Major General (res.) Itzhak Brik has been in the headlines recently, because over the years he warned against the IDF's Gaza border concept and claimed that the army was not ready for war. Brik began developing his critical approach to the IDF as the IDF's Ombudsman for Soldier's Complaints between 2008 and 2018.
Since the outbreak of the war, he has warned about the ground operation in Gaza and even met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "Globes" asked Brik about his warnings on the army's lack of readiness and if he has changed his mind after the IDF's relative success in ground maneuvers in Gaza so far.
He said, "The army did not have any updated plans for this war," he says. "For a very long time the army has not touched its plans for conquering the Strip and had not planned for a major war in Gaza, for the simple reason that it had been decided that there was no need because it wouldn't happen. At the moment that this war was forced on us, the army had to very quickly begin to bring an immediate war plan and here was the problem - the army wanted to go head on into Gaza, which would have caused very heavy casualties."
What did Netanyahu say during your conversation?
"I told him that in my opinion, we need to proceed, contrary to what we had intended to do until then, to pound the Strip and Gaza City for a protracted period, so that it would not be possible for them to get fuel in, among other things, which would cause them to be smothered over time. I recommended reducing as much as possible the ability to let in food and water and at the same time, for aircraft to continue firing at selected targets, in order not to kill civilians and as soon as they are weakened to go on raids and not stay in the core of Gaza City. In this way, I recommended to the Prime Minister, it would be possible to weaken them instead of being in the heart of Gaza with hundreds of armaments and with our forces being worn down. Basically, we do the same thing only without entering the city. Sensibly, the prime minister accepted my position and suspended the army's start of the ground operation for an extended period, which also allowed the army to train, prepare and prepare better plans.
At the moment the army has encircled Gaza City from all directions and is choking it and that is excellent. The army is being to work correctly but unfortunately in the past few days a mistaken process is taking place, which could cause us huge damage. What do I mean? In the last two days, there is significant talk about the desire to enter Shifa Hospital. By the way, I understood that the prime minister does not see this as the right direction but in any case the IDF is beginning to move forward in the direction of the hospital and towards other population concentrations. This might bring about a situation in which we win the battle and lose the war.
Already today, there is very heavy pressure from countries worldwide to reach a ceasefire. As soon as we arrive at Shifa Hospital, the situation against us in the world will worsen tenfold. This will lead to ambassadors being recalled, the cancellation of agreements, and could lead to economic sanctions on Israel, and the expansion into a regional war. As soon as we get to Shifa, there are over 200 patients there, and probably if we fight there some of them will also be killed, even if we are extraordinarily successful, it sets up a Pyrrhic victory. Because it will inflame the whole world against us, and could cause an escalation that might reach Judea and Samaria and even an explosion inside Israel. The IDF will find itself in a much worse situation than when it entered, because there will no longer be a war just against Hamas, there will be a war in the region."
So what should we do in Shifa?
"We must continue to strangle them with bombing from the air. There is no reason to go into these places with all the dangers I mentioned. You have to remember that even if we enter Shifa there are thousands of Hamas people in the Strip, in the south, and in the center, and it is reasonable to assume that the senior echelon has for some time not been beneath Shifa.
What is your opinion on the proposal to release all security prisoners in exchange for the hostages?
"I think it is the right direction. Today these murderers are sitting in our prisons in a type of summer camp. They eat, drink, study and enjoy themselves. If they are released, we will always have the option of taking them back. If we release them all, they will return to the Hamas tunnels, and we can deal with them one by one in the right way this time. If we decide that they have blood on their hands, it will be worth doing so."
If there is anything that has pleasantly surprised Brik, it is the social cohesion that has emerged since the October 7 atrocities. According to him, "The strength in this war comes, among other things, from the feeling of togetherness and commitment. If we don't know how to preserve that, everything here will fall apart, also in terms of security."
Regarding the challenges on the northern border, Brick says we must not be tempted to open up a front there. "Hezbollah is something different compared with Hamas. It has 150,000 rockets, it can fire 3,000 rockets a day, and it has the Radwan force, which is many times more skilled than Hamas."
If we don't deal with this threat now, what do you suggest doing?
"First of all to strengthen and to develop the army, to enlarge the land army and bring back more days reserve duty and training and get prepared. We must immediately set up a sterile zone - let us assume an area of 500 meters from the border. Anyone who comes close will be hit."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 8, 2023.
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