Photo: Reuters
Netanyahu and Eisenkot
Photo: Reuters
Ben-Dror Yemini

Northern Shield not meant to shield Netanyahu

Op-ed: It is regrettable that Knesset members echoed Hezbollah's claims that the IDF operation to neutralize terror tunnels along the Israel-Lebanon border is a way for Netanyahu to distract the public from Case 4000. Throughout his tenure, the prime minister has never been quick to pull the trigger.

It was clear that with the onset of Operation Northern Shield—meant to neutralize terror tunnels Hezbollah has constructed along the Israel-Lebanon border—some would call it a public relations stunt by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Those who believe the timing of the police's recommendations in Case 4000—announced on the last day of Roni Alsheikh’s tenure as the police commissioner—was reasonable, somehow complain about the timing of the operation.



It would be fair to say that those who raise questions over the police recommendation to indict the prime minister and the timing of the operation in the north are cynically exploiting the situation, choosing their political interests over the security ones.


Prime Minister Netanyahu and IDF chief Eisenkot (Photo: AFP)
Prime Minister Netanyahu and IDF chief Eisenkot (Photo: AFP)

Throughout his tenure, the prime minister excelled in one thing—he has never been trigger-happy. Quite the contrary. There were those who accused him of being overly cautious. For instance, Operation Protective Edge only went ahead after multiple attempts were made by Netanyahu to avoid the conflict. "Quiet for quiet," Netanyahu said repeatedly just days before the operation began, and although it didn’t help, he never wanted that war. He was dragged into it. There are enough good arguments against Netanyahu; there is no need to paint him as a warmonger.


Even during the later stages of the 2011 social justice protest, there were those who claimed that Netanyahu would start a war to put an end to it. It did not happen. These accusations were false back then as well. It happened again a few weeks ago, when it felt like we were on a brink of another war with Hamas, but once again it didn’t happen. Netanyahu, again and again, chooses to reach understandings with the terror group. That’s his way.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Photo: Amos Ben Gershom GPO)


Another thing to remember is that for Netanyahu to launch another military operation because of personal interests, he would need the cooperation of the IDF’s top brass, and there is no chance of that happening. Planning a widescale military operation takes years, so no one is going to take a chance on starting a war just because the political timing seems right—that would be disrespectful to the IDF officers.


It just so happens that the preparations for the current operation were only completed fairly recently. In fact, there were signs hinting at an impending operation. But Netanyahu—like Netanyahu always does—was not in a rush to pull the trigger. So even when he talks about a military operation—it’s on a small scale.


In general, if there are any concerns about Netanyahu, they can be put to rest by the rumors coming from former senior defense establishment officials—and not right-wingers—that Netanyahu always makes every effort to avoid a confrontation. 


IDF works on the Lebanon border
IDF works on the Lebanon border


For example, there are those who claim that Israel must preemptively strike the Hezbollah infrastructure used for the conversion of inaccurate projectiles into precision-guided missiles. The argument is that Israel should make the most of the current window of opportunity, because Hezbollah is weakened—not only because of the political crisis in Lebanon, but also due to the losses sustained in Syria while fighting alongside the Assad regime. But Netanyahu, they claim, is once again hesitant to launch an operation. It is unclear whether these claims are true, but it is clear that Netanyahu is in no hurry to get bogged down in a military conflict, neither in the north nor in the south.


The current operation, despite being conducted on Israeli territory, could potentially deteriorate into a military confrontation with Hezbollah. That is why Israel needed to coordinate it with the US, because its forces are still in the region. Also, because Hezbollah is defined by the US and Europe as a terrorist organization. After all, this is a strategic threat initiated by Iran's regional ambitions.


Therefore, the claims that Netanyahu cynically exploited the operation on the Lebanese border for his political interests are the kind of claims that Hezbollah’s spokespeople would make—and so they did after the news first broke. It’s regrettable that the terror group's sentiments were echoed by some in the Knesset.


פרסום ראשון: 12.05.18, 14:36
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