The Second Lebanon War – Objectives vs. Results

Maj. Gen. (ret.) David Ivry analyzes the objectives of that war as they were specified by the political echelon, and discusses whether or not they were achieved

The Second Lebanon War – Objectives vs. Results

Photo: IDF

A decade has passed since the Second Lebanon War. This time interval makes it possible to more easily attenuate one's personal involvement, the impact of the media and the influence of public moods. So, now will be a good time to analyze the objectives of that war as they were specified by the political echelon. Those objectives were: (a) To restore Israel's deterrence; (b) To change the situation along the northern border and distance Hezbollah from their positions along the border line; (c) To deliver a serious blow to Hezbollah's capabilities and status; (d) To bring back the abducted IDF soldiers; (e) To stop the terrorist activity out of Lebanon; (f) To establish the conditions for the implementation of UN Resolution 1559, which called for the disarming of Hezbollah, the withdrawal of its troops from the border with Israel and the deployment of the Lebanese Army in the southern part of the state.

The first objective, restoring Israel's deterrence, had not been accomplished at the point where the war ended. On the last day of the war, even after Israeli ground forces had entered Lebanon, Hezbollah launched more rockets than on any other day of the war up to that point. In Hezbollah's perspective, they actually achieved a 'victory' as they had defined as victory the objective of keeping their launching capability intact until the last day of the war. Judging the outcome through the decade-long perspective, Hezbollah was apparently deterred. It is a fact that ten years have passed without a war or a provocation on their part that called for an Israeli warlike response. So the question that should be asked is whether the current state of affairs has been the result of deterrence. In my estimate, two substantial factors led Hezbollah to avoid challenging Israel.

The first factor, of all things, was Hezbollah's 'success' in the war, which awarded it a solid status within the Lebanese government. As a political power, it was compelled to be more considerate of Lebanon's national interests as a state – something it had not done in the past. In other words – backward logic: because we had not succeeded, from the Arab side's point of view, Hezbollah's status improved dramatically on the political playground and it was compelled to take this fact into consideration in all of its activities.

The second factor was Iran ordering Hezbollah to enter Syria, as Iran's proxy, and fight shoulder to shoulder with Assad in the civil war. The role Hezbollah has played in that war forced it to commit substantial forces and apparently it cannot afford a provocation against Israel.

In my view, it would be a mistake to attribute the attainment of tranquility along the northern border to the deterrence restored as a result of our military success in the war. On the contrary, deterrence was restored as the other side had succeeded and came to the conclusion that Israel would not be able to afford another failure. Accordingly, if another war should break out, Israel will be highly aggressive against Lebanon as a whole, and then Hezbollah would stand to lose the solid political status it had gained.

Regarding the second objective, restoring the situation along the Lebanese border and distancing Hezbollah from that border – practically, this objective was not accomplished, not even ostensibly. Admittedly, immediately following the ceasefire Hezbollah avoided proclaiming that its troops were present near the border, but subsequently even that pretense was dropped.

Regarding the third objective – delivering a blow to Hezbollah's capabilities and status – Hezbollah's capabilities were significantly undermined for a short time, mainly with regard to their medium and long-range rockets and the severe damage inflicted on the Dahiya neighborhood of Beirut, but a damage inflicted on such capabilities is temporary. Indeed, Hezbollah's capabilities intensified tenfold – with regard to the quantity, range and accuracy of their rockets – over the past decade, through the assistance provided by Syria and Iran.

The fourth objective – bringing back the abducted IDF soldiers – was accomplished in full, but not as a direct result of the war.

The fifth objective – stopping the terrorist activity out of Lebanon – was accomplished in full, judging by the results, despite the fact that Israeli deterrence had not been restored, based on an analysis of Hezbollah's post-war interests and its involvement in the war in Syria.

The sixth objective was not accomplished at all. Hezbollah was neither disarmed nor removed from the border with Israel. Admittedly, units of the Lebanese Army were deployed along Lebanon's southern border, but Hezbollah remained the dominant ruler of this theater.

I would like to address Hezbollah's objectives in that war, based on the statements and speeches made during the war. Apparently, the objective of retaining the ability to launch rockets into Israel until the last day of the war was accomplished in full. The objective of launching rockets to long ranges was accomplished partially. Admittedly, rockets reached Haifa and Hadera, but not Tel-Aviv. The objective of retaining Hezbollah's military power opposite the superior military power of IDF while maintaining uninterrupted command and control was accomplished. Hezbollah continued to operate as a military force despite the severe damage inflicted on the Dahiya neighborhood, and their rocket layout continued to function fully until the very end of the war.

Generally, if we were to analyze the accomplishment of Israel's formal objectives and Hezbollah's presumed objectives, it would seem that Hezbollah was more successful. Admittedly, it may be concluded that the objectives Hezbollah had presumably set for itself were less ambitious and more survival-oriented than achievement-oriented, but Hezbollah had properly evaluated its own capabilities and set its goals correctly and realistically.


Maj. Gen. (ret.) David Ivry is President of Boeing Israel. He was the Commander of the IAF, Chairman of the National Security Council, and Israel's Ambassador to the US


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