inferior enemies than the armies of Egypt and Syria, the IDF is floundering. The result: Millions of civilians are under a constant threat from terror organizations.

On the eve of Rosh Hashana, Maj. Gen. Herzl Halevi, head of Southern Command, said he sees no chance of quiet in the coming decade, or even afterward. Halevi is one of the best people in the nation, not only in the military sense. But like his predecessors since the First Lebanon War, his words imply that he too accepts the terrorist resistance to a Jewish state’s existence in the Land of Israel as fate, which we won’t be able to change in the coming decades.

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Halevi may have said that “we’re stronger than (the enemy) by orders of magnitude,” but he doesn’t see us striving, by means of those orders of magnitude, for a decisive victory and not wait, as we’ve been doing, between one round of war and the next for Hamas to say when the hostilities begin, how long they last and when, on its terms, it ends.

Israel is facing a year of difficult struggles, and even if Halevi’s evaluation is correct – and in the government and IDF’s consciousness it certainly is correct – it must be rejected in principle. When we are “stronger than the enemy by orders of magnitude,” we must not accept, ideologically and practically, a life under constant threat. Exactly for that, to remove such threats, we established a state. It is necessary to root out the fatalism, which began with the General Staff of the first intifada, that terror has no military solution. That is factually wrong and the wrong message to impart. In contrast to the thinking that has become the norm in the defense establishment, the Arabs are fighting us in hope, not despair. They derive their hope in part from senior IDF and Shin Bet officials’ lack of belief in victory.

When you don’t believe that you can vanquish your opponent – and you announce as much – it infuses him with confidence and hope. This hope has proof on the ground as well: Due to the Israeli commanders’ lack of belief that the enemy can be defeated, all the battles between the army that is stronger than its enemies “by orders of magnitude,” and those that are inferior are to it by the same orders of magnitude, have ended, at best, in a draw.

>> Read more: So, Who Won the Yom Kippur War? | Opinion ■ Looking Back at the Yom Kippur War Through the Eyes of Diaspora Jews

If after all the rounds of fighting in the south, the official forecast is that even in a decade, and yet beyond, there will be no quiet in the south, the army (and the government) must be told: Unacceptable. With our political situation and military might we can bring, in reasonable time, quiet to the region. We must not wait more decades. The decades of suffering that the residents near the Gazan border – and the rest of us – have endured are enough.

Faced with this mentality, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman is trying to turn the fatalistic paradigm upside down and is establishing, at least in words, an opposing mentality for senior officers. About a week ago, when he said he already picked the next chief of staff, he publicly instructed him to act “in terms of decisiveness and victory.” He concluded: “I hear too many expressions [from senior officers] like ‘political arena’ and ‘legal implications.’ The most important term in my point of view,” he told Yedioth Ahronoth, “is victory and not explanations.”

It’s amazing that after more than 70 years since the IDF’s founding and 45 years after its decisive victory, maybe its greatest ever, the defense minister has to instruct it (in fact rebuke it) to return to such elementary principles as “decisiveness” and “victory.”

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