JERUSALEM, Israel—The nation of Israel must be ready to confront Iran directly and invade the Islamic Republic to stop it from forcing its way into Syria.
That recommendation comes from one of Israel's leading think tanks, The Institute for National Security Studies (INSS)
The group presented its 2018-2019 strategic assessment report Wednesday during an official ceremony with Israeli President Reuven Rivlin. According to the report, Israel's greatest threat in 2019 is a northern war with Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Syria.
"The gravest threat we face is not the third Lebanon war, but the first northern war – simultaneous conflict with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria, and Iran, which Hamas in the south is likely to join," Maj-Gen (res.) Amos Yadlin, head of the INSS said. "Israel of 2019 is a strong country, the IDF is extremely powerful and deters our enemies. The challenge is to take this strength and use it to reinforce correct policy."
While Israel is a force to be reckoned with in the Middle East, the report says there "is a potential for escalation toward a broad confrontation and a general war, more than one front at a time."
Iran is already supplying Hezbollah with more sophisticated weapons to use, which poses a major security threat to Israel.
"Iranian support for Hezbollah's power buildup in Lebanon is not new, but the quality of the weapons transferred over the past two years to Hezbollah is worrisome," the report said. "The main sources of concern for Israel are the project to convert inaccurate missiles and rockets into precision missiles, to improve Hezbollah's air defense capabilities, and to supply long-range sea-to-sea missiles to the organization."
The United States’ pullout from Syria adds another dimension to a potential regional war.
"Israel must be prepared for the possibility that the war (Syria) will expand to Lebanon or Iran directly," the report said. The process of rehabilitation of the Syrian army has already begun, and it is liable to lead to a greater assertiveness of the regime against the actions of the Israeli air force in Syrian skies. Every effort should be made to avoid a clash with Russian forces there," the report said.
The assessment praised President Donald Trump for adopting a "tough policy" towards the Iranian nuclear threat and said the US has helped change some of the Islamic regime's behavior.
However, "it is important to understand that the United States is focusing its efforts on Iran on the diplomatic and economic levels and is not ready for a military confrontation," the report said.
While Iran's activity in the region could turn into a worst-case scenario for Israel, Hamas in the south is the most urgent threat because the conflict there can escalate in a matter of hours.
The report said the likelihood of another conflict with Hamas in 2019 is "extremely high." This is due to the deteriorating socio-economic condition in Gaza, increased pressure on Hamas from the Palestinian Authority, and Israel's decreasing deterrence since the war in 2014.
"The military wing of Hamas has not suffered a severe blow in the three rounds of conflict between the organization and Israel over the past decade, and it is important that it – and not the (Gaza) population – pay the price in the event of a confrontation," the report added.
While Israel will probably not go to war tomorrow, the report is clear: Israel must prepare for an all-out brawl with its neighbors.