Photo Credit: David Cohen/Flash90
Israeli security forces try to extinguish a fire caused by a Hezbollah rocket launched from Lebanon near Moshav Avivim in northern Israel, Sept. 1, 2019.

The late war hero and U.S. Senator John McCain once said: “When you’re not winning, you’re losing.”

Israel has won a lot of wars in its relatively brief history, but the last outright victory came almost half a century ago, in 1973 when it rebounded from early losses to defeat its Arab neighbors who, for the third time in 25 years, had tried to annihilate the Jewish State.


Arguably since that time, and especially in recent decades, Israel has shown little appetite for military battleground victories.

Thankfully, the recent conflagration on Israel’s northern border with the infiltration of Hezbollah fighters ended well for Israel because of the alertness and professionalism of the IDF soldiers who patrol the border. However, this brazen attack across our border, not far from our civilian communities, demonstrates that far from feeling defeated, many of Israel’s current enemies feel emboldened and undeterred.

It should be remembered that Hezbollah is not just another terrorist organization, but a group involved in state capture. The Iran-backed Shiite organization is pretty much in full control of our neighbor, Lebanon, to our north.

They control the leadership, the government and even the army.

Those who stand up against it, or even those who they deem threatening to their iron grip are dealt with harshly, as recent demonstrators against the economic hardships in Lebanon could attest to.

Moreover, Hezbollah has an arsenal to rival most armies in the world. They reportedly have at a conservative estimate around 14,000 Zelzal-2 rockets, which have a range of up to 200 kilometers, and between 100,000 and 150,000 non-precision rockets. This is without the Fateh-110 and the Scud-B/C missiles which can pretty much cover every inch of territory in Israel, something that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah has boasted openly about of late.

To put into perspective, Hamas have a stockpile between 5,000 and 20,000 mostly short-range rockets.

However, our enemies to the north have seen how Israel deals with Hamas, an organization massively dwarfed in strategic threat to it. They see how Israel is unwilling or unable to defeat the Gaza-based terror group.

They pay close attention to how Hamas launch rocket after rocket, whenever it chooses, at Israel, with seeming immunity and impunity. They are witness to the fact that Israel’s response rarely goes beyond bombing a few empty buildings and then rushes with seemingly indecent haste to sue for a ceasefire.

Hezbollah officials are probably amused, or at the very least, astonished, when Israel allows another enemy, Qatar, to bring tens of millions of dollars in suitcases to replenish Hamas’ coffers whenever they please, with the acquiescence of the government.

All of this means one simple but salient fact, Israel has lost its deterrence. Not in some theoretical or academic way, but in a very real sense. Its unwillingness to defeat its enemies has become its greatest weakness, and in this part of the world weakness is pounced upon.

Hezbollah, and its paymasters in Tehran, see an Israel that is militarily strong with the heaviest weaponry in the region and beyond. They know that Israel has the capability and capacity to inflict severe losses on its enemies, the recent “mysterious” explosions in Iran, and the targeting of Iranian and Hezbollah instillations and operatives in Syria, are partly a testament to that.

It used to be said that Israel required a strategic edge to survive in the Middle East, and that is why we invested in the greatest armory and technology. Nevertheless, none of this is the slightest bit relevant if there is never any will to use it.

To change the current paradigm, Israel must regain a semblance of deterrence.

To do this, it must start remembering how to win again. Of course, some will say, defeating terrorist organizations is not the same as defeating regular armies or other nations.

However, Hamas and Hezbollah are both essentially if not actually in charge of the territories they reside in. They have pressure points like all rulers and those who govern territory.

Moreover, the idea that terrorist organizations can not be defeated is also outdated. Just ask the Islamic State in Iraq and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, both of whom were defeated and destroyed.

Israel can not afford the constant small-scale attacks from Lebanon that we have witnessed with alarming regularity from Gaza all of these years. If the situation deteriorates, and more citizens have to live under the daily threat of attacks, with everything that means economically, socially and nationally, it could become the dreaded death of a thousand cuts.

Israel needs to change its mindset, or better still, return to its former approach which saw it defeat its enemies so they could not raise their head again against it. We must be allowed to use our obvious military, economic and diplomatic strengths to secure a victory against those whose raison d’être is to destroy the State of Israel.

This of course might seem far-fetched to the average Israeli citizen, but the fact that it remains the goal of our enemies means that they are not being dissuaded or deterred from this dream, making them perpetually dangerous.

The situation will exponentially deteriorate the longer their dream lives on and Israel continues to display weakness. The only way to stop it is by returning to a victory mentality, because as Senator McCain said, if we are not winning, we are in fact, losing.


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Nave Dromi is an Israeli commentator and director of the Middle East Forum’s Israel Office.