The Coming War with Hizballah and Other Thoughts from Israel’s Former Chief of Military Intelligence

Jan. 22 2018

Amos Yadlin was the Labor party’s candidate for defense minister in Israel’s 2015 elections, served as deputy commander of the Israeli air force and later as the head of IDF intelligence, and in 1981 flew one of the planes that bombed Saddam Hussein’s Osirak nuclear reactor. In conversation with Zev Chafets, he discusses some of the threats and challenges confronting the Jewish state. On the possibility of war with Hizballah, Yadlin comments:

[Israel must] prepare not for a third war in Lebanon but for the first “northern war,” one that will be fought not only against Hizballah but against Syria and Iranians in Syria, all along the northern front. . . . Israel has a better air force [and] better intelligence [than its enemies], and it has learned the lessons of previous wars and implemented them. This time, for example, it will not differentiate between Hizballah and Lebanon. And if Bashar al-Assad joins the fighting, he could well lose everything he has gained, with Russian help, over the past two years. . . .

[Nonetheless], we will pay a higher price than we did during the Lebanon war of 2006, especially on the home front. Israel has developed a very effective defensive shield built on several layers and dimensions, including the world’s best missile-defense system. We have intelligence capabilities that will allow us to destroy some long-range rockets on their launch pads. We can also mitigate damage [at home] with an early-warning system that will give civilians a couple of minutes to reach shelter. But there will be substantial damage.

Israelis are resilient. But they are also critical. There is an asymmetrical balance of expectations on both sides. They want the IDF to protect them 100-percent, to win the war in six days, and to force the other side to raise a white flag of surrender. This will never happen. If we measure the score of the next war like a basketball game, Israel will win 99 to 19. Hizballah will declare a divinely inspired victory. Israelis will complain and nominate a committee to investigate the failure.

As for the possibilities of an American peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, rumored to be in the making, Yadlin comments:

As an Israeli, I’m praying that it will be a success. As an analyst, I think the chances for a final deal are close to zero. But if President Trump can come up with something that is good enough for now—an arrangement that preserves Israeli security, enables Palestinian state-building from the bottom up, and demonstrates to our Arab allies that we are sincere—he will deserve a Nobel Prize. The rest of the unbridgeable parameters he can leave for future generations to solve.

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More about: Donald Trump, Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

The Proper Jewish Response to the Pittsburgh Massacre

Nov. 21 2018

In the Jewish tradition, it is commonplace to add the words zikhronam li-vrakhah (may their memory be for a blessing) after the names of the departed, but when speaking of those who have been murdered because they were Jews, a different phrase is used: Hashem yikom damam—may God avenge their blood. Meir Soloveichik explains:

The saying reflects the fact that when it comes to mass murderers, Jews do not believe that we must love the sinner while hating the sin; in the face of egregious evil, we will not say the words ascribed to Jesus on the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” We believe that a man who shoots up a synagogue knows well what he does; that a murderer who sheds the blood of helpless elderly men and women knows exactly what he does; that one who brings death to those engaged in celebrating new life knows precisely what he does. To forgive in this context is to absolve; and it is, for Jews, morally unthinkable.

But the mantra for murdered Jews that is Hashem yikom damam bears a deeper message. It is a reminder to us to see the slaughter of eleven Jews in Pennsylvania not only as one terrible, tragic moment in time, but as part of the story of our people, who from the very beginning have had enemies that sought our destruction. There exists an eerie parallel between Amalek, the tribe of desert marauders that assaulted Israel immediately after the Exodus, and the Pittsburgh murderer. The Amalekites are singled out by the Bible from among the enemies of ancient Israel because in their hatred for the chosen people, they attacked the weak, the stragglers, the helpless, those who posed no threat to them in any way.

Similarly, many among the dead in Pittsburgh were elderly or disabled; the murderer smote “all that were enfeebled,” and he “feared not God.” Amalek, for Jewish tradition, embodies evil incarnate in the world; we are commanded to remember Amalek, and the Almighty’s enmity for it, because, as Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained, the biblical appellation refers not only to one tribe but also to our enemies throughout the ages who will follow the original Amalek’s example. To say “May God avenge their blood” is to remind all who hear us that there is a war against Amalek from generation to generation—and we believe that, in this war, God is not neutral.

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More about: Amalek, Anti-Semitism, Judaism, Religion & Holidays