Israel seems to be planning for the long term in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza
LEILA FADEL, HOST:
The Associated Press is reporting that negotiators are trying to arrange a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in exchange for the release of hostages who were kidnapped by the militants on October 7. Meanwhile, Israel seems to be planning for the long term in Gaza. Here's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on ABC this week.
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PRIME MINISTER BENJAMIN NETANYAHU: I think Israel will - for an indefinite period will have the overall security responsibility because we've seen what happens when we don't have it.
FADEL: The Israeli military has escalated its operation in Gaza City, the largest in the Palestinian enclave. And more civilians are fleeing, people walking with what they can carry, some holding up white flags. The United Nations says more than 1 1/2 million Palestinians have been displaced. And despite growing international calls for Israel to protect civilians, many who have survived Israel's bombardment say they fear that Gaza will be permanently occupied and they will be permanently displaced. To discuss all this, we've reached out to retired U.S. Army Colonel Peter Mansoor. He was an aide to General David Petraeus, who commanded coalition forces during the Iraq War. And he's now a professor of military history at Ohio State University. Good morning.
PETER MANSOOR: Good morning.
FADEL: So, Colonel, I want to start with what a long-term military presence would look like in Gaza from Israel.
MANSOOR: Well, we've seen this before. Israel had a long-term military presence in south Lebanon, and it didn't turn out very well for them. I think the Netanyahu administration has not asked itself the key question, how does this end? And it doesn't end with a military occupation. It ends with a political settlement, and that's something they have not yet addressed.
FADEL: So is it an effective way to - I mean, the stated goal of this war is to eliminate Hamas and for security. Is this the way to get to those goals?
MANSOOR: Well, let's assume for a moment that Israel is successful in its initial military operation. It will face a sullen and not very cooperative Palestinian population of around 2 million people. In the counterinsurgency manual, we wrote that robust counterinsurgency would require 20 to 50 counterinsurgents for every thousand people, and that would equate to about 40,000 to 100,000 Israeli boots on the ground in Gaza for an indefinite period of time. So I don't think the Netanyahu administration has really thought this through.
FADEL: Now, you've written about your experience inside the Pentagon as the U.S. struggled to conduct its own offensive in Iraq as the U.S. occupation there came to an end. Your book on this is "Surge." What could Israel learn from the time when the U.S. surged troops in Iraq in 2007?
MANSOOR: Well, in fact, right after my retirement in 2008, the Israeli Defense Forces and a think tank invited me over to Tel Aviv to kind of pick my brain on what worked during the surge. And this was before Cast Lead, their 2009 invasion of Gaza. And I said, the primary thing that we learned is you have to find willing partners who are willing to reconcile on the other side, people with blood on their hands. You don't negotiate with your friends. They're already your friends. You have to negotiate with your enemies. And of course, we found that with the awakening movement and the tribal revolt against al-Qaida in Iraq. And to a person, they kind of looked at me and they said, well, that's not possible with the Palestinians. What else do you have for us?
MANSOOR: (Laughter) And I was just stunned - that if they ignored the primary lesson of the surge, they weren't going to get very far with the Palestinian people.
FADEL: So in your view, what needs to happen is they need to find a Palestinian partner in Gaza that is willing to work with them on a political solution.
MANSOOR: Both in Gaza and on the West Bank. They need to find Palestinians who are willing to negotiate, and they need to offer them political sovereignty. The Palestinians need a state, or in the ashes of Gaza City, Hamas 2.0 will rise up. And Israel needs to confront this and admit this to itself or it will simply face this again down the road.
FADEL: So when you say Hamas 2.0, your concern is that an even more violent group will come out of all of this?
MANSOOR: Well, exactly. So if you recall, when Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982, Hezbollah didn't exist. Hezbollah was an outgrowth of the Israeli invasion. And so this could very well lead to a group every bit as dangerous as Hamas.
FADEL: Peter Mansoor is a retired U.S. Army colonel and professor of military history at the Ohio State University. Thank you for your time.
MANSOOR: Thank you.
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FADEL: You can visit npr.org/mideastupdates for more coverage and differing views and analysis of the war.
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