The Mideastwire Blog

Excerpts from the Arab and Iranian Media & Analysis of US Policy in the Region

Readying for the “Dahiye Doctrine”

The author of this Haaretz piece ( ) does not seem to know that the “Dahiye Doctrine” is already official IDF policy for the next war. Civilians in “Hezbollah areas” are to be considered supportive constituents and will be viewed by Israel as “legitimate targets.” Thus, what is promised in the next war is the leveling of significant parts of Lebanon and fairly large civilian deaths and injuries, probably more than those obtained during the 1982 Israeli siege of Beirut and certainly far more than the 1,191 civilians killed by Israel in the 2006 war (Hizbullah killed 43 Israeli civilians and 121 IDF members).

What is not said in these pieces – since the purpose of these pieces on all sides is not analysis but information advantage – is that the IDF likely knows that the vast bulk of Hezbollah’s military capabilities and especially its rocket firing locations are not in cities but are likely in the mountains and in the sparsely populated south (we saw this in the 2006 war when village guards units fought the IDF, but without the mountain positioning – which will be key in the next war – north of the Litani river).

Also left unsaid are the terms of the 1996 “April Understanding” that ended the 1996 war between Hezbollah and Israel. The key provisio there (and which Nasrallah invoked at the start of the 2006 war) is that Israel can have its many military sites which are also in or adjacent to civilian populated areas and installations (like the HQ for the IDF which is next to Hadassah Hospital) and Hezbollah can have rockets in basements, homes or wherever (although the majority of positions – and the bulk of the actual firing sites – for such material is much more likely in the mountains and in the southern plains and “wilderness areas”) BUT neither site can target the other in these areas…. only the firing sites themselves can actually be targeted.

This is a key aspect of the “rules of the game” well known to the actors. When Israel ran out of targets so quickly in the 2006 war, they rapidly dispensed with these rules – as did Hezbollah very early (some argue before the IDF did) by firing into civilian populated areas and also progressively firing from or close to civilian populated areas. The point is that both sides know you can have military bases in civilian areas; both know you should not fire from civilian populated areas; and both sides know that firing at civilian populated areas is also against the “rules of the game.” These are the well known terms, and when either side breaks any of these provisios, people and policymakers know how things spiral downwards.

In the next conflict Hezbollah will likely hope to show that Israel started the spiral downwards by Israel immediately pursuing the Dahiye Doctrine and widely leveling parts of civilian Lebanon. As such, Israel needs to not only consider the terrible humanitarian and moral consequences of the Dahiye Doctrine, but also the core strategic problems inherent in invoking it: legal ones which will linger, the unifying effect it will have among Lebanese, and the idea that Israel will be seen as the side which initiated the descent into civilian destruction.

There will be great pressure to widely level Lebanon from within Israel, but this will end up, I believe, in a major trap for Israel with disaterous, long term consequences (not to mention disasterous consequences for Lebanon and non-combatants).


Written by nickbiddlenoe

February 16, 2016 at 4:22 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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