What Israel Needs

November 24, 2023 Topic: Israel-Palestine Region: Middle East Tags: IsraelIDFHamasIranHezbollah

What Israel Needs

Israel needs time, ammunition, and the continued support of the United States to win its war with Hamas. 

The chances that the United States will do anything meaningful to enforce UNSCR 1701 appear close to nil. The Biden administration has only retaliated, and very meekly, eight times for over 150 attacks on U.S. forces in the region by Iran-backed groups since 2021, out of fear of confrontation and greater escalation. So it’s far-fetched to imagine it threatening Hezbollah, let alone its patron Iran, to prompt enforcement of 1701. Congress, however, perhaps could help by refusing to continue authorizing aid to Lebanon; the United States has provided Lebanon with $5.5 billion in assistance since 2006, and Lebanon, anyway, is a Hezbollah-dominated failed state. 

Israel will need to be regularly vocal about the need for the United States or the “international community” to enforce UNSCR 1701 to provide justification for it taking the initiative, perhaps in the next year or two—unless Hezbollah attacks first, which it and Tehran seem reluctant to do for now—to significantly push Hezbollah back beyond the Litani to create a buffer zone to ensure the safety of its northern residents. But Israel might have to go further and severely weaken, if not destroy, Hezbollah. Given Hezbollah’s immense capabilities to inflict severe damage on Israeli population centers, such a conflict will likely dwarf in intensity the Israel-Hamas conflict today unless the United States decides to constrain Hezbollah through direct threats or by threatening its Tehran master.

A preemptive attack that defangs Hezbollah, which has served not only as a proxy but a protector of Iran and part of Tehran’s deterrent capability, would also facilitate an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities. Such a military campaign grows more inevitable by the day, given the U.S. appeasement of the Tehran regime and Iran’s ever-growing dangerous nuclear program. As if it was necessary, severely damaging Iran’s nuclear facilities just got an extra justification from the Iran-backed October 7 attack. 

The United States can help in two distinct ways. First, and most easily, it can expedite the delivery of KC-46 aerial refueling tankers to Israel, incorporated in the House and Senate versions of the current National Defense Authorization Act. The United States has approved Israel’s purchase of up to eight tankers, but they are not slated for delivery before 2025. Delivery of even two tankers soon, which Israel has requested, would not only help prepare Israel for a war with Iran but also send a strong signal to Tehran and help restore deterrence. 

Second, the Biden administration needs to abandon its disastrous accommodation of the Tehran regime and cease unfreezing billions of dollars in Iranian assets that strengthen the regime and enable its funding of Hezbollah and other proxies that seek Israel’s and America’s demise. This was a dangerous and obviously mistaken policy before October 7, but outright strategic malpractice afterward. 

These issues might not play out in the timeframe and sequence outlined above, and new, unexpected problems and complications will certainly arise. Even after Israel hopefully recovers all of its hostages alive from Gaza, it faces immense social and economic challenges. And while diplomatic opportunities certainly lurk, waiting to be seized, October 7 has dramatically changed the landscape. Israel needs time, ammunition, and continued U.S. support to destroy Hamas. It will then need to maintain security around Gaza while sorting out the Strip’s governance structure. Then, peace with Saudi Arabia and defanging Hezbollah and Iran. The next few years ahead are going to be challenging and eventful. 

Michael Makovsky, a former Pentagon official, is president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security of America (JINSA).

Image: Creative Commons.