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2018 Annual Assessment

The IDF considers Hezbollah to be the entity that poses the gravest immediate threat to Israel. The organization is controlled by Iran and receives generous annual support from it (between $700 million and a billion dollars a year). Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria has not kept it from reinforcing its status in Lebanon. In the May 6, 2018 elections, Hezbollah, along with its political partners, won more than half of the seats in the Lebanese Parliament. This majority is still far from the two-thirds needed to change Lebanon’s constitution, but it constitutes an incentive that may tempt the organization to shoulder governmental authority and actual executive functions. Hezbollah has been deterred for over a decade – since the Second Lebanon War – from initiating a military move against Israel and has refrained from responding to Israeli air strikes on strategic weapons convoys dispatched to it from Iran and Syria. Although the organization has suffered heavy losses in Syria, it has also amassed combat experience in complex operations. In many respects it constitutes, for the IDF, an adversary with the capabilities and modus operandi of a true army. Hezbollah has more than 120,000 rockets at its disposal, some of them highly accurate and capable of striking deep into Israel, making them a military threat of the highest order. Iran is working to intensify this threat; in order to avoid dispatching weapons convoys vulnerable to Israeli air attacks, it is establishing underground facilities in Lebanon to manufacture rockets and other advanced weapons for Hezbollah. Israel is preparing for the possibility that Hezbollah will undertake an incursion into Israel during the next flare-up, try to capture territory near the northern border, and attempt to damage Israel’s offshore gas facilities and other vital infrastructure.

Despite the commonly held view that Hezbollah does not currently want to risk another war with Israel, one cannot ignore the possibility of an unforeseen escalation that leads to war, even against the interests of the parties concerned. An American/Israeli confrontation with Iran over the nuclear issue could also motivate Teheran to push Hezbollah into confrontation with Israel. Escalation to a new war in the north could prove more damaging to the Israeli home front than any previous war.