By Michael Oren
The following article is an adaptation of an article which appeared in Hebrew in Israel Hayom, the country’s largest newspaper. Though published only yesterday, Friday, it was written on Tuesday before Hezbollah fired mortar shells into the Northern Galilee and killed three of our soldiers. My purpose, as often, was to challenge convention wisdoms and question the “concepzia” that has on more than one occasion resulted in tragedy.
I understand that my subscribers may not want to read about an expanded war effort. My working assumption, though, is that, sooner or later, we will also be at war with Hezbollah.
So I ask, if not now, when?
When deciding the next fateful stage of the Gaza War, Israel's leaders should not rely solely on the senior members of the defense establishment, but turn to Israel’s early history and the leadership shown by our first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion. On the very day he declared our independence, May 14, 1948, six Arab armies attacked Israel at the same time.
With the very limited forces at his disposal, Ben-Gurion had to perform triage. Unable to fight simultaneously on all fronts, Israel would have to prioritize. Jerusalem, Ben-Gurion decided, would be the army’s first priority, followed by ridding the Galilee of its Arab invaders. Last would be the southern front where Egyptian forces, failing to advance on Tel Aviv, hunkered down in the Negev.
Ben-Gurion's prioritization succeeded. Israeli forces managed to lift the siege over Jerusalem and liberate all of the Galilee. Only in the last stages of the War of Independence did the Israel Defense Forces deal with the Egyptian army, driving it back into Sinai.
Today, as in 1948, Israel faces threats on multiple fronts and urgently needs to prioritize. Though the government, the army, and virtually the entire Israeli public appear intent on launching a ground incursion into Gaza, I want to suggest an alternative. I want to propose that Israel turn its main attention away from Hamas and give its priority to Hezbollah.
Hamas cannot escape. It is trapped inside Gaza which can be hermetically sealed and pounded by the air force day and night at will. The task of annihilating Hamas can wait for a later stage. In contrast to Hamas, Hezbollah enjoys almost unlimited maneuverability and supply lines. In terms of military capabilities, the organization poses a threat ten times greater than that of Hamas. Hamas possessed roughly 15,000 rockets but Hezbollah has an estimated 150,000 missiles, numbers of which can be individually targeted. Its soldiers have acquired years of combat experience fighting in Syria. As long as Hezbollah remains intact, it constitutes an intolerable strategic threat to the State of Israel.
The horrors of the past week are more than we as civilized human beings, as Jews, can bear. But these atrocities are liable to be dwarfed by those committed by Hezbollah terrorists infiltrating Northern Israel. Like Hamas, Hezbollah is a medieval jihadist organization whose major purpose is the killing of Jews and the destruction of Israel. And Iran has supplied it with many of the means to succeed.
Sooner or later, we will have to defend ourselves against our barbarous enemy in Lebanon. Hezbollah, which has already fired at our soldiers, has provided us with a casus belli—a legal right to strike back. With the IDF at near-maximum mobilization and much of the world giving us unprecedented legitimacy, we have a unique opportunity to free Israel from the Damocles Sword of Hezbollah.
Such an action would send an unequivocal message of strength to the terrorists and an unambiguous warning to Iran. It will help remove the stain of Israel’s early security failures. It will fully restore our deterrence power.
Now is the time to act, to take the initiative when we, and not Hezbollah, want. We must, as Ben-Gurion did, prioritize and, by doing so, change the face of the Middle East. If not now, when?