The dust has been cleared from the last, already barely memorable conflict between Israel and a Gaza terror group.
But if you ask anyone in these parts, another round of fighting is inevitable – it’s just a matter of time.
Though no one will hazard a guess as to when the next one will be – a few weeks, months, a year – the rocket barrages and subsequent responses from the Israel Defense Forces have become a normal cycle of life here.
Prior to August flare-up, the last conflict took place in May 2021 and lasted 11 days. Before that, three major rounds of violence (in 2008-09, 2012 and 2014) since 2007 when Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip two years after Israel withdrew all Jewish residents.
And these broader military operations do not include countless incidents of seemingly random firing of one to a few dozen rockets over the course of a day or two, here and there.
One news site, Vox, called it the “doom loop.”
But instead of waiting for the inevitable, can anything be done to prevent another round before it happens? ALL ISRAEL NEWS spoke with two IDF generals about why this is and what, if anything, can be done to break the cycle.
APPLY SYRIAN STRATEGY TO GAZA
Since another flare-up is “obviously going to happen,” said IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Amir Avivi who proposes a change in Israel's strategy toward Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in order to break the loop of “continuous failure.”
"We should treat them as we treat Syria – we limit Iranian presence in Syria,” Avivi, CEO of the Israel Defense and Security Forum, told ALL ISRAEL NEWS.
Avivi is referring to covert and unspoken Israeli attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, some of which occurred as recently as this week. In the past several years, hundreds of strikes – widely attributed to Israel – have taken aim at Iranian proxy groups and weapons being transported in Syria, which borders the Jewish state.
“If we can do it in such a complex area – with the Russians, with the Syrians, with Hezbollah – why don’t we do it in Gaza?” Avivi asked, referring to Moscow’s military presence in the region since the Syrian Civil War.
Avivi noted that, due to advanced Israeli intelligence, every PIJ stronghold and leader attacked in Gaza was pinpointed beforehand to precise coordinates.
“But we have to come up with new strategies about how to limit their capabilities. We talk about ‘deterrence,’ but we say that every time and yet they build up capabilities and they attack again,” he said.
Indeed, instead of acting offensively, Israel maintains a defensive posture regarding the Gaza Strip – retaliating and diminishing the capabilities of Hamas and PIJ and then agreeing to a ceasefire, which allows both groups time to rearm.
Meanwhile, the Gaza operations draw international condemnation of Israel while the Syrian strikes largely go unreported.
Avivi published this idea in a Wall Street Journal editorial on Aug. 8, saying the old strategy “has run its course.”
“Hamas and the other terror organizations mustn’t be allowed to stockpile rockets, and Israel should eliminate them before the enemy uses them. When intelligence confirms their location, the military should strike immediately,” he wrote. “The IDF and the rest of the defense establishment should apply the same principles they use in mitigating Iranian presence in Syria against terror organizations in Gaza with more firepower and less restraint, because Israeli civilians are at risk.”
But Brig. Gen. (ret.) Meir Elran begs to differ, saying that Israel's conflict with the Palestinians is unique in that “we are two nations that have the same territory and don’t know how to share it.”
“In a year from now, we can have peace with Syria as we have peace with Egypt. We don’t have this really deep-rooted conflict [with Syria] as we have with the Palestinians,” he said, noting that few struggles in history have lasted as long as this one.
Elran – a senior research fellow at the Institute for National Security Studies – sees no imminent solution. At best, he said, Israel can only hope to continue to “manage” this century-old contention with the Palestinians.
“The real problem – strategically speaking, historically speaking – is that there is no solution to the issue of Gaza in the foreseeable future,” he said.
Elran described the situation in the Gaza Strip as “presently one of the worst situations worldwide” with “2 million starving people under siege.” But just like Gaza, the Palestinian issue as a whole is “unsolvable,” Elran believes.
“There is a mutual understanding and acceptance that there is not even a moderate or interim or part-time – whatever words are being used – solution for the Israeli-Palestinian issue,” he said. “That is why people say [that there will be another round of fighting], and that is, unfortunately, true.”
Relative successes – such as Israel’s elimination of two senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders in this last conflict – are only short-term fixes, Elran said.
“The hope is that the next [leaders] will be less sophisticated, but the next generation is usually more equipped to handle our situation than the ones we do away with it,” Elran noted. “How come they can – and they do – construct a terrorist machinery that can stand up to a superpower like Israel that has all the means and the power theoretically to extinguish them?”
“Hamas, especially, they are intelligent people. Many of them are well educated and they are not to be underestimated. The idea that if you kill the leaders it will improve our situation in any way shape or form is ridiculous.”
He said that Israelis have also adapted to the chronic struggle, whether it is an intifada or random lone-wolf terror attacks – or another round of rockets. The learned behavior may be the only way to survive the cycles of violence.
“Israelis are very resilient to begin with and, when they are challenged with such disruptions, they know how to bounce back,” he said. “We bounce back expeditiously.”
Nicole Jansezian was the news editor and senior correspondent for ALL ISRAEL NEWS.