In some ways, Israel has never been more powerful. It boasts a close relationship with the Trump administration, a powerful and nuclear-armed military, and an air force capable of striking enemies hundreds of miles away. At the same time, it is a small country with limited infrastructure: It has one international airport, a handful of major power stations, and an electrical grid that Israeli experts have already warned is vulnerable to attack.
Iran and its Lebanese ally, Hezbollah, have obtained advanced missiles that are designed to exploit those weaknesses. For Israeli security officials, the nightmare scenario is that these weapons may become accurate enough to hit Israel’s civilian and military infrastructure, paralyzing daily life in the country. The threat they pose has already drawn Israel deeper into the Syrian conflict, and promises to fundamentally alter the next war with Hezbollah—a war that could come sooner than expected.
Since the beginning of the Syrian war, Israeli warplanes have struck Hezbollah arms convoys more than 100 times. A Syrian government offensive is sweeping through the southwest of the country, threatening to spark a further escalation. Syrian regime forces are approaching Israel, which has sent reinforcements to its side of the border to contain any spillover violence. Recently, Israel shot down two Syrian military drones that crossed into Israeli territory. While Iranian-backed fighters have played a low-profile role in the offensive, officials in Jerusalem remain worried that they could quietly move in once the Syrian government regains control.