Is Israel Losing Sight of Its Long Game?


Feb 16, 2024

Israeli soldiers in front of a damaged building in the Gaza Strip, February 8, 2024, photo by Dylan Martinez/Reuters

Israeli soldiers in front of a damaged building in the Gaza Strip, February 8, 2024

Photo by Dylan Martinez/Reuters

This commentary originally appeared on Foreign Affairs on February 16, 2024.

Like many wars, Israel's four-month-old operation in Gaza is playing out on split screens. In most major international media outlets, it is portrayed as a campaign of wanton destruction and mass misery that has killed 28,000 or more Gazans and destroyed more than 70 percent of the territory's homes, without coming close to achieving its stated objective of “eradicating” Hamas and returning all the hostages. As a result, Western analysts have placed Israeli strategy on a spectrum ranging from “muddled,” as one Foreign Affairs article has put it, to a “strategically and morally unrecoverable” failure, as Ryan Evans, the founder of War on the Rocks, has described it.

By contrast, most Israeli media often seem to be depicting an entirely different war. On any given day, many Israeli newspapers and news broadcasts are filled with images of tunnels destroyed and weaponry captured, as well as the names of high-profile Hamas commanders killed. One recent headline in The Jerusalem Post trumpeted, “Israel Defeats Hamas in Khan Yunis, over 10,000 Gazan Terrorists Killed.” Another in The Times of Israel proclaimed, “Hamas in Route to Defeat.” This is not to say that the Israeli accounting suggests unalloyed success. After more than four months, many of the hostages remain in Hamas hands, and Israeli military casualties are mounting. Nonetheless, despite the unpopularity of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and growing pressure on the government to bring the hostages home, Israelis, on the whole, largely support the war effort, and a sizable portion of Jewish Israelis remain committed to toppling Hamas. …

The remainder of this commentary is available at

Raphael S. Cohen is Director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program of RAND's Project Air Force and a co-author of From Cast Lead to Protective Edge: Lessons From Israel's Wars in Gaza.

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