Netanyahu Pushes Military Not to Label Hezbollah Tunnel Effort 'Operation'

Army officials disagree, saying definition grants army required resources ■ Sources: PM's request based on notion that tensions in the north would not help his reelection bid

Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich
Send in e-mailSend in e-mail
Israeli army operations to destroy Hezbollah tunnels, December 2018.
Israeli army operations to destroy Hezbollah tunnels, December 2018. Credit: RONEN ZVULUN/Reuters
Yaniv Kubovich
Yaniv Kubovich

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has asked defense officials to declare an end to Operation Northern Shield but continue searching for Hezbollah attack tunnels on a routine basis, sources involved in the discussions said.

But senior defense sources say it would be wrong to downgrade the project to routine security-work status. They say the concentrated effort should last for as long as necessary to curtail the threat.

>> Read more: Israel gears up for elections: Netanyahu’s strongest advantage over his challengers | Analysis ■ Attack tunnels are only a prelude to the real Hezbollah threat'Hezbollah's Operation Barbarossa': How army chief pushed Netanyahu to go after the tunnels

One source said the project would fare better in mustering resources and funds if it kept its definition as an ongoing operation.

Sources said any decision to end the operation now would be based on the notion that any tensions in the north would not help the prime minister’s reelection bid. They said that framing the operation as one of the most sensitive for Israel’s security may prove an asset for Netanyahu and his Likud party at the polls.

In a tour of the area Tuesday by members of the security cabinet, Netanyahu said “this operation is mostly behind us.” Speaking to Likud Knesset members Monday, he said: “We are about to end the disarmament of the tunnels that Hezbollah has invested so much in.” Likud lawmakers, among them, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, repeated this message in media interviews Tuesday.

Haaretz Weekly podcast, Episode 9Credit: Haaretz

The army is trying to delay any official ending of the operation for as long as possible, while stressing its great significance in the media.

But political sources at security briefings said the army’s objections to ending the operation aren’t based totally on operational reasons, because there is no real difference between calling it an operation or routine security.

They said the detection of tunnels is solely an engineering operation and that all intelligence preparations show that Hezbollah has accepted the destruction of the tunnels and has no desire to act against Israel.

The sources said the army is inflating the significance and complexity of the operation because army chief Gadi Eisenkot wants to keep the focus and political pressure away from the Gaza front.

One source said the army aims to continue operating under the rubric of an “operation” because the army was loath to see the downgrading of Operation Northern Shield – once touted as a complicated and sensitive operation – to just “routine” security work.

Click the alert icon to follow topics:

Comments

SUBSCRIBERS JOIN THE CONVERSATION FASTER

Automatic approval of subscriber comments.

Subscribe today and save 40%

Already signed up? LOG IN

ICYMI

Palestinians search through the rubble of a building in which Khaled Mansour, a top Islamic Jihad militant was killed following an Israeli airstrike in Rafah, southern Gaza strip, on Sunday.

Gazans Are Tired of Pointless Wars and Destruction, and Hamas Listens to Them

Trump and Netanyahu at the White House in Washington, in 2020.

Three Years Later, Israelis Find Out What Trump Really Thought of Netanyahu

German soldier.

The Rival Jewish Spies Who Almost Changed the Course of WWII

Rio. Not all Jewish men wear black hats.

What Does a Jew Look Like? The Brits Don't Seem to Know

Galon. “I’m coming to accomplish a specific mission: to increase Meretz’s strength and ensure that the party will not tread water around the electoral threshold. If Meretz will be large enough, it will be the basis for a Jewish-Arab partnership.” Daniel Tchetchik

'I Have No Illusions About Ending the Occupation, but the Government Needs the Left'

Soldiers using warfare devices made by the Israeli defense electronics company Elbit Systems.

Russia-Ukraine War Catapults Israeli Arms Industry to Global Stage