Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s principle, that action against an aggressor must not be allowed to trigger full-scale war, was applied to Operation Northern Shield launched by the IDF on Dec. 4 against Hizballah tunnels, say DEBKAfile’s analysts. The operation for locating and neutralizing Hizballah’s cross-border assault tunnels has two outstanding features:
1. The IDF high command and government have known about the tunnels since late 2015. However, since Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorist outbreaks from the Gaza Strip peaked in the past eight months, they determined after interminable debating that the time had come for Israel to reach a conclusion on one of its two fronts: either in the south against Gaza or the north against Hizballah, or else be in danger of being squeezed by both.
2. But Operation Northern Shield Defense resolves nothing on either of the two fronts – certainly not against Hizballah. It was a typical move by the prime minister and IDF chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gady Eisenkot in keeping with the principles governing their conduct of Israel’s military operations, namely –
- Preventing full-scale war.
- The message conveyed to Hizballah by this operation is that Israel is not going to war.
- Neither is Israel striking Hizballah’s strategic assets – only cautioning the Lebanese terrorist group against sending any more branches of its bunker/tunnel network across the border.
- To make this point crystal clear, the IDF spokesman reiterated that the operation against the tunnels would be confined to Israeli territory, conveying an implicit pledge to refrain from combat outside the country.
- The Netanyahu-Eisenkot strategy for the Gaza Strip is mirrored on the Lebanese border. Operation Northern Shield is confined to the Israeli side of the Lebanese border, just as in the south, Israeli troops are pinned down to defensive positions on the Israeli side of the Gaza border and restrained from tackling the Palestinian Hamas.
- The counter-tunnel operation was moreover used cynically to distract from the delivery on Tuesday of the second $15m instalment of Qatari cash to Gaza, a widely criticized sop to the Palestinian terrorists.
This strategy, which Netanyahu carries forward in his newly added job of defense minister, has boosted the self-assurance of Hamas and the pro-Iranian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip . It will have the same effect on the belligerent leaders of Iran’s Lebanese proxy.