After the Third Lebanon War

Hezbollah has been saving its missiles for the right moment. When that moment comes — it will be dictated mainly by Iran’s interests – they will be fired.

Israel Harel
Israel Harel
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IDF soldiers on the border with Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War in 2006
IDF soldiers on the border with Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War in 2006Credit: Alon Ron
Israel Harel
Israel Harel

Israelis who live in communities adjacent to the Lebanese border say they can hear the sounds of digging under their homes. Even if their apprehensions are unfounded (just as those of residents of communities adjacent to Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, such as Nahal Oz, Kfar Aza and Sufa, supposedly were), there’s still the threat of more than 100,000 rockets to our north. And most of Hezbollah’s “flying objects” (as Dov Weisglas, a key advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, dismissively termed the rockets launched from the Gaza Strip after Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from the territory in 2005) are incomparably faster, more accurate and more deadly than those of Hamas.

Targets in range of these missiles include Tel Aviv, Ben-Gurion International Airport, the Palmahim air base, the Soreq Nuclear Research Center and the Negev Nuclear Research Center in Dimona. The Iron Dome and Arrow anti-missile systems are not capable of intercepting a simultaneous barrage of dozens or hundreds of advanced Russian- or Iranian-made missiles. The damage caused by a powerful warhead that evades these interception systems could be catastrophic.

Those who plot to fire these missiles are waiting for the right moment. And that moment has drawn perilously near, due to our own far from steadfast conduct of Operation Protective Edge in Gaza.

If Hezbollah launches a surprise attack, Israel will respond, in the well-worn phrase, with a “hard and painful” blow. Painful? To whom? Despite the “hard and painful” blow we just dealt Gaza, Israel is the one that displayed symptoms of distress — the one that retreated on the brink of victory and is now telling residents of the south that they have been sentenced to live under the constant threat of terror tunnels and of rockets, deprived of the relative sense of security that exists in most of the country. If this is how a war of rockets and tunnels with Hamas ends, one can assume that after Hezbollah attacks through its tunnels and launches its thousands of missiles, the third Lebanon war will end similarly.

Hamas once again proved to everyone that it couldn’t care less if Gaza is destroyed. Nor does Hezbollah care whether Lebanon is destroyed, just as it didn’t care when it launched the Second Lebanon War eight years ago. On the contrary, the greater the destruction, the more the status of these terrorist organizations rises.

Three times in the past eight years, the gates of Gaza have been toppled. Has Hamas been deterred by the sight of Gaza’s cities turned to rubble? On the contrary, it has thrived amid the destruction. It has dug an entire city of tunnels without let or hindrance, smuggled in and manufactured rockets, and — since it knows the mentality of Israel, which has never sought a total victory against any enemy, not just against Hamas — prepared for the next round.

Hamas, a Sunni organization, is relatively “moderate” in its willingness to sacrifice victims in its war against the heretic Jews. Hezbollah is a Shi’ite organization, and its members are more willing to make such sacrifices than their Sunni counterparts. Shi’ite Iran, Hezbollah’s patron, sacrificed hundreds of thousands of the faithful in its 1980-1988 war with Iraq; they were killed by Saddam Hussein’s forces with cries of “Allahu Akbar” (“God is great”) on their lips.

Hezbollah has been saving its missiles for the right moment. When that moment comes — it will be dictated mainly by Iran’s interests – they will be fired. From Hezbollah’s perspective, it is worth destroying Lebanon as long as Israel is destroyed along with it.

In response, Israel ought to destroy Hezbollah, not Lebanon. It also ought to destroy Hamas, not the Gaza Strip. This is doable. But as long as we reject the very idea of victory, we will be forced to live by the sword forever.

Even if we were to launch a surprise attack and thereby reduce both casualties and damage, there’s no point in a preemptive strike against Hezbollah’s tunnels and missiles. Until we return to believing in ourselves — that is, in the Israel Defense Forces’ ability to completely strip terrorist organizations of their military capabilities — the third Lebanon war will end just as the second one did, and Operation Protective Edge will end just as the two Gaza operations that preceded it did.

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