The Second Lebanon War - fifteen years later

What did the war accomplish? Did Israel win or lose? Op-ed.

Lt. Col. (Res.) Sarit Zehavi ,

Israeli soldiers stand near tunnel crossing from Lebanon to Israel
Israeli soldiers stand near tunnel crossing from Lebanon to Israel
Flash 90

Yesterday, July 12th, we commemorated 15 years since the outbreak of the 2006 Second Lebanon War. The 34 day war started with the kidnapping of two IDF soldiers by Hezbollah and the bombardment of the Israeli communities on the Lebanese border. About 4 thousand rockets were fired by Hezbollah at Israel throughout the war. The Israeli government declared war on Hezbollah to eliminate the rocket threat over Israel and to bring the soldiers back home.

The soldiers did indeed come home – in coffins, as part of a deal that was made several years later. Hezbollah tripled the number of rockets in the area that was supposed to be free of any illegal weapons according to the UN Security Council Resolution 1701 signed by then Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni. Today, Hezbollah has turned from a terrorist organization into a terrorist army, well-trained and experienced.

In an interview that was conducted yesterday with IDF tank crewmen that fought in the war and lost their friends in its battles, a question was asked – did Israel win or lose?

The interview was conducted on the Israeli-Lebanese border, mere feet from Hezbollah, whose men could see and hear everything, but did not open fire. I myself frequently visit this border with groups, including the point from which the IDF soldiers were kidnapped on Tuesday, July 12th, 2006, at 9:30 AM.

Despite the strong emotions the Israeli public has regarding that war, the IDF’s performance throughout it and the Israeli government’s inability to make decisions – we cannot describe this war as a defeat for Israel. The IDF succeeded in creating deterrence that is effective to this day, despite the fact that the Lebanese border has not been completely quiet for the past 15 years and there were terror attacks along it.

The security situation along this border is not like it was before the war; there were only a few incidents on the Lebanese border over the past 15 years – most of which were not carried out by Hezbollah. Knowing that any civilian casualties would escalate the situation into war, Hezbollah refrained from targeting civilians. The bottom line – the residents of the Galilee live with a sense of security.

Nonetheless, the Lebanese border has been much less quiet these past two years. Iran’s success in Syria is being evidenced also on the Lebanese border, and it seems that Hezbollah feels more confident in displaying its presence and causing provocations that increase tensions on the border. Until now, the IDF has succeeded in containing these incidents and even prevented Israelis from being injured or killed.

Although it is awkward to say this, it is the truth – we in the north live with a sense of security and are not afraid of being in close proximity to the border. However, we do know that this reality is very fragile and can change at any given moment. On the other hand, our enemy is different than the one we used to know – it no longer tries to conceal its connection with Iran and does not see a problem with turning Lebanon into another branch-state of Iran.

The IDF soldiers’ spirit won the last war, but it did not give us a long-term solution to Hezbollah’s artillery threat on Israel.

Lieutenant Colonel (Res.) Sarit Zehavi is the CEO and founder of Alma – a nonprofit and an independent research and education center specializing in Israel’s security challenges on its northern border.

The Incident that led to the Second Lebanon War: The kidnapping of two IDF Soldiers

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