Northern Shield reveals security 'secrets' hinted at by Netanyahu

Sometimes mysteries remain mysteries for years. Other times they are cleared up pretty quickly.

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December 4, 2018 17:15
Northern Shield reveals security 'secrets' hinted at by Netanyahu

This picture taken on December 4, 2018 near the northern Israeli town of Misgav Am, shows Israeli machinery operating machinery (R) near the border wall with Lebanon. (photo credit: JALAA MAREY/AFP)

 
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Sometimes mysteries remain mysteries for years. Other times they are cleared up pretty quickly.

With the announcement Tuesday that the IDF launched an operation to destroy Hezbollah terror tunnels that have penetrated into the Galilee, some of the frustratingly enigmatic comments made by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last month during the most recent Gaza crisis – and how to respond to massive Hamas rocket fire – started to clear up.

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Netanyahu referred repeatedly during that crisis to things he could not share with the public – information that he knew and considerations that he had – but he simply could not tell a people hungry to know everything.

But in times of emergencies, he said, “in times of fateful decisions having to do with security, the public cannot be a partner to the decisive considerations that need to be hidden from the enemy at all cost.”

At such times, Netanyahu said, without elaboration, “leadership is standing up to criticism, when you know secret and sensitive things that you cannot share with the people of Israel, and in this case with the residents of the South.”

Referring to mounting criticism on his decision to go for a ceasefire with Hamas rather than embark on a much larger military campaign, Netanyahu said that he was aware of the criticism. “But together with the heads of the security branches, I see the whole security picture, which I cannot share with the public. If only I could share with Israel’s citizens everything that I know, I would – but when it comes to security, there is more hidden than revealed,” he said.


NETANYAHU REPEATED his I-knowthings-that-you-don’t-know theme during his statement to the nation four days later, when he explained why he was not heading for early elections, even afte

Netanyahu repeated his I-know-things-that-you-don't-know theme during his statement to the nation four days later, when he explained why he was not heading for early elections even after Avigdor Liberman resigned as defense minister over the Gaza policy.

“A large part of the criticism is a result of not being able – for understandable reasons – to present to you everything in full as seen by the chief-of-staff, IDF generals, head of the Shabak [Israel Security Agency], head of the Mossad and me – we just can’t present it. Therefore you see only part of a wider campaign that we are still in the middle of, and which I must complete in order to bring full security to the residents of the South and to all the residents of Israel.”

Not always, Netanyahu said, “are things seen clearly at the moment.”

This theme, in that speech, was supplemented by another, which was no less mystifying: The country is in the midst of a complicated security situation that may necessitate “sacrifices.”

“We will overcome our enemies,” he said. “I say this, my friends, without minimizing the challenge before us, and I tell you beforehand that this will involve sacrifices, but I have no doubt that with the courage of our soldiers [and] the strength of our citizens, we will overcome our enemies.”


Those comments raised eyebrows. What was the prime minister talking about? Why was he not sharing more details with a jittery public? Was this all a charade – an attempt to explain what some viewed as his impotence regarding Gaza? Or, perhaps, it was an effort to pull out the ‘we are on the verge of war” card to rally the public around a government on the verge of collapse.

Tuesday’s IDF campaign seemed to provide some answers to some of those questions.

Netanyahu was not bluffing when he indicated that there were other security concerns that had to be taken into consideration at the moment. Hezbollah is a much greater threat to Israel than Hamas. The IDF operation against the tunnels has been planned for a long period of time, and Netanyahu did not want to divert the focus from the threats in the North, by dealing with a smaller one in the South.

In fact, an argument could be made that this is exactly what Iran – which has a hand and proxy in Gaza in the likes of Palestinian Islamic Jihad – had hoped would happen: bog the IDF down in the South, so it does not focus on the North.

Regarding the prime minister’s cryptic comment about sacrifices the country might be called on to make, this also became a bit less obscure following Tuesday’s developments.


TUESDAY’S OPERATION started with the destruction of tunnels on the Israeli side of the border, but it is difficult to tell where it will end, or how Iran or Hezbollah will respond. If they do decide to respond militarily, Israel will likely hit back against Hezbollah, something that could in turn put Israel’s civilian population at risk of being targeted by the missiles it has stockpiled in Lebanon.

Moreover, the terror tunnels are just one part of the picture, one element of Hezbollah's arsenal against Israel. The 120,000 to 150,000 missiles it has stockpiled and hid among the civilian population of southern Lebanon is a much bigger threat, especially since Hezbollah –with Iran’s assistance – is trying to fit these missiles with GPS mechanisms that will turn them into precision-guided missiles.

Israel's actions against the tunnels on Tuesday is the start of an operation against Hezbollah, not the end. Much will depend now on how Hezbollah and Iran react, and whether Lebanon and the international community will take action to rein Hezbollah in and stop its efforts to turn Lebanon into a giant precision-guided missile launching base against Israel.

If Lebanon or the international community do not pull Hezbollah back, then Israel may have to do so itself to remove the threat. And that, obviously, would entail no small sacrifice by the Israeli public, which would then become targets for scores of Hezbollah’s missiles.

As Netanyahu said last month, when it comes to security matters, more is hidden than revealed. Nevertheless, Tuesday’s developments pulled back the curtain just a bit on a much bigger picture.

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