EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: Moscow’s public demand that Israel stop its attacks in Syria places Israel’s longstanding air campaign at a critical juncture despite PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s avowed determination to sustain it for as long as necessary.
Three primary goals underlie Israel’s longstanding air campaign in Syria, dubbed the “Campaign Between Wars”: 1) preventing the buildup of a terrorist front on the Golan Heights; 2) preventing Tehran’s military entrenchment in Syria; and 3) preventing the acquisition of long-range precision missiles/rockets by Hezbollah and other Iranian-propped militias. In a 2015 doctrinal pamphlet entitled “The IDF’s Strategy,” then-Chief of Staff Gadi Eizenkot defined the Campaign Between Wars as designed to “weaken negative factors and achieve deterrence in order to keep the next war away.”
At present, there is broad consensus in Israel regarding the essential vitality of the above three goals. Yet the changing strategic circumstances in Syria have given rise to concerns that not only does the continuation of the campaign in its present form not forestall the danger of war, but it actually increases its likelihood due to the possibility of an uncontrolled escalation.