Learning the Lessons of Israel’s Long, Unnamed War in Lebanon

The upcoming twentieth anniversary of the IDF’s withdrawal from Lebanon has sparked much discussion about the nameless war that lasted from 1985 to 2000, during which the Jewish state held on to a strip of territory in the southern part of Lebanon, together with its local allies, and fought a protracted, low-grade conflict there. Having served as a battalion commander on the ground in this conflict, and later having overseen units involved in it, Gershon Hacohen admits that, in hindsight, he did not pay sufficient attention to the strategic dilemma Israel faced:

The IDF found itself pulled in three different directions by three different goals. The first and most important: to secure our ‎communities in [northern Israel from PLO and Hizballah rockets and terrorist infiltrations]. The second: to ensure that [Jerusalem’s ally], the South Lebanese Army (SLA), remained intact ‎and to secure the civil population in the security zone while minimizing harm to IDF and SLA troops. ‎The third: attacking Hizballah’s forces and reducing its battle capabilities. Hizballah identified the ‎tension playing out between those three missions and maximized the potential that lay with keeping it ‎running high.

Starting in the early 1990s, when Hezbollah entrenched itself in a way that allowed it control over ‎southern Lebanon, a major change took place. While the IDF was still defending border communities . . . from incursions by terrorists, Hizballah was focusing its activities toward a goal, ‎openly declared, of liberating its homeland [from Israeli occupation]. Secretly, . . . under the direction of Iran, Hizballah wanted to end the Israeli presence in south ‎Lebanon and thereby strike a blow to Israel’s image of military superiority by underscoring its ‎inefficacy in either winning or defending all its vulnerabilities.

For years, the IDF has been criticized for supposedly neglecting the desire to achieve victory. The ‎expression “Let the IDF win” is a simplistic slogan that prevents an in-depth understanding of the [problem at hand]. A renewed look at the war in the security zone provides a vital lesson ‎in understanding the change that Hizballah instituted in how wars against Israel are fought, . . . at a ‎time when it is urgent to form the concept of Israeli security necessary for victory.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israeli grand strategy, Israeli Security, Lebanon, PLO, South Lebanese Army


Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy