Analysis: Israel's new military strategy : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Tuesday, 31 October, 2000, 14:44 GMT Analysis: Israel's new military strategy

Israel's response: thought too harsh abroad and ineffective at home

By the BBC's Nick Childs in Jerusalem Throughout this burgeoning crisis, Israel's political and military leaders have consistently warned that they would know how to respond to a continuing confrontation.

But it is not clear whether, even in its own terms, the Israeli army has yet found the answer.

While Israel has been widely censured in the international community for using excessive force against the Palestinians, there has been equally widespread disquiet among Israelis that the military has appeared weak and ineffective in the face of this form of hostilities.

Israel's acting foreign minister has been wooing international support Even when the Israeli military has resorted to heavier weaponry, such as machine guns and rockets fired from helicopter gunships, it has insisted that these have been used in a selective way and to minimise unnecessary civilian casualties.

Such protestations have carried very little weight in the outside world, where the images have been of overwhelming Israeli firepower being used, often in a heavy-handed and callous way.


But in Israel, the focus has been on incidents like the army's failure to recover an injured serviceman in an early clash, the abandonment of Joseph's tomb, and the difficulties the army encountered in extracting Jewish settlers after a firefight erupted on Mount Eval which overlooks the tomb.

The Israeli army said on Monday it would initiate more operations, rather than simply being responsive - although many would question the notion that the Israelis have only been reactive so far.

Israel suggested it could target leaders of militia groups who, the Israelis insist, are the real threat they face.

The Palestinians have raised the spectre of Israeli undercover hit-squads, although the Israeli military has refused to give details of all the options it is considering.

Invincible image

Each time the Israeli army has ratcheted up its military response, it has declared that its actions have been meant as a warning to deter future Palestinian violence.

But it does not seem to have worked, raising new concerns in Israeli opinion that the previous image of invincibility of the Israeli army, and its ability to deter attacks, has been fatally damaged.

The heavy Palestinian death toll has put Israel on the defensive It is a mood of unease which has taken hold since the Israeli army's ignominious pullout from southern Lebanon earlier this year.

After the latest Israeli actions, the deputy defence minister, Ephraim Sneh, said once again they were meant as a warning that, if the Palestinians were intent on conducting guerrilla warfare, Israel has the answers.

The Palestinian leadership's response has been to accuse the Israelis of a dangerous escalation, and to issue a new appeal to the international community for help.

Israel insists it has adopted a policy of "strategic restraint".

But the heavy Palestinian death toll has put it on the defensive, and the Israeli army's tactics have come under critical scrutiny as never before.

Rules of engagement

The army insists it follows strict rules of engagement, particularly over the use of live ammunition.

But as the confrontation has unfolded, the evidence has mounted that these rules are often not being put into practice, and perhaps more significantly there are now even doubts being raised within the Israeli military itself about whether they are appropriate.

It is reported that the army has been re-examining its rules of engagement.

But projecting an image of strength and deterrence, while minimising unwanted casualties, is a difficult balancing act to perform.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 31, 2000

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