Oct. 7 and April 14: Watershed moments for Israel

Israel cannot accept a situation where it is diplomatically and militarily hampered in every direction by well-meaning but weak allies or by supremely confident Shiite mullahs and their Russian ally.

By  David M. Weinberg, ISRAEL HAYOM  04-21-2024 17:50

Reading the Israeli and global media one would think that this week Israel achieved its greatest victory since the Six-Day War, successfully stymying a massive Iranian missile attack. With dozens of videos and hagiographic pilot profiles, the IDF is busy pumping its technological prowess. In religious circles, there are a thousand memes and essays circulating asserting a divine miracle, no less.

This is poppycock. At best, Israel can record a defensive tactical achievement, perhaps indeed blessed, but not a strategic win. On the strategic level, Israel suffered a whopping loss as Iran pierced with apparent impunity American and Israeli deterrence frameworks.

The US president in Washington barked “don’t,” and Jerusalem didn’t believe that Iran would dare to attack Israel directly, but Iran dared to do so, nevertheless. The ayatollahs brazenly launched a colossal Russian-style strike package intended to cause considerable damage; the largest one-night drone and missile barrage ever launched in history by one nation against another.

That fact that the attack failed – with 50% of the missiles failing to launch or crashing before reaching their target and 49% more impressively being intercepted by Israel and its allies – is irrelevant from a strategic perspective.

The screeching strategic reality is that Iran has catapulted its 40-years-long war against Israel (– a war that has been underway via proxies ever since the Islamic Revolution in 1979) to a new, stratospheric plateau (literally so, with ballistic missiles flying from Iranian soil through space to hit Israel).

When one realizes what a dramatic watershed moment this is, the fact that the strike did amazingly little damage dims into the background. It is not a pertinent consideration in determining how and with what ferocity Israel should respond.

That is why President Biden’s reported advice to Israel to “take the win,” as it were, to suck up its indignation, to rely on Western sanctions against Iran alone as “smart retaliation,” and in general to “avoid escalation” – is outrageous and dangerous nonsense.

And compounding his failure to deter Iran from directly attacking Israel, Biden has now added to the potential further collapse of any deterrence against Iran by declaring that he seeks no confrontation with Iran and will not participate in any Israeli retaliatory strike at Iran. This is strategic insanity of grandiose proportions!

When America fears escalation more than Iran does, the path toward grand Western defeat is clear. If Israel fears escalation more than Iran does, Tehran will march all the way to Jerusalem with even greater and grander attacks.

One can be certain that Tehran can and will build more successful strike packages in the future designed to overwhelm Israel’s defenses. It will try again and again, just as Hamas has launched repeated rocket wars against Israel over the past 20 years, each time with larger numbers of rockets and longer-range and more accurate rockets too.

Imagine if only one of the eight ballistic missiles (out of 120) that managed to penetrate Israeli defenses last Saturday night had fallen not in and around a well-protected airbase in the barren Negev but on a high-rise building in Tel Aviv? What if that one ballistic missile had hit the nuclear reactor in Dimona which is near that airbase? What if that one ballistic missile had been nuclear-tipped? What if Israel had no advance notice of another such Iranian attack (which it did have this time) in order to mount a robust air defense plan?

Remember that every single warplane in the Israeli arsenal was in the air for eight straight hours this past Saturday night, along with warplanes and flying intelligence platforms from four Western air forces and reportedly several allied Arab air forces too, plus all reserve components of Israel’s air defense array (Iron Dome, David’s Sling, Arrow 2 and 3, and the like). This is certainly not something that necessarily will be in place every time in the future that Iran decides to take a direct, unannounced poke at Israel.

Deterrence is a tricky task, a defense and diplomatic act that is hard to achieve. It is a construct that requires constant maintenance or else it dissipates. Psychologically, deterrence is measured by “subsequent behavior,” meaning that the Iranian attack will be considered successful if it dissuades Israel from future attacks against Iranian leaders and assets.

Conversely, the Iranian attack will be considered unsuccessful – not because the damage it intended was prevented – if Israel continues to target Iranian leaders and assets inside Iran and around the region. Such offensives are necessary to prevent Teheran’s hegemonic ambitions and nuclear military effort.

The worst possible thing for Israel’s deterrent posture is for a perception of Israel “being stuck” to take root in Tehran and/or around the world. The unhealthiest situation involves Israel being “stuck,” not moving forward, in crushing Hamas in Gaza (Rafah), in confronting Hezbollah in Lebanon, in suppressing terror cells in Judea and Samaria, in targeting IRGC emplacements in Syria, and in sabotaging nuclear facilities in Iran.

Being stuck, a situation where Israel is diplomatically or militarily hampered in every direction by well-meaning but weak allies or by supremely confident Shiite mullahs and their Russian ally, is an unacceptable, perilous position for Israel.

Instead, Israel needs to become “unstuck,” to free itself from stale strategic paradigms and insufferable diplomatic handcuffs that dominated before October 7 and April 14 – two dates that constitute watershed moments for Israel.

In general, I sense that Israel’s strategic goals have become too limited in recent decades, hamstrung by the failed Oslo peace process with Palestinians and the failed Obama peace process with Iranians. These gambits emphasized quiet, cooption, deflation, and survival, at the expense of principle, dominance, and victory. They bought about cowering postures instead of appropriately necessary offensive postures.

As a result, at this very moment Israel is being pressed by its fainthearted friends to abandon its goal of liquidating Hamas; to instead prioritize humanitarian provisions to the enemy population; to downgrade its rage over the invasion, murder, abuse, and humiliation of its citizens including kidnapped Israelis held hostage for more than six months; and to acquiesce in the release of Palestinian terrorists and butchers (including the “Nukhba” marauders of Hamas).

Israel also is being pressed to absorb Hezbollah’s continued blows including the depopulation of northern Israel and to settle for another worthless, airy-fairy diplomatic “settlement” that will only perpetuate the Iranian threat from southern Lebanon; and to refrain from “escalatory retaliation” to the April 14 earthquake-level Iranian assault on Israel.

Were they to be adopted, these policies taken together amount to a grand strategic defeat for Israel. They constitute a straitjacket that puts Israeli survival – yes, Israel’s very survival! – at risk; which brings into question Israel’s power to persevere as an independent nation in the Middle East. Were they to be adopted by Israel, these policies taken together inevitably would crash Israel as a resilient, buoyant society and a prosperous, leading economy that contributes so much to the world.

The Biden administration’s current campaigns to delay, dissuade, and eventually preclude further military conquest in Gaza, and to delay, dissuade, and eventually preclude further confrontation with Iran, accompanied by persistent threats to deny Israeli diplomatic backing and weapons if Jerusalem does not heed Washington’s warnings – are formulas for grand defeat. And as such, they must be resisted.

David M. Weinberg is a senior fellow at Misgav: The Institute for National Security & Zionist Strategy, and Habithonistim: Israel’s Defense and Security Forum. He also is Israel office director of Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). He has held a series of public positions, including senior advisor to deputy prime minister Natan Sharansky and coordinator of the Global Forum Against Anti-Semitism in the Prime Minister’s Office. The views expressed here are his own. His diplomatic, defense, political, and Jewish world columns over the past 26 years are archived at www.davidmweinberg.com

April 24, 2024 | 5 Comments »

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  1. Yes to the article, and Yes to dreuveni. As I see it, the core issue is Israel’s refusal to trust herself and actually win. That would mean first crushing the hard left that clings to defeated ideas of niceness with the Arabs. Let the strength come from the need to survive – and Hashem.

  2. Sorry, I forgot to add that it seems that all the participants in this attack and the defense were happy to blow all achievements out of proportion to get the best PR effect. However, there was a lot of play-acting going on:
    The Iranians certainly have better rockets than those fired at Israel.
    The “allies” could probably have downed everything like they promised during the Iraq war when Saddam’s rockets did reach populated parts of Israel.
    The Iranians celebrated a victory over Israel that demanded a response.
    The “allies” celebrated protecting Israel although they could have done so themselves.
    The surrounding Arab countries that the Iranian missiles flew through were probably shaking in their boots, waiting for the danger to them to pass overhead.
    The Israelis went along with the game, following normal procedures and enjoying the chance to sell some propaganda too.
    A win-win situation for one and all. Thanks Iran!

  3. Coming back briefly to the Iranian attack on Israel, a lot of things have come up that need not be ignored:
    1. The Iranians told the world days in advance that the attack was coming.
    2. The attack was weak from the point of view that the missiles seldom reached their supposed targets.
    3. The “allies” were ready and in place to shoot down a few. I wonder who coordinated this effort??? How did they select the few that were allowed to reach Israel and actually hit an IAF base?
    4. This attack gave the “allies” the opportunity to show off their supposed capabilities to actually shoot down a few slow flying rockets with the accompanying propaganda.
    5. The Israeli response of killing an anti-missile radar station was well calculated to let the Iranians know that their air-defense is weak and that they should be aware that their nuclear sites could just as easily be destroyed if they are not deep enough under ground.

  4. In essence, quite correct.

    There are a number of issues that Israel needs to deal with quickly:

    1. Finally resolve the Bibi issue. The attacks on Bibi are actually baseless and need to be removed from the agenda. Since there is currently no alternative to Bibi at this time because all the rest of the “leaders” are too willing to concede to US demands, we need to strengthen him rather than tearing him down at every opportunity.

    2, The Gaza Strip. Israel must take control of the Philadelphi corridor immediately. Failure to do so simply means that the military provision route to Hamas remains open and they can move people around and rearm at ease. The big question here is why the US and the EU are so afraid of Israel grabbing Raffah and thus the corridor.

    3. The situation in southern Lebanon. The UN imposed an Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon and guaranteed a de-militarized zone there. They betrayed Israel on all counts by inserting a feeble “UN Force” (UNIFIL) that Israel needs to protect in an Hezbollah controlled region while they completely ignore the build-up of armament on the Israeli border. When the UNSC declares new resolutions against Israel due to alleged war crimes against the Lebanese population, that is simply compounding the betrayal.

    4. Israel has done its best to provide so-called humanitarian help to the Gaza Strip in war-time to the enemy and is being beaten up at the UN, the USA and the EU for not doing enough. Then they all come along and pretend to assist by building a back door pier into the strip where Hamas can continue to steal everything they can get their hands on to sell on the black market. When claims are posed that the poor so-called Palestinians and starving and no-one is willing to view the evidence that no-one need starve there since the market stands are full of food, it looks and sounds like the US election review from Jan. 6.

    5. The US announcements that “settlers” in Judea and Samaria will be sanctioned because they deemed it necessary to protect themselves and their families against so-called Palestinian settlers is now a betrayal of immense proportions. Not only will these brave soldiers be denied arms and reinforcements, they will be denounced for even considering action against Arabs fighting against them with smuggled in arms and bricks and stones on unprotected family vehicles. No-one seems to feel that a softball sized stone flying through the windshield of a family mother bringing her kids home is attempted murder. The story is different if that stone is flying in the opposite direction or if it is flying in USA or Europe.

    6. The calls for elections are also an impediment to the business of war. The sympathy for the hostages and their relatives is omnipresent but the demands of “free the hostages at any price” is a non-starter. Sabotaging the efforts of the IDF and the Israeli government’s diplomatic core is not the way to achieve even a modicum of peace. Quite the opposite. The Arabs enjoy bazaar haggling and any sign of weakness in your argument is exploited. As mentioned above, there is no alternative to Bibi at this time and elections would only open up the bazaar that is common in the Knesset when trying to set up a new government. At the end of the day, since Bibi is popular enough, the result would be a similar government because the “opposition” is not willing to sit at the same table, even in time of war.

    I am sure the other readers will be able to add several points to my short list…