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Israel’s New Chief of Staff Has Tough Stance on Hezbollah

Says Israel will not hesitate to use 'disproportionate force'

• December 15, 2014 5:00 am

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JERUSALEM—General Gadi Eisenkot, appointed Sunday by the Israeli government as the next armed forces chief of staff, has warned in the past that Israel will not hesitate in the next round of fighting with Hezbollah to use "disproportionate force" against any Lebanese village from which rocket fire is directed at Israel.

Virtually all Israeli media reporting on Eisenkot’s appointment has cited an interview he gave the newspaper Yediot Achronot in 2008 in which he spelled out Israel’s policy in any coming confrontation. Instead of trying to determine from which plots within Lebanon’s 160 Shiite villages rockets were being fired, he said, a village will be considered to be a military base if any rockets at all are fired and the entire village will be subject to indiscriminate air or artillery attack.

Eisenkot referred to the Israeli Air Force’s leveling of the Hezbollah-controlled neighborhood of Dahariya in Beirut in the opening hours of the 2006 war with Hezbollah. "This will be the fate of every village from which Israel is fired on," he said. "This is not a recommendation. This is a plan. And it has been approved." Eisenkot said that warnings would be issued to villages that are targeted—presumably by leaflet and local radio wave lengths—to permit the villagers time to escape.

In the 2006 war, which lasted a month, 4,000 rockets were fired into Israel. Some 1,200 Lebanese—civilians and guerillas—were killed in the fighting as well as 165 Israeli soldiers and civilians.

The Hezbollah rockets were fired in large part from villages in southern Lebanon, all of them Shi’ite. Israeli planes struck at those properties from where firing had come and tried to avoid the rest of the village. The new policy publicly spelled out by Eisenkot has come to be known as the Dahariya Doctrine.

Eisenkot also made it clear in the interview that he was unhappy with the piecemeal way in which ground forces—infantry and tanks—were fed into the battle two years before at a relatively late stage. He advocated the large-scale insertion of ground forces at the very beginning of the next round of fighting. As chief of staff, he will be in a position to implement this doctrine if he obtains government approval.

Hezbollah reportedly possesses some 100,000 short-range rockets and long-range missiles supplied by Iran.

The general also said that Israel will not spare Lebanon’s national infrastructure in any future conflict as it largely did in 2006. Israel at the time distinguished between Lebanon, the sovereign nation, and Hezbollah, the Shi’ite militia. Given Hezbollah’s virtual takeover of the country, he said, such a distinction will not be made in the future. This presumably means that power stations, airports, roads, and water distribution points would be targeted.

A similar view was expressed in a paper by Col. (res.) Gabriel Siboni, a former senior army planner, in a paper published by the Institute of National Security Studies in Tel Aviv. He suggested that even before the air force turns its attention to missile launchers, it go after "economic interests," "centers of civilian power," and "state infrastructure" to increase deterrence and tie up resources in reconstruction.

It is believed that such threats will bring public pressure on Hezbollah within Lebanon to act with restraint.

Shortly after the 2006 war, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah said that if he had known how forcefully Israel would react he would not have ordered the border attack on an Israeli patrol that touched off the fighting. However, in the past three years Hezbollah has gained confidence and battle experience from its intervention in Syria on the side of the Damascus regime and there is a feeling among informed Israelis that the militia is less worried about the prospect of another conflict with Israel.

Published under: Israel