Barak: Israel could reoccupy parts of Gaza Strip

Defense minister says Israel shouldn't go to war "unless we have to"; Ashkenazi urges inclusion of military brass in war planning.

Ehud Barak at Independence press conference 370 (photo credit: Ricardo Mallaco)
Ehud Barak at Independence press conference 370
(photo credit: Ricardo Mallaco)
The army could conquer and control the Gaza Strip today if the government orders such an operation, Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Friday.
“If the cabinet will want the IDF to conquer and control Gaza, this is something that is possible today if it is deemed fit,” Barak said, speaking at a conference at the Fisher Brothers Institute for Air and Space Strategic Studies in Herzliya.
Barak’s speech focused on IDF’s 2009 Cast Lead offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saying that the army “didn’t need to drag that out for 22 days... Our exit from Gaza during Cast Lead was justified, but we could have left 10 days earlier with the same results.”
Barak also referred to statements made by former OC Southern Command Maj.- Gen. Yoav Galant, who said the IDF could have re-occupied the Philadelphia Corridor separating the Strip from Sinai, in Rafah, the southern Gaza Strip, during the war, saying “the reason we didn’t occupy Rafah is for the same reason we didn’t call for it during the planning stage – you don’t want to be in control of 150,000 Palestinians, to worry about providing them with diapers, milk, and running water.”
Former IDF chief of Staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi also spoke at the conference. He addressed the importance of collaboration between the government and the military in planning military operations.
“The General Staff and its head cannot sit outside the political echelon’s discussions about a possible war. They must be there and if they aren’t there then they need to make it happen, this way there will be less mistakes,” he said.
Ashkenazi’s comments came against the backdrop of the common belief that the prime minister and the defense minister are more in favor of carrying out a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities than the heads of the IDF and the security establishment.
“The General Staff must understand how to interface with the political level when they move to go to war. The military must be a partner and issue recommendations. This has an influence on the results of the war, and this is our obligation as commanders,” Ashkenazi said.
IDF commanders must see the big picture and not just view things in the terms of the battlefield, he said, adding, “There must be a coordination of expectations between the military level and the political level, this dialogue is critical to managing the results.”