Israeli Army Chief Pledges Strong Deterrence Against Hezbollah

Gadi Eisenkot says 'the IDF is working day and night to ensure preparedness' amid fears Hezbollah is striving to arm itself with precision missiles

File: Israeli soldiers work on their tanks in a position next to the Israel-Lebanon border.
Ariel Schalit / AP

The Israel Defense Forces’ chief of staff has added to the chorus of voices warning about Hezbollah’s attempts to arm itself with precision missiles produced in Lebanon.

“The Hezbollah terror organization is violating the UN Security Council resolutions, maintaining a military presence in the region, possessing weapons systems and increasing its military capabilities,” Gabi Eisenkot said Tuesday.

To really understand Israel and the Middle East - subscribe to Haaretz

“In the face of these threats the IDF is working day and night to ensure preparedness and deterrence,” Eisenkot said. “We will do everything necessary to keep Israel’s northern border safe and quiet.”

He was speaking at a memorial service in the north for the victims of the February 1997 helicopter disaster.

Israeli defense officials believe that Iran has resumed building a precision weapons factory in Lebanon, IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis wrote in an article published Sunday.

The manufacture of the missiles in Lebanon gives the IDF a problem that differs from its concerns about Syria. According to reports in the foreign media, the IDF has been striving in Syria in recent years to prevent smuggling, the stockpiling of warehouses and the manufacture of weapons earmarked for Hezbollah.

Israeli military and political leaders have thus sent messages, whether in articles by top IDF officers or in comments by leading ministers including Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Education Minister Naftali Bennett, the head of the right-wing Habayit Hayehudi party.

“Our challenge is to continue to maintain preparedness, to increase our knowledge about the enemy, to reduce its capabilities and to prolong for as long as possible the positive security and civilian situation that has continued for 11 years and serves the population on both sides of the fence,” Eisenkot said.

Hezbollah fighters stand atop a truck mounted with mock rockets as supporters chant slogans, Lebanon, Tuesday, Oct. 27, 2015.
אי־פי

“I’m convinced of our military supremacy, the quality of our commanders and fighters and their ability to achieve victory in a time of war and achieve a painful outcome for the enemy.”

For the IDF, an attack on the plants are a last resort, and preference will be given to clandestine activities, the exposure of the sites and a diplomatic effort to stop production at the plants. The IDF believes that an attack on the plants could worsen the situation to the point of a high-intensity conflict, as happened in the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

Sources in the IDF said this week that any operations in the area could lead to a war, as happened with the abduction of soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser in 2006, an event that led to the Second Lebanon War. A similar event was the abduction of three yeshiva students in the West Bank in 2014, which sparked Israel’s Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

In addition to missile production, the IDF is concerned about Hezbollah’s actions along the border. There are an estimated 240 villages in southern Lebanon that Hezbollah has turned into combat areas in the event of a war.

Most Hezbollah forces have returned to Lebanon from abroad and are preparing in a manner that is worrying Israel, especially because Hezbollah fighters are setting themselves up at the border fence.

The IDF is also preparing for a situation in which Hezbollah is equipped with technology and weapons that it has not yet used in fighting against Israel.

Israeli pilots’ freedom of movement as it existed in the past will probably not be the same the next time around. Israeli pilots are training and operating in the belief that Hezbollah now has various means that could threaten them and identify their arrival in the areas where they seek to operate.