T he IDF initiated a massive, ten-day, all-out comprehensive drill in Israel’s north last week, the first of its kind in 19 years.

The army’s Northern Division, along with Air Force, Navy, and Intelligence Bureau resources — all under the direction of Major-General Tamir Heiman — practiced a simulation under which a Hezbollah amphibious attack on Israeli coastal communities escalated into a full-fledged conflict. The scenario included evacuations of northern communities from a hail of rockets.

Leaving nothing to chance, the IDF Chief Rabbinate, headed by Colonel Rabbi Eyal Karim, participated in the drill as well, arranging for an immense eiruv, providing kosher l’mehadrin meals for frum soldiers, and identifying casualties, among other functions.

The IDF’s declared goal in this exercise — named “Ohr Hadagan,” in memory of former Mossad head Meir Dagan, who passed away last year — was to win an outright victory against Hezbollah. The usual euphemisms about “delivering a strong blow” or “teaching them a lesson” were replaced with clear calls for decisively defeating the terrorist Shiite militia. Nevertheless, accepting these declarations at face value is dicey; it is easier to proclaim victory in a drill than in an actual war. The way things turn out in reality depends largely on the dialogue between the army brass and the decision makers in the government.

“We don’t have a real government system to declare what are the goals of a war when we fall into an operation,” says Dr. Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yom Tov Samia, head of the IDF Reserves Southern Command and a research fellow in the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism in IDC Herzliya. “We don’t plan well in advance, so the result is we always postpone the next operation, again and again. Things operate very well at the field level, from the individual soldier to the brigade commanders, without initiating action on the ground. I’m not sure we can say the same for the government.”

Ha’aretz military columnist Amos Harel wrote last week that in the past the army chiefs of Staff have had to guess at the civilian leadership’s goals by creatively interpreting vague instructions received from the higher echelons. This state of affairs prompted the current chief of staff, Gadi Eizenkot , to publish a comprehensive internal strategy document two years ago.

Last week’s all-out drill comes against the backdrop of major changes in the region’s geopolitical landscape. Hezbollah now commands a strip of land along the northern border, from Rosh Hanikra in the west, stretching east around the Golan Heights to where the borders of Syria, Israel, and Jordan intersect. The terrorist militia meanwhile continues adding to its rocket arsenal, aided by Iranian technology and expertise. For now Tehran may have shelved plans to develop underground factories for assembling high-precision missiles close to the border, in the face of blunt Israeli warnings to cease and desist.

Last week’s military exercise no doubt gave teeth to those warnings. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 677)