Israel/Palestine: the concept of “war of attrition”

Israel/Palestine: the concept of “war of attrition”

When we observe the events currently taking place in the Middle East, in the light of the spectacular Palestinian offensive against Israel which has shattered the myth of Arab defeat and the strategic and military superiority of Israel which is supported by the camp Western world, which is still becoming a sanctuary in the face of a world that is now more multipolar than ever, we cannot help but make an observation: the resistance movements since the Israeli-Arab wars have had no other choice, in their confrontation with the Hebrew State, than to resort to what very closely resembles a ” war of attrition “ against their lifelong adversary.

It is false to believe that there was a single precise operational objective in the historic attack of Saturday October 7, 2023. On the contrary, the different goals pursued were to exhaust the Israeli adversary, take it by surprise and weaken, by exerting pressure on its weak points which are its strong sensitivity to human losses and its intolerance to the taking of hostages, and more particularly to the capture of prisoners.

It turns out that Arab populations, including the Palestinian population, possess precisely the demographic resources, a strong potential for resilience and combat, as well as the experience of fighting against an enemy fiercely hostile to peace and the two-state solution. , which make them much more hardened and resistant, in the long term, in the face of Israel’s firepower and technological superiority.

The so-called war of attrition is a military strategy during which each adversary aims to reduce the forces of the other, seeking the surrender of the other, in particular by maintaining a point of position. However, this definition applies more to the First World War, during which this concept was first used. A better definition of this type of war should also take into account the absence of a precise tactical objective: taking cities, occupying the terrain, cutting off supply lines, destroying an opposing army once and for all, so many objectives classics of a modern army.

The war of attrition, that which the Palestinians are currently waging against their Israeli enemy, actually has such a characteristic: there are no such operational and material objectives, but only surprise, weaken the enemy’s resources and affect his morale, which was achieved with great success.

But, beyond that, it is above all breaking down the wall of indifference of several Arab countries and transcending this unconditionally pro-Israeli bias of the Western world, completely subservient to the interests of Israel, which is essential.

Ironically and paradoxically, it is when the Arabs fight without a specific objective that they win and mark history with great military successes. But history has not kept a memorable memory of these epic moments.

Let us give two examples: between 1967 and 1973, the Egyptians waged this type of war against Israel, after the debacle (the Nakba) of their army in the face of the preventive war orchestrated by the Israelis in Sinai. This war had no objectives, other than to show that Egypt was still standing, by killing as many Israeli soldiers as possible and destroying their equipment. During this war, the Israelis lost a lot of tanks and planes, many more than in 1967.

On the other hand, the 1973 war implemented by Egypt aimed to liberate the Suez Canal and the Sinai. However, this objective encountered obstacles and errors, such as the story of the “spill hole” through which the Israeli army, led by Ariel Sharon, led a “reverse crossing” which resulted in the encirclement of the Third Army. Egyptian.

In 2006, Hezbollah had no objective of attacking Israel. It was while penetrating a minefield installed by Hezbollah that an Israeli patrol was targeted by its fighters, who killed and captured several Israeli soldiers. Faced with Hezbollah’s refusal to return the soldiers, Israel launched a vast land, air and sea military operation against Lebanon.

Hezbollah resisted valiantly, launching thousands of rockets into northern Israel. Israeli losses were very severe: two hundred armored vehicles and two warships lost, 600 soldiers killed. This is the best example of a defensive war of attrition that cost the Israelis dearly. A commission of inquiry (Winograd) was also set up to investigate the conduct of this war by Israel, considered disastrous.

Rocket equipment gives the war of attrition a special dimension. A large stock of these weapons so panics populations that they are often evacuated from entire regions as soon as they are deployed. The rockets launched into Israeli territory aim precisely to make the adversary vulnerable and weaken it, while prolonging the duration of the conflict through a relentless deployment of offensive weapons. This is the case for both Hezbollah and Hamas.

Hezbollah became aware of the rationality of this war of attrition by beginning a series of offensives against northern Israel.

These forces are thus plunged into a war of attrition against a seemingly superior Israeli enemy, but which is, in reality, more vulnerable than one would think in the face of adversaries hardened by combat for decades.

Adversaries who wage an objective and merciless struggle against an Israeli enemy fiercely hostile to peace and the two-state solution, oppressing the Palestinian populations and violating the holy places, Muslim and Christian, in Jerusalem. This is precisely the kind of war that Israel fears the most, because it has a lasting impact on its resources and morale.

Moreover, the Israelis, when they speak about this new war, do not hide their fear of the military strategy of attrition. For example, a former soldier recently said that the 1973 Arab-Israeli war was “small matter” compared to Hamas’ deadly surprise attack, readily acknowledging Israel’s failure.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu affirmed, for his part, that the war would be long and difficult, clearly alluding to the war of attrition that Palestinian militant forces are accustomed to waging in the face of a ruthless enemy, who does not seek peace and only understands the language of force.

War of attrition is also the only recourse of Palestinian militant forces and Hezbollah, given the disproportionate gap between the scale and size of their forces with those of Israel. Weakening and demoralizing their enemy are, for the moment, the only results they can humanly obtain, while specific objectives such as the conquest of territories or liberating large regions seem practically unachievable.

It is not just the Palestinians and Hezbollah who have resorted to a war of attrition. The Taliban in Afghanistan used it against Western forces. They won a great victory with the catastrophic withdrawal of the Americans from their country, thus ending a presence of more than a decade.

In reality, the war of attrition will one day end Israel’s illegal occupation of the occupied territories, and ultimately give the Palestinian people a sovereign state, with East Jerusalem as its capital.

That day will come when Palestinian fighters and others exert enough pressure on the ground (without necessarily achieving specific objectives) that Israel finds itself in a political and military impasse, and a large part of the Israeli population ends up bow to the only long-term solution: peace, through the two-state solution that the late Oslo process aimed to put in place.

The killing of this process by radical Israeli factions and by Israeli settlers was the trigger for this long war of attrition, in which the Palestinian fighting and militant forces have become masters.

Regarding the murderous and apocalyptic bombings of the Israeli air force against the Gaza Strip, reduced to nothing, and its massacred population, including entire families decimated, they remind us of the War of Terror and the bombings of the Second War. worldwide (Dresden, London, Warsaw, etc.).

Their appalling and inglorious appearance seriously weakens the moral foundations of Israel, in a context marked by the loss of prestige of the Israeli army. Braced on its die-hard refusal of peace, the strategic weakening of Israel is inevitable in the face of the war of attrition waged masterfully by experts in the field: the Palestinian militant forces.