Israel’s New Military Doctrine

The news that Israel announced a unilateral ceasefire in Gaza last weekend – just three days before the inauguration of Barack Obama — came as no great surprise to politicians, analysts and observers in the Lebanese capital Beirut where I am right now.

By Claude Salhani

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Published: Sun 25 Jan 2009, 9:46 PM

Last updated: Mon 6 Apr 2015, 12:57 AM

However, the Lebanese, who like to see conspiracy theories at every street corner might have well been onto something this time.

Still, a great sigh of relief was felt in Beirut where numerous politicians feared that Hezbollah would try to open a second front in order to alleviate the pressure on Hamas in Gaza. Indeed, much pressure was applied on Hezbollah by the rest of the Lebanese political leadership to convince the Shia organisation to avoid a repetition of the war of summer 2006.

Two prominent members of the pro-independent March 14 Movement, often referred to as the anti-Syrian coalition, told this correspondent that Hezbollah seemed aware of the potential consequences a new war would have on Lebanon. Samir Geagea, the leader of the Christian Lebanese Forces and Samir Franjieh, (who stands at completely different ends from the rest of the Franjieh clan) told this correspondent in separate meetings in Beirut that they were fretful of the next few days, those leading up to Obama’s inauguration on January 20.

At the same time both Geagea and Franjieh said they were confident Hezbollah, would stay out of the current fight. But both leaders also indicated that it does not take very much to light a fuse in Lebanon. Since the fighting in Gaza began three weeks ago, rockets were fired at Israel from south Lebanon on a number of occasions. Hezbollah denied any involvement and numerous Lebanese believe this to be the work of the Ahmad Gebril’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. Yet amid this rather gloomy outlook, Lebanese politicians see a silver lining in the dark clouds hanging over the region.

The worldwide economic crisis affecting most Western nations is seen to be advantageous in Beirut. With oil at its lowest in decades, selling as of last week at $35 a barrel. Iran’s government for its part had budgeted its 2009 at $90 a barrel.

The outcome will produce a serious financial shortfall for the Iranians. This in turn translates as less hard cash for Iran to hand down to Hamas, Hezbollah and other groups operating in the region, and whom Teheran supports. As a result Hezbollah is likely to think twice about starting another round of fighting with Israel; unlike 2006 when party members were able to walk around the southern suburbs with bags for of cash and hand out pile of dollars (supplied by Iran) to anyone who lost a home in the war. This allowed Hezbollah to retain its popularity in their stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs.

Furthermore, reports from Israel indicate that the Israeli military is not looking for a fight in Lebanon.

Ariel Cohen of the Heritage Foundation in Washington, DC, told this correspondent, “Israel doesn’t want a war with Lebanon, as it has no territorial claims towards it. It certainly doesn’t want an escalation in South Lebanon now, when the business in Gaza may not be over yet. However, if Hezbollah gets into action now, the Israeli response will be massive, overwhelming and harsh.”

That syncs with what several members of Israel’s high command made public last year, when several high ranking Israeli army generals published an outline of their plan of retaliation against Lebanon in the event of an attempt by Hezbollah to attack Israel.

Dubbed the “Dahiyeh Doctrine,” after the Arabic world for ‘suburb,’ in reference to Hezbollah’s stronghold in Beirut’s southern suburbs, often simply called “Dahiyeh,” the Israeli military said in the next war with the Lebanese Shia organisation they would “unleash unprecedented destructive power against the terrorists’ host nation of Lebanon.”

Speaking to the Israeli daily Yediot Ahronoth, the head of Israel’s Northern Command, General Gadi Eisenkot, announced that his “Dahiyeh Doctrine” for fighting Hezbollah had gained official approval. “This is not a threat,” he was quoted as saying, “This is policy.”

Under Eisenkot’s plan, in the event of war these civilian centers from where Hezbollah operates will be viewed exclusively as military installations. If and when the next conflict breaks out, Israel, said a group of senior army generals, would refrain from chasing mobile Hezbollah missile teams around southern Lebanon. Instead, they would “create deterrence” by punishing Lebanon and the individual towns and villages that provide the terror group with its fighting force and cover.

“We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction,” said Eisenkot. If it were ever put into action the Dahieh Doctrine would cause massive casualties among the Lebanese civilian population.

The Lebanese were given a pretty accurate sneak preview of what Israel’s Dahiyeh Doctrine, if implemented, would look like during the three-week offensive on Gaza. Watching television images beamed from the war zone it seemed that Gaza and Beirut were interchangeable insofar as the Israeli high command was concerned. The Dahiyeh Doctrine seemed equally applicable to Beirut as it is to Gaza.

Claude Salhani is editor of the Middle East Times

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