The Second Lebanon War concluded with the passage of U.N. Security Council resolution 1701, which required the disarmament of Hezbollah. Needless to say, that never happened. Nor did the U.N. Security Council or any of its member states make the slightest effort to enforce the provisions of 1701 or its similarly worded 2004 predecessor resolution 1559.
Ten years later, Hezbollah is in possession of an estimated 150,000 rockets and missiles sheltered in private homes and buildings throughout southern Lebanon. Those missiles and rockets were donated by Hezbollah's patrons in Iran, and in most cases passed through Syria. Occasionally, Israel has bombed arms convoys wending their way to Hezbollah or intercepted ships bearing the armaments, but the numbers attest to the limits of such efforts to interdict arms shipments.
In addition to the rockets and missiles, Hezbollah has dramatically increased its other military capabilities as well. In 2006, Hezbollah could boast of 10,000 troops. That number has, according to some estimates, quadrupled today.
True, those troops are presently bogged down shoring up the Assad regime in Syria – and that is good. But they have also gained substantial combat experience, including in largescale actions to gain and hold territory – and that is bad, very bad, from Israel's point of view.
Not only did the Security Council and its members undertake no action to fulfil their commitments under 1701, they have effectively acquiesced and even abetted the trampling of 1701. Even though, Iran is virtually the sole supplier of Hezbollah, in blatant violation of 1701, that did not prevent the United States and its Western allies (including two permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) from entering into a deal with Iran that furnishes the Iranians with tens of billions of new funds with which to purchase and/or produce arms for Hezbollah.
Further the United States has stood by helplessly as Russia has established itself as the dominant power in Syria and dramatically increased the Assad regime's ability to hold onto power. That, in turn, ensures that the overland transport of missiles and other military supplies from Iran to Lebanon continues unabated.
Finally the Western powers excluded from the Iran deal any limitations on Iran's ballistic missile program and have done nothing to enforce Security Council resolutions against the testing of advanced, long-range missiles. And that, we shall see, is a very big deal.
AMONG HEZBOLLAH'S 150,000 rockets and missiles, are those capable of reaching the entirety of Israel. And unlike, the rockets and missiles fired by Hamas in the summer of 2014, some of those missiles are guided ones and can change their trajectory in mid-flight, which makes missile defence systems, like Iron Dome, far less effective.
Both the magnitude of the Hezbollah arsenal – which is large enough to overwhelm missile defences – and the higher sophistication of its rockets and missiles point to the fact that in any war with Hezbollah Israel will not enjoy the degree of protection from missiles that it enjoyed in the summer of 2014.
By just hitting even one or two high value targets, Hezbollah missiles and rockets could inflict unthinkable damage on Israel. Those targets include the six power plants from which Israel gets two-thirds of its electricity; its major desalinization plants, from which flows most of its water; the natural gas infrastructure in the Mediterranean; the Haifa oil refineries; its single large international airport. The ability to overwhelm missile defences also renders the IDF's air and army bases vulnerable.
IF THAT WERE NOT ENOUGH to worry about, now comes a recent BESA Center Perspective Paper by Dr. Max Singer on the warfare calculus created by new technology that makes possible guiding warheads to within a meter or two of their designated targets from far away. (Singer was one of the co-founders of the original Hudson Institute with Herman Kahn in the early 1960s. Kahn and the Institute's initial fame came from their nuclear game-playing scenarios at the height of the Cold War.)
Traditionally, a country was safe from external enemies, as long as it was strong enough to repel any army that attempted to seize its territory. For the major powers, the United States and the USSR that all changed at the dawn of the nuclear age. But it still remained true for the smaller, non-nuclear powers. The inaccuracy of missiles with a range of over 300 kilometers rendered non-nuclear weapons mounted on longer-range missiles incapable of changing the strategic balance of power.
All that changes, however, with new highly accurate warheads. Their very accuracy makes them as potentially lethal as a small nuclear weapon. And Israel has two mortal enemies – Iran and Hezbollah – that either already possess the ability to produce and use guided warheads or will within a few years.
Such weapons in the hands of such enemies necessitate that Israel undertake a thoroughgoing reassessment of the allocation of its defence budget, and how much to devote to missile defence and to the development of its own deterrent weapons. Yet, notes Singer, such dramatic rethinking is notoriously hard for large military bureaucracies. Nor is it easy to assess what the implications of such a reallocation of resources would have on Israel's other military capabilities, including ground warfare against Hezbollah and Hamas.
One thing is clear, according to Singer: If Hezbollah were to employ such weapons, Israel would have to bring the war to a decisive and immediate end – presumably requiring bombing of unprecedented ferocity to take out the Hezbollah leadership and the organization's missiles, many of them located in schools and hospitals. Israel would likely have to deploy its own precision weaponry against Hezbollah and perhaps Iran to bring a halt to Hezbollah's firing of missiles at Israel's civilians and high value targets. But once matters reach that stage, who knows where they end. And Herman Kahn is no longer here to run the various scenarios.
ON THE ONE HAND, the general optimism with which Israeli Jews face the future even in the face of such generally known threats, and even living with the assumption that the next encounter with Hezbollah is a matter of when and not if, attests to a degree of religious faith of which they themselves may not always be aware.
On the other hand, it is difficult to live in Israel for a long time, without succumbing to at least some small extent to feelings of kochi ve'otzvam yadi – and that is true even of Torah Jews.
As we prepare for Elul and the Judgment to follow, it helps to remind ourselves that we do not have the answers to all the threats arrayed against us and how much our existence depends only on His protection.