Between 1948 and 1993, Israel relied on a policy of strategic deterrence to ensure peace and security. If Israel was attacked from beyond its borders, it responded with disproportionate force. For example, on October 1, 1985, Israeli air force fighter

Between 1948 and 1993, Israel relied on a policy of strategic deterrence to ensure peace and security. If Israel was attacked from beyond its borders, it responded with disproportionate force. For example, on October 1, 1985, Israeli air force fighter planes bombed the headquarters of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) in Tunisia, killing fifty-six Palestinian terrorists, in response to the PLO murder of three Israeli tourists in Cyprus.[1] However, after Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin signed the Oslo accords in 1993, Israel adopted a policy of strategic restraint. But rather than bring peace, the shift to a policy of restraint furthered insecurity. On July 12, 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert returned Israel to a policy of strategic deterrence when he ordered massive retaliation against Lebanon for a Hezbollah cross-border attack and kidnapping earlier that day. While many Israeli analysts and politicians criticize the Israeli military performance in Lebanon,[2] the return to a policy of deterrence was necessary for Israel's long-term peace and security.

Israel's Policy of Deterrence, 1948-93

Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and then-chief of staff Moshe Dayan formulated the policy of disproportionate response in the 1950s and 1960s. While Israel had secured its independence by driving off invading Egyptian, Iraqi, Jordanian, Lebanese, and Syrian armies, its neighbors refused to recognize Israel and hosted terrorists who raided and harassed the Jewish state. Ben Gurion and Dayan's logic was threefold. First, Israel's small size made it too sensitive to human casualties to allow the home front or the standing army to absorb too many attacks in long wars of attrition. Second, Israel's lack of territorial depth also made it necessary to take the fight to enemy territory by preemption if need be. And, third, the need to deter initiation of new waves of attacks necessitated that every round of hostilities end with a crushing blow to the Arab adversaries.[3]

Former prime minister Ariel Sharon first came to prominence as a military officer in charge of Unit 101, which conducted raids against targets in Egypt and Jordan and, subsequently, guided aerial retaliations in the 1960s in response to Syrian provocations in the north. These retaliations were designed to coerce the neighboring countries to curb terrorist actions from their territories.[4] The 1956 and 1967 wars also reflected this preemptive logic since they came in part as a response to threats of terrorism and infiltrations.[5]

Such military steps effectively induced neighboring Arab countries to assert control over Palestinian terrorist organizations operating from their territory. For instance, the October 14, 1953 Israeli operation in Qibiyah led to quiet on the Jordanian front until March 1956.[6] After the 1956 Sinai campaign, there were no terrorist attacks launched from Egypt or the Egyptian-controlled Gaza Strip until 1967.[7] However, while Arab countries limited their physical support for terrorism while they licked their battlefield wounds, Palestinians redoubled their efforts to engage in terror.[8]

After the Six-Day war, many Israel Defense Forces (IDF) generals and Labor party politicians began to question the offensive nature of Israel's deterrence doctrine. As Israel gained territorial depth, the concept of "defensible borders" temporarily replaced the emphasis on preemptive strikes. Israeli strategists believed that their new territory would enable Israel to absorb an initial assault and organize a counterattack. As a result, the IDF reduced its operational activity against terrorist-harboring states.[9] Some Israeli security officials also believed that rather than acting with force against Palestinian terror bases in Jordan and Syria, priority should be given to crushing the beginnings of any terror cells within the newly-occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.[10]

The damage Israel sustained during the 1973 Yom Kippur war forced Israeli defense planners to reconsider this defensive posture and led to renewed emphasis on an offensive doctrine. Israel's forfeiture of the Sinai after the Camp David accords also caused Israeli strategists to reconsider their ability to rely on territorial depth.[11] The resurgence of the offensive doctrine also guided Israeli actions against terrorism. Indeed, on March 14, 1978, Israel launched "Operation Litani" against Palestinian terrorists in the area in southern Lebanon known as "Fatahland." Yet, in fact, the 1982 war was the last major manifestation of the doctrine of disproportionate response. By the mid-1980s, Israel refrained from taking strong military action against the PLO's military arm, even as it continued to launch attacks from Jordan until 1986.[12]

Israel's Policy of Restraint, 1993-2006

With the onset of the Oslo process, the Israeli leadership cast aside any remnant of the strategic deterrence doctrine. Reflecting the political atmosphere at the time, Israel's military planners unveiled a new strategic concept of havlagah that sought restraint toward the Palestinian Authority.[13] Israeli politicians posited that the need to avoid disrupting the diplomatic and internal Palestinian political process necessitated a more limited and proportionate response. This meant a reversal of traditional roles: the army had to show restraint whereas society should be prepared to absorb attacks. The Israel Defense Forces refrained from entering enemy territory with ground forces even if this meant allowing terrorist bases and bomb factories to continue to operate. Between September 1993 and September 1998, terrorists based in the West Bank or Gaza struck Israel more than ninety times, killing 279 Israelis, without engendering any serious response.[14]

The logic of the new doctrine was threefold: first, Israeli politicians argued that Jerusalem had to guard its international standing better and conform to European interpretations of international law; second, Israel should trust Arab governments to deal with terrorists sheltering in their midst so as not to intervene and stigmatize Arab moderates as collaborators; and third, Israel should wait for internal political processes in the Arab world to address the underlying social and political conditions that enabled terrorism to grow.[15] Brigadier General Eival Gilady, the officer who helped most to debunk the premises of Oslo in the Israeli policy community, said that during the Oslo process, officials hoped "the economic and political fruits of peace would defeat terrorism."[16] For example, Shimon Peres argued that elimination of poverty and an end to occupation of the West Bank and Gaza would stop terror.[17]

The Oslo process created a strong momentum and a political desire to bring peace quickly to all fronts, sit in a defensive posture, and enjoy the newly found international legitimacy. Prior to the Oslo process, not only did the Israeli government maintain a 328 square mile (850 square kilometer) security zone in southern Lebanon, but throughout the 1980s, Israel launched air strikes and sent armored units to attack terrorist bases deep in Lebanon, including in areas near the Syrian border.[18] Soon after the Oslo accords, though, and with an eye towards a comprehensive settlement to the broader Arab-Israeli conflict, Israeli politicians began to discuss a possible withdrawal from southern Lebanon.[19] As early as April 1996, Foreign Minister Ehud Barak presented to Dennis Ross, President Bill Clinton's Middle East envoy, the idea of unilateral withdrawal in order to remove Hezbollah's motivation to attack.[20] The Israeli rush to evacuate southern Lebanon became clearer when, in July 1997, Labor party dove and Knesset (parliament) deputy Yossi Beilin formed The Movement for the Withdrawal from Lebanon. There were even calls from the normally hawkish Likud party to retreat. Michael Eitan, one of the party's Knesset deputies, called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to examine all options for withdrawal from Lebanon.[21]

Such actions would prove to be both a tactical and strategic mistake. Subsequent events would demonstrate that Israel's rejectionist opponents saw a linkage between their embrace of violence and Israeli concessions in both Palestinian areas and in Lebanon.

Strategic Restraint in the Palestinian Arena

The Oslo accords called for Arafat to "renounce the use of terrorism and other acts of violence" and to "assume responsibility over all PLO elements and personnel in order to assure their compliance, prevent violations and discipline violators."[22] Israeli officials hoped Arafat would crush his Islamist opposition much as had Syrian president Hafez al-Assad at Hama in February 1982 and as Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak had done in a country-wide crackdown in the mid-1990s.[23] Instead, Arafat transformed the Palestinian Authority into a launching pad for suicide terrorism, believing that far from retaliating with disproportionate force, Israel would actually make concessions in response to violence. Yet, even as Israeli officials saw Gaza and the West Bank transformed into terrorist safe havens, until April 2002, Jerusalem remained steadfast in its adherence to a policy of restraint.[24]

During these years, Israeli officials conducted only "hot pursuit" against terrorists fleeing to the West Bank and Gaza but refrained from launching preemptive strikes against the terrorist infrastructure.[25] This meant that the Israel Defense Forces could only act against leading terrorists while explosives laboratories, training centers, and safe houses remained intact.

Even during repeated cycles of terrorism and Palestinian Authority inaction, Israeli forces held back. Following a series of attacks in February and March 1996, which killed fifty-eight Israelis in nine days, Prime Minister Shimon Peres sent chief of military intelligence Moshe Ya'alon to ask Arafat to arrest Muhammad Deif, the head of the Hamas military arm. Arafat said that he had never heard of Deif even though he had hosted him in his office for a meeting only a week before.[26]

Despite his strong, no-nonsense rhetoric and essays on the need to respond forcefully to terror, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu maintained the policy of restraint.[27] When Arafat himself gave the green light for the March 21, 1997 Hamas attack on the Apropo Café in Tel Aviv,[28] Netanyahu responded only by ordering the assassination—later botched—of Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal and by issuing a list of demands for Arafat to crackdown on terror. Netanyahu refrained from taking direct action against Hamas cells in the West Bank and Gaza or, later, from ensuring that Arafat fulfilled the demands.[29]

Even in the initial stages of the second intifada, the Israeli government sought restraint in order to contain the armed conflict. Many Israeli policymakers hoped that the intifada would be short-lived and Palestinians would reconsider Barak's Camp David II offer for a comprehensive settlement. Statements by senior Fatah leaders, such as Marwan Barghouti and Othman Abu Gharbiya, showed that Arafat and his henchmen had cast aside their Oslo and subsequent commitments and had rededicated themselves to violence. For instance, just two months after the outbreak of the intifada, Sakhr Habash, a senior member of Fatah's Central Committee, described the Palestinian goal to be "the establishment of an independent state with Jerusalem as its capital in the borders of June 4, 1967, and ensuring the right of return and compensation for Palestinian refugees."[30] Still, Israel Defense Forces incursions into areas under full Palestinian jurisdiction were limited in both frequency and scope.

Only after terrorists killed 133 Israelis in a series of attacks in March 2002 did Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decide to send ground forces into towns such as Jenin and Nablus and quarantine Arafat in Ramallah. All told, 695 Israelis died in terrorist attacks between the inauguration of the Palestinian Authority on May 4, 1994, and the launching of Operation Defensive Shield on March 28, 2002.[31]

Strategic Restraint in the Lebanese Arena

On May 31, 1999, in the heat of an election campaign, Ehud Barak promised that if elected, he would withdraw Israeli forces from Lebanon within a year of taking office. Many Israeli analysts dismissed concerns that Hezbollah would fill the vacuum left by departing Israeli forces. They argued that while Hezbollah might amass weapons, the radical militia would have no reason to escalate the conflict.

Once elected, Barak kept his promise. On May 24, 2000, the Israeli army completed its withdrawal and, less than a month later, U.N. secretary general Kofi Annan certified Israel to be in full compliance with U.N. Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 425, which had required the Jewish state "to cease its military action against Lebanese territorial integrity and withdraw forthwith its forces from all Lebanese territory."[32]

Israel's unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon convinced both hawks and doves in the Arab world that terrorism worked. On May 25, 2000, the day after Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, Sheikh Hasan Nasrallah, the secretary-general of Hezbollah declared, "The road to Palestine and freedom is the road of the resistance and the intifada!"[33]

The perception that terrorism had won what diplomacy had not undermined the doves. For instance, Nabil Amr, a Palestinian moderate, and the minister of information in Mahmoud Abbas's government, said the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon was the main reason that the Palestinian Authority reverted to using violence to achieve political goals.[34] Among Palestinian extremists, the Israeli withdrawal strengthened the belief that Israel was weak. In his victory speech, Nasrallah said Israel was as fragile as "a spider's web."[35] It is no surprise, then, that both Fatah and Hamas sought to emulate Hezbollah. Hamas leader Khalid Mashaal sought to become a second Nasrallah. Prestige matters to Palestinian terror groups. While it is difficult to prove the extent to which the withdrawal from Lebanon influenced Arafat's decision to open overt armed struggle against Israel, it provided evidence that Israeli leaders granted generous concessions under fire and contributed to the erosion of Israeli deterrence.

Upon withdrawal, Barak said that if Hezbollah continued its attacks, the Israeli military would respond with disproportionate force.[36] But when, on October 7, 2000, Hezbollah crossed the border and abducted three Israeli soldiers, Barak declined to retaliate and, instead, sought to negotiate for the return of their bodies. In the face of Israeli restraint, Hezbollah grew bolder. The group launched a series of artillery attacks against Israeli military positions in the Shabaa Farms; again Israeli response was muted.

After Sharon assumed office in February 2001, he made a show of ordering more robust action. Three days after an April 14, 2001 attack in which Hezbollah killed an Israeli soldier in the Shabaa Farms, the Israeli air force killed four Syrian soldiers during a retaliatory attack on a Syrian radar station in Dahr al-Baydar, a Lebanese site 45 kilometers east of Beirut. Then, in response to Hezbollah shelling and infiltration attempts during the spring of 2001, the Israeli air force on July 1, 2001, hit a Syrian radar station in Riyaq in the Bekaa Valley close to the border of Syria and Lebanon.[37] The purpose of the attacks was twofold: first, to retaliate for Hezbollah attacks and, second, to transmit to young and inexperienced Syrian president Bashar al-Assad that Israel would hold Damascus responsible for its support for Hezbollah.

At the time, many Israeli analysts believed that Sharon's attacks stopped Hezbollah provocations. But, while the border was quiet, Assad simply shifted tactics. He sought to maintain plausible deniability while helping the group build its rocket arsenal.[38] Hezbollah declined to assume responsibility for the March 12, 2002 attack on the Israeli village of Shlomi, which killed seven civilians. On other occasions, it blamed Ahmad Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command for artillery attacks into northern Israel.[39] Sharon's government reverted to his predecessor's policy of restraint and declined to take action.

Indeed, Israeli officials interpreted Hezbollah's funneling of funds to Fatah elements during the second intifada as evidence that new Lebanese domestic and international constraints had prevented Hezbollah from escalating the fight along Israel's northern border.[40] But, by linking itself to the Palestinian struggle, Hezbollah sought to broaden its own legitimacy.

While Israeli advocates of restraint argued that it would play into Hezbollah's hands to link events in the north to the conflict with the Palestinians,[41] Hezbollah leaders interpreted Israeli inaction as weakness. Israeli restraint backfired.

In 2002, Hezbollah again began to ratchet up its attacks on northern Israel. Initially, it attacked only military forces in the Shabaa Farms sector. The IDF continued its restraint, responding only with limited artillery and aerial attacks in the same sector. Subsequently, Hezbollah sought to penetrate Israel through the village of Ghajar, divided between Lebanon and Israel in the May 2000 Lebanese demarcation. Finally, it increased its support for the Palestinian intifada, clearly signaling that it was no longer engaged solely with Lebanese issues. The Israeli military again limited its response to the local area so as to deny Hezbollah a pretext for escalation.[42]

Making matters worse was Sharon's willingness to negotiate with Hezbollah for the release of the bodies of kidnapped Israeli soldiers and Elhanan Tannenbaum, a reserve colonel kidnapped in Dubai in May 2000 where, court documents allege, he had gone to conclude a drug deal.[43] The exchange, which took four years to negotiate, included the release of 400 Palestinian and 30 Lebanese prisoners. Even prior to the exchange, though, the protracted negotiation process both reinforced Nasrallah's stature in the Arab world as the focal point of resistance and also enabled Hezbollah to portray the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers as legitimate rules of the game.[44]

Through this period, Israel's restraint policy toward Lebanon had several dimensions. First, Israel avoided killing top Hezbollah leaders. At one point, according to Ronen Bergman, a well-respected Israeli journalist, Israel even passed up the opportunity to kill Imad Mughniyah, the head of Hezbollah's military arm.[45] Israeli officials sought quiet on the northern front. They feared opening a second front and sought to concentrate only on the Palestinian front. For instance, Major General Giora Eiland, who served as head of both the IDF operations and planning branches, argued that opening a second front would aggravate Israel's strategic situation.[46] Among the strongest advocates of this argument was Avi Dichter, the man in charge of the fight against terrorism as head of SHABAK, the Israeli internal security agency. He was concerned that action against Hezbollah would stretch Israeli forces too thin and thought that the mission to protect Israel from Palestinian suicide bombers infiltrating from the West Bank should take priority.[47] Indeed, he seldom mentioned the Lebanese group in his public speeches. During this period, the Israeli secret services targeted only two Hezbollah operatives—Ali Hussein Saleh and Ghaleb Awali—both of whom assisted the Palestinians in the second intifada.[48]

Second, Israeli officials prioritized covert action. The two Israeli secret security services, the Mossad and the SHABAK, ran this campaign against Hezbollah operatives and their financial sources and sidelined the Israel Defense Forces.[49]

And third, Jerusalem sought heavier reliance on international diplomacy to curb the Hezbollah threat. Many officials argued that reversing restraint toward Palestinians or, by extension Hezbollah, could antagonize the Arab street and undercut security in moderate Arab countries.[50]

Israeli officials saw the September 2, 2004 passage of U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which called for the dismantlement of Lebanese militias, as a landmark victory for Israel's policy of restraint. According to Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, the decision reflected the international community's realization "that Syria's occupation of Lebanon and its support for Palestinian terror must end."[51]

Why did such logic fall flat? Proponents misjudged the willingness and ability of ordinary Lebanese to constrain Hezbollah. Many Israeli analysts believed economic growth and political centralization, as well as the potential loss to Lebanese tourism revenue, would make large-scale Hezbollah action impossible.[52] The advocates of restraint also asserted that Israeli action might disrupt or even reverse the Lebanese political processes and international concerns that forced Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon.[53]

Proponents of restraint also underestimated the willingness of officials and diplomats to hold Israel's adversaries to their commitments. Neither the Israeli government nor the United Nations reacted when Hezbollah constructed military bunkers along the Israeli border in violation of U.N. Security Council resolution 1559, which specifically called "for the disbanding and disarmament of all Lebanese and non-Lebanese militias."[54]

Ironically, even as Hezbollah violated UNSCR 1559, the Israeli government held to its concessions. Israel's then-foreign minister Shlomo Ben Ami explained that the Israeli military could no more attack Hezbollah's bunkers as attack weapons depots in Syria. What militias did within Lebanese sovereign territory was no longer Israel's business, he argued.[55]

Israeli analysis of Lebanon was also colored by wishful thinking. Many Israeli policymakers believed that domestic Lebanese and international constraints would eventually undercut the group.[56] They pointed to calls by various Lebanese politicians for Hezbollah's disarmament in the wake of UNSCR 1559.[57]

These analysts reiterated this argument when on July 19, 2005, Hezbollah joined the Lebanese government.[58] Dan Meridor, chairman of the special Ministry of Defense committee charged with drafting Israel's national security concept, bragged just a few weeks before the outbreak of the war against Hezbollah of the "political foiling" (sikul medini) of Hezbollah, citing it as a successful example of how terrorism could be fought by political rather than military means.[59] Subsequent events show just how wrong was Meridor's analysis. Hezbollah's participation in the Lebanese national dialogue was for appearance only; Hezbollah had no intention of disarming.[60]

After the outbreak of war, many Israeli officials acknowledged their misreading of Hezbollah. Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres said he had not imagined that such a war would erupt. He expressed disbelief that Hezbollah could launch a war resulting in a thousand Lebanese deaths "all to make a few demagogic speeches."[61]

What enabled the illusion of successful restraint? Several years of relative quiet and normalcy in northern Israel convinced Israeli policymakers that their gamble for peace and security paid off. But even as the fruits of restraint faltered, the fear factor restrained Israeli consideration of alternative approaches. Many Israeli decision-makers worried that military action against Hezbollah might trigger retaliation against Jewish targets abroad.[62] Israeli intelligence officials remember well the devastation and recriminations that followed the 1992 and 1994 Hezbollah bombings of the Israeli embassy and Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.[63] Indeed, after the July 2006 outbreak of hostilities, former SHABAK research division head Barak Ben Tzur warned that the danger of attacks on Jewish targets abroad was imminent.[64]

The Critics of Restraint

Not everyone accepted the primacy of restraint. Critics warned of Hezbollah's missile buildup, especially after Hezbollah leader Hasan Nasrallah bragged of having 12,000 rockets.[65] Major General Aharon Farkash, head of military intelligence, even warned that Hezbollah's rockets could reach the Sharon area of central Israel, an assessment borne out during the August 2006 missile barrage.[66] Older, seasoned officials in the Defense Ministry pointed out that Hezbollah had little incentive to integrate into Lebanon. The creation of a Hezbollah state within a state demonstrated that Nasrallah had not abandoned his goal of establishing a Shi'ite Islamic republic in Lebanon. And his patrons in Iran hardly wanted Hezbollah to disband, seeing Hezbollah as an important lever in any confrontation with Israel or the United States.[67] Israeli critics of restraint also argued that the developing linkage between the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas mandated a far more forceful response.[68]

Perhaps the greatest argument against restraint, though, was its corrosive impact on Israel's deterrence.[69] The image of Israeli invincibility—or, at least, the certainty of painful response—took decades to cement. The core of deterrence was the belief by Israel's adversaries that they could not act with impunity. Once Israeli officials demonstrated their willingness to absorb attacks rather than fight back and even began to make political and territorial concessions in the face of violence, the cost-benefit analysis of striking Israel shifted in favor of the terrorists and their sponsors. A deterrence policy that took decades to build collapsed in the course of a decade.

In retrospect, letting Hezbollah amass its arsenal was misguided. Indeed, many pundits have recently judged Israel's restraint policy during the last six years to be fundamentally flawed. They assert that Israel unwisely let Hezbollah pile up rockets which thus led to the collapse of Israel's deterrence. They also assert that this policy led to an increased Iranian military presence on Israel's doorstep.[70] IDF chief of staff Dan Halutz even admitted publicly that it was a mistake not to prevent the Hezbollah buildup.[71]

Still, restraint did have some benefit. Hezbollah underestimated the support of the international community for Israel's initial actions. On July 16, the Group of Eight (G-8) summit blamed Hezbollah for instigating the violence.[72] And while some critics may blame developments in Palestinian rocket strategy on Hezbollah,[73] there is no clear relationship. Hamas increased its rocket attacks in June and July 2006 not because of Hezbollah but rather because Hamas engineer Adnan al-Ghul's many experiments improved the group's technical capability.[74] Still, the fact that Ghul enjoyed safe haven in Gaza to conduct his experiments is indicative of the failure of restraint, and there is little question that both Hamas and Hezbollah seek to emulate and incorporate successful elements of each others' strategies.

Nasrallah's Deadly Miscalculation

So why did Prime Minister Ehud Olmert decide to cast aside a pattern of restraint and launch a disproportionate strike on Hezbollah and Lebanon? In part, Nasrallah miscalculated. Hezbollah's operation was a flagrant provocation since it took place in the western sector of the border, an area not in dispute, unlike the Shabaa Farms in the eastern sector, and since it included the shelling of Israeli civilian residences and farms. He forced Israeli policymakers to rethink their policy concepts.

Nasrallah underestimated the resilience of Israel's civilian leadership to fight a just war. He forced both Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz to respond. As civilian leaders rather than former military heroes like Rabin, Sharon, and Barak, both were more sensitive to any insinuation of weakness. Nasrallah also misjudged the timing. As a democracy, the Israeli government must be accountable to the populace. Because fighting occurred during the summer months when children were out of school and many families on vacation, Israeli political leaders could conduct war with fewer disruptions to civilian life than in the autumn or spring.

It is possible that Nasrallah timed the operation to take advantage of developments in the Gaza Strip. He may have calculated that Israeli operations in Gaza had distracted the political leaders who would hesitate before opening a second front. Also, when Al-Jazeera and other Arab media networks are full of incitement and coverage of Israeli actions against the Palestinians, it becomes easier to justify Hezbollah's own actions.[75] Its first kidnapping operation in 2000, similarly, came a month after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada.

Third, Nasrallah may have underestimated Israeli society. Years of terror and more than 2000 deaths from terrorist attacks since 1967 had immunized Israel to casualties.[76] Knesset member Tsachi Hanegbi, chairman of the prestigious security and foreign affairs committee, observed that even the worst of Hezbollah's Katyusha rocket attacks had less devastating consequence than prominent Jerusalem terrorist attacks such as the bombings at Café Moment or the Sbarro pizza restaurant.[77] Here, too, Israeli officials may have also misjudged their society by failing to understand the resolve of Israelis to absorb causalities. When the Israeli public is certain that the Jewish state is fighting for a just cause, their support resembles that of generations past.


Choosing between the two schools, restraint versus preemption remains a dilemma that plagues not only Israel but also the United States. Both governments should derive lessons from the failure of Western restraint on Hezbollah. It is better to act before metastasis of a problem.

Israel's initial restraint toward Lebanon after the May 2000 withdrawal reflected Israeli officialdom's inability to admit mistakes and learn the lessons of the Oslo period. Many Israeli political and military officials who had embraced Oslo remained reluctant to acknowledge its failure, even in light of insurmountable intelligence[78] and a mounting terrorist campaign. Wishful thinking trumped dispassionate analysis. Even critics of the Lebanese withdrawal, men such as IDF chief of staff Shaul Mofaz or Netanyahu, mesmerized by relative quiet along the northern border, backed away from preempting Hezbollah.[79]

The devastating consequences of the policy of restraint show that strategic concepts can misguide policy for long periods and even in different arenas. Only an accumulation of Hezbollah and Palestinian attacks was sufficient to awaken Israel from its peace process slumber, at least temporarily.

So where should Israel go? It would be a mistake to equate a choice of deterrence versus restraint with a decision of war versus peace. The goal of any serious Israeli politician, whether from the right or the left, is to maintain Israel's security. But after almost six decades of experience and after trying both strategies, Israeli policymakers would be remiss not to recognize the effectiveness of deterrence and the folly of restraint. Diplomacy and deterrence need not be mutually exclusive. Rather, deterrence may actually enhance the effectiveness of Israel's diplomacy. If deterrence is to work, though, Israeli politicians must make a sustained rather than episodic commitment to the doctrine. A disproportionate response to terror should be the rule, not the exception.

Or Honig is a Ph.D. candidate in political science at the University of California-Los Angeles. Between 1999 and 2004, he served in the IDF Strategic Planning Division.

[1] Ben Kaspit and Ilan Kfir, Ehud Barak: Hayal Mispar Ehad (Tel Aviv: Galei Alpha, 1998), p.188.
[2] Ha'aretz (Tel Aviv), July 24, 2006, Aug. 17, 2006.
[3] David Ben Gurion, Yichud Ve Yi'ud (Tel Aviv: Ministry of Defense, 1971), p. 13; Yisrael Tal, Bitachon Leumi: Meatim Neged Rabim (Tel Aviv: Dvir, 1996), p. 24; Dan Horowitz, "Ha Kavua' ve Ha Mishtane Be Tfisat Habitachon Ha Yisraelit," in Aharon Yariv, ed., Milhemet Breira (Tel Aviv: Hakibutz Hameuchad, 1985), pp. 62-9.
[4] Mordechai Bar On, "Small Wars, Big Wars: Security Debates during Israel's First Decade," Israel Studies, no. 2 (2000), p. 116.
[5] Motti Golani, Tihyeh Milhamah Ba Kayitz: Ha Derekh Le Milhemet Sinai, 1955-1956 (Tel Aviv: Ma'arachot, 1997), pp. 28-61.
[6] Uri Bar Yosef, "Hamishim Shnot Hartaa'ah Yisraelit," Ma'arachot, Oct. 1999, p. 18.
[7] Efraim Karsh, Arafat's War: The Man and the Battle for Israel's Conquest (New York: Grove Press, 2003), p. 127.
[8] Yezid Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for a State: The Palestinian National Movement, 1949-1993 (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), p. 155.
[9] Horowitz, "Ha Kavua' Ve Ha Mishtane," pp. 69-72.
[10] Shlomo Gazit, Petai'm Be Malkodet (Tel Aviv: Zmorah Bitan, 1999), pp. 63, 71.
[11] Horowitz, "Ha Kavua' Ve Ha Mishtane," pp. 74, 82.
[12] Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for a State, pp. 481-5; Ha'aretz, Apr. 17, 1986.
[13] Avi Nudelman, "Ha Shinui Be Gishat Tzhahal Klapei Kochot Habitachon Ha Falestiniyim," Ma'arachot, Sept. 2002, pp. 84-5.
[14] Israeli Government Press Office, Office of the Prime Minister of Israel, Sept. 11, 1998.
[15] Zaki Shalom, "Dispelling Beliefs: The War in Lebanon as a Test Case," Strategic Assessment, Aug. 2006, p. 26.
[16] Eival Gilady, "Strategy and Security in Israel," speech before the Los Angeles World Affairs Council, July 27, 2004; interview with the author, Tel Aviv, Aug. 2, 2006.
[17] Shimon Peres with Arye Naor, The New Middle East (New York: Henry Holt, 1993), p. 46.
[18] Moshe Ma'oz, Yisrael—Suriah: Sof Hasichsuch! (Or Yehuda: Sifriayat Ma'ariv, 1996), p. 174.
[19] Ran Edelist, Ehud Barak Ve Milchamto Ba Shedim (Or Yehudah: Kinneret Zmorah Bitan, 2003), p. 281.
[20] Dennis Ross, The Missing Peace (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004), p. 251.
[21] Ha'aretz, Sept. 8, 1997.
[22] "Letter from Yasser Arafat to Prime Minister Rabin, Sept. 9, 1993," Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
[23] Nachman Tal, "Islamic Terrorism in Egypt: Challenge and Response," Strategic Assessment, Apr. 1998, p. 10.
[24] Yaakov Amidror, "Israel's Security: The Hard-Learned Lessons," Middle East Quarterly, Winter 2004, p. 35; Ronen Bergman, Ve Harashut Netunah (Tel Aviv: Yedi'ot Aharonot, 2002), pp. 93-110.
[25] "Israeli Palestinian Interim Agreement on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, Annex I, Protocol Concerning Redeployment and Security Arrangements," art. XI, sec. 3b, Sept. 28, 1995.
[26] Karsh, Arafat's War, p. 119.
[27] Benjamin Netanyahu, "Defining Terrorism," in Benjamin Netanyahu, ed., Terrorism: How the West Can Win (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1986), p. 9.
[28] Karsh, Arafat's War, p. 153.
[29] Dani Naveh, Sodot Memshalah (Tel Aviv: Yedi'ot Aharonot, 1999), pp. 72-3.
[30] Al-Hayat al-Jadida (Palestinian Authority), Dec. 7, 2000.
[31] Data from the IDF and the Israeli foreign ministry websites. It deducts those attacks perpetrated before the Palestinian Authority was given de facto authority on the ground.
[32] U.N. Security Council Resolution 425, clause 2; "Report of the Secretary General on the Implementation of Security Council Resolutions 425 and 426," United Nations, New York, p. 6.
[33] As quoted in Michael Rubin, "The Lessons of Lebanon," The Weekly Standard, July 1, 2002.
[34] Amos Harel and Avi Isacharoff, Ha Milchamah Ha Shvii't (Tel Aviv: Yedi'ot Aharonot, 2004), p. 65.
[35] Ha'aretz, Feb. 23, 2001.
[36] Ha'aretz, Oct. 13, 2000.
[37] Ha'aretz, Apr. 18, 2001.
[38] Ha'aretz, July 17, 2006.
[39] Ha'aretz, Mar. 15, 2002.
[40] Ha'aretz, Oct. 17, 2000.
[41] Ha'aretz, Jan. 24, 2002.
[42] Ha'aretz, June, 28, 2002.
[43] The Jerusalem Post, Oct. 24, 2003.
[44] Ha'aretz, Jan. 27, Mar. 4, 2004.
[45] Yedi'ot Aharonot (Tel Aviv), July 21, 2006.
[46] Major General Giora Eiland, press briefing, Oct. 25, 2000.
[47] Ha'aretz, Sept. 19, 2002.
[48] Ynet report, July 19, 2004.
[49] Ha'aretz, Oct. 24, 2002.
[50] See, for instance, Michael Milstein, AMAN Israeli military intelligence, "Hai'm Arafat Hozer Le Estrategyat Ha Maavak Ha Mezuyan?" Ma'arachot, Dec. 2001, pp. 3-5.
[51] Silvan Shalom, address to the U.N. 59th General Assembly, New York, Sept. 23, 2004.
[52] Ha'aretz, Oct. 27, 2002.
[53] Ha'aretz, Apr. 13, 2001.
[54] U.N. Security Council resolution 1559.
[55] Interview by Keren Neubach, Hayom Ba Hadashot, Channel 1 (Israel), Aug. 14, 2006.
[56] Yoram Schweitzer, "Breaking the Link between Hizbullah and Hamas," Tel Aviv University Notes, no. 180, July 26, 2006; Ha'aretz, July 30, 2000, July 27, 2003; Efriam Halevy, Adam Ba Tzel (Tel Aviv: Matar, 2006), p. 214.
[57] Hanna Avraham, "Disarming Hizbullah: The Public Debate in Lebanon," Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), Inquiry and Analysis Series, no. 230, July 1, 2005.
[58] Ha'aretz, July 20, 2005.
[59] Dan Meridor, interview with Dan Margalit, Musaf HaMusafim, Channel 1 (Israel), June 9, 2006.
[60] Avraham, "Disarming Hizbullah."
[61] Shimon Peres, interview to Hadshot Arutz Shtayim, Channel 2 (Israel), Aug. 9, 2006.
[62] Ha'aretz, Nov. 11, 2002.
[63] Halevy, Adam Ba Tzel, pp. 128, 213.
[64] Barak Ben Tzur and Christopher Hamilton, "Hizballah's Global Terror Option," Policywatch, no. 1129, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, July 21, 2006.
[65] Ha'aretz, May 26, 2005.
[66] Ha'aretz, July 27, 2004, Aug. 6, 2006.
[67] Ali Khamene'i, Iranian supreme leader, "America Can Expect a Resounding Slap and a Devastating Fist-Blow from the Muslim Nation," MEMRI, Special Dispatch Series, no. 1230; Ha'aretz, Mar. 31, 2006.
[68] Ha'aretz, Feb. 2, 2005.
[69] Ha'aretz, Dec. 29, 2002.
[70] The Jerusalem Post, July 28, 2006.
[71] IDF daily briefing, July 28, 2006.
[72] The Washington Post, July 28, 2006; statement by Group of Eight leaders, White House press release, July 16, 2006.
[73] Ha'aretz, Apr. 7, 2006; Adam Dolnik and Anjali Bhattacharjee, "Hamas: Suicide Bombings, Rockets, or WMD?" Terrorism and Political Violence, Fall 2002, pp. 109-10, 125.
[74] Shlomi Eldar, Aza Ke Mavet (Tel Aviv: Yedi'ot Aharonot, 2005), pp. 202-3.
[75] Shlomo Brom, "The Confrontation with Hizbullah," Tel Aviv University Notes, no. 177, July 13, 2006.
[76] "Fatalities in Palestinian Terror Attacks, 1967-2005," Jewish Virtual Library, accessed Sept. 12, 2006.
[77] Kol Israel, Channel 2 (Israel), July 27, 2006.
[78] See, for example, Israel Defense Forces/Military Intelligence, "Captured Documents Reveal PA Corruption, Waste, and the Employment of PA Funds for Encouraging and Financing Terrorism," Apr. 2003, TR5-117-03.
[79] Edelist, Ehud Barak Ve Milchamto Ba Shedim, pp. 270, 281, 318.