ATbar Experts at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Discuss

Experts at the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) Discuss

18/09/2019 | by ICT Researchers  

The Campaign Between Wars (“CBW”) is a direct evolutionary descendant of Israel’s security strategy since its inception and the strategic changes that took place in the Middle East in terms of weaponry and combat doctrine. Israel needed a new concept that will enable it to better contend with fast paced changing reality and switch seamlessly into an emergency mode. In times of “routine” it includes a clandestine as well as upfront military campaigns alongside a political and public relations campaign aimed at achieving continuing deterrence and prevention of the enemy’s ability to build its capabilities, all without deteriorating into an all-out war. That goal has been achieved by designing tools that enabled comfortable obscurity to all parties, one of which is the “Space of Deniability”. Since the beginning of 2019 that space has been tightened by Israel and that coupled with the increasing stability in Syria (which was the main theater where this tool has been employed since 2017) sparked a renewed debate in Israel regarding CBW.


CBW’s main components, its advantages and disadvantages, the effectiveness of the space of deniability, differences among different actions taken in various sectors, the sector limits and division of roles and responsibilities among various security apparatuses and future trends in light of the rapidly changing security reality in the region are what this article will attempt to tackle.


Protecting national security and the well being of Israeli citizens is at the core of the IDF’s activity. In order to promote Israel’s security interests, IDF operates in two major avenues. The first, decisive victory in battle and the second prevention and influence (either in tandem or separately). At the heart of the latter approach stands the will to preserve the strategic status quo in the short term and improving it for the long term. The strategic decision on whether to deploy CBW measures goes to the core of this latter approach.


CBW has four major roles: (i) deterrence reinforcement; (ii) elimination of current and future threats, by destruction of infrastructure and weaponry and by developing innovative weaponry; (iii) delaying the eruption of next war and creating better environment to win it should it happen; and (iv) preserving IDF’s freedom of operation while curbing that of the enemy[1]. Within CBW many operations are being conducted as a matter of course.


One of the cornerstones of CBW is its clandestine nature while preserving the space of deniability.  In other words, the aggressor carries out the attack in a manner that will prevent its identification and without claiming any responsibility. The aggresse from its end is not required to retaliate. The space of deniability of each state is different. In Israel it is being determined based on parameters such as the number of casualties, the severity of the results of the strike and the level of disruption to day-to-day life[2]. The space of deniability for Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and Hamas is determined based on the level of responsibility Israel claims for a certain operation or on the conformation of a credible source such as the Pentagon that indeed Israel was behind a certain attack, the location of the strike (e.g. behind enemy lines in Lebanon, Syria or Gaza). Infringement of sovereignty when the strike is attributed to Israel and is not being denied requires the enemy to retaliate[3].


So far, Israel refrained from claiming responsibility for strikes it carried out in the region. Yet, as of January 2019, the veil of obscurity that enveloped CBW started to lift. On January 13, 2019 Prime Minister Netanyahu announced that Israel conducted hundreds of strikes on Iranian targets in Syria. He claimed responsibility for a strike that took place a day earlier and said that “IDF attacked hundreds of times Iranian and Hezbollah targets. Just in the past 36 hours the air force attacked Iranian warehouses containing Iranian weapons at the international airport in Damascus. The last volley of strikes proves that we are more determined than ever to act against Iran in Syria”[4]. On February 13th, 2019 Netanyahu followed this line and claimed responsibility for a strike in southern Syria (Quneitra region) that took place two days prior[5].


Similarly, former Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, in his retirement speech also diffused the obscurity surrounding CBW. Per Eisenkot, prior to January 2017 Israel has operated below a certain threshold and mainly attacked weapons shipments to Hezbollah in Lebanon. In January 2017 Iran significantly changed it strategy in a manner that reflected its interests to gain substantial influence in Syria. The change manifested itself in a buildup of troops of approx. 100,000 Shiite combatants from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq and the construction of intelligence and air force bases inside any Syrian air force base. The above led to a change in Israel’s operational policy in Syria. Per Eisenkot, Israel “dropped” some 2,000 bombs in Syria without claiming any responsibility[6]. Even the exiting Chief of the Northern Command, Yoel Strik, in an April 2019 interview, was more upfront when he addressed the removal of the Hezbollah attack tunnel threat, carried out within the CBW framework[7].


CBW is being conducted in the northern and southern fronts. Both multiple actor fronts and the need to juggle all these actors affects the modus operandi and attack profile against them. On the southern front Israel operates to curb the build-up of the Palestinian terror organization, such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (“PIJ”), via operations against them and their allies such as Iran.

On the northern front Israel operates to disrupt the Iranian expansion that started on the heels of the Syrian civil war and to frustrate tie breaking weaponry shipments to the likes of Hezbollah. In Lebanon Israel operates to disrupt Hezbollah and Iran’s attempts to manufacture advanced weaponry (e.g. conversion and manufacturing accurate missiles factories). The northen front theater includes multiple actors among them Iran, Russia, Syria and Hezbollah.


Russia is one of the most influential actors in the region. It aspires to get more than a foothold in the middle east and is willing to preserve Assad’s regime to achieve this goal. Israeli activity vs. Iranian targets in Syria takes into account Russian interests and sensitivity and avoids unnecessary friction with the Russian forces, primarily through specifically designated and complex coordination mechanisms that have been designed since Russia entered the Syrian space.


Therefore, operations conducted within CBW require a preliminary threat assessment that takes into account all perceived risks vis a vis the desired achievement. It is safe to assume that the decision maker would want to avoid uncontrollable escalation that may deteriorate into a war none of the parties involved desires.


On September 17th, 2018 the Syrian mistakenly shot down a Russian airplane while trying to shoot Israeli airplanes that attacked a Syrian army installation that stored weapons destined for the Iranian Al Quds Forces and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Russia blamed Israel for having its airplane shot down[8], which caused friction between the countries and imposed limitations on the IAF’s freedom of operations in Syria as well as the delivery of S-300[9] batteries to Syria, a move that may hurt Israel aerial advantage in Syria.


The measure for CBW’s success is therefore the ability to attack without crossing the enemy’s “line in the sand” and avoid uncontrollable military and/or political escalation.


To conduct a deep discussion on the subject matter we brought together leading ICT experts to review their position on political, legal and operational issues stemming from CBW.



Political Analysis

Prof. Boaz Ganor, Founder & Executive Director, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT) & Dean of the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy & Strategy, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya

Military actions within CBW framework are meant to prevent a change either in status quo, next level improvement in terror organizations’ capabilities, frustrating an activity or a specific attack that is still in its plenary stage, as well as all of the above. Israel will only perform operations that provide an answer to one or more of the above.

Terror organizations possess rocket launching capabilities and an Israeli operation may escalate into lobbing volleys of rockets on Israel. The Israeli response may lead to a large-scale operation or even a war. The space of deniability assists in preventing such a deterioration. It is mean to put the enemy in a position where it will not be publicly humiliated and therefore not obligated to respond, regardless if it wants to or not, if only to preserve its national and international image.

Over the years this policy has proven itself as it was convenient for all parties to preserve the obscurity and space of deniability. Moreover, despite the space of deniability, Israel’s deterrence factor has been preserved because it was to both the enemy and any bystander who was the responsible party behind a certain attack. On occasion, certain operations were attributed to Israel even though it didn’t carry them out, which only served to amplify the deterrence factor. That way, Israel was able to eat the cake and keep it whole. Israel’s reason to forego the space of deniability in recent months probably stems from internal political reasons.

 Since CBW activity is military in nature, its planning and leadership should be entrusted with the IDF.



Dan Meridor, Advisory Team Member, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT); Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya; Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Intelligence

In the past few decades we are witnessing a change in warfare. Past wars, with big armies clashing with one another and taking over vast territories until their enemy is brought to its knees are the outlier scenario. This kind of wars have pretty much run their course.

Today, most military conflicts are focused on accuracy and very specific targets. They are not being fought by large armies but rather by non-state actors who sometimes fight state actors. The participants include commando units, high accuracy weaponry, UAVs and cyber warfare. Technology poses challenges yet opens opportunities. For example, it assists one to get to the “snakes head” without having to resort to heavy resource and casualty war and the conquest of vast areas for a long time.

The balance between the “classic” war and the focused war varies on multiple levels: the goals of the war, the method to achieve them and resources required to achieve these goals.

Since the inception of Israel, for decades, the reference metric for is Israel’s security was the asymmetry stemming from Israel’s small territory vs. its enemies’ vast territories. The likely scenario was that of multi front attack launched against Israel by several large armies, all using the element of surprise. To meet this challenge, Israel’s security response, with the IDF serving as its central tool, was built in a fashion that would meet this challenge. However, this has changed and keeps changing. The Israel-Egypt peace treaty, now forty years old, was the most important strategic maneuver Israel ever did. Followed by the peace treaty with Jordan and the cultivation of international relations, practical even though in some cases clandestine, with other Arab countries as well as various regional developments have fundamentally changed the threat assessment.

Various threats evolved on different levels. The Super-conventional (mostly nuclear) threat is being handled on its own level, either, politically, militarily, economically, overt or clandestine by both Israel and the international community. In order to meet the nuclear challenge Israel has developed a three-legged solution: (i) Elimination (preventing the enemy from building nuclear capabilities); (ii) Defense (e.g. weapons systems such as the Arrow); (iii) Deterrence (making the enemy understand that it is playing with fire and risks annihilation if it will dare to use nuclear weapons).

The sub-conventional threat (terror and guerilla warfare) is of a different kind. The latter is not as threatening to the existence of Israel (in as much as a conventional war did) but it is a threat that is difficult to eliminate. It is an asymmetrical threat among non-state actors and a state with an organized military and a national security apparatus. It is being conducted without a declaration of war and with no time limits. Non-state actors do not have a state or a regular army, but they can cause significant damage over along period of time. Technology, that was once only available to state actors, sometimes gets into the hands of non-state actors and that enables them wreak havoc even without the territorial, economic or military infrastructure that state actors have (e.g. 9-1-1, cyber-attacks, CBRN attacks etc.). Sometimes there are more complex scenarios such as the Hezbollah scenario. Hezbollah is very dominant in Lebanon and serves as Iran’s proxy. It is a guerilla (vs. military) and a terror (vs. civilians) organization. It is also a political actor (in Lebanon) and is supported and guided by a state-actor (Iran).

A war may break out with such organizations (with or without a state-actor support), one that may not threaten the existence of Israel but rather causes significant damage to the country, infrastructure and civilians. Israel must develop a strategic solution (both offensive and defensive strategies) to meet the challenge such a war poses, as well as a comprehensive political strategy.

Israel’s defense capabilities have been significantly improved by the development of active defensive system such as Arrow, Magic Wand and Iron Dome as well as passive defensive systems such as focused alert system, improved defense over sensitive infrastructure etc. All of the above reduce the expected damage, but do not eliminate it and moreover budgetary constrain limit their deployment.

The offensive strategy needed to fact the challenge also needs adjustments. The modus operandi should be based on full and updated actionable intelligence, identification of its weak points and the development of rapid and accurate strike capabilities (kinetic, cyber, etc.) in either stationary or moving targets that their destruction significantly disrupt the enemy’s strike capabilities.

The development of the above intelligence and striking capabilities must be done now, during CBW, so that when a larger scale conflict erupts Israel will be able to significantly disrupt the enemy’s capabilities without having to need a large scale and long-winded ground campaign.

CBW goals need to be set by the government taking a “big picture view” into account, setting highly likely achievable goals, pointing the means to reach them (intelligence, military, overt clandestine) and assigning tasks to the relevant security agencies (IDF, Mossad, MOF). A wise government would make use of military force but also employ “soft” political, economic and other measures. It would also act wisely if it will strive to act in cooperation with other state actors to achieve common goals.

It should be noted that in this context the IDF has two roles: (i) It executes (together with the other security organizations) the government’s policy; (ii) It, and the National Security Council, advise the government on challenges and capabilities, possible and impossible and on the preferred methods of execution. In that role it must freely express its professional opinion.

Even in light of Iran’s continuous effort to improve Hezbollah’s and other Syrian proxy organizations strike capabilities, Israel executes its strategy to frustrate these efforts. Whether a tenacious and determined Israeli effort will be able to, on its own and without a political effort, to frustrate the Iranian effort is still an open question.

It is conceivable that when Assad’s regime effectively reconsolidates itself over the entire Syrian territory (and will create an additional address for the Iranians) vis a vis which it will be easier to conduct CBW either on the military level or in terms of reaching some sort of an agreement.




Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Gilad, Head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) & Chairman of the Herzliya Conference Series, Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy, IDC Herzliya; Former Head of the Security-Political Wing at the Ministry of Defense; Head of the Military Intelligence Research Division

CBW is being conducted successfully in the northern front vs. Iran and its proxies. Iran operates to annihilate Israel. It mainly threatens the Israeli civilian population. Iran is trying to build up its capabilities and power at the same time avoid using its power. Israel, via CBW, tries to prevent Iran from attacking Israel from inside Lebanon, Syria and deep inside the Iranian territory.

Israel, mistakenly, allowed a 130,000 missiles infrastructure flourish in Lebanon. The Iranian plan for the Golan Heights is to build a 10,000 strong Shiite army as well as construct intelligence bases with UAVs and rockets caches. They have also bore attack tunnels (that are a power multiple on their own) so that on D Day Hezbollah troops will be sent through them deep into Israel and traumatize the country. Israel on its part is determined not to let the Iranian to build up their capabilities and it seems that Israel’s operations have thwarted approx. 90% of the Iranian plans.

Another dimension that must be considered is Russia. Russia would like Syria to be a Russian protectorate. Iran is supposedly a Russian ally, but in reality, they ignore them. Assad enables the Iranians to operate from his own territory and therefore, as far as Israel is concerned, he has to pay the piper.

Israel is the only one that acts directly against Iran in Syria and makes a point of clarifying that any action on Syrian soil is not directed at Syria but rather Israel is forced to operate in Syria because of the Iranian presence there.

The Russians on their part are ready that Israel will operate in Syria to weaken Iran. The Russian – Israeli coordination is therefore of paramount importance.

Despite the dangerous operational environment Israel must continue within CBW as much as needed, based of course on the intelligence landscape and threat assessments.



Legal Analysis

Col. (Res.) Daniel Reisner, Fellow, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT); Interdisciplinary Center (IDC), Herzliya; Former Head of International Law, Military Advocates General, IDF


CBW does not exist under international law because the international law did not foresee such a situation.

On both fronts Israel is contending with (North and South), CBW is part of an armed conflict between a state and a non-state actor, which adds another layer of complexity because an armed conflict usually takes place between armies of sovereign states.

Under international law there is a rough division between the Law of Peace and the Law of War.

Under the scope of the Law of War there is a distinction between a State of War and Active Hostilities.

A State of War relies on the rules of Law of War between states (e.g. no commerce relations, prohibition on contact with enemy subjects etc.) but there is no prerequisite of active battle or fighting. In fact, there may be no fighting at all. In contrast, in a state of Active Hostilities the state engages in actual battle.

The main question Israel must answer is therefore what is the legal framework regulating CBW?

Under the International Law the right of self- defense draws from two sources:

  1. Article 51 of the UN Charter – The right to use force against an armed attack perpetrated against the state.
  2. Customary International Law (wider scope) – A state may use force under certain conditions even when no armed attack has been perpetrated prior to taking such action. That said, the use of force has to be proportional.


Proportionality within the right of self-defense has two limitations:

  1. The military advantage derived from the attack must justify any humanitarian damage that may be caused (the military advantage must outweigh the damage to innocent civilians).
  2. The response must be proportional to the action taken by the enemy and one cannot escalate ones’ response (e.g. fire by one sniper cannot be met with a response involving dozens of snipers).

In contrast to an action taken within the right of self-defense, in a state of Active Hostilities one need to meet only the first limitation above.

It seems that CBW is a series of self-defense actions taken by the State of Israel: an activity that endangers the state takes place and there is a limited window of opportunity to preempt it and so Israel acts. Despite the above, Israel watches its steps and limits its operations. For example, it does not intentionally kill Syrian or Iranian soldiers but hits a rocket manufacturing plant, trucks carrying ammunition and so forth. Had it been a state of Active hostilities, many of the above limitations would have been lifted.

 The question then when one moves from a State of War to Active Hostilities? It seems that Israel’s response is a derivative of the attack. It tries to send a message, deter yet calm things down. In case it would have decided that “no holds barred” and in response for, say, launching two missiles towards the Golan Heights on June 2nd, 2019 it would have killed 100 Syrian soldiers then it would have exceeded self-defense (had it been a State of War rather than Active Hostilities) and would have had to defend against claims it had violated international law.

Most of the time, Israel acts up to the threshold of self-defense and when that has been crossed then Israel responds with an active defense (e.g. when the IAF bombs multiple targets). Once that threshold has been crossed as well, Israel switches gears into full scale fighting under the scope of a war and not self defense (e.g. Operation Protective Edge and Operation Cast Lead).

The difference between the northern and southern fronts are the entities Israel is contending with. In Gaza, Israel is dealing with a non-state actor, which puts more onerous limitations on IDF. In the north, in the Syrian sector, Israel decided it is fighting vs. the Syrian rather than the various militias (state vs. state). In the Lebanese sector the situation is reversed, that fighting takes place in a sovereign state (Lebanon) however the actual battle is with a non-state actor (Hezbollah).

The importance of the space pf deniability strategy, Israel is implementing within CBW boils down to the prevention of the need to review whether a certain action taken by Israel is legitimate and thereby providing a wider latitude for IDF. The moment a certain operation is no longer denied, one needs to have a prior insight as to what the prevailing legal rules are and understand any potential limitation on Israel’s freedom of action.   


Operational Angle

Lt. Gen. (Res.) Yair Golan, Former Deputy Chief of Staff, IDF; Research Fellow JISS

In addition to the usual security efforts (intelligence, defense, fighting) the past few years have added a few layers that are at the heart of CBW: Prevention of future capabilities, thwarting threats and influence – manifested in reducing the enemy’s sphere of influence and freedom of action while increasing Israel’s.

Unleashing power within CBW has its advantage and disadvantages. Among the former are characteristics such as engaging the enemy and thus acquire knowledge of its patterns. However, the advantage is also a disadvantage as the enemy can gain similar insights regarding Israel’s capabilities. Another disadvantage is increasing the odds for escalation. If indeed, things escalate as a result of an action/operation that did not intend to cause escalation[1],  then it means that there wasn’t enough understanding of the enemy’s” pain threshold”. In 2006, Nasrallah miscalculated Israel’s response to the soldiers kidnapping. The shooting down of the Russian aircraft in Syria caused embarrassment in Israel. Yet, this is not a failure but rather part of the risks taken into account while unleashing one’s power.

Operations carried out within CBW may be executed any time and anywhere but with regards to preventive operations, one must remember that the state’s freedom of operation is not unlimited.

Preventive and Influential Measures - are meant to disrupt the enemy’s build up and create as optimal as possible environment for Israel in case future escalation happens. Influential measures have low risk (e.g. harming the enemy’s economy) and can be carried out anywhere. On the other hand, preventive measures are dependent on Israel’s freedom of action in a certain theater. In Syria[2], for example, Israel enjoys a wide berth. Therefore, preventive actions against Hezbollah build up are being carried out there. In Lebanon, Israel tries to refrain from acting as the risks outweigh the advantages.

If the Assad regime will fully consolidate and stabilize itself in a manner that will bring an end to the civil war, it is likely it will focus on the Israeli front and Israel freedom of action will be reduced accordingly.

In contrast to the northern front, in the south Israel does not take preventive measures as a matter of course but rather when the opportunity presents itself.

Disruption and Frustration Measures - are aimed at a specific enemy activity and may be accrued out in any sector where a threat exists. In 2014-2015 militia units in southern Syria have organized to carry out activities against Israel however Israel thwarted that operation and as result, for a long time, a renewed such activity has not been observed and there was no need to act again.


CBW activities are being carried out within a space of deniability. CBW’s moto should therefore be “talk less and do more”. That way Israel preserves its freedom of operations and gains a deterrence effect. In contrast, when responsibility is claimed, the harmed state may collect a price, present the acting state as an aggressor etc. That said, Israel recently claimed responsibility for some of its recent CBW activities for two reasons: (i) the scope of operation was wide, and it was clear it was behind the activity, so it had no choice but to claim responsibility; (ii) internal political needs – a problematic reason.

The cabinet is the one that approves CBW and generally green lights the activity. Hence, not every activity has to be preapproved. That is how the security services have certain degree of discretion. Among those there are clear boundaries and division of labor.

The more the Assad regime stabilizes and depending on its capabilities at that time, Israel will have to “recalculate” its course of action. E.g. if Russia will supply it with multiple advanced defense weapons systems Israel may decide that the risk of operating within Syria outweighs the advantage.



Naftali Granot, Fellow, Associate, International Institute for Counter-Terrorism (ICT); Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya (IDC), Former Deputy Director of the Mossad, Israel 


CBW is comprised of clandestine operations carried out wherever one can disrupt and frustrate the activity of the terror organizations surrounding Israel. Within CBW Israel puts an emphasis on deterrence and especially on prevention of their build up (e.g. preventing them from arming themselves with accurate missiles, anti-aircraft missiles etc.). Hezbollah, for example, under the auspice of UN resolutions after the second Lebanon war[3], armed itself with tie breaking weaponry such as the above. In recent years, operations are being carried out to destroy infrastructure in Syria where such weaponry is being manufactured for Hezbollah. As long as within CBW Israel succeeds in denying Hezbollah and other terror organizations from getting such weaponry, the latter become weaker in terms of the next campaign.

The majority of CBW operations are carried out using military means and therefore IDF is leading the campaign and maintains the division of labor among the various security services. Clandestine operations are being carried out globally (often led by a security service like the Mossad).  The Mossad’s involvement in CBW is manifested by intelligence gathering on possible targets, frustrating weapons shipments with the assistance of friendly nations and according to foreign sources, by eliminating key personnel involved in gun running such as the Mabhouh elimination in Dubai. Operations such as attacks on weapons shipments in Sudan as well as attacks on gun running from Libya to Gaza were carried out by IDF based on intelligence gathered by Mossad. It should be noted however that CBW operations cannot take place against a state that is an ally in Israel’s war on terror (e.g. Egypt), as this would endanger the relationship with that state. Yet, there are operations that are being carried out in coordination with the that state’s authorities.

Threat assessment is being conducted routinely as well as regarding specific operations and the question that is always being asked how can the operation be clandestine enough so as not to cause the other side to retaliate? Both on the northern front as well as Gaza operations are being carried out however whereas in Syria the governmental vacuum is significant, Israel’s deterrence exists, and the chance of retaliation is low. In Gaza, Israel’s deterrence has eroded and there is a high probability that the terror organizations will retaliate which will lead to escalation.

Recently there are reports about operations carried out by Israel within CBW. It doesn’t mean that Israel shrugged off the veil of secrecy which is a leading factor of a CBW strategy. Lifting the veil of secrecy under certain circumstances may serve internal Israeli needs.

Legally, military actions carried out against terror organizations conform with international law standards. Yet it is harder to justify clandestine operations that involve the elimination of operatives that are key to the enemy’s build up.

Shooting down the Russian airplane in Syria, attributed by Russia to Israel, does not mean that the strategy has failed, since the malfunction is not necessarily Israel’s. Even though a certain limitation was imposed on Israel’s freedom of operation in Syria before that incident, it is evident that Israel continued to operate in this theater (with Russian silent consent). That is a testament to the strength of CBW as well as the cooperation with Russia.   

Even after Assad regaining his strength in Syria there is no real change in the “rules of the game”. Assad is yet to control the entire Syrian territory and he continue to cooperate with Iran and Hezbollah. The current situation in the northern front is still convenient to Israel and enables it to continue running CBW as it has in the past few years.


Nitzan Nouriel, Fellow ICT; Former Head of Counter Terrorism, National Security Council

Israel carries out CBW operations almost since its inception. That said, the focus towards CBW started to shift in mid 2000s when Israel decided that there is a greater need to frustrate more enemy capabilities.

CBW has two elements, each can stand on its own, but they are connected to one another:

  1. Scrapping enemy capabilities – an action that its effect will be observed only when the enemy will attempt to operate that weapon.
  2. Deterrence – deterring the enemy.

The successful outcome of a CBW operation can indirectly be the distancing of a threat to Israel posed by certain terror organization however that is not the main factor why CBW is being carried out.

Hurting enemy capabilities is being carried out either by destroying its infrastructure (e.g. weapons depots in Syria) or by other technological means that make sure that these weapons will be rendered inoperative. That said, technological disruption leaves a margin of uncertainty therefore one cannot rely solely on technological disruption.

Heads of Security Services Committee is the organ that collates and advises how to operationally conduct CBW. Sometimes its courses of action land on the head of the National Security Council’s[4] desk whose job is to advise the prime minister. By law, approval of CBW operations lies with the cabinet which is the single state organ that is authorized to approve cross border activities. The division of labor is being made among IDF, ISA and Mossad, each with its own missions (e.g. Mossad is entrusted with Nuclear frustration, IDF is entrusted with preventing enemy build up).

CBW is being carried out everywhere. In the northern front, the southern front and various places around the world (Iran, Africa). One should remember that when multiple actors operate in the same space the maneuverability and freedom of operation become more complex. The modus operandi in an area that is being effectively controlled is different than the demeanor in an area that is unstable. An effective ruled and controlled state has its own routine and it is less complicated to gather pre operational intelligence than in a chaotic territory where there is no apparent routine and intelligence gathering is more limited.

Shooting down the Russian airplane is not a disruption of CBW since this is a Syrian-Russian malfunction, not an Israel malfunction. The plane went down some ten minutes after Israel left the Syrian territory. Additionally, it didn’t impose a real limitation on Israel’s freedom of operation, and it continues to carry out operations when it needs to.

The space of deniability is crucial and is at the heart of CBW. On the face of it, it may be contradictory to the deterrence element, but the enemy usually understands who carried out the attack against it, even if no responsibility was claimed. Additionally, one can perform a “perception” warfare, utilize a third or fourth parties to convey the message. Sometimes political considerations come into play and responsibility is claimed for certain operations that were best kept obscure. For example, recently Israel claimed responsibility for far more operations than in the past which may end up hurting Israeli interests.

It I important to distinguish between the military medium and the political medium in case a certain operation fails. Diplomacy is especially relevant when operations are being carried out in territories of states that Israel has diplomatic relationship or peace accords with. For example, when Israel tried to eliminate Haled Mashal in Jordan, the failed operation was accompanied by grievous political ramification. The goal is therefore to carry out the operation successfully without encountering any political fallout.

Israel needs to expand its offensive capabilities within CBW (which is now limited compared to the needs) and as a result its scope pf operations – all in order to become better prepared for the next campaign.





[1] Hasn’t happened yet, however possible.

[2] Acting against another state is not natural, however given the fact that the subject matter is a terror organization within a state gives legitimacy to Israel’s actions around the world, e.g. hitting Syrian weapons factories and storage depots.

[3] Resolution 1701 stipulated, among other, that an armed UN force will deploy in southern Lebanon and prevent Hezbollah’s activity. It also stipulated that no weapons will be allowed in southern Lebanon without the prior consent of the Lebanese government and a weapons embargo was imposed on Hezbollah. In addition, there was a call to implement resolution 1559 (2004) that called for disarming the Lebanese armed militias, Hezbollah included.

[4] The National Security Council is an advisory organ. Its job is to ascertain that the activity will not result in a political fallout.

[1] IDF Strategy document, April 2018,

[2] Ben Ishay Ron, CBW Has its Own Rules, YNET, March 2014,,7340,L-4500826,00.html

[3] There.

[4]  Zeitun Yoav, Porat Ishay, “Netanyahu’s Unorthodox Statement: We Attacked Iranian Weapons Depots in Damascus”, YNET,  January 13, 2019,7340,L-5445807,00.html

[5] There

[6] Zeitun Yoav, Porat Ishay, “Netanyahu’s Unorthodox Statement: We Attacked Iranian Weapons Depots in Damascus”, YNET,  January 13, 2019,7340,L-5445807,00.html

[7] Ben Ishay Ron, “Exiting Northern Command Chief: “ the next war – short for the home front longer for IDF”, YNET, April 2019,,7340,L-5494159,00.html

[8] Zeitun Yoav, Eichner Itamar, Salama Daniel, “Shooting Down the Plane: Air Force Commander to Present Incident Briefing Report in Russia”, YNET, September 2018,,7340,L-5354014,00.html

[9] Advanced Anti-Aircraft and Anti-Missiles weapons system

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