JERUSALEM, ISRAEL — Are Israeli leaders delaying launching an invasion of northern Gaza because world leaders, including U.S. President Joe Biden, are tying their hands?
Or because they need more time to prepare and train IDF forces and move innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza to safety?
Or because they are planning something much bigger and completely unexpected – a massive preemptive attack on Iranian nuclear sites and on Hezbollah forces in Lebanon?
As I traveled along Israel’s northern border with Lebanon on Monday, reporting for ALL ISRAEL NEWS and THE ROSENBERG REPORT on TBN television, these are the questions my film crew and I kept hearing.
After all, Hezbollah continues to attack Israeli military positions and civilian centers along the border with increasing ferocity.
We heard automatic gunfire and artillery fire throughout the day.
And on Monday, Hezbollah fired a missile at the biggest Israeli city on the border, Kiryat Shmona.
Israeli war preparations in the north are clearly accelerating.
The IDF has ordered 64 Israeli towns in the northern along the Lebanon border to be evacuated – that’s some 100,000 Israelis being moved out of harm's way, including all of Kiryat Shmona.
And we kept seeing IDF tanks and troops moving north.
I interviewed four Israeli experts on Hezbollah – to a person, they are urging the Israeli government to order an immediate full-scale attack on Iran and Hezbollah.
“Hit them first – before invading Gaza – and hit them hard and relentlessly,” they told me, “or every Israeli in the Galilee and the northern tier will soon be slaughtered like Israelis on the Gaza border were slaughtered on Oct. 7.”
Israelis know full well that such a war will be “apocalyptic” and set the region “on fire.”
But they told me they fear Israel cannot survive a mass invasion by Hezbollah.
Nor can Israel survive allowing Iran – which is already enriching uranium at 84% – to break out quickly and build fully operational nuclear weapons.
“Can you imagine how many Israelis will die if Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas get The Bomb?” a former lieutenant colonel in IDF intelligence told me.
“It will literally be the Biblical End of Days.”
Rushing back to Jerusalem, I shared their fears on Fox News At Night with anchor Trace Gallagher.
Here is a lightly-edited transcript of that interview.
TRACE GALLAGHER: Let's bring in Joel Rosenberg, a New York Times best-selling author and editor of ALL ISRAEL NEWS. Joel, it's great to have you on. We talked about that in Kiryat Shmona, the rocket that hit there. I mean, they responded. Israel responded. But we see more of this. And it's only a matter of time before this thing gets a little out of hand. Right?
ROSENBERG: It could get it apocalyptic. I mean, honestly, I was just up on the Israel-Lebanon border all day. Artillery, mortars, automatic weapons fire, and, of course, the missile attack. But look, I interviewed Israelis all along that border, including former lieutenant colonels in Israeli intelligence and combat. What they're saying is that what they're terrified most of is Israel not going to war with Hezbollah because they say, “If this thing gets de-escalated, if the aircraft carrier strike groups leave, if the troops and tanks – Israeli troops and tanks – leave, they're going to be slaughtered later, right?” And they're terrified that Jerusalem, the decision-makers, here won't take the fight to the people that are going to come slaughter them.
GALLAGHER: I wonder if Bloomberg got it right because their headline read the following. Quoting here: “Hostages in Hezbollah force Israel to rethink Gaza ground war.” Is it one of those moments where you're like, 'We’ve got a couple of things we're juggling here?'
ROSENBERG: Look, I think Israelis are trying to trust their leadership, that if it takes more time to prepare for war in Gaza, we'll do that. We want to move Palestinians into safety. We want world leaders to come and see the atrocities and stand with us. But if it's hesitation – that is the worst-case scenario. Netanyahu knows that Iran is at 84% enrichment of uranium. That is just shy of weapons-grade. So, that plus the Hezbollah threat – which is 10 or 15 times worse than Hamas – suggests the possibility that Netanyahu and his team are not planning an immediate invasion of Gaza, but are going to go after Iran and Hezbollah. I mean, Israelis, at least in the north, are terrified that they might not.
GALLAGHER: So go back to Gaza very quickly. You said maybe not right away, but is the Gaza ground war inevitable?
ROSENBERG: It's inevitable. We absolutely have to eradicate the Hamas terror infrastructure. [On Oct. 7th] more Jews were killed in one day than at any time since the Holocaust. The Israeli government has a contract – a covenant – with the Israeli people. “We give you our sons and daughters – I have two sons that served in the Israeli military – and we give you our tax dollars and you protect us.” Israel failed horribly, right? But we're not going to focus on the failure right now. We’ve got to focus on winning. But we have to win on three fronts – Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran – we're facing an existential peril. Israelis have been saying this for years, but now we feel it.
GALLAGHER: Which is not to say, “Go directly after Iran.”
ROSENBERG: No, no, everybody I'm talking to is saying you have to – this is the moral moment [to strike Iran’s nuclear program].
GALLAGHER: But that opens up another can of worms. China and Russia and…..
ROSENBERG: Compared to what? Imagine that Hamas or Hezbollah had nuclear weapons right now. Then what would we do? Iran is right on the threshold. So, look, I don't want this. I'm an Israeli citizen. I live in this country. I live in Jerusalem. And my sons have served. But I’ve got to tell you, everybody that I'm talking to is more fearful of us not defending ourselves against every front, and of being handcuffed by the West, or paralyzed decision-making here in Jerusalem.
GALLAGHER: What does it do to Iran if Hezbollah is decimated by Israel?
ROSENBERG: Well, it's devastating, except that now Iran will accelerate into [building] The Bomb. That's why there's a growing feeling that you can't just deal with the North and South, because where's it all coming from? It's coming from the terror masters in Tehran. And if they lose their all-star teams – and they're this close to nuclear weapons – they'll go all in [to get nuclear weapons]. The Iranian leadership hasn't paid a price in 45 years. Nobody has attacked them and made them be punished, except economically…..
GALLAGHER: And they've attacked everybody.
ROSENBERG: …..since 1979, yes, and they're killing everybody. So we're either being slaughtered now or we'll be slaughtered later. We've got to take – I mean, what I'm hearing – is that Israelis are like, “Look, we know we're in danger, but we feel it like we never have before. And this is a test for Israeli leaders.”
GALLAGHER: Joel Rosenberg, thank you.
ROSENBERG: Thank you, Trace. Thanks for coming.
Joel C. Rosenberg is the editor-in-chief of ALL ISRAEL NEWS and ALL ARAB NEWS and the President and CEO of Near East Media. A New York Times best-selling author, Middle East analyst, and Evangelical leader, he lives in Jerusalem with his wife and sons.