Maj. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot was named today as the next IDF chief of staff. Since virtually every such Israeli commander (among the more bloody have been Yitzhak Rabin, Ehud Barak, Ariel Sharon and Dan Halutz) has conducted military campaigns that violated international laws of war, it’s no surprise that Eisenkot himself already has more blood on his hands than most. He was one of Israel’s key commanders during the 2006 Lebanon war, in which Israel unleashed a massive level of devastation on the country, its infrastructure and people (1,100 were killed by the IDF). Eisenkot enunciated the Dahiya Doctrine, which declared that the IDF would launch indiscriminate attacks on Lebanese civilian targets in order to deter Hezbollah.
Dahiya was the neighborhood stronghold of Hezbollah in Beirut. The strategic “thinking” behind it was that the Islamist movement would cause the destruction of its own Shiite followers in the heart of the group’s own civilian stronghold. In other words, no one would be spared. Indeed, the IDF bragged at the time that it dropped a 25,000 pound bomb on Nasrallah’s headquarters under Dahiya and killed him. But it didn’t. Thus the Doctrine was seen to have a few chinks.
In the IDF commander’s own words:
[Israel’s response will] happen in every village from which shots were fired in the direction of Israel. We will wield disproportionate power against [them] and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases. […] This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a plan that has already been authorized. […] Harming the population is the only means of restraining Nasrallah.
A hawkish Israeli military analyst elaborated:
“With an outbreak of hostilities, the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes…Israel…will have to respond disproportionately in order to make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt the calm currently prevailing along its borders. Israel must be prepared for…a full-scale confrontation.
Israeli hawks will claim that Dahiya worked since the northern border has been relatively quiet since 2006. But at what cost? Billions in losses to both the Israeli and Lebanese economies. One million Israelis fleeing to bomb shelters. Some of the IDF’s finest tank crews and commanders (including David Grossman’s son, who died on the last day of the war) killed by Hezbollah’s daring tunnel and guerilla warfare tactics.
The IDF extended the Doctrine to Gaza as well, with wholesale slaughter of entire neighborhoods, which brought the death toll there to 2,200 in fifty days of fighting. No one, not even the champions of this excuse for mass murder, argues that it is a long-term solution. It’s a corollary of the “mowing the grass” phenomenon. Every few years you take out the lawn mower and get your hands dirty by thinning out the enemy. It’s a dirty job, but someone’s gotta do it, etc.
The Dahiya Doctrine is a war crime on a number of levels. First, it constitutes collective punishment. Second, it deliberately targets civilians as a war goal rather than mere collateral damage. I expect some day to see Eisenkot and a number of other Israeli generals and political figures before the ICC in the Hague.
Another interesting ethnic aspect of Eisenkot’s appointment is that he is the first Israeli-Moroccan to hold the title of chief of staff. According to this Israeli source, thousands of Eastern European Jews fled to Morocco both during the Middle Ages and afterward. This even happened during World War II. Given his Ashkenazi name, his ancient family origin was in Eastern Europe. But eventually it made its way to Morocco. There have been two previous Mizrahi chiefs of staff, but no Moroccan.