Israel Must Take Media Warfare More Seriously

Recently the IDF appointed two senior officers to key positions in its spokesperson’s unit. While both have impressive experience and reputations, writes Yaakov Katz, neither has any prior background in media or public relations. Katz questions the decision in light of what happened in the latest flare-up with Hamas, which underscored the importance of the war of perceptions. Katz points especially to the fall-out from Israel’s bombing on May 15 of a tower in Gaza City that housed the local offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, along with a Hamas command post:

That same day, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit released a statement claiming that Hamas had an intelligence research-and-development unit in the building that constituted a “unique asset for the terrorist organization.” [Only] four days after the bombing, Secretary of State [Antony] Blinken finally received [evidence from Israel that this was so].

Another few weeks would pass before the picture cleared up even more. On June 7, nearly a month after the strike, the Israeli ambassador to the U.S., Gilad Erdan, met with AP’s top management in New York and revealed that Hamas had operated special electronic-warfare technology from [the] tower that was being used to disrupt the Iron Dome missile-defense system. A legitimate target? Definitely. Has any evidence though been made public? No.

The IDF knows how to put together and publicize evidentiary files on targets without compromising intelligence sources. It also knows how to share this kind of information with the media and its allies in real time and not after a month. If the IDF had done exactly that after dropping a bomb on al-Jalaa tower, would Israel have been spared the criticism of the White House or the State Department? Possibly.

So why did none of this happen? The reason, I believe, is because the IDF and the former government neglected the media front. The IDF conducted itself as if it operates in a vacuum without needing to explain its actions to the public and as if international diplomatic pressure meant absolutely nothing to it. . . . It is time Israel recognizes that the media front is no less important than the battlefield in Gaza or the home front at which Hamas missiles are fired.

Read more at Jerusalem Post

More about: Guardian of the Walls, Hasbarah, IDF, Media

Why the White House’s Plan to Prevent an Israel-Hizballah War Won’t Work

On Monday, Hizballah downed an Israeli drone, leading the IDF to retaliate with airstrikes that killed one of the terrorist group’s commanders in southern Lebanon, and two more of its members in the northeast. The latter strike marks an escalation by the IDF, which normally confines its activities to the southern part of the country. Hizballah responded by firing two barrages of rockets into northern Israel on Tuesday, while Hamas operatives in Lebanon fired another barrage yesterday.

According to the Iran-backed militia, 219 of its fighters have been killed since October; six Israeli civilians and ten soldiers have lost their lives in the north. The Biden administration has meanwhile been involved in ongoing negotiations to prevent these skirmishes from turning into an all-out war. The administration’s plan, however, requires carrots for Hizballah in exchange for unenforceable guarantees, as Richard Goldberg explains:

Israel and Hizballah last went to war in 2006. That summer, Hizballah crossed the border, killed three Israeli soldiers, and kidnapped two others. Israel responded with furious airstrikes, a naval blockade, and eventually a ground operation that met stiff resistance and mixed results. A UN-endorsed ceasefire went into effect after 34 days of war, accompanied by a Security Council Resolution that ordered the UN Interim Forces in Lebanon (UNIFIL) to assist the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) in disarming Hizballah in southern Lebanon—from the Israeli border up to the Litani River, some 30 kilometers away.

Despite billions of dollars in U.S. taxpayer support over the last seventeen years, the LAF made no requests to UNIFIL, which then never disarmed Hizballah. Instead, Iran accelerated delivering weapons to the terrorist group—building up its forces to a threat level that dwarfs the one Israel faced in 2006. The politics of Lebanon shifted over time as well, with Hizballah taking effective control of the Lebanese government and exerting its influence (and sometimes even control) over the LAF and its U.S.-funded systems.

Now the U.S. is offering Lebanon an economic bailout in exchange for a promise to keep Hizballah forces from coming within a mere ten kilometers of the border, essentially abrogating the Security Council resolution. Goldberg continues:

Who would be responsible for keeping the peace? The LAF and UNIFIL—the same pair that has spent seventeen years helping Hizballah become the threat it is today. That would guarantee that Hizballah’s commitments will never be verified or enforced.

It’s a win-win for [Hizballah’s chief Hassan] Nasrallah. Many of his fighters live and keep their missiles hidden within ten kilometers of Israel’s border. They will blend into the civilian population without any mechanism to force their departure. And even if the U.S. or France could verify a movement of weapons to the north, Nasrallah’s arsenal is more than capable of terrorizing Israeli cities from ten kilometers away. Meanwhile, a bailout of Lebanon will increase Hizballah’s popularity—demonstrating its tactics against Israel work.

Read more at The Dispatch

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden