Israel defense chiefs see war with Hezbollah as matter of 'when', not 'if'

Army planners understand that the next military action in the North will be the most difficult we will ever know.

Lebanon's Hezbollah members carry Hezbollah flags during the funeral of Adnan Siblini, who was killed while fighting in Syria (photo credit: REUTERS)
Lebanon's Hezbollah members carry Hezbollah flags during the funeral of Adnan Siblini, who was killed while fighting in Syria
(photo credit: REUTERS)
IDF planners understand that a future military confrontation in the North promises to be the most difficult ever.
Israel has already seen quite a number of wars on each of its fronts, yet after years in which its conflicts were against states across defined frontiers, today it is dealing with circumstances that are as complex as they have ever been and with organizations that have no scruples and know no bounds.
If the next conflagration will erupt against Hezbollah in Lebanon, there is no doubt that the Shi’ite group – which already controls a number of strategically important points in Syria – will open fire across the frontier on the Golan Heights.
If Israel is attacked by global jihadist groups on the Golan Heights, there will also be a similar attack coming from Lebanon, where Islamist organizations are gaining greater traction.
Everyone knows how the scenario plays out. The home front in both the North and the South will be attacked – and with significant force.
The situation in the North will be so severe that the army’s situational assessments first and foremost stress the need for defense before offense.
Senior defense officials also know full well that the best way to win the next war in the North is to undertake a series of defensive measures while at the same time dealing the enemy a blow from which it will be unable to recover.
One of the reasons for this is that Israeli intelligence has long concluded its fact-finding efforts aimed at gauging the quantities of firepower possessed by Hezbollah.
The intelligence community has since been hard at work in analyzing the types of weaponry.
The conclusion it has reached is that these arms are not only lethal, but precise.
Some of these weapons were developed and manufactured by Hezbollah itself, while a significant portion of the arms was provided by Iran. There was a time when Hezbollah was considered a small-time terrorist nuisance. Today, it is a consensus view that Israel is dealing with a full-fledged military organization.
If Hezbollah was indifferent to the damage that was being wrought on Lebanon during the Second Lebanon War, the union being forged with the Lebanese military has become a deterrent.
In recent weeks, analysts have noticed a historic alignment that has taken hold between Hezbollah and the Lebanese military.
For the first time ever, IDF Northern Command soldiers manning lookout posts have noticed that Hezbollah and Lebanese troops have been conducting joint patrols. Now Israeli military officials are wondering just how deep the cooperation between the two organizations extends.
Israel is disturbed by these developments, and it has communicated its concerns to world powers. In some cases, Israeli officials have made clear their redlines regarding the nature and quality of weaponry it will permit the Lebanese forces to possess.
An interesting dynamic has taken shape between Hezbollah and the Lebanese government, and Israel is not taking it lightly. Hezbollah today has members of parliament and enough government ministers that can tilt major decisions in its direction. Will the Lebanese military fight alongside Hezbollah in the next war? Israel does not rule this out, and as such is preparing for the eventuality.
Defense officials acknowledge that at the moment nobody on either side is interested in war. The chances of hostilities breaking out in the near future are low. At the same time, however, it is clear to all that the smallest incident could lead to a response that snowballs into the Third Lebanon War.
In January, Hezbollah killed two Givati Brigade soldiers, firing Kornet anti-tank missiles at their patrol along the border. Immediately after the incident, the IDF went on high alert. At the time, however, there was a restraining element.
One thing is certainly clear – if Hezbollah had exacted a higher price and the attack was even more successful, resulting in the deaths of more than two soldiers and perhaps a captive Israeli, today we’d be dealing with the formation of a commission of inquiry into the Third Lebanon War.
Both the Israeli defense establishment and Hezbollah are ready for such a conflict.
The army has already concluded the construction of numerous roadblocks and obstacles near Shlomi, not far from the northern border, which are aimed at preventing terrorists from crossing the frontier and taking control of roadways, outposts, even townships. Preparatory work has long been concluded in towns and communities adjacent to the border.
In some areas, the army has built artificial trenches and put up walls. IDF officers acknowledge that not all preparations have been completed and not all emergency procedures have been put in place, but these are expected to be finished soon.
On the day that hostilities erupt, the northern communities will be evacuated. In their place will come battalions of combat troops. The evacuation plans have already been prepared, as have the plans for an attack on the other side of the border. Israel will unleash the full extent of its might and do all in its power in order to finish the next round within days.
The army’s comprehensive new strategic plan, recently unveiled by IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, leaves no room for excuses. When the IDF embarks on the next war, it will stop only after it completes its mission. That means it will cease its fire after the enemy raises the white flag of surrender – or after the world stops the army from battering Hezbollah and bombarding Lebanese territory.