Ariel Center for Policy Research (ACPR)


ACPR Research – Summary


The Limited Conflict Trap

Yehuda Wegman

Policy Paper No. 149 (Hebrew), 2003

The security doctrine of the State of Israel, which is derived from its geo-strategic situation, has always emphasized a short war and a rapid victory over the enemy. In contrast, according to the doctrine of the “limited conflict”, which was promulgated in the IDF as soon as the “peace process” began, terror dictates ongoing warfare for the State of Israel. At the time when “peace” was chosen as an alternative strategy to security and it was proclaimed that “in the age of missiles, strategic depth no longer has any value,” the IDF, too, adopted as its new combat doctrine the US army’s rules of “operation other than war” (OOTW), which was translated into Hebrew as “limited conflict” in which the “weak” defeats the “strong” by attrition.

In the process of “attrition”, the “strong” absorbs intensifying blows from terror and guerrilla acts that are mainly directed at its unprotected civilian interior. The accumulation of such blows over time is aimed at fostering a social – not military – turnabout in the “strong” party, which becomes convinced that it is not really “strong”. The inability to defend itself leads the “strong” party to surrender its principles in return for an end to the attacks. The “limited conflict” doctrine portrays the IDF as the “strong” side, which absorbs and reacts, and the Palestinians as the “weak” side, which initiates and attacks. Amazingly, the “limited conflict” doctrine, which, as mentioned, was accepted by the IDF, has no answer to the question of how in the Israeli-Palestinian reality the “strong”, attacked side is supposed to prevail over the “weak” one.

The glaring flaw of the new “doctrine” is that it is based on a reality and on modes of thought that were derived from other arenas, which bear no similarity to the Israeli-Palestinian arena. Analysis of the “limited conflicts” that other peoples have dealt with shows that in contrast to the Israeli case, there is not a single civilian in France, Britain, and the United States whose daily life was impaired by the “limited conflict” that his country’s army waged overseas.

After an extended period of fighting according to the rules of the “limited conflict” and at a heavy price in blood, both the political echelon and the IDF were forced to give up on the “attrition” and undergo a conceptual revolution, which brought them to the notion of “high intensiveness” and aggressiveness that proved – again – to be the only answer to terror.

For the complete article (in Hebrew), click here.