The IDF is “cautiously optimistic” in its assessment of the security challenges of 2017, expecting to get to the other side “without having to wage major combat operations,” writes DefenseNews‘ Barbara Opall-Rome, after an interview with a senior defense official in Tel Aviv. However, she quotes the same official, “Today, the most probable war is one in which both sides didn’t want it, but due to the dynamic of escalation, we might find ourselves in it.”
The senior official told Opall-Rome that Israel is cautious and mindful of “unintended consequences” resulting from its actions regarding Hezbollah up north, Hamas in Gaza, the Palestinian Authority, and even faraway countries such as Iran.
In his opinion, the hierarchy of threats against Israel in 2017 will be: 1. The PA; 2. Hamas; and 3. Iran-backed Hezbollah, which, despite the fact that it is the strongest of the three “the probability [for confrontation] is low, as long as we don’t get into a dynamic of escalation.”
Israel is anxious about the possibility that Iran and Hezbollah stay put in a ruined Syria after the Russians have reduced their presence there. The senior official is not concerned about Israel’s ability to deal with Bashar al-Assad, rather “our concern is that Iran and Hezbollah will grow ever more confident in Syria when the superpowers leave or reduce their presence… and that will not be a good end to this story.”
Hezbollah worries this security official because “they haven’t stopped for one day their buildup against Israel… and we don’t want to wait for the first day of the war,” meaning, obviously, that Israel would continue to use preemptive operations, such as the “unconfirmed” attacks on Syrian armories and on truck convoys hauling advanced weapons across the Lebanese border, to be handed to Hezbollah.
“When you let so many weapons systems get into Lebanon, you push a higher probability of a war,” the official said, noting that “[Hizbollah leader Hassan] Nasrallah speaks almost every week about the day they will conquer Israel. And if he speaks like that every week, why wait? Why give him a feeling of being strong enough?”
He also suggested that Hezbollah forces in Syria could turn on the Russians, using their advanced arms, including their anti-aircraft weapons. “If I had opportunity to give advice to President Putin,” he told Opall-Rome, “I’d say you should keep an eye on Hezbollah if you want a stable Middle East and if you want to protect your gains in Syria.”