One of the more important speeches during the Herzliya Conference was that of Israel’s Chief of Military Intelligence General Aviv Kokhavi. Two numbers he mentioned remained etched in one’s memory. The first – Israel is now facing 200,000 missiles and rockets. A year or two ago the talk was of 150,000. The difference, as far as the destruction to Israel’s towns and cities, is nearly academic – more important is the recognition that the enemy keeps arming itself at a fast pace without the Israeli government taking effective action to stop it. The second is that every tenth house in Lebanon (I believe he meant in South Lebanon, although this is not clear from the summary published on the conference’s website) has either a rocket store or a rocket launching position.
Whilst, from Israel’s point of view, the war against Syria and Iran will aim to hit their military forces and strategic infrastructure which are fairly clearly separated from their civilian populations, in Lebanon, and more so in Gaza, Israel will be fighting terror organisations which on the one hand use civilian populations as a human shield against an attack on their rockets, and on the other hand maximise the use of any unintentional or unavoidable civilian casualties for propaganda purposes. I wrote about this in my previous article ‘When Terrorists Fight Behind the Backs of Women and Children’
Israel has never dealt satisfactorily with this state of affairs. The political and public opinion damage caused by both the 2006 war in Lebanon and the 2008 operation in Gaza was huge. It is essential to prepare both the international community and the civilian populations of the Gaza Strip and Lebanon to a new strategy Israel will be using during the next war long before this war starts, instead of trying to minimise damage after the event when faced with an international board on Inquiry.
Israel must start now embedding in the consciousness of the civilian populations of Gaza and South Lebanon that in the next war, it will not be able to fight the terror organisations controlling the areas in which these populations dwell with one hand tied behind its back. It should use radio and TV broadcasts in Arabic, internet websites and where necessary, leaflets dropped from the air, and it should do it again and again along a period of time to demonstrate its seriousness. Israel must instruct these populations to prepare emergency rations and to plan in advance in which areas relatively clear of terrorist concentrations – orchards, fields, hills and beaches – they will seek shelter while the IDF, and in particular the Israeli Air Force, freely, intensively and finally hit these terror concentrations. The damage to houses and civil infrastructure will of course be huge, but Lebanon’s and Gaza’a houses are not more precious than Israel’s houses which, no doubt, will also be severely hit.
On the international front, Israel must also prepare the foreign media, political administrations and the UN to what is about to take place. No country in the world would allow another country to destroy it just because its weapons are launched from within its civilian population. Britain and the US have demolished entire German cities in response to the Blitz even if the contribution of the civilian populations of these cities to the German war effort was secondary (factory workers for example). In the next war, Israel will be forced into a situation of ‘Them or Us’. With all the regret, the choice must be obvious.