In order to restore deterrence against Hamas, the IDF must kill Hamas soldiers and not just attack empty buildings, former IDF chief of staff and Blue and White candidate Gabi Ashkenazi said at the Maariv National Security Conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.
Ashkenazi said it is critical to make Hamas feel the cost of continuing to periodically fire rockets on Israel as well as continuing a yearlong confrontation on the Gaza border.
He said that “our deterrence has crashed,” but that Hamas is “not an irresolvable problem.”
The former IDF chief acknowledged that Hamas will respond and the situation “will not be simple,” but said there is no choice if Israel is going to succeed in breaking the cycle of violence with Gaza.
He dismissed those who say that Israel can no longer win wars in an age when its adversaries can bring massive numbers of rockets raining down on the home front.
Rather, he said that winning wars had to be redefined to either applying enough force to convince an enemy to stop attacking Israel, or eliminating the enemy’s ability to continue its attacks.
For example, Ashkenazi said that during the Second Intifada, the IDF physically eliminated West Bank terrorists’ ability to continue to attack Israel.
Regarding the threat of Iran building up forces against Israel in Syria, he said that the only way to remove the Iranians from that front is to threaten Bashar Assad’s rule.
Praising the IDF’s attacks on Iran in Syria in recent years, he said they would not be sufficient to get Tehran to remove its forces.
He said that Israel needs to “change its strategy. [Russian President Vladimir] Putin smiled, but cannot succeed” at getting Iran and Hezbollah out of Syria.
“We need to take a price from Assad,” Ashkenazi said, adding that Israel would need to directly attack Syrian units and threaten Assad himself, as opposed to only attacking Iranian units in Syria.
He explained that only once Assad himself felt the price of having Iranian forces in his country would he force them to leave.