EXCLUSIVE: Revenge, Retribution and Retaliation – Lt Gen Sir Graeme Lamb calls for Israel to “Take a Knee”
In an exclusive interview, NSN delves into the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict with former Director of Special Forces, Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb.
As the crisis continues to unfold, Lt-Gen Lamb calls for Israel to metaphorically “take a knee” and adopt a long-term strategic perspective.
In the military, “taking a knee” is a symbolic act where soldiers pause and kneel in order to reflect and think, this is never an easy option, doing something hitting out and back feels so much better but often is quite the opposite. By pausing it allows them to gain perspective on their mission and the consequences, intended and unintended of their actions, amidst the chaos and complexity of the crisis that has is affronting them.
Israel’s Dilemma: To Take a Knee and Pause or Conduct a Ground Campaign to Nowhere
Amidst heightened tensions and deep seated anger in the Israel-Hamas conflict, Israel finds itself driven understandably by a singular desire for revenge. This has been vividly expressed by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who ominously declared that “every Hamas member is a dead man”, pledging that Israel will “crush and destroy” Hamas. However, the loss to Israel will be large, both financially and in terms of loss of life and the potential setback to regional and wider International diplomacy.”
Lt-Gen Lamb proposed that Israel will have two options “take a knee as a long term strategic view, or act immediately and accept the unintended consequences, and in hindsight regret their emotional and immediate response”
Recognising the overwhelming emotional strain on both sides, he noted “there’s probably no one in Gaza right now and there’s probably no one in Israel that isn’t anything other than emotionally compromised.”
“My sense is they will act quickly, demonstrating decisive action and deal with the consequences,” but Lt-Gen Lamb recommended a different approach, suggesting that “Israel should take a knee and try and absorb some of the anger,” he noted that this is by far the most difficult course of action.
“Calling out Hamas internationally, calling out Hamas internally within Gaza, and calling out Hamas amongst the Arab nations, could in fact end up with a very much more intelligent and beneficial outturn” he remarked, than merely applying what Netanyahu is saying.
“Killing a social movement is really, really difficult, if not impossible,” he added.
He said that Israel can take a stand to “never stop finding, seeking out, and brining to account every member of Hamas who were in fact part of that organisation on the 7th of October 2023.”
“I think that that would cause significantly more trouble than merely the fight that’s about to take place,” he affirmed.
Lt-Gen Lamb recognised the difficulty of taking a knee, “when you’ve had thousand people killed, who you’re responsible for,” some of them in brutal and gruesome ways.
Nevertheless, amidst Israel’s emotional turmoil, which has drawn parallels to the emotional impact of 9/11 in America, Lt-Gen Lamb cautioned against hasty, emotive responses, emphasising that “revenge is a dish best served cold.” Bad choices can never be recovered.
Looking beyond the immediate situation, Lt-Gen Lamb hypothesised that “world opinion will begin to reshape” as individuals will increasingly find themselves in one of two camps:
“This was a wrong and therefore we must support Israel, or the others who will turn around and say our population can’t live with what’s taking place in Gaza right now.”
Hamas’ Willingness to Fight
Lt-Gen Lamb observed that Hamas fighters are seemingly ready to make the ultimate sacrifice, as they consist largely of young individuals with a sense of having nothing to lose and are “dedicated to the idea of the destruction of Israel.”
“They will fight and die in place, but make sure that many, many Palestinian’s will also die for their cause, not theirs” he added.
Airstrike in Gaza (Source – Fatima Shbair, Associated Press)
“The problem will be that the world will begin to then turn up against what I call Israel’s response which will be bloody,” said Lt-Gen Lamb, as he highlighted the inherent limitations of war in bringing about substantial resolution or constructive outcomes.
Lt-Gen Lamb also drew upon poignant examples of street fighting in places like Fallujah and Grozny, emphasising the challenges posed by urban warfare in such contexts. No one wins, and the war both inside Israel and outside for every Israeli will continue.
Regional Ramifications: The Decline of Diplomacy
Discussion turned to the Middle East, as the repercussions of Israel’s actions extend far beyond Gaza, jeopardising the hard-earned progress between Israel and the Arab states. Specifically, the diplomatic breakthrough with Saudi Arabia, in deal where there were clear indications that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia could be persuaded to formally recognise the state of Israel in exchange for extensive security guarantees from the US and assistance in the construction of a civilian nuclear power plant.
“It has escalated very quickly to whereby the progress that has been made with the Arab states in recognising Israel is just about to be undone, not because of what Hamas did, which they all recognise as unworthy and deeply distasteful, but because that they cannot stand by with their own people should a ground campaign into Gaza be undertaken,” expressed Lt-Gen Lamb.
Lt-Gen Lamb said, “the Arab nation states in particular, will have to stand back from any idea of an accommodation with Israel as it stands.” This, he noted, would prove advantageous to Iran. It is all too easy to forget that it has been Iran who have sponsored Hamas by funding, equipping and training this group under their own banner that Israel must ultimately be destroyed.
He also added, “it will probably force Hezbollah morally and spiritually to have to do something”, leading to a situation where Israel could find itself engaged on two fronts – one in the north and another in the south. He went on further to suggest that multiple fronts will be opened, internationally against potentially all Israeli citizens and Israeli places of work abroad, a fourth within and across the West Bank, a fifth should Syria extend its support, the list is extremely long and undefendable. None of which would open should Israel pause, make clear the atrocities that were carried out and slowly but relentlessly track down and bring to account those and only those responsible by doing so it will demonstrate that it is better than those who set out on the 7th of October to murder and mutilate innocent souls.
The Path Forward
Closing with an insightful quote, Lt-Gen Lamb referenced Albert Einstein’s timeless query: “If you had 60 minutes to save the world, what would you do?” Einstein’s own response was enlightening: “I would spend 55 minutes defining the problem and 5 minutes finding a solution.”
Lt-Gen Lamb offered his own view, stating, “My experience of life is people spend 59 minutes trying to find a solution and the last minute blaming everyone else.”
As the coming weeks unfold, with revenge and anger resounding on both sides, the looming question of whether the conflict in Gaza will plunge the region further into chaos or if, in spite of the harrowing and inexcusable acts perpetrated by Hamas which those responsible must be in time brought to account without pause or compromise, Israel can take a knee and begin to lay the groundwork for regional stability and, ultimately, the elusive prospect of peace.
The choice between revenge and retribution or contemplating Israel’s long-term interests looms large. He finished by saying that if he were an Israeli today, here and now he would find this advice most difficult to swallow but equally recognise that stability, and relative peace Israel deserve and wish for will not be found in a large scale ground operation into Gaza.