Another Hezbollah-Israel war on the brink?
Israel’s recent charades have resurrected the specter of another war between Hezbollah and Lebanon’s southern neighbor, something neither side is interested in at this stage.
While Hezbollah and Israel exchange threats regularly, the Jewish state’s Northern Shield Operation launched to destroy tunnels it says were built by Hezbollah to infiltrate Israel has raised the bar.
Thursday, high-ranking Israeli officials said action may be needed inside Lebanese territories to “neutralize” threats from Hezbollah.
But is Israel willing or capable of launching another war to cap off 2018, which saw the regional balance of power make a turn in favor of Hezbollah?
Three separate political sources on Capitol Hill don’t think so.
Israel miscalculated Hezbollah’s capabilities in the July 2006 war and it’s now common knowledge that the Iranian-backed group has only increased its arsenal of rockets and know-how. Hezbollah has gained vital experience in the Syrian war with fighters on the ground.
Civilian death tolls in Israel are not tolerated by the public and the idea of a new conflict is somewhat unpopular.
And for Hezbollah, Washington’s harshest sanctions on the group are slowly taking a toll. Add to this, there is the issue of Tehran’s increasingly struggling economy coupled with the burden of social services Hezbollah provides to its supporters and martyrs’ families. Plus, any possible Israeli air raids would decimate improvements Hezbollah has made to infrastructure in its strongholds. All of this make a strong case against turning sabre rattling into an out-and-out fight.
Israel is going to the U.N. Security Council to complain about its alleged findings and the potential violations of U.N. resolutions.
Something Israel seems to have forgotten or ignored, however, is its near-daily violations of Lebanese airspace and territorial waters in contravention of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.
This year from March to June alone, UNIFIL recorded 456 Israeli air violations totaling 1,518 flyover hours over the course of 110 days. Calls from UNIFIL “urging” Israel to cease such operations fall on deaf ears.
The U.N. has also noted Israel’s violations of Resolution 1701 in its “occupation of northern Ghajar and an adjacent area north of the [U.N. demarcated] Blue Line.”
It added that Israel has not responded to the UNIFIL proposal submitted to both parties in 2011, aimed at facilitating their withdrawal from the occupied area.
Lebanon agreed to that proposal as early as July 2011.
As the international community turns a blind eye to violations from both Hezbollah and Israel, the potential for war lingers.
Until Israel completely withdraws from Lebanese territory, the Taif Accord allows for “resistance” weapons. On the other hand, Hezbollah is supposed to be completely withdrawn from land south of the Litani River as per U.N. resolutions.
Any miscalculation by either side could lead to a devastating conflict, to the severe detriment of both nations.
The inability of the Israelis to stop Hezbollah’s underground launch pads and communications network in 2006 is unlikely to have changed. The high-level of secrecy of the potential and location of Hezbollah’s weapons, alongside its known ability to launch rockets from Gaza and Syria into Israel, could prove devastating for the Jewish state.
A hunger on the part of Israel to avenge its loss of the July 2006 war poses a question mark as to how serious it is in its willingness to bomb all of Lebanon and if it could maintain popular support for the inevitable casualties.
In the meantime, Lebanon remains one of the few countries in the region that is relentless in its opposition to Israeli policies. Despite this, Lebanon officially does not want war. This was made clear by Prime Ministerdesignate Saad Hariri Wednesday when he said that Beirut sought no escalation in the face of Israeli military activity along Lebanon’s southern border.
As the philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”