They're Promising to Destroy Hamas

Kahol Lavan lawmakers Gabi Ashkenazi, Benny Gantz, Yair Lapid, and Moshe Ya'alon near the Gaza border, August 2019.
Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Earlier this week, the Gaza Division, with the chief of staff in attendance, rehearsed its plans. Our goal in the next round, Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi said, is to put the terrorists’ combgaat forces out of action, strike their leaders and destroy their rocket caches, launching pads and technological infrastructure. Only after these goals are achieved and the south’s nightmare is ended will our troops withdraw from the Gaza Strip, he told his subordinates.

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When the head of the military sets goals like this, they must be achieved. Throughout their army service, officers and soldiers are told that the moment they are assigned a mission, they must strive with determination and dedication to achieve it. Ending the nightmare that has afflicted the western Negev, and consequently the country, for the past two decades (and more) is a good reason – indeed, there is none better – to set the kind of sweeping goals for the troops that the chief of staff laid out.

Two days after this exercise, four people visited the Gaza border. Three of them are former chiefs of staff, who for some reason have been dubbed “the leaders of the new security-oriented right.” At the height of what they billed as their “security tour,” these leaders of Kahol Lavan, which aspires to become the ruling party, stood in front of the cameras and informed the public of their security goals.

When he is prime minister, Benny Gantz declared, as he presented the doctrine of the security-oriented right, “we don’t intend for our deterrence to continue to be eroded … We don’t intend for this model, of another round and yet another round, and another [incendiary] kite and another missile, to continue … If they force us into another round of fighting, we’ll go into Gaza with ground forces … We’ll make sure this round will be the last one.” How will this be achieved (in contrast to previous military operations)? “We won’t accept a mere arrangement … We’ll seek victory ... We won’t spare any means … We’ll work to kill all the leaders of Hamas. We’ll pulverize the entire area. We’ll operate on the ground as we please, where we please and for as long as we please. The initiative, from start to finish, will remain entirely in our hands … We will have the courage to order the IDF to carry this out.”

This plan of action, Gabi Ashkenazi chimed in, “will defeat Hamas.” Ashkenazi, you might recall, was the chief of staff during Operation Cast Lead, launched in December 2008. He had the power to defeat Hamas. Ehud Olmert, then the prime minister, supported a sweeping operation. But Ashkenazi blocked it. In the next two campaigns, Operation Pillar of Defense in 2012 and Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Gantz was the chief of staff. It wasn’t incendiary kites that were being launched back then, but rockets, many hundreds of rockets, on Be’er Sheva, Ashkelon, Ashdod, Holon, Be’er Ya’akov, Bat Yam and Kfar Chabad (i.e. Ben-Gurion Airport).

Gantz had two opportunities to do what he has just now promised – to pulverize the area, destroy all the military infrastructure, liquidate the heads of Hamas and ensure that “this round will be the last.” After all, his political superior during Protective Edge was then-Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who stood beside him this week, nodding in agreement, as Gantz presented the goals that could have been achieved back in 2008, during Cast Lead, and certainly in 2014, during Protective Edge.

These people once responsible for Israel’s security, have been revealed in all their contradictions now that they are politicians. We have all experienced – and continue to experience every day – the fruits of their lack of daring, their fears of achieving victory and their haplessness in the face of an enemy incomparably smaller than the troops and resources at their disposal during the failed operations they oversaw. So why should we believe that they of all people would deliver salvation from Hamas? In the past, when they were the army’s supreme commanders, they acted in a manner diametrically opposed to how they are promising to act today.