The Second Lebanon War, and the cease-fire agreement signed at the end of the war, put the State of Israel in a dilemma of how to fight an enemey that targets civilan population as its primary objective and uses cease-fires to prepare for the next, more devastating, round of attack on civilan population. An enemy that avoids a direct confrontation with the IDF and considers kiling as many as possible Israeli civilians as a victory. An enemy that its primary weapon is long-range rockets.
The Second Lebanon War brought the understanding that a war against a terrorist organization is very different from a war with a regular army, with regard to the ability to dismantle Hezbollah-style decentralized systems operating in Lebanon, which includes a multi-component system that operates independently from the village level as a military outpost, while Iran, under the cover of the cease-fire, continues in its relentless effort to arm Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Islamic Jihad in Gaza with missiles and other military equipment to be used against Israel.
Israel was required to face the decision whether to embark on another war or act differently. The idea that was formulated is a campaign aimed at preventing the strengthening of the various enemies around Israel’s borders, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Iranians forces. This campaign is based on an ongoing intelligence, a surgical strike capability of the air force, and special forces operating behind enemy lines. In this way, Israel is trying to strike at the enemy’s ammunition depots, weapons, infrastructures, and armed militias that may threaten Israel’s borders.
Most-likely this effort is aided by intelligence and logistic support of moderate Arab countries in the region who are also benefited from the weakening of extremists next to their borders (Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia).
The War-Between-Wars Campaign is an IDF strategy of systematic small-scale military confrontations during cease-fire periods to prevent enemy strengthening. For example, the overt and covert military activity of the IDF against Hamas in Gaza, between the outbreaks of violence that are out of control.
In the IDF strategy document, the ‘War-Between-Wars campaign’ is defined as an active and ongoing campaign aimed at keeping the war away and allowing the state a period of calm as long as possible.
Four goals were set for the “War-Between-Wars campaign”:
- To weaken the negative power elements in the region, such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Jihad organizations, and others.
- To reduce the intensification of enemies by preventing, sometimes by force, equipping them with strategic weapons of “equal opportunity”, which could significantly limit the IDF’s freedom of action and increase the possible damage to Israel.
- To create optimal conditions for victory in a future war by means of actions that will improve the capabilities of IDF forces.
- To establish legitimacy for Israel’s actions and to negate the legitimacy of enemy action, by exposing its doctrine of action, which uses human shields. All this is done by secret and multidisciplinary operations that combine military, media, economic, legal, and political measures alongside military activity.
Such an ongoing confrontation intensifies the strategic flexibility of a country and leaves it alert for a major confrontation. This is done through the IDF and the Israeli Intelligence Community, by preventing Israel’s enemies from developing capabilities that will enable them to violate Israel’s balance of deterrence vis-a-vis its enemies and change the regional balance of power, through detecting and selectively destroying emerging threats to Israel’s security.
Among the activities attributed to Israel and its enemies as part of the War-Between-Wars Campaign Are:
- Israel – The assassination of Syrian General Muhammad Suleiman, Imad Mughniyah.
- Israel – The assassination of the military commander of Hezbollah and his son, and Mahmoud al-Mabhouh.
- Israel – The Israeli attack in Sudan (2009) during Operation Cast Lead,
- Israel – The May 2013 attacks on Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah in Damascus.
- Israel – The January 2013 attack on the Syrian arms convoy in the Rif region of Damascus.
- Israel – The February 2014 attack on the Syrian arms convoy to Hezbollah in Baalbek.
- Iran – The armed Iranian drone that was downed by Israeli forces after crossing into Israel in February 2018.
- Israel – Activities against the Iranian nuclear program.
- Syria – The retaliation by Syria that led to the downing of an Israeli fighter jet in February 2018.
- Israel – The stealing of Iran’s nuclear secret in April 2018.
- Iran – The volley of rockets directed at Israeli positions in the Golan Heights, fired by Iranian forces in Syria in May 2018.
- Israel -The massive Israeli military strike against Iranian targets in Syria in retaliation in May 2018.
- Israel – The over 200 air attacks in Syria that Israel took responsibility for.
- Israel – The failed attempt of an IDF’s commando unit to infiltrate the Gaza strip in November 2018.
- Hamas – The retaliation by Hamas -Shelling Israeli civilian population in November 2018.
What is common to all sides in the current period is the desire to avoid a major confrontation that could deteriorate into war. Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas and even the rogue organizations in Gaza – as well as Israel – have an interest in preventing ongoing fighting, at the end of which the situation will continue just as it was before the fire opened.
Israeli attacks in Syria have been carried out under the chaos that has prevailed in this region since the outbreak of the civil war at the end of 2011. Asad was required to concentrate his forces against the rebels, and he did not have the luxury to deal with Israel’s attacks on his territory.
However, this situation may soon change with the end of the fighting in Syria. The Syrian government will not tolerate Israel’s intervention inside Syria. Syrians already have escalated their reactions to the IDF attacks. This was seen by firing rockets and anti-aircraft missiles into Israeli territory. Assad’s strengthening raises the level of danger that the region will deteriorate into an all-out war in the north.