In late August Israeli planes attacked a canister, or canisters, of navigation devices intended to upgrade Hezbollah’s “stupid” missiles into precision missiles.
Hassan Nasrallah, the organization’s leader, promised to take revenge. Since this leader, unlike Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, doesn’t make empty threats, the IDF began to prepare for the bombardment. As usual, it did so with the intention of containing the offensive. Indeed, on September 1 his men fired Kornet missiles at Israel.
This week it was reported that two officers, a battalion commander and a deputy battalion commander, were reprimanded over this incident. For fear of missile fire the forces in the area had been ordered to stop all vehicular movement on roads that could be targeted directly from Lebanon. The order wasn’t passed on, or didn’t flow, to one of the forces, and a missile almost hit an ambulance.
Although no one was hurt, somebody had disobeyed – or ignored – an order. The reprimand was in place, because the moment it had been decided to respond by a policy of containment, it was right to take precautions and stop the traffic. But whoever had made the decision to avoid a preemptive strike put many more people at risk. Hezbollah’s revenge scope wasn’t known, after all. Therefore the willingness to allow Nasrallah to strike the first blow, which could have hurt numerous civilians and soldiers, is the outcome of an erroneous strategic decision, both militarily and morally.
Implementation of a policy of containment was a strategic mistake on the part of the government, and also on the army’s part for failing to object to it. A preemptive strike, or even a harsh retaliation after-the-fact, would have made it clear to Nasrallah that Israel is determined to continue to take action, even over Lebanese skies, to prevent the missile upgrade project.
Also, that the new “lethal” IDF will no longer stand idly by if Nasrallah strikes again. Upon entering office the chief of staff said that IDF moves must be “lethal.” To prove that the IDF shot about 100 “lethal” shells at Lebanon in response to the anti-tank missiles. Like in many cases in the south, the shells were fired at open areas and caused no damage. Except, of course, for intelligence damage. The futile strike signaled to Nasrallah that from now on Israel will treat him the same way it deals with Hamas.
After the event Netanyahu declared “we won…not a single Israeli was scratched.” This is good. But on the strategic level Nasrallah has confirmed anew an absurd strategic balance via which the leader of a terrorist organization has been dictating the rules of the game to a regional power for the past two decades. Even micro-tactical activity, firing a few missiles, deters Israel on the strategic level.
About a week before the reprimand the chief of staff warned of two acute fronts, in the north and south, that pose an immediate threat to our national security. Given what Tehran has been doing lately in the region, like shooting cruise missiles at Saudi oil fields, Israel must urgently neutralize the missile capabilities of Hezbollah, Iran’s front-line proxy. After the next display of courage by Nasrallah, or Hamas in the south, the IDF must “lethally” liquidate both these organizations’ offensive capabilities.
Only thusly can Iran, not only Hezbollah and Hamas, be deterred; only thusly will the ayatollahs understand that Israel has shed its policy of containment. Had we acted in a micro-lethal way in September, it may have been possible to prevent the next big, inevitably macro-lethal, round for a long time to come; perhaps even until after the fall of Tehran’s evil regime.
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