July 24, 2005

Three Options 2 

It should be clear by now that a negotial solution to the Israeli-Arab conflict cannot be found. It has been tried many times in the last decades, and most often the Arabs totally screwed up and the agreements remained only vacuous words.

But, in my opinion Israel did not adopt a precise policy or strategy to counter the Arab cheat-and-retreat game; rather Israel fell back on conflict management as a temporary, emergency solution between one round of negotiations and the other.

I think that Ariel Sharon instead understood that a serious strategy of conflict management is the only feasible option now. So he (well, not alone, the whole administration) decided to build the security fence - in other words, estabilish and fortify a strategically sensible border. And to hell with the Palestinian (and world's) opinion about it. And he also took the most painful and contested decision of all: evacuate the settlements in Gaza, and even some in the West Bank, because it costs too much to defend them, and are vulnerable spots out of the fortified border.

What is the goal of this? To finally lift the pressure of Palestinian violence from Israel.
The most effective tactic available to the Palestinians is suicide bombing, but the security fence and the continuos Israeli vigilance, together with the targeted assassinations and reprisal operations, made almost impossible for the suicide bombers to reach their targets.

The line of thought at the basis of the disengagement plan is to Keep them Out; when the Palestinians cannot influence Israel anymore, they can slaughter each other in a civil war, go down the drain or even build something good. Or, when they will reach the bottom will maybe realize that they screwed up all along, and start to sincerely want a peaceful coexistence with Israel. But what exactly happens is irrelevant to Israel, as long as the Palestinians cannot demage her.

Of course this strategy is not perfect. There is the issue of the settlers being relocated, and they are not, understandably, happy about it. The Palestinians will try to lob any rocket or mortar round they can find across the border (but they're already doing it) and if they manage to procure heavier weapons, that can be a problem.

But the IDF and IAF are not going to just sit by and watch; they will hit back as they're already doing. Against mortar or rocket fire, I propose massive automatic counterbattery fire: in case of launch, within five minutes six 155mm HE shells (or a couple of Hellfires) will rain down on the firing location, wherever and whatever it is. Make this tactic very public; it's intended to be a deterrent after all.

But you may ask, what about the third option, a decisive victory. It would be resolutive, but I'm afraid it is not feasible now, and neither in a near future.

To accomplish this victory, Israel would have to wage an aggression war, conquer territories and expel the resident Palestinians. Usually the proponents of this solution give little details of how it should be done, but I would assume they would like most of the West Bank and Gaza Strip to be cleared of Palestinians.

I'm not sure the USA would support such an aggressive policy, and without that support Israel would be in serious trouble; commercial sanctions would be approved (by the UN) in a matter of days putting another burden of a tiny country in a time of war. China would just love to sell weapons to the Arabs and field-test them against Western hardware and militaries. What about Iran, also? I think that much of the world is already quite hostile to Israel, but hings can go even worse than this.

On the strictly military plan, what if Israel does not manage to win? It is unlikely, but you cannot draft strategic plans considering only the best case scenario. And now Egypt, Syria and Jordan have better armed forces than the last time around - and they won't like a single bit to be flooded with refugees. If Israel does not win decisively (and quickly), it things will end with another stalemate: little gain for a high price. But if the Israeli forces are routed, the planned response is nuclear retaliation, going down in a blaze of glory. And even if Isreal wins, there are going to be not little casualties on her side.

Summing up, I think it would be very unwise for Israel to initiate such a war. It would be a bet on very long odds; while it is possible to play the much safer hand of conflict management - and a decisive victory can be obtained even in this second way, albeit in longer time.


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