Mordechai Kedar, lecturer at Bar-Ilan University and vice president of the Israeli news site, Newsrael, spoke to an August 7th Middle East Forum Webinar (video) about his threat assessment of the next Middle East war against Israel. The following is a summary of his comments:
Pronouncements by many in Israel's military that they will refuse to serve in protest of the government's judicial reforms have weakened the Jewish state's invincible image. In the Middle East, "if you are powerful, people will respect you. If you are weak, you're doomed." Iran, its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Syria, and its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, all smell blood while watching Israel's internal dissent, thinking the nation is "easy prey." This is why Israeli media is openly discussing "worst-case scenarios" if its enemies take this as an opportunity to orchestrate a multi-front offensive to eliminate it.
Israel has a history of multi-front assaults by its enemies, borne out during the 1948 Independence War, the Six-Day War in 1967, the War of Attrition in 1969-70, and the Yom Kippur War in 1973. Today, Iran's efforts to connect Lebanon and Hezbollah, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Hamas in Gaza in a multi-pronged attack on Israel constitute the first characteristic of a worst-case scenario: internal strife. Exacerbating the external threat is the possibility of a repeat of the riots that erupted within Israel in May 2021, when Arab Israelis, who comprise 20 percent of the population, killed some Jews and destroyed synagogues before the violent outbreak was contained.
The second likely characteristic of the next war will be Hezbollah's launching of up to 150,000 missiles against Israel's gas extraction and storage facilities, other infrastructure, air bases, ships at sea, and its cities. Such an attack would lead to the third characteristic of the next war, in which Hezbollah targets expand beyond military sites and public infrastructure. Thus, Hezbollah and IRGC militias in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, and Hamas will deliberately rain down missiles and drones on Israeli civilians and inflict as many casualties as possible to demoralize the population. Israel is psychologically preparing itself for the Arabic doctrine of "resistance," or the persistent state of jihad called muqawama. As non-state actors, these militias are not considered states and would therefore not hesitate to commit total war in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which requires states to act in accordance with international law.
One need only look at the ongoing war between Ukraine and Russia for the real-time battlefield effects of drone and missile strikes, the devastating effects of which illustrate such a worst-case scenario. Such destruction encourages Iran in its jihad against the Jewish state because, as war rages in Ukraine, the free world goes about its business. This signals to the Iranian regime that if it attacks Israel with the same "vicious" abandon that Russia attacks Ukraine, "the world will not take it so seriously."
The prospect of Israeli-Saudi normalization would not deter the Iranian threat because Saudi Arabia is militarily weak, as evidenced by its failure in its war against the Houthi militia in Yemen. While Israel welcomes "mutual recognition" with the Saudis, the price the Saudis will demand from Israel to appease the Palestinians may be too high.
Although the U.S. administration has abandoned the idea of disabusing Iran of its nuclear ambitions, Israel will pursue its national interest in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Iran, a state actor committed to Israel's destruction, props up its non-state proxies, which would have no "backbone" without the Islamic regime's support. There is an idea that "Israel should concentrate on how to bring Iran to its knees . . . to devastate the military power of Iran." Such a strategy would represent an effort to cut off the "head of the octopus rather than fighting with its tentacles."
"This has its logic." Still, the problem of reaching distant Iran remains logistically challenging because it requires crossing "states between Israel and Iran [that] are not so friendly."
If war breaks out and a decision is reached to eliminate the Iranian threat, the Israelis will put "all the[ir] differences . . . aside." Israel is a small country that fights "with our back to the sea." If Israelis see Iran's threats as a real danger, "Israel will return to its unity," because even those demonstrating against the government believe in the survival of the state. The Israeli soldiers protesting in the streets of Israel will "run to their units" since they know that "the first war which Israel loses . . . will also be its last war." There is no other option than to be "victorious again, and if needed, again and again and again."
Marilyn Stern is communications coordinator at the Middle East Forum.