In my morning paper there is a discussion of the home front defense drill that will be taking place today, simulating an all-out war with Hamas and Hezbollah. Warning sirens will be activated in various places, and note will be taken of whether schoolchildren and others are able to reach shelter in time. My personal situation is good compared to that of most Israelis; there is a shelter on every floor of the apartment building I live in, and we get about a minute’s warning of rockets from Gaza (flight time is 90 seconds). Rockets from Hezbollah will take a bit longer.
Unfortunately, only about 42% of Israelis (according to my newspaper) have shelters in their homes. That means that they can’t possibly make it to the nearest public shelter in time, so they end up spending long hours or even days in them when there are rocket attacks. Or they depend on the somewhat dubious protection of stairwells. Even a shelter in the basement of a multistory building takes too much time to reach.
Iron Dome and other antimissile systems have provided good protection during the small conflicts that we’ve had in recent years, but in a war with Hezbollah, which is said to have some 130,000 rockets aimed at all parts of Israel, including some dozens of rockets with precise guidance systems that will be targeted at airbases, power stations, fuel depots, and other critical infrastructure, there will not be enough systems to protect most civilians.
There is money budgeted to fix this, but nowhere near enough, and the process is slow and (of course) bogged down by bureaucracy.
Meanwhile, the prospect of a conflict with Iran draws ever more likely as the Iranian regime plays for time with the Western powers. Unless something unexpected happens, like a revolution in Iran, the moment is near when Israel will have to decide: do we permit Iran to become a nuclear power or will we go to war? There is no third option.
War with Iran will involve Hezbollah, which has no other reason for existing. It will certainly trigger Hamas, and the other terror providers in Gaza. It will probably include missile and drone attacks on Israel from the territory of Syria and Iraq, and possibly directly from Iran. Estimates are of more than 1,000 rockets per day; the worst damage will be to border communities, which are in range of Hezbollah’s massive mortars. There will be ground incursions in the north, to try to overrun military installations and civilian communities, kill people and take hostages. We can expect a wave of terrorism from Judea and Samaria, and perhaps even the participation of Palestinian Authority “security” forces. Finally, terrorists among Israel’s Arab citizens will certainly join in, as they did in the last small war with Gaza.
Such a war would extremely traumatic for Israel’s home front, maybe worse than any of her previous wars. Nobody would be safe, and the country would not be the same afterwards, even if we win.
At the same time, war, no matter how it starts, would be portrayed in the international media as a vicious attack by Israel on helpless Lebanese, Gazans, and others. The international anti-Israel conspiracy – there is no other expression that adequately describes the coalition of organizations dedicated to the extirpation of the Jewish state from the world – will launch a coordinated antisemitic campaign throughout the world. This isn’t speculation: we’ve seen it in action every time Israel has acted to defend herself against rocket attacks from Gaza. The objective will be to pressure the international community to prevent an Israeli victory and allow our enemies to prepare for the next round.
I expect that the Biden Administration, like that of Barack Obama, will try to embargo shipments of essential weapons and ammunition to Israel. I believe that the overall climate in the administration and Congress is more anti-Israel today than in the days of Obama, although they have tried to avoid direct public confrontations so far.
What, then, is the best strategy for Israel in this situation?
Can we avoid war by appeasement? We can only delay it. The Iranian leaders do not want a conventional war at this time; the regime prefers to wait until it has prepared its nuclear shield. Once it is in place, it can unleash Hezbollah against Israel while deterring us from retaliating directly against them.
But even without war, a nuclear Iran would be disastrous for Israel. Iran would proceed to establish a sphere of influence over the entire region. It would gain economic and political power. The regime could demand concessions from Israel – a Palestinian capital in Jerusalem, prisoner releases, withdrawal from all or part of Judea and Samaria, an airport in Gaza – and Israel, without allies, would be forced to comply. Each time, the alternative would be war; conventional war, but backed by a nuclear threat.
Little by little our sovereignty would evaporate, foreign investment and trade would dry up, Israelis with foreign passports would leave – and then there would be more demands. It would not be as dramatic as nuclear bombs on Tel Aviv, but just as final.
Israel needs to act soon, and with overwhelming force, against both Iran and Hezbollah simultaneously, in order to prevent massive damage on our home front. Their military capabilities and leadership must be destroyed, and very quickly, before they can strike back and before the US and Europe can intervene. I am talking about a few days, not weeks. It might be that the only way to do that is with unconventional weapons. We need to be prepared to use them.
I understand that this is a drastic proposal. Do you have a better one?