Think Tank: Biggest Security Threat Facing Israel in 2019 Is Multi-Front War in North and South
The Tel Aviv University-affiliated Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) presented its annual assessment of Israel’s security situation to President Reuven Rivlin on Wednesday, with the primary conclusion being that a multi-front war on the Jewish state’s northern and southern borders was a very real possibility.
According to the Hebrew new site Ynet, the report said, “Most of the fronts facing Israel are very volatile: Syria, Lebanon, and the Gaza Strip. Despite mutual deterrence between the sides, there is a potential for escalation to a wider confrontation and an all-out war on more than one front.”
“We will find ourselves in the ‘everything at once’ situation in which Israel is dealing with Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah in the north, and also with terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip,” the report added.
The most serious threat, the report said, was on northern front, where Iran, Hezbollah and the Assad regime are allied. It was highly unlikely Iran would leave Syria anytime soon, and Russian aid to the Assad regime has impeded Israel’s freedom of action. In addition, the quality of weaponry provided to Hezbollah by Iran has been rising. All of this threatens to cause a “First Northern War” in which Israel must confront all three enemies simultaneously, the report stated.
In the south, the report found there was very high potential of another war with Hamas. Israel must work to rebuild its deterrence against the Gaza-ruling terrorist organization, which has declined over the past year, and take action against the group’s military wing. Of all the threats against Israel, this was the most likely to erupt in the short term, the report surmised.
In the West Bank, the report noted, the prospect of the Trump peace plan offered little hope for progress, though Israel might win the “blame game” following its failure. In regard to Trump in general, Israel must be aware of his unpredictability and tendency to make snap decisions without consulting allies, the report cautioned.
Regarding the Iranian nuclear program, the INSS predicted the situation would remain largely stable, with a breakout to a bomb or, on the other extreme, the fall of the Islamist ruling regime in Tehran both being unlikely.
In terms of specific policy recommendations, the INSS advised arriving at a consensus with the US on Iran’s nuclear program — making sure Israel was prepared to take military action in a breakout scenario — and reaching understandings with the US on what a renegotiated nuclear deal should look like.
In Syria, the report went on to say, Israel must continue its battle against Iranian entrenchment,and ready itself for the possibility of the war spreading to Lebanon or even Iran itself, while avoiding a clash with Russia at almost any cost and hardening the homefront for a possible northern war.
In Gaza, Israel should refuse to deal with Hamas on any political or diplomatic level, as this would weaken moderate Palestinians and encourage the use of force, the report said.
The report also recommended cultivating relations with Russia and China — though not at the expense of relations with the US — and fostering a dialogue with American Jews to strengthen ties between Israel and Jews of all denominations and political loyalties.