Maj. Gen. (res.) Gadi Shamni, a former commander of the IDF’s Gaza Division and former military attaché in the United States, tells Channel 12 in the wake of US President Joe Biden’s visit that “the United States is expecting us to destroy Hamas.”
What’s more, says Shamni, even if there weren’t an American green light, Israel must not end this war until “Hamas is utterly beaten… and Gaza demilitarized.” By the end, all the hostages must be returned, and Israel must determine the conditions for Gaza’s reconstruction, possibly with a return of Palestinian Authority rule there, he says.
He says Hamas recognizes that Israel has a leadership problem, without effective “hands on the wheel,” and castigates Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for having “nurtured” Hamas, including by “inviting billions” in funding to flow into the Strip.
Shamni says the military task is “complex” but the IDF can do it — “it has the fighters, the weaponry, the fighting spirit and the determination.”
The mission will last 6-8 months, he predicts. “Conquering Gaza, taking control of Gaza… will take a few weeks.” Then Israel will have to kill and capture Hamas’s armed forces. “Thousands will have to be jailed in the Negev to serve as bargaining chips” for the over 200 captives Hamas holds hostage.
“If Israel were to free [Palestinian security prisoners] as Hamas wants, that would be defeat for Israel. It would merely invite further attacks.”
“So there is no choice. People who talk of other options, to do it all from the air” are mistaken, he says. Airstrikes are important, but ultimately the ground forces have to go in.
He says Hamas “can absorb a lot” of punishing military strikes, and that the terror groups feel “like they have a bonanza” with so many hostages. “They think that they can bend us to their will.” The IDF should be careful in areas where it thinks hostages are being held, but overall, “the IDF must move forward with full force.”
Shamni says the IDF is capable of acting simultaneously on the northern front against Hezbollah if needed, and controlling the West Bank. Ultimately, he adds, Hezbollah must be pushed back from its positions at the northern border. “That too we will have to solve by force,” he says, since diplomacy won’t push Hezbollah back.
“The reality there is worse” than it was before the 2006 Israel-Lebanon war, he says, and “people won’t go back to live” in the northern border area near Lebanon unless or until Hezbollah is pushed back.