Far will the IDF Go?
By Maj. Gen.
(ret.) Yaakov Amidror
Northern Shield, encompassing the IDF's efforts to uncover and destroy Hezbollah
attack tunnels crossing under the Israel-Lebanon border, has been made possible
by technological advancements and accurate intelligence gathering. The operation
followed a detailed plan outlined by operational officials, and if the plan is
implemented as presented, it will undoubtedly achieve the desired effect. The
desired being neutralizing the big surprise that Hezbollah was preparing
ahead of its next confrontation with Israel – attack tunnels that would allow
it to strike at Israel's home front.
aim was two-fold: to seize Israeli vantage points and stir panic inside Israel,
thereby compelling the Israeli military force fighting Hezbollah's complex
attack to turn back. And no less importantly, they sought to take over an
Israeli community and abduct as many civilians as possible. Thus, at the end of
the war, Israel's failure would continue to resonate for a long time after the
fighting itself ends, because the hostage negotiations would take a long time
and would bring Israel to its knees.
operation currently underway in the north has the power to reverse this threat.
Without a winning card up its sleeve, Hezbollah will need to consider its next
step carefully. The many missiles (many of them advanced precision missiles) the
organization possesses are still its main strength, and its ability to defend
southern Lebanon tenaciously has not waned. But without the winning tunnel card,
which would have catapulted Hezbollah's capabilities to a new level, its
strength has eroded. This means the organization is more likely to be cautious
and less likely to initiate a war in the near future.
Northern Shield raises complicated questions about Israel's initiative and
willingness to enter a war to prevent the threat it sees growing. When it comes
to nuclear weapons, the accepted view in Israel – known as the Begin
Doctrine, named after the late prime minister Menachem Begin, who implemented it
when Israel bombed Iraq's nuclear reaction in the 1980s – is preventive.
The same policy guided former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in 2007, when he
decided to attack the nuclear reactor in Syria.
when it comes to conventional weapons, Israel has launched a pre-emptive war
only once – Operation Kadesh in 1956, when then-Chief of Staff Moshe Dayan
launched a mission to keep Egyptian forces from acquiring the capability to
overpower the IDF. The operation was a success and bought Israel 11 years of
relative calm, at a difficult time when the country was also busy absorbing
massive waves of new immigrants and building its economic and military
wars" are considered problematic. They are hard to legitimize, because they
are by definition "wars of choice." In other words, sacrificing
thousands of lives may not be necessary when the enemy isn't pounding at the
gates. The country's citizens, like the international community, have a
difficult time supporting wars if there is even the slightest possibility it
won't erupt. Thus, for example, Israel allowed Hezbollah to grow exponentially
stronger and acquire the best Syrian, Iranian and even Russian-made missiles –
and deploy them.
spoke in extremely lofty terms following its unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon
in 2000, and after the Second Lebanon War in 2006, but hasn't done anything to
stop Hezbollah's armament in Lebanon. Only in the chaos of the Syrian civil war,
which began in 2011, did Israel decide to use force to prevent the transfer of
sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah from Syria and Iran – while its policy of
non-intervention in Lebanon persists.
this operation – which is currently being carried out strictly from Israeli
territory – spark hostilities on the other side of the border? The answer is a
resounding yes, whether intentionally or otherwise. But even if the operation
remains on Israel's side of the fence, it could, if Hezbollah's assets and
dignity continue taking a hit, trigger a violent response.
the chances of this happening are presently low, this must be the IDF's working
assumption and its war readiness should be adjusted accordingly. This situation,
as stated, raises the question: How far the IDF is willing to go to impair
Hezbollah's capabilities? Secondly, should a pre-emptive strike – say a large
operation inside Lebanon – be considered after Hezbollah's tunnels are
successfully neutralized? These questions require considerable thought.