It looks as though the IDF, at least, is capable of rational thinking:
“The IDF is preparing itself for an all-out war, and this is a major change in the military’s working premise following the Second Lebanon War,” said Major-General (res) Eyal Ben-Reuven, who served as the Northern Command chief’s deputy during the [second Lebanon] war…
When conflict breaks out with Syria, he said, Israel will face a challenge, because the Syrians “will be willing to take military and civilian hits but will strive to harm the Israeli home front in order to gain future achievements in a political process and to further split Israeli society.”
“Therefore, the IDF’s mission will be very focused and will have to be quick, in order to neutralize as quickly as possible the strategic areas threatening Israel’s soft underbelly…”
Ben-Reuven explained that in order to carry out such missions successfully, an extensive ground operation will be needed, and for this purpose the IDF is currently renewing its maneuvering abilities, including training and perfecting technology. — YNet
If we listen to what they say, nothing would make most Arab leaders happier than the opportunity to eliminate Israel. Nothing has changed in this regard since 1947. It is one of the only things that almost all Arabs can agree about.
Given this, and given some of the cultural attitudes prevalent in the Arab world, the best way to prevent war is to be fully prepared and to ensure that Israel’s adversaries are aware of this. A “credible deterrent” is what it is usually called, and it means that Israel’s enemies know that if they attack, the response will be devastating — they will not achieve their goals, and the price will be more than they are willing to pay.
This did not happen in the Second Lebanon War, where — despite significant losses — Hezbollah was left standing, and Israel was damaged diplomatically and psychologically. In particular, Israel’s inability to counter Hezbollah’s missile warfare reduced the credibility of Israel’s deterrent.
The political leadership must also be careful that its actions do not undermine the deterrent capability of the military. That is, if their behavior is construed as appeasing or conciliatory, this is interpreted by the Arabs as weakness (why would Israel give anything up if they could defend it?).
The best way to achieve peace, therefore, is not to seek it by negotiations at a point when Israel’s deterrent capability is believed to be low. In this situation, the goal of peace is best served by strengthening the IDF. The time for negotiations in when the Arabs believe that the military option is not open to them.
It would be a good thing if the Arabs were able to perceive this without an actual confrontation, but I think they are still prone to self-delusion in this area.