EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Last summer’s events in the Gaza Strip cast serious doubt on the feasibility of a complete Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, as the proximity of that area to Israel’s main population centers and economic/strategic assets ensures its transformation into the main combat zone should it undergo a militarization process similar to that experienced by Gaza and Lebanon. The question is whether the IDF has an effective response to the advent of parallel major threats on several fronts.
Major wars tend to produce clear and visible strategic turning points. But less dramatic events often generate no lesser shifts, albeit in a subtler and less detectable fashion. Such were the two major turning points in Israel’s security situation that took place in 2018.
The first relates to the growing threat to the northern front posed by the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis. The recovery of the Assad regime and the reassertion of its control over most of the country has brought the Syrian army back to the Golan Heights, where it was joined by Iranian and Hezbollah forces, as well as by Tehran-backed Shiite militias. The situation was further complicated by the Russian military presence in Syria and the constraints it imposed on Israel’s operational freedom, especially after the September 2018 downing of the Russian plane (by Syrian air defense forces).