Israel Will Lose. Here's Why.
Western media are getting it wrong, just like in Ukraine
Ever since February 2022, Western mainstream media has been telling us that Russia cannot possibly win its war in Ukraine. Zelensky, with his hundreds of billions of dollars’ backing from the West, would surely prevail. Russia has always been taking unbearably heavy losses. Putin is always about to keel over dead. A fresh shipment of US wonder-weapons will turn the tide. A crushing Ukrainian victory is always at hand.
Because they could not imagine Ukraine losing, Western pundits could not see that it was losing. They missed the fact that from the moment the non-Western world majority refused to accept US sanctions on Russia, it was effectively over. Virtually the entire war has been fought under the shadow of an inevitable Russian victory. It has always been just a matter of time.
Might a similar situation prevail in the war for Palestine? The non-Western world majority has turned sharply against Israel—even more sharply than it turned against the US in its war on Russia through Ukraine. Yet Western media continue to manufacture and inhabit a bubble completely divorced from moral and strategic reality. They can’t even imagine Israel being in the wrong, even though it obviously is. They can’t imagine Hamas being noble and chivalrous fighters, and Israelis being cowardly child-killing terrorists, though such is obviously the case. They can’t acknowledge that the vast majority of the world disagrees with them for very good reasons, not because of “anti-Semitism.” And above all they can’t imagine that Israel, despite (or because of) its genocidal assault on civilians, is losing the war.
Just as you had to read “pro-Russian” sources (like Col. Douglas MacGregor) to get the truth about the war in Ukraine, you need to stay abreast of the pro-Resistance global majority view to get an accurate picture of the war for Palestine. To that end, check out my quick, Google-translate-assisted rendition of an enlightening article published yesterday by Al-Jazeera.
The shock that produced the predicament…Israel between an “image of victory” and defeat
Zuhair Hamdani and Talal Mushati for Al-Jazeera
Israeli leaders are preparing a tense and frustrated Israeli public for unforeseen surprises in their war on Gaza, by talking about a long, costly, and cruel war. The high expectations they have set for their war will be difficult to achieve, lacking as they do a clear military or political plan.
Israeli Chief of Staff Herzi Halevy says, “We are waging a war with a cruel enemy, and this war has a painful and heavy price,” while Defense Minister Benny Gantz sums up the difficulty of the ground war: “The images coming from the ground battle are painful, and our tears are falling when we see our soldiers falling.”
The Israeli leadership has launched its war on Gaza at a time when it has the confidence of only 27% of the Israeli public, while only about 51% trust the Israeli army. Added to this are the burdens of 250,000 people seeking refuge from the Gaza region and the northern areas near Lebanon, as well as the more than 240 Israelis held prisoner by the resistance in Gaza.
Accordingly, for Israel, this war is not like previous wars. Israel is suffering huge daily losses and erosion of resources, including soldiers, equipment, time, money, and legitimacy (internal and external support). The cost will continue to rise as the war lengthens or expands.
Maariv newspaper comments on the conditions of the ground war taking place on the outskirts of Gaza, saying, “The resistance forces are very far from being broken. Despite the liquidations and assassinations, Hamas is succeeding in most cases in maintaining an organized method of fighting, based mainly on tunnel fighting, exiting from hiding places, and launching missiles at our armoured vehicles.”
Two overriding factors drive the fierce Israeli war on Gaza: the shock of the resounding military defeat and the security and intelligence failure that resulted from the Palestinian resistance’s launch of Operation “Al-Aqsa Storm” on October 7; and the predicament of the huge number of prisoners being held by the Al-Qassam Brigades and other Palestinian factions. Therefore, military action revolves around these two goals.
Under the psychological influence of the “Black Saturday” events, the Israelis went directly to the ultimate goal of any war, which is “to destroy the enemy.” This was a high ceiling that they probably knew, by virtue of previous experience, could not be achieved. It cannot happen except at a price they could not afford to pay.
In this context, Defense Minister Yoav Galant said, "There is no place for Hamas in Gaza. At the end of our battle, there will be no Hamas." That is an unrealistic goal based on past experience and the current realities on the ground.
Considering previous wars including 2008 and 2014, we find that “destroying Hamas” was always a basic goal that was never achievable. There is no reason to believe that it will be achievable this time, especially since the movement is now much stronger, with much deeper roots in the Gaza Strip, than before. Its military defenses and arsenal have been strengthened to the point of being difficult to penetrate, and in the end it is not a state or a regular army that can announce its surrender, but rather an extended popular resistance movement in the path of a protracted Palestinian struggle.
The war that Israel does not want
If war consists of combat operations that require mobilizing the resources and capabilities of the state to carry out a specific military campaign in order to implement military and political objectives, ranging from moving a front to achieving tactical successes and imposing certain conditions or carrying out a decisive battle that breaks the will of the “enemy,” then it requires an agreed-upon leadership that enjoys a degree of consensus. It requires a military apparatus that is trained, equipped, and at least minimally psychologically mobilized for combat; an appropriate confrontation plan; and a unified, cohesive internal political and social front directed toward that goal.
It also requires an economic mobilization that comprehends the circumstances and course of the war and its surprises, and an understanding or supportive international and regional front. Victory is difficult to achieve if any or all of these conditions are absent, especially in the case of long battles that require continuous mobilization. The results are also linked to the enemy’s reaction, the extent of its strength, and the tactics it chooses.
Was Israel ready?
In terms of military capabilities, Israel always seems prepared for war on several fronts. But technical military capabilities and weapons alone do not resolve wars, especially if they are not the kind of lighting wars that Israel favors. In practice Israel suffers from significant defects in almost all of the above-mentioned ingredients for winning a war.
At the leadership level: There is no agreed-upon leadership in Israel that enjoys consensus or the necessary charisma. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as polls show, is extremely unpopular. In a recent Israeli public opinion survey conducted by the Israeli newspaper Maariv, it was found that only 27% of Israelis support his political survival, and his political and military decisions are not accepted and are subject to widespread criticism. The course of the war has also proven that he is indecisive and does not have a clear and convincing plan for military or political action.
Netanyahu also refuses to accept responsibility for the security failure on October 7, which exposed him to severe internal criticism. Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid, for example, warned that Netanyahu’s attempts to evade responsibility and blame the security establishment, thereby weakening the Israeli army, amounted to “crossing red lines.”
The Home Front: The home front appears to have disintegrated. Israelis are living in a state of severe division at the partisan, popular and political levels. Especially controversial is how to deal with the issue of prisoners held by the resistance, in light of the dangers of a ground war and the major losses it would entail.
Netanyahu and the extremist members of his government stand accused of dividing Israeli society. The leader of the opposition Labor Party, Merav Michaeli, has charged the Prime Minister with “fighting the army and the people of Israel.” The issue of prisoners held by the resistance has also sparked internal divisions, especially after Heritage Minister Amichai Eliyahu called for bombing Gaza with a nuclear weapon, saying, "What does hostage mean? In war, the price is paid. Why are the lives of hostages more precious than the lives of soldiers?" This was considered by Israelis to be “an abandonment by the government of its commitment to returning the hostages.”
Military front: The events of “Al-Aqsa Flood”, especially the first six hours of October 7, demonstrated that the Israeli army suffers from severe deficiencies, as do its many security services. Now the daily losses it is suffering in its ongoing ground operation have made it the object of suspicion within Israeli society, which was relying upon it to maintain an aura of safety and stability.
Economic situation: The Israeli economic situation is at its worst, with major sectors such as tourism paralyzed, travel declining, and the agricultural sector suffering damage. With the mobilization of about 360,000 reserve soldiers, most of them suddenly removed from the labor force, and the evacuation of about 250,000 settlers, the economy is witnessing a severe labor shortage in various fields. Israel recently announced that the last three weeks of war have cost about 7 billion dollars, without taking into account the direct and indirect damages. While this damage may cost about 3 billion dollars per month, preliminary estimates show that the war on Gaza will cost Israel’s budget 200 billion shekels ($51 billion), or about 10% of the gross domestic product, and as the war continues for a long period, the Israeli economy may be crippled according to Israeli estimates.
Diplomatic front: After last October 7, Western countries that were historically biased towards Israel rushed to support it, but this support quickly began to erode due to the impact of Israeli crimes and doubts about the ability of the Israeli army to resolve the war. Many countries condemned Israel or cut off their diplomatic relations with it (Colombia, Bolivia), while other countries recalled their ambassadors (Chile, Jordan, Bahrain, Turkey, Honduras...) Ever-increasing global popular pressure is pushing governments to take boycott measures, exposing Israel to isolation that has begun to worsen.
US Support for Israel Eroding?
In contrast to the direct support at the beginning, the administration of President Joe Biden began to re-assess its absolute support for Netanyahu for fear that things would spiral into a wider regional war. Washington fears the crazy scenarios that Netanyahu may create in an attempt to save his future at America expense.
After about a month, the Americans realized that the only constant in the Israeli plan was the use of massive destructive force targeting civilians and infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. It seemed Netanyahu was waiting for a solution to save himself from a harsh predicament in the sands of Gaza—and waiting for the illusion of the resistance’s surrender that wasn’t going to happen. They began to have doubts about Israel's management of the war and its results.
CNN has indicated that US President Joe Biden and senior US administration officials have warned Israel that support is eroding as global anger intensifies over the extent of human suffering resulting from its crimes in Gaza.
What's happening in the field?
Over the course of about a month of war, it does not appear that Israel has achieved any serious gains on the ground. Contradictory statements indicate confusion about how to manage the battle and set final goals in the face of severe resistance. The shock of the mismanaged October 7 battle, and the psychological scars it left on the entire Israeli military establishment, still haunt the course of the war.
This psychological atmosphere also looms over the soldiers, as they realize that their return from the sands of Gaza would require a miracle. They recall the experiences of their colleagues and their bitter memories of the 2014 war as they witness the elite of the Givati Brigade drowning in the sands of Gaza in a battle that is still in its infancy. In effect, the Israeli army advanced a few meters into open lands in the northern Gaza Strip and lost 30 soldiers—according to reports—meaning that it is possible that hundreds of soldiers would be lost if the army advanced a few kilometers, amid a complex network of tunnels and fortifications, minefields, snipers, explosive devices, and hand-to-hand combat in the streets facing the unlimited fighting will of the resistance.
Since Israel does not have a clear plan for the war, it has inclined toward slow, calculated progress inside Gaza. Thus, achieving the dubious final goal may take a long period and unbearably heavy losses. In the meantime, important military or political transformations may occur that will ravage the entire plan.
In its current operations, Israel is losing up to 5 soldiers every day on the outskirts of Gaza without a clear and effective military advance. Nahum Barnea, the Israeli journalist in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, says, “A war of attrition on the outskirts of Gaza is the last thing the Israelis want to experience.”
Israeli military officials realize that it is impossible to liberate the prisoners militarily, but they are proceeding nonetheless under political pressure, despite the fact that the families of the prisoners, as well as the countries that have nationals among the prisoners, want an exchange deal. Netanyahu believes that such a deal would be a final acknowledgment of defeat and a victory for Hamas and the Palestinian resistance.
The cohesion of the resistance and the Israeli non-plan
Israeli public opinion fears that the war will be lost on two or more fronts, by failing to liberate or release the prisoners (about 60 of them have already been killed in Israeli raids) and by failure to dismantle the capabilities of the Hamas movement and the Palestinian resistance. Worse, a large number of soldiers will be killed, perhaps in the hundreds.
In contrast to the Israeli non-plan, following the painful military blow directed at Israel on the morning of October 7, the plan of Hamas and the resistance seems clear: stop the war, carry out a comprehensive prisoner exchange, and lift the siege of Gaza. The resistance is waging a war of attrition on the Israeli army, inflicting ever-increasing daily losses, and appears prepared for a long war to erode the elements of Israeli power.
Time is not on Israel's side, as it loses more money, men, and legitimacy, its internal crisis worsens, and the pressures and doubts surrounding it increase, with the possibility of the situation exploding regionally. Instead it is on the side of the Palestinian resistance, which believes that all of these internal and external military and political pressures will ultimately make Israel yield and accept its terms.
In that case, the war would not only end with the defeat of Netanyahu, but also with the defeat of the far-right government and its racist program. Israeli society has increasingly rejected this government’s policies at all levels, and the war has proven that it cannot impose surrender on the Palestinian people despite the tragedies caused by Israeli crimes in Gaza, whose repercussions have made the international community wary and inclined to reject Israeli narratives.
The international community has begun to realize that the campaign launched by Benjamin Netanyahu on Gaza is nothing more than a series of horrific daily massacres against civilians that has not achieved any significant military breakthrough. The prognosis: Israel will be forced to submit to defeat under internal and external pressures. Already serious movements have begun from the international community to stop the war in the wake of the horror of ongoing Israeli massacres.
Nadav Eyal asserts in his article in Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that the Israeli army cannot be satisfied with the “image of victory” in its war on Gaza, and that the era of the policy of “mowing the grass” (reducing threats to an acceptable level) has ended. Instead, Israel needs a “real victory.” But this leaves Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a deeply distressing predicament
The main dilemma concerns Netanyahu himself, who does not want to come down from the heights of the tree into which he scrambled on the morning of October 7. He realizes that he is finished politically (due to Al-Aqsa Storm) yet dreams of a resurrection linked to the results of his campaign in Gaza.
Netanyahu and his war cabinet are acting impulsively under the influence of the shock of October 7, without a clear military plan for the war, which is mainly being fought as a mindless emotional reaction to the well-prepared resistance in Gaza. Israel lacks a clear plan to liberate or recover the prisoners, or to confront the huge and ever-escalating international protests, to the point that Netanyahu began addressing Israeli soldiers in Gaza with quotes from the Bible, telling them to “remember what Amalek did to you.” (Amalek represents the height of evil in Jewish tradition.) Netanyahu has used the Amalek reference more than once to motivate the Israeli army in its war against Gaza.
Netanyahu is accumulating losses on all fronts, trying to write off “Black Saturday,” ignoring that his leadership does not enjoy popular acceptance, and pretending not to notice Israel’s broken army, eroding economy, undermined international reputation, disintegrated home front, large daily military losses, and the United Nations’ condemnation of his crimes.