A good number of senior Israel Defense Forces officers should be downright embarrassed by the Hezbollah drone that entered Israel's airspace in the western Galilee yesterday morning. Hassan Nasrallah made them look foolish in a way that should have worried all of Israel's citizens - especially the residents of the north.
Bulletin boards along the northern border show photos of small aircraft in the service of Hezbollah and Palestinian organizations, such as Ahmed Jibril's Popular Front: nonmotorized aircraft and gliders, model airplanes, motorized parachutes and other winged beasts.
The bitter lesson of November 1987, when a glider entered the Gibor army base and killed six soldiers, seems to have been learned. But not really. The air-control systems did not identify the drone yesterday and the land forces were not prepared with anti-aircraft artillery.
The IDF's propaganda machine will attempt to minimize Hezbollah's feat and present it as pure aerobatics, meant merely to earn publicity and TV air-time. To disprove this thesis, it is enough to imagine what would have happened if, on the ground in Nahariya, with the drone in flight, not only regular civilians were walking around, but perhaps the prime minister's motorcade were parked on the banks of the city's small river. In such an instance, the entire security establishment would have been up in arms about the breach in security, because the operator of the drone could easily have crashed it into a ground target - as part of a sort of "targeted assassination."
The fiasco is chiefly that of IDF Military Intelligence (MI), and secondly of the Northern Command, which has its own independent intelligence unit that is supposed to analyze the enemy's potential modes of action. MI chief Major General Aharon Ze'evi Farkash, GOC Northern Command Major General Benny Ganz and air force Commander Major General Eliezer Shkedi all failed at reading Nasrallah's taunts. As did Chief of Staff Moshe Ya'alon.
The American air force is now reconsidering its policy of allowing only authorized combat pilots to operated unmanned aircraft. In the IDF and the local military industries, operators are usually pilots' course drop-outs, aeronautical engineers and model airplane enthusiasts, not air force wing-wearers.
Hezbollah has proved that even a lesser degree of training is needed to carry out its operations.
The significance of the Lebanese drone incident is not only the actual threat it represents. It also demonstrates that whereas the Syrian air force is afraid to confront its Israeli rival, which has humiliated it in air battles, a small group of militants can make a mockery of the Israeli air force. It has proved that sophisticated electronic systems cannot entirely foil clever underhanded tricks.
If the IDF has no answer to the Hezbollah's drone in the north, this could encourage the Hamas in the south to try to send a swarm of drones toward the Negev, once the IDF has withdrawn from Gaza.
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