If diplomatic efforts fail to secure a truce with Hamas, there may only be two military options for Israel – a long war of attrition where both sides fire at each other intermittently, or the bloody, painful reoccupation of the Gaza Strip.
That was the assessment of Maj.-Gen. (res.) Ya’acov Amidror, former national security adviser to the prime minister and head of the National Security Council, who spoke to The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.
“During the operation we had the tunnel problem and I believe we solved that, even if maybe not 100 percent. Now there are two options; one is to continue with the situation where we fire on them and they fire on us. A situation must be found for the people in the South but from the standpoint of Israel this is a situation we can stand.”
He added that such a war of attrition with a non-state actor like Hamas could work, because the longer it continued the Islamist group would become weaker, as it doesn’t have the ability to replenish its weapons like a state could.
“They don’t have a card up their sleeves that they can use against us,” Amidror said.
The other more painful decision in the short-term, would be to launch a full-scale operation to reoccupy Gaza, he said.
“The second option is to decide that we can’t deal with this situation where they fire over all of Israel for a month, so we say ‘Okay, we have no choice but to occupy Gaza.’ We would pay a very high price but at the end we’d have quiet and there wouldn’t be rockets.”
Amidror said that from a military point of view, nothing short of the occupation of Gaza could stop the rocket threat forever, saying the shooting of rockets cannot be prevented if Israel doesn’t control the area. He said that it would be no easy matter, would take many months, Israel would suffer heavy losses, and so would the Palestinians.
He added, “this is what cleaning Gaza of Hamas would entail, you can’t separate them from the [Gaza] population.”
Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, where Amidror is a researcher, said the solution didn’t have to be attrition or occupation, and that there could be another solution.
“I think you don’t have to go all the way, there is a middle way and this is to go after the leaders of the Hamas military wing,” Inbar told the Post.
Describing the concept in a paper put out by the BESA Center on Tuesday, he said that this proposal would entail finding and either killing or capturing as many members of the Hamas military leadership as possible and destroying their military installations.
“Even if such an attack were very costly it might – unfortunately – be the best alternative available to Israel. The lives lost by giving such a blow to Hamas might save more lives by delaying or preventing future attacks. There are times when there is a high cost to defending the country in the best way available,” Inbar wrote.
Hamas official Mousa Abu Marzouk was quoted by the Ma’an news agency as saying the current cease-fire is the “second and final one.” He added that the truce being negotiated is harder to achieve.
The lack of a breakthrough in the Cairo talks raises the possibility that when the cease-fire ends at midnight on Wednesday the fighting could once again resume, with a diplomatic solution more distant than ever.