ABSTRACT

A series of wars of attrition have left Israel in good social, economic and political shape, relative to Arab expectations and its own fears and attrition aversion. Having discussed the way Israel conducted these wars from various angles – operational, societal, economic and moral – this chapter looks beyond Israel’s staying power and evaluates the consequences of these wars and Israeli achievements in, and as a result of them. More specifically, it first asks if it could take credit for successfully controlling escalation during these wars, particularly for achieving escalation dominance and avoiding the deterioration to regular war. Second, it examines if the way Israel conducted these wars served its deterrence. Third, given the limited relevance of battlefield decision in wars of attrition and the fact that modern war is often waged beyond the direct battlefield, it tries to find out if Israel was at least successful in achieving grand-strategic decision or victory, the latter being described in terms of the correlation between the war objectives and their achievements, or in creating favorable military and political conditions for the longer run. The main arguments put forth in this chapter are:

1 As a result of a combination of attrition aversion, frustration from the indecisiveness of attrition, and opportunity, Israel tended to escalate its wars of attrition until the mid-1970s. Since the 1970s, however, an activist rhetoric was often accompanied by restraint, either as a result of an effort to lower violence in northern Israel for economic considerations, or due to the complexity of conducting war of attrition among civilians within territories under Israeli responsibility. Misinterpreting Israeli ability to take mounting violence against it, Palestinians and Hezbollah occasionally brought about escalation which they themselves wished to avoid. After years of difficulty in achieving escalation dominance during its wars of attrition, particularly vis-à-vis nonstate players, the two Intifadas constituted a positive change in this respect.