Despite claims by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that if the US doesn’t restore to military action against Houthis, Israel will do so, it can’t be an option for a variety of reasons.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US President Joe Biden last week that if the United States does not take military action against the Houthis, Israel will do it. However, there are reasons to believe that Netanyahu is bluffing and a military option carried out by Israel against Houthis in Yemen is not practical, if not impossible at all.
Israel has no intelligence dominance in Yemen
One of the key factors to question Netanyahu’s threat is that Yemen is outside the traditional scope of Israeli intelligence operations. Historically, one of Israel’s strengths has been its strong intelligence capabilities against its enemies, which has played an important role in Israel’s military successes during previous years. This can be exemplified by historical events such as the Six Day War of 1967, the military operations against Iraq’s nuclear facilities in 1981 and against Syria’s nuclear facilities in 2007, as well as various operations targeting Iran’s nuclear and ballistic efforts.
While Israel’s intelligence network has performed exceptionally well in infiltrating its main enemies, namely Iran, Syria, and Lebanon’s Hezbollah, this excessive focus on the three mentioned players has led to Israel’s intelligence network’s relative neglect of less threatening proxies such as Hamas and Yemen’s Houthis, and the surprise attack of October 7 is well proof of this negligence.
As a result, Yemen is a relative blind spot for Israeli intelligence agencies, creating an information gap for Israel in Yemen and also a sense of security for Iran in using the Houthis as a strategic proxy force without immediate danger.
Israel is far from Yemen geographically
The geographical distance between Yemen and Israel, along with the rugged and mountainous regions of the Arab country is another important factor to suspect Netanyahu’s war threat against Yemen. The approximate distance of 2,211 kilometers (1,373 miles) between Israel and Yemen presents many logistical challenges for Israeli military operations.
Israel’s fighter jet, the F-35 Lightning II, has an operational range of 900 to 1,200 nautical miles, and the F-16s, another critical aircraft in Israel’s fleet, have a range of about 500 miles without refueling. Given Israel’s limited aerial refueling capacity, these short ranges make it more challenging for Israel to conduct sustained military operations over such long distances.
In addition, Israel has Jericho II/III (YA-3/4) long-range ballistic missiles, which are theoretically capable of reaching Yemen. But the decentralized and tribal structure of Houthi militias and their scattered presence in mountainous areas is a challenge for Israeli missiles and can create inaccurate targeting.
War in the Red Sea will be an own goal for Israel and US
Last but not least, the geostrategic position of Yemen, which is located in the vicinity of the Red Sea and the Strait of Bab al-Mandeb, is yet another reason to believe that Netanyahu’s war threat against Yemen is hollow.
Located in the Red Sea, the Bab al-Mandeb Strait is a strategic international waterway that separates Eritrea and Djibouti in the Horn of Africa from Yemen in the Arabian Peninsula, and is where 10 percent of the world’s crude oil is transported, with more than 17,000 ships passing through it every year.
This area is where 40% of international trade passes, and regardless of Israel’s military power, creating tension there will never be in the interest of the US, Israel and other Western countries.
It should be noted that since mid-November, four of the five largest shipping companies in the world – Maersk, Hapag-Lloyd, CMA CGM Group and Evergreen – have announced that they will stop shipping through the Red Sea due to the fear of Houthi attacks. Oil giant British Petroleum has also recently announced that it will do the same if peace doesn’t return to the area. All this could certainly drive oil and gas to unprecedentedly higher prices.