Originally published at Gatestone Institute.
In the chaotic Middle East, every day brings new strategic changes and brutal instances of violence, the one thing that has remained constant is Iran’s continuing construction of a military-terrorist missile base in Lebanon.
Through its Shi’ite Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah, Iran today has formed a terrorist entity that is unprecedented in scope and firepower, whose rockets and missiles can strike any point in Israel.
During a recent security conference held at the Begin-Sadat Center at Bar-Ilan University in Israel, senior Israeli officials divulged some staggering figures that give a sense of the significant capabilities Hezbollah has built-up.
To be sure, Israel has been preparing for the day it will need to tackle Hezbollah, and the Israel Defense Force apparently feels ready to deal with the threat if and when it is required to do so.
The threat, however, remains potent; and Hezbollah’s cynical use of Lebanese civilians as a cover from which to attack Israeli civilians remains a serious challenge facing Israeli defense planners.
During the conference, IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, pointed out that, “in Lebanon today, there are homes in which there are guestrooms alongside missile storage rooms. This is a clear intelligence reality.”
The situation was also addressed by Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan, who unveiled a government plan to find solutions quickly for the 30% of Israeli civilians who do not have rocket-proof rooms in their apartments, or access to bomb shelters in their buildings or the immediate vicinity.
In any full-scale war, Erdan warned, the Israeli home front will be pounded by thousands of rockets for up to three weeks, and every point in the country could be hit by Hezbollah.
One out of every 10 homes in Lebanon now has a rocket launcher or Hezbollah weapons stored in it, Erdan said. Civilian homes, he said, are constructed in southern Lebanon in a way that allows the roof to open up for the firing of a rocket at Israel.
An increasing number of Hezbollah’s projectiles, Erdan cautioned, are guided, accurate weapons, with which the terror organization will seek to strike Israeli national infrastructure sites, such as electricity production centers.
If the number of rockets and missiles possessed by Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, Hamas and Islamic Jihad are added up, he added, the number reached is 200,000.
“Our enemies,” he said, “want to break the spirit of Israelis, and get them to stop believing that we can have a normal life here.”
The IDF has very effective offensive plans for these threats, but the government also had to come up with new ways of keeping civilian life going during a future war, he continued.
“We need to create a mechanism to allow the continuous functionality of the home front, and not to return to scenes of the Second Lebanon War of 2006,” he said. “No other country is facing the threat we are today.”
Hezbollah is heavily armed, more so than most Western countries, but it is also deterred by Israel’s firepower. Additionally, its main focus today is on fulfilling the orders of its masters in Tehran and fighting in the Syrian civil war on the side of the Assad regime, a move that has provoked the wrath of Sunni jihadis. This change was noted in recent days by Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, who stated: “To those who are not yet aware, there is already a civil war in Lebanon. [The Sunni] Global Jihad, which has infiltrated Lebanon and is attacking Hezbollah, is blowing car bombs in [the south Beirut Hezbollah stronghold of] Dahia, and is firing rockets at Dahia and the Beka’a Valley [in northern Lebanon, where Hezbollah is also based].”
During the conference, new ideas were put forward by top security figures on how Israel might enhance its deterrence even further.
Giora Eiland, former head of the National Security Council (which advises the prime minister), said Israel should reject the idea that it must fight against terrorist guerrilla organizations embedded in civilian areas, and return to the idea that it is fighting enemy states.
It is impossible to defeat guerrilla forces, Eiland argued; but if the enemy and its territory are defined as a hostile state, victory becomes possible once again. “In 2006,” he said, “we tried to do something impossible by hitting rocket launchers. If tomorrow there is a third Lebanon war and if we try to do the same thing, the result will be worse. We and Hezbollah have improved tactically.”
“If war does break out,” he added, “treating Lebanon as an enemy would end the conflict in three days, not three weeks,” Eiland predicted. “This entails bombing bridges and other state-affiliated targets, though staying clear of civilian sites like schools and hospitals,” he stressed. “It is not right for us to accept the idea of fighting low-intensity counter-terrorism conflicts. We should move to an interstate conflict system.”
One out of every ten homes in Lebanon now has a rocket launcher or Hezbollah weapons stored in it, according to Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Home Front Defense Minister.