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What Needs to be Done in the North Against Hezbollah

The images from the North are heartbreaking and highlight the strategic predicament of the State of Israel. While the North is burning and tens of thousands of evacuees cannot return to their homes, there is enormous pressure on the government to launch an attack against Hezbollah.


The Bitter Truth


To address the threat in the north, it is essential to face reality and internalize some difficult truths:

  1. Hezbollah’s Escalation: Hezbollah has intensified its war against Israel. The organization is prepared and ready, and may even welcome an overall escalation. Initially, it seemed that Nasrallah was sensitive to inter-sectarian tension in Lebanon and subject to restraints from Iran, which preferred not to escalate the situation. However, this is no longer the case.

  2. Strategic Focus: There is a prevalent opinion that, given the difficult reality, Israel should rush to make a deal with Hamas to focus on the North. Israel should then present an ultimatum to Hezbollah, warning of an offensive if not met. However, it must be assumed that Hezbollah will not fulfill the ultimatum.

  3. Military Options: The harsh truth is that Israel has no effective military option against Hezbollah. Israel could return Lebanon to the stone age, even conquering Southern Lebanon, but it will not be able to decisively defeat Hezbollah and the Iranian proxies that will join the conflict. Like Hamas, Hezbollah is much less sensitive to losses and destruction than we might hope. Those advocating for a full campaign in the North may not fully grasp the extent of destruction that would be inflicted on Israel.

  4. Ceasefire Assumptions: The Israeli discourse on a ceasefire in Gaza assumes it is a matter of Israeli decision-making. However, there is a reasonable possibility that Hamas is not interested at all in reaching to any deal in light of the current reality, where Israel is suffering both internally and externally. The solution for the North will not necessarily involve Gaza.

  5. Future Confrontations: Another prevalent opinion suggests that Israel should seek a ceasefire to prepare for a confrontation with Hezbollah under more favorable geo-strategic conditions in the future. However, there is no guarantee of more favorable conditions in the future. Israel has no significant leverage over Hezbollah's military supply chain from Iran. Even with more advanced aircraft, the strategic picture remains unchanged.


So What Do We Do Against Hezbollah?


Drone on the wall
  1. Reassess National Priorities: A critical and urgent reassessment of national priorities is necessary. The primary national challenge is rapidly adapting and updating Israel’s security concept during war. Delaying the October 7 Inquiries could have harsh consequences to Israel. Last week's decision to ignore the need to re-examine the defense budget before purchasing expensive fighter jets is also a grave mistake.

  2. Spatial Defense of Settlements: In the early years of the state, relying on settlements was integral to the Israeli security concept. These settlements served as the first protective wall against invasion and were crucial in exercising state sovereignty and determining borders. This concept has eroded over the years. However, the spatial defense doctrine contributed to communal and national resilience by aligning the security tasks of residents with their living space and livelihoods, making it more resistant to protracted wars (read more here). Spatial defense may be the optimal solution for the return of the evacuees from the North to their homes.

  3. Support Lebanese ‘potential proxies’: Israel needs to strengthen the Lebanese national forces, including Christians, Druze, and Sunnis, who oppose Hezbollah and Iran’s influence. While Israel’s support for the Chirstian Maronites in the past ended up in failure, but times have changed. Support in training, weapons, money, and humanitarian aid is now crucial. Israel found itself amidst the First Lebanon War because it tried to intervene in Lebanese dynamics but may find itself amidst the Third Lebanon war if it will fail to do so.

  4. Prepare for Long-Term Conflict: Israel must rethink its security, economic, political, and diplomatic preparations for prolonged war and instability. Cultivating resilience and reducing social polarization are existential matters.

  5. Upgrade Foreign Apparatus and develop Soft Power: Israel must enhance its international standing during a prolonged war, conduct a psychological offensive against Iran and Hezbollah, and secure the legitimacy of its existence. One key reason for Israel’s current international predicament is the lack of prioritization in the international arena (we wrote about it here). For a future conflict in the North, Israel must be better prepared.

There is no magic solution to the challenges in the north, and Israel’s future will be more complex than in the past. However, it is important to remember that Hezbollah and Iranian proxies are not designed to militarily defeat  the IDF but to break the spirit of Israeli society. By addressing these issues properly, Israel could be more militarily, mentally, and strategically prepared for the next campaign, with improved international credit and at a time when Hezbollah faces more significant internal constraints.


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