There is an old saying, that professional militaries tend to fight the last war.
But Israel has learned its lesson, in particular, the lessons of the failed 2006 war against Hezbollah. This time there will be no pinprick attacks. Israeli will go big and hard and heavy. This will be Fallujah on steroids.
I reported on the 2006 war along the border zone for Newsmax and NBC News. After nearly two weeks of air strikes in response to thousands of Hezbollah rockets smashing into Israeli towns and villages, then Prime Minister Ehud Olmert ordered elite IDF units to launch small probing cross-border strikes, in the hope of disrupting Hezbollah supply lines.
One of those units was Battalion 51 of the famed Golani brigade, which was ordered to take Bint Jbeil, a Hezbollah stronghold and the birthplace of fabled Hezbollah terror mastermind, Imad Fayez Mugniyeh.
The operation had been a total michal, or fawda, Israeli terms which have many unprintable equivalents in U.S. military slang. This is how I described the survivors in an forthcoming book, The Iran House:
The Golani troops carried enough food, water and ammo for a forty-eight-hour mission – and wound up staying five and a half days.
They humped fifteen kilometers in the dead of night to the outskirts of the village, then in the pre-dawn hours received the order to move into the town itself. And that’s where everything fell apart. They entered a narrow alleyway between houses when Hezbollah fighters appeared on all sides and opened fire. Eight soldiers were killed in less than a minute, and twenty-two more were wounded. Even more would have died, one of the survivors told me, if the deputy commander of their unit, Major Ro’i Klein, hadn’t spotted a grenade rolling toward them and jumped on it.
It was the largest single loss of life ever for the Golani brigade, and pretty much decimated their unit, Battalion 51. One sergeant, who was being bandaged in an ambulance, told me his men moved only at night, finding refuge in abandoned houses, then waited for the Hezbollah fighters to reveal themselves during the day. “For the first three days, there was almost constant firing,” he said.
These young men were shell-shocked, in addition to being half-starved and dying of thirst. They had been led to believe by faulty intelligence that the village had been abandoned – which it had, mostly. “The only people who stayed behind were terrorists,” a private said.
During the early days of the war, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert thought he could defeat Hezbollah with air power alone – a strategy any combat veteran could have told him was doomed to fail. When it did fail, he ordered the IDF to devise pin-prick cross-border operations like the one the Golani brigade had attempted in Bint Jbeil.
But it wasn’t yet time to write about the command failure. It was time to write about the valor of these young men. “We killed more than one hundred terrorists,” one of them said. “Just to be part of that makes everything worth it.”
Major Klein was understandably lionized in the Israeli press for having chosen to lay down his life for his friends. A family member told the Jerusalem Post that just before jumping on the grenade he recited the Shema, the founding prayer of Judaism. “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One.” I sort of doubted he got past the first three words.
One of the many politicians I interviewed during the 2006 war was Bibi Netanyahu, then the opposition leader. I met him in a bomb shelter in Kiryat Shmona, just south of Metulla. Because Israel was at war, he did not want to openly criticize Prime Minister Ohlmert. “It’s time to finish the job,” he said.
Today, Bibi will get his chance to finish the job. The IDF has announced the mobilization of 300,000 reservists, a massive force, and has been staging Merkava tanks and armored personnel carriers opposite Gaza and its northern border.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced on Monday the IDF will impose a “complete siege” on Gaza, cutting off electricity and even water in an effort to drive civilians out of the area.
They will not launch probing attacks, such as the one at Bint Jbeil seventeen years ago. They will go in massively with armor and air cover. Triaging escaping civilians to identify Hamas terrorists will pose a huge challenge.
The IDF will also harness its extensive intelligence capabilities to attempt to locate the hostages Hamas is sure to use as human shields. It will be a difficult balancing act to avoid killing the hostages. As someone who was held hostage by Palestinian terrorists during an earlier Lebanon war, I can tell you that I was cheering on the Israeli onslaught of Beirut, hoping an Israeli tank would smash into the walls of the building where I was being held. If I died during the attack, so be it. Freedom is worth dying for.
I was lucky. I pray that the Israeli hostages today held by Hamas will be as lucky.
 “Timmerman: Israeli Troop Morale High,” Newsmax.com, July 30, 2006.
Ken Timmerman’s new – and 12th – book of non-fiction is And the Rest is History: Tales of Hostages, Arms Dealers, Dirty Tricks, and Spies.