How does Israel read the Middle East these days? Few details on its national security strategy are explicitly and publicly expressed. But at the annual Herzliya Security Conference in mid-June, it was possible to read between the lines of officials’ speeches and form a fairly accurate picture of the way those officials interpret the Middle East.
The gist of the Israeli Defense Forces’ analysis came from Major General Herzl Halevi, the chief of the IDF’s military intelligence directorate. As with most political speeches, the substance lies with just a few enigmatic words.
“I’m going to say this with all due caution, but there has never been an army that knows as much about its enemy as we know about Hezbollah,” the intelligence chief said. “But still, the next war will not be simple, it will not be easy.”
For Israel, Hezbollah must be incapacitated or destroyed; war becomes inexorable by implication.
As the Times of Israel laconically commented, Halevi “wouldn’t say the next round of violence with the Iran-backed terror group would result in mass casualties among Israel’s civilian population, but came close.”
It is pretty clear from the context that “the next war” is under careful Israeli consideration. But why? Shouldn’t the 100,000 or so modern missiles and the battle experience Hezbollah’s fighters have acquired in Syria be a deterrent to an Israeli attack?
Well, let us follow Halevi’s analysis. He doesn’t believe there will be a political settlement to reunify and bring peace to Syria — he warned that there is only a “slim” chance of that happening in a country “saturated by bloodshed.”