Air Operations in Israel's War Against Hezbollah

Air Operations in Israel's War Against Hezbollah: Learning from Lebanon and Getting It Right in Gaza

Benjamin S. Lambeth
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 442
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  • Book Info
    Air Operations in Israel's War Against Hezbollah
    Book Description:

    Examines the inconclusive results of the Israeli Defense Forces' operation in Lebanon after Hezbollah abducted two Israeli soldiers in 2006, which many believe represents a "failure of air power." The author demonstrates that this is an oversimplification of a more complex reality and contrasts the operation with Israel's counteroffensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip in December 2008 and January 2009.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-5843-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xxiv)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxv-xxx)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxxi-xxxiv)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    From July 12 until August 14, 2006, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) waged a 34-day air and land campaign against Hezbollah, a wellarmed Iranian forward proxy organization of radical Islamist terrorists based in Lebanon. That campaign was an escalated response to a long-planned Hezbollah incursion into northern Israel and the prompt abduction of two IDF soldiers, who were then spirited back into Lebanon as hostages to be used as leverage in a hoped-for trade for Islamist terrorists who had previously been incarcerated by Israeli forces.¹ At first called Operation Just Reward and soon thereafter renamed Operation Change of Direction, the...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Highlights of the Campaign
    (pp. 13-72)

    The origins of the IDF’s 34-day war against Hezbollah in July and August 2006 can be traced directly to the decision made by the government of Prime Minister Ehud Barak six years before to withdraw Israeli forces from southern Lebanon after an exhausting 18-year occupation that had ensued in the wake of Israel’s first Lebanon war of 1982.¹ That withdrawal, which was completed in May 2000, left a power vacuum in the predominantly Shiite area south of the Litani River, which the then-nascent Hezbollah organization lost little time in filling. Hezbollah was greatly abetted in establishing this toehold by the...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Key Israeli Air Accomplishments
    (pp. 73-134)

    For the most part, in those mission areas in which it naturally excelled, the IAF performed to its usual high standards of competence throughout its 34-day engagement against Hezbollah. Indeed, it exceeded the government’s expectations in many respects, with any shortfalls in combat effectiveness due mainly to a known or predicted absence of adequate actionable intelligence at the tactical level when it came to the need for attacking such time-critical targets as hidden stockpiles of enemy short-range rockets. Viewed in hindsight, its accomplishments in both planning and execution stand as the principal remaining untold story of Operation Change of Direction....

    (pp. 135-198)

    Despite its achievements described in the preceding chapter, the IAF experienced its share of challenges throughout the course of Operation Change of Direction. Two problem areas contending with Hezbollah’s short-range rockets that were proliferated across southern Lebanon and the IAF’s unsuccessful attempts to eliminate Hezbollah’s most senior leaders were occasioned by an absence of adequate real-time tactical intelligence regarding the location of those enemy assets at any given time. Two other areas in which the IAF was fairly faulted both during and after the war the extent of Lebanese noncombatant casualties incurred during its bombing operations and the associated damage...

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. CHAPTER FIVE The Winograd Commission’s Findings
    (pp. 199-220)

    As noted before, in response to mounting public pressure for an impartial investigation following the IDF’s disappointing performance in its counteroffensive against Hezbollah, the Olmert government established what was officially described as “the commission of inquiry into the events of the military engagement in Lebanon in 2006.”¹ The commission was chaired by retired Judge Eliahu Winograd and was made up of four additional members—Ruth Gavison, a law professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem; Yehezkel Dror, a political science professor also at Hebrew University; and two retired IDF major generals, Menachem Einan and Chaim Nadel. The panel was given the...

  15. CHAPTER SIX A Second Chance in Gaza
    (pp. 221-276)

    If there ever was an instance of lessons indicated by a disappointing combat performance becoming truly lessons learned and assimilated by a defense establishment in preparation for its next challenge, the IDF’s response to its experience during the second Lebanon war offered a classic illustration of institutional adaptability and self-improvement. As the director of the IDF’s Dado Center for Interdisciplinary Military Studies recounted in an after-action reflection on the implications of Israel’s response to Hezbollah’s provocation of July 12, 2006, the conclusions internalized by the IDF as a result of the errors in planning and readiness that occasioned that war’s...

  16. [Illustrations]
    (pp. 277-284)
  17. CHAPTER SEVEN The Second Lebanon War Reconsidered
    (pp. 277-334)

    In a separate assessment of the two IDF combat experiences explored above, RAND’s David Johnson concluded that “the . . . single most important change in the IDF between the 2006 second Lebanon war and the [more] recent operation in Gaza was the clear understanding by senior Israeli political and military leaders that ground operations are an essential component of military operations. They no longer believe that standoff attack alone, principally by air, can create success. ”¹ Whether or not any of those leaders ever actually harbored such a belief so starkly defined, even at the outset of operation change...

  18. CHAPTER EIGHT Conclusions
    (pp. 335-344)

    Without question, Operation Change of Direction represented the first time in Israel’s six-decade history that a major confrontation ended without a clear-cut military victory on Israel’s part. The campaign’s less than satisfactory outcome did not flow from any particular single-point failure, but rather, in the astute words of two Israeli commentators, from “an overall accumulation of circumstances.”¹ As it pertains to the focus of this book, the war’s outcome in no way reflected a failure of Israel’s air assets to perform to the fullest extent of their considerable but not limitless capabilities. Rather, it reflected an overarching deficiency in strategy...

  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 345-366)
  20. Index
    (pp. 367-388)