Israel announced yesterday morning a military and engineering operation, which it dubbed “Operation Northern Shield”, aimed at destroying what it alleges are offensive tunnels belonging to the Lebanese resistance group, Hezbollah, on the border with Lebanon. This operation represents Israel’s new approach to war, which has been Israel’s favourite in recent years. It calls this approach “the War Between Wars” (WBW) which involves fighting battles with limited goals and avoids direct confrontation, instead relying on intelligence. It focuses on air force and special forces operations in a manner in line with the army’s 2015 strategic document. Why WBW and why “Operation Northern Shield”?
The Northern Shield and WBW operations are generally an Israeli security response to Israel’s deep strategic constraints and problems related to the lack of strategic depth, especially in the era of unconventional rockets possessed by its enemy, represented by the resistance organisation in Palestine and Lebanon. This is also a response to the declining Israeli human capabilities, such as the number and capabilities of recruits, and the morale and ability to persevere and be patient during wars and attacks. This was clearly shown in the protests and fleeing of the residents of the Gaza envelope settlements as a reaction to the incendiary balloons and paper planes created by the Palestinians in Gaza. Therefore, Israel believes that by waging a WBW, such as “Operation Northern Shield”, it will not pay a heavy price.
“Operation Northern Shield” and Israel’s new WBW reveal the contradiction of power experienced by the occupation. On one hand, it has the strongest and most advanced American weapons. It is also equipped with the latest types of advanced military technology and thus possess deadly weapons of destruction capable of destroying Lebanon and its surroundings. On the other, it does not have the actual ability to make achievements and unleash its enormous potential because of the general “power constraints”, such as international policy and Israel’s own limitations of power, such as societal and geographic constraints.
Northern Shield is not expected to lead to a large-scale war with Hezbollah, because this goes against Israel’s security, political and economic interests. Such interests could be summed up as disabling the largest possible number of tunnels in the north in the context of its broader war aiming to prevent the expansion of Hezbollah’s capabilities. However, friction may cause a disruption in Israel’s calculations, and therefore, Israel relies in advance on US support and the international control factors for any escalation, such as from France and Russia.
“Operation Northern Shield” may in fact form a protective shield for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as well, as the “security master” in Israel has suffered an internal political setback in the form of his government’s weakness after defence minister Avigdor Lieberman resigned. He resigned due to what he considers the PM’s failure against the Palestinian people in Gaza. Moreover, Northern Shield may prove to Israel’s society the truth of Netanyahu’s claims and remarks regarding the presence of an emergency security situation that prevents the dissolution of the government and the holding of early elections, and necessitates the masses to rally behind Netanyahu. It may also confirm his repeated justifications for his retreat in the confrontation with Gaza, as the danger in greater in the north where Hezbollah and Iran pose a threat.
The buzzing beginning in terms of media coverage of “Operation Northern Shield” has confirmed Israel’s keenness to utilise the operation in its ongoing war on memory. On the memory of Israelis, which it aims to strengthen and heal from the trauma of Gaza and Khan Yunis. The war is also waged on the memory of Palestinians and Arabs, which it tries to convince that Israel is still in control and has the element of surprise. It will continue its war by spreading news, statements and photos of what it alleges are dangerous offensive tunnels it discovered as a result of its super intelligence and technological capabilities. This is a repeat of its experience with Gaza’s tunnels, in which it ultimately failed to kill or weaken the spirit of the resistance that is deeply rooted within the Palestinians, Lebanese and all the Arab nations in general.
This article first appeared in Arabic in the Palestinian Information Centre on 5 December 2018
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.