MESS Report / No Real Threat of War Despite Hezbollah's Threats

There should be no confusion between the threat and the exercise that is carried out every year in May, and a threat of immediate war in the north.

For a country that at any given moment is being targeted by tens of thousands of missiles and rockets covering most of its territory, it seems there is no other way than to drill.

“Turning Point 4,” the national home front exercise that is to begin this morning and last all week, involves a certain amount of inconveniencing of civilians. Traffic jams are expected, especially on Wednesday morning when a siren will sound throughout the country, calling on everyone to take cover in shelters and other secure places. Nonetheless, it is advisable for anyone complaining to remember less-pleasant events, like the 4,200 rockets that struck northern Israel less than four years ago.

Our routines will be disrupted for a moment, and the public’s level of concern will rise, but these are minor worries compared to the main issue. The threat to Israel’s home front in recent years has been tangible and substantive.

When compared to the summer of 2006, Hezbollah’s rockets today are capable of striking central Israel and further south. Hamas, too, has acquired rockets that have ranges longer than 50 kilometers.

Even more important is the maturing of the enemy’s strategic insight. Hamas and Hezbollah, and even Syria and Iran, no longer seek Israel’s destruction or to occupy its territory. They are aiming for a war of attrition against Israel’s ability to resist.

As the central means for achieving this goal, they will target the home front with a massive bombardment, which they consider an appropriate way to balance Israel’s superiority in the air. Recent reports in the Arab media noted that Hezbollah acquired M-600 rockets, which are believed to be accurate enough to strike sensitive military and strategic installations. A response to all this requires preparation and drilling.

A UN patrol in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah clashed with Israel in 2006

There should be no confusion between the threat and the exercise that is carried out every year in May, and a threat of immediate war in the north. The threat of war, which came up in January and March this year, actually appears to have diminished in recent weeks. The suspicions of Syria and Hezbollah about Israel’s intentions remain high, but neither side considers the other as having a real interest in a confrontation.

A war in the north could begin as a result of international pressure to put an end to the Iranian nuclear program, or because of a belated Hezbollah attempt to avenge the assassination of its master terrorist, Imad Mughniyeh.

At the moment, and taking into account that intelligence’s ability to predict the enemy’s plans is inherently limited, there does not appear to be a particularly high risk of war, despite Hezbollah’s recent threats.

Home Front Command has achieved great progress since the war in Lebanon. Intensive training has dealt with many of the problems of the Second Lebanon War. “Turning Point 4” should enable additional protective measures. But Israel’s preparations for the next war, which may certainly break out in the near future, still have troubling weaknesses. There are question marks over the Israel Defense Forces’ plans against massive missile barrages from Lebanon and perhaps Syria. Will this be enough to lift the threat on the home front?

Another critical gap is the lack of sufficient missile interception systems. Late last week, thanks to the endless generosity of the United States, Israel was promised $205 million to pay for the manufacturing of more Iron Dome missile defense batteries.

But a multilayered solution for intercepting missiles is not in the bag; far from it. We need more years to completely deploy the systems. This is the sort of gap that no exercise, however successful, can sufficiently cover.