‘IDF is forced to fight with one hand tied behind its back’

Experts at Bar-Ilan conference say legal and moral constraints have affected army’s ability to wage war.

IDF soldiers (photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF soldiers
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Changing aspects of the threats facing Israel and the country’s aversion to casualties have forced the IDF to fight with one hand behind its back, Bar-Ilan Prof. Avi Kober said on Tuesday.
“Even though low-intensity conflicts have never threatened Israel’s existence, they have forced many constraints on Israel,” Kober said, speaking at a conference sponsored by the university’s Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies on “Democracies and the Right of Self-Defense.”
In a talk titled “Fighting with one hand tied behind your back,” Kober cited examples from Lebanon and Gaza to describe how new legal and moral considerations have dictated Israel’s fighting of wars ever since the conflicts have gone from conventional to nonconventional, asymmetrical conflicts against terrorist organizations fighting from within civilian populations.
Kober said that in asymmetrical conflicts such as Operation Cast Lead and the Second Lebanon War, Israel has been restrained by three main factors: the country’s aversion to military casualties; its moral and legal responsibility to protect the lives of civilians; and the fact that modern technology makes so much of modern warfare easily viewed and recorded.
The sensitivity to accepting casualties among IDF soldiers “has only grown as Israel’s wars have become of a nonexistential nature. But whereas in the past casualty considerations affected how operations were carried out, in recent years they have sometimes determined whether missions were to be accomplished or if the objectives were to be achieved,” he said Former National Security Council head Maj.-Gen. (res.) Uzi Dayan focused on Israel’s exaggerated sensitivity toward soldiers’ casualties.
The fear of losing soldiers “has started to be an extreme factor” in military planning, and has become at times a hindrance in the fighting of wars, Dayan said.
“In Israel we’ve gotten to the point where the blood of soldiers is worth more than that of civilians. We need to return to the situation where soldiers are protecting the civilians and not the other way around.”
He added “at the end of the day, soldiers need to understand that they are defending civilians, and we must give them the protection and backup to do so.”
Also addressing the Second Lebanon War and Operation Cast Lead, Dayan said that when fighting terrorist organizations victory is achieved only when you bring about their demise.