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January 2, 2019 8:55 am

In 2019, Israel Faces Dangers on Many Fronts

avatar by Yoav Limor / JNS.org

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An undated photo showing a test firing of Iran’s Sayyad-2 missile. Photo: Tasnim News Agency.

JNS.orgThe coming year is likely to be one of uncertainty ‎as Israel tries to walk the extremely fine line ‎between the highly volatile potential of conflict on all fronts, ‎and the IDF’s clear superiority and ability to ‎generate deterrence.‎

Ostensibly, Israel has to strive to avoid a wide-‎scale conflict in 2019. This should be ‎doable as each foe, in every sector, currently has ‎far more pressing issues to deal with: Syria is reeling from a ‎bloody, seven-year civil war; Hezbollah is knee-deep ‎in financial problems and internal Lebanese ‎political turmoil; Hamas is trying to improve the ‎dire economic situation in the Gaza Strip; and the ‎Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is focused on ‎trying to make heads or tails of the impending post-Mahmoud Abbas era. ‎

Add to that Israel’s military power, and one can ‎understand why Israel’s enemies are wary of ‎confrontation. Still, logic does not always prevail ‎in the Middle East, and each sector harbors a ‎significant chance of rapid ‎escalation, especially as all are under the menacing ‎specter of Iran, which is trying to increase its ‎regional influence.‎

This means that the Israeli challenge will be, first, ‎to avoid war; second, to win a war should one erupt; ‎and third, perhaps most important, to both ‎prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in ‎Syria and stop Hezbollah’s armament efforts in ‎Lebanon, especially with respect to the Shiite ‎terrorist group’s precision-missile program.‎

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Israel will also have to carefully navigate its ‎policy in Gaza to ensure the desperation there does ‎not worsen, and equal prudence will be required in ‎the West Bank, where fighting terrorism while ‎minimizing the infringement on the civilian ‎Palestinian population’s routine is crucial to ‎preventing another intifada. ‎

Israel will have to do all of this while contending ‎with complex geostrategic conditions, especially ‎given Donald Trump’s decision to pull ‎American troops from Syria and the subsequent ‎increase in Russia’s regional power. This will require not only diplomatically ‎navigating the complex equation between ‎Washington and Moscow, but also fostering closer ‎ties with the moderate Sunni axis, which, in turn, ‎is likely to increase friction with rogue states, ‎including Turkey. ‎This fine line between opportunity and risk is one ‎Israel will have to walk alone, and it will have ‎only itself to count on, both diplomatically and ‎militarily. ‎

All this will take place against the backdrop of ‎what is expected to be a challenging year for Israel ‎regardless. The election campaign is already proving ‎to be a stormy one, and the IDF will likely be dragged into it. The new IDF chief of ‎staff, Aviv Kochavi, slated to take office in mid-January, will ‎have to maneuver between all the external and ‎internal threats and challenges, including the ‎questions raised about the army’s war readiness, ‎the need to formulate a multi-year budget, ‎and the personnel crisis brewing in the military’s ‎regular and standing ranks.‎

Defense and security issues will continue to ‎dominate the political and public agenda in 2019, on ‎every level. The good news is that chances of war ‎are slim. The bad news is that, given the regional ‎upheaval, no security assessment can be taken for ‎granted.‎

Yoav Limor is a veteran Israeli journalist and columnist for Israel Hayom.

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