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Preparing for the Third Lebanon War

In a thorough study, Gideon Sa’ar and Ron Tira consider the threat posed by Hizballah’s acquisition of high-precision weapons (which it may soon be able to build itself), its presence, together with Iranian forces, along the Israel-Syria border, and the high likelihood of another war much like the 2007 conflict but more devastating to both sides. Sa’ar and Tira caution that war would be unlikely to lead to anything resembling a decisive victory, but they also stress the need to risk the possibility of war in order to keep Hizballah and its allies from acquiring the most advanced weapons. They write:

In certain senses Israel is unusual in its vulnerability to precision weapons, as on the one hand it is a Western country with advanced critical infrastructure, and on the other hand, it is a small country with concentrated critical infrastructures and little redundancy. . . . [For example], the six largest electricity-generating sites in Israel (including private ones) account for 51 percent of the national capacity for electricity generation. Thus the threat represented by even a small number of precision missiles that breach Israel’s countermeasures and strike critical systems, such as electricity generation, could be unprecedented. The picture is similar with regard to other critical systems. . . . [Therefore], Israel must be prepared to escalate even as far as [all-out] war in order to thwart Hizballah’s precision-capability buildup.

Indeed, Jerusalem could face a situation much graver than the threat of an asymmetric war with a guerrilla army:

[The] military buildups by Iran and Hizballah in Syria, and the production of [advanced] weapons in Lebanon, . . . could be seen as an attempt by Iran and Hizballah to create a symmetrical strategic equation with Israel, if not more than that. . . . Indeed, it is possible that the temporary and partial suspension of the Iranian nuclear program is incentivizing what looks like an attempt to reach a strategic balance against Israel in other spheres, resulting in a dynamic of escalation. These processes could very well put the regional system at a crossroads, and raise the probability of war.

To make matters worse, Sa’ar and Tira note that Russia has thrown in its lot with Iran and Hizballah, raising the stakes considerably:

An extension of the fighting [in an Israel-Hizballah conflict] to Syria . . . could interfere with Russian attempts to stabilize its own order in Syria. Therefore, Russia could try to limit Israel’s political, strategic, and even operational freedom to act. . . . In its six previous campaigns [since 1993 against Hizballah and against Palestinian terrorists], . . . even when Israel made mistakes, the price of such mistakes was tolerable in strategic terms. But the [use] of improved-precision weapons and the [involvement] of Russia could fundamentally change the characteristics of the next conflict, so that it will not be the “seventh in a row.” It is possible that Israel cannot allow itself to delay taking decisions, as it had in the past, and the price of error will be far greater.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Russia, Syria

Palestinian Unification Brings No Benefits to Israel Unless It Involves Disarmament

Oct. 17 2017

On Thursday, Hamas—which governs the Gaza Strip—and Fatah—which governs parts of the West Bank through the auspices of the Palestinian Authority (PA)—signed an agreement ending over a decade of conflict. The agreement will allow Hamas to share the governance of Gaza with the Fatah-controlled PA; crucially, the PA will again supply Gaza with fuel, electricity, and medical supplies. But Hamas will maintain control over its military and terrorist operations, and thus, writes Alan Baker, the agreement brings peace no closer:

The Hamas-Fatah unity agreement could, in principle, be seen to be a positive development in the general framework of the Middle East peace process . . . [were it] to enable a responsible and unified Palestinian leadership, speaking with one voice and duly empowered to further peace negotiations. . . .

[But in order for such an agreement to have this effect, its] basic tenet . . . must be the open reaffirmation of the already existing and valid Palestinian commitments vis-à-vis Israel and the international community, signatories as witnesses to the Oslo Accords. Such commitments, set out in detail in the accords, include ending terror, incitement, boycott, and international attempts to bypass the negotiating process. Above all, they require dismantling all terror groups and infrastructures. They necessitate a return to economic and security cooperation and a positive negotiating mode. . . .

The Palestinian Authority also has its own obligation to cease supporting terrorists and their families with salaries and welfare payments. Since the present unification does not fulfill [this requirement], it cannot be acceptable either to the international community or to Israel.

Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Fatah, Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Palestinians