Israel’s dependence on American Jews produces some farcical situations, and this is one of them. An Israeli intelligence officer touring American Jewish spaces to brief American Jews about threats to Israel tells a bunch of old Jews (me included) at an Upper West Side synagogue what no one knew at the time: Israel was “really close to opening a war against Hezbollah” in January 2015.
The Stephen Wise Free Synagogue is a Reform synagogue on the Upper West Side of Manhattan with a reputation for liberalism, boasting of visits from MLK and Archbishop Tutu. But its Israel committee listed an event last night with an Israeli intelligence officer called Captain Nativ:
Take part in a discussion on intelligence information and terrorism led by the chief of an intelligence section in the Central Command of the IDF who focuses on acting against the terror threats that Israel faces from the West Bank.
“Captain Nativ” has had a busy week. He’d addressed this pro-Israel counterterrorism conference at the Yale Club on Monday, described as “Chief of an Intelligence Section in the Central Command of the IDF.” There, his identity was shrouded with the picture above. Nativ also spoke to the NYU Law Students for Israel— a closed event. And he spoke to the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations earlier in the week.
But last night he was addressing a bunch of ordinary Jews on the Upper West Side. And he told the inside story about a Hezbollah attack of January 2015 that killed two Israeli soldiers in retaliation for an Israeli attack that had killed a Hezbollah fighter named Jihad Mugniyeh ten days earlier.
The news coverage of this attack did not reveal what the captain did last night: “we were really close to opening a war against Hezbollah that day.”
We had an intelligence alert that Hezbollah would retaliate from Lebanon. All the ground forces knew that something would happen. But sadly and I really remember that day, something went wrong and Hezbollah launched two antitank missiles. And hit an army vehicle. Two soldiers died, seven were injured. I remember sitting in my office getting– we have what we call red phones in your offices. And the red phone rang from the situation room. And they told me there was an explosion…. I remember really getting emotional. You have to understand that when you know that something will happen and still we couldn’t prevent that from happening, then you get frustrated. I remember sitting in my office getting frustrated at what happened, but at the same time I have a really important job. I have to get all the information, all the intelligence… [on] what Hezbollah wants to do next. I have to brief my boss, my commander, who’s a really important guy. Before he goes to brief the prime minister, or the minister of defense, or the IDF chief of staff, and then they will have to decide what they want to do, if they want to retaliate or not, how they want to retaliate. So you have to understand, that it’s really difficult… On the one hand you’re really emotional. On the second hand you have to be professional and do our job.
But just to end that story: We were really close to opening a war against Hezbollah that day. But luckily we had good decision-makers in Israel who acted right and managed to lower the flames. And we didn’t get into a war with them.
The New York Times did a substantial story on the killings of the Israeli soldiers in January 2015. It reported that the Hezbollah attack was “the most severe eruption of hostilities in the area” since 2006. The Times also mentioned something Nativ did not, that Israel retaliated that day, and killed a Spanish peacekeeper in Lebanon.
I’ll have more insights from Captain Nativ in days to come…