...Bring these boys home, but don't abandon the difficult task of preventing such future events.
19 June '14..
When patience evaporates, gut feelings take over. And when today's belligerence eclipses long-term thinking, we see the first signs of failure, of squandered opportunities and legitimacy.
Past experience proves that whenever we dawdle over making decisions and succumb to a "one-hit" policy, we must ultimately contend with an increasingly bitter enemy. Those who wish to be optimistic and hope for a better future must learn how to take a deep breath and be prepared to sacrifice less today than may be required in the future.
The Second Lebanon War, which the Winograd Commission determined marked a "serious missed opportunity," and Israel's subsequent military and defense maneuvers, which have continued long after the war ended, proved the success of acting with determination. Just go ask the families living along the northern borders. Today, they can live normal, routine lives. Go ask Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, in the stale and isolated hole where he resides. Arrange an intimate discussion with Syrian President Bashar Assad, though his voice may be drowned out as weapons convoys explode left and right. The answer is clear: These are the results of continuity and determination, as exhibited by Israel.
We must use great force to eradicate terror from our midst, but the method and determination must be changed. We must change to an outlook rooted in patience and the willingness to bear the consequences of a drawn-out battle. Terrorism cannot be destroyed in a week through smart missiles, accurate missiles or artillery shelling. These may make for good photographs, but they hardly break the terrorist spirit, and they do not really undermine terrorist infrastructure. The whites of our soldiers' eyes are more of a deterrent than any fighter jet.
We all want to see these three boys -- Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali -- come back home healthy and safe, as soon as humanly possible. But we must hermetically separate efforts to bring them home from efforts to eliminate the terror infrastructure and Hamas' capabilities in Judea and Samaria. In deploying our forces, which the media has openly covered, Israel shows that it is working on both fronts. But if these boys return home and Israeli defense efforts in Judea and Samaria taper off as a consequence, then we will experience yet another kidnapping tomorrow or, God forbid, a bus bombing in Tel Aviv. All previous endeavors will have come to naught. Bring these boys home, but don't abandon the difficult task of preventing such future events.
Hamas is active in Judea and Samaria, but its power base lies in the Gaza Strip. Leveling Hamas cannot be done without ultimately razing its headquarters. Hamas knows this. It's reasonable to assume that with a tightened noose around its neck in Judea and Samaria, Hamas will venture to jab at us from Gaza anyway it possibly can. The prospect of a dual-front military conflict is enough to keep any political decision-maker up at night, but that's precisely why such individuals were elected -- to make the hard decisions needed to channel the optimal future.
In this long war, both east and west are important in determining the most ideal future. Islamic Jihad lurks in one corner, and it won't exactly mourn Hamas in the event of its downfall. Rather, it would try to take the throne once Hamas is gone. This radical terrorist group must be part of the overall elimination package, otherwise it will restock the shelves with a product far worse. Abbas is not exactly a paradigm for bold leadership, but eliminating Hamas' and Islamic Jihad's terrorist foundations, as well as a little international pressure by Western and Arab actors who loathe Hamas, could spark the flicker of governing responsibility the Palestinian Authority president needs for the sake of the Palestinian future.
Brig. Gen. (res.) Zvi Fogel is a former chief of staff of the IDF Southern Command.