Former IDF deputy chief of staff Maj.-Gen. (res.) Dan Harel said Tuesday at the
Herzliya Conference that he did not think the IDF had hit Hamas hard enough
during Operation Pillar of Defense.
Harel’s remarks were made during a
panel discussing Israel’s right to self-defense, and the strategic, moral and
legal limits on that right.
Harel qualified his remarks slightly, saying
no final conclusions could be made about the effectiveness of the IDF operation
until more time had passed.
But he supported his statement, noting that
already, only a couple of months after the November hostilities between Israel
and Hamas, a Grad rocket was recently fired into Israel.
He contrasted it
with Operation Cast Lead in 2008-2009, which he said had created a longer period
of deterrence since Israel had acted against Hamas with far less
Overall, Harel noted that since 1982, Israel’s strategic
self-defense doctrine had changed from fighting and defeating enemy states to
dealing significant blows to non-state terror groups.
He said it was
understood by Israel that there was no clear expectation of total victory or
completely stopping attacks, so the emphasis was on sending a strong enough
message that terror attacks would be put on the longest “time-out”
Part of the panel’s debate involved how much restraint Israel
should show in defending itself when fighting against (at least technically)
non-state actors like Hamas and Hezbollah, when it is harder to pick
black-andwhite “enemy” targets to retaliate against or strike preemptively to
deter them from attacking Israel.
Prof. Moshe Halbertal of the
Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya’s law school, for example, argued that many
current strategies which advocate attacking a wide array of targets not directly
related to terrorist groups, in order to get their host states or others to
pressure the terrorist groups, are liable to backfire.
“I would be very
careful with someone telling you this story” about how attacks on third parties
will indirectly impact the behavior of non-state terrorist actors, said
He noted that the 1982 Lebanon invasion showed that playing
such dynamic games invoked unintended consequences which, practically speaking,
usually come back to haunt Israel more than any other party.
moderator asked about the extent to which there is an understanding that Israel,
with the high level of threats against it, is in a unique situation that should
grant it broader rights to self-defense, including broader deterrence
The question was premised on the idea that from the outset, many
nations look critically at Israel’s claims regarding its IDF actions due to its
over 40-year-long control of the West Bank.
Dr. Eliav Lieblich of the IDC
Herzliya’s law school said that in many international forums such as the UN
Human Rights Council, Israel’s continued hold over the West Bank makes it almost
impossible to gain trust or sympathy for Israel’s claims to a right of broad
On the other hand, Lieblich said that foreign militaries
who deal with asymmetric enemies have far more sympathy for Israel’s strategic
and legal dilemmas.
Former IDF Court of Appeals head Maj.-Gen. (res.)
Yishai Beer, who is also a professor at IDC Herzliya’s law school, said that
Israel had achieved slightly greater sympathy for its right to self-defense
against non-state actors following the UN’s recognition of the US’s right to
attack al-Qaida in its capacity as the non-state actor that perpetrated the
September 11 terror attacks.