Amid ten­sion on bor­der, is the pos­si­bil­ity of a war be­tween Is­rael and Hezbol­lah real?

Global Times US Edition - - ASIANREVIEW - By Dana Halawi The au­thor is a writer with the Xin­hua News Agency. The ar­ti­cle first ap­peared on Xin­hua. opin­[email protected]­al­times.com.cn

As Is­raeli forces start their op­er­a­tion to thwart Hezbol­lah tun­nels on Le­banon’s bor­ders, Le­banese po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts ex­press dif­fer­ent views about the pos­si­bil­ity of a war be­tween the two sides.

“A re-match be­tween Hezbol­lah and Is­rael is in­evitable,” Hi­lal Kashan, chair of the Po­lit­i­cal Stud­ies De­part­ment at the Amer­i­can Univer­sity of Beirut, told Xin­hua.

Khashan said that the Is­raelis seem to be in­ter­ested in an es­ca­la­tion of the sit­u­a­tion.

“They brought up the is­sue of Hezbol­lah’s tun­nels even though the tun­nels are not new and they have been in place since 2014,” said Khashan, adding that Hezbol­lah’s leader Sayyed Has­san Nas­ral­lah said many times that if the war starts, Hezbol­lah will be at­tack­ing north­ern Is­rael.

Is­rael launched on Tues­day an op­er­a­tion along its north­ern bor­der with Le­banon to thwart cross-bor­der tun­nels which it says have been dug by Hezbol­lah.

It said it was neu­tral­iz­ing the tun­nels be­fore they be­came op­er­a­tional and a threat to civil­ian com­mu­ni­ties.

Khashan said that Is­raelis in­formed the US sec­re­tary of state dur­ing a meet­ing that it is time to deal harshly with Hezbol­lah.

“I think this is the be­gin­ning of an es­ca­la­tion. This does not mean that the war will break out to­mor­row. But Is­rael seems to be de­ter­mined now to ac­cel­er­ate against Hezbol­lah,” he said.

Mean­while, some that a war is pos­si­ble.

“A war be­tween Is­rael and Le­banon is more pos­si­ble to­day than a year ago but it is not cer­tain,” said Sami Nader, di­rec­tor of Le­vant In­sti­tute for Strate­gic Af­fairs in Le­banon.

Nader added that Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu is averse to war.

“Ne­tanyahu is very cau­tious when it comes to us­ing mil­i­tary power and we saw it in Gaza few days ago ... Is­raeli min­is­ter of de­fense re­signed and ac­cused him of be­ing weak,” he said.

Is­rael’s De­fense Min­is­ter Avig­dor Lieber­man re­signed on Novem­ber 14 over the cab­i­net’s de­ci­sion to ac­cept a cease­fire end­ing two days of fight­ing with Pales­tinian mil­i­tants in Gaza. be­lieve

Lieber­man de­nounced the move as weak and “sur­ren­der­ing to ter­ror.” Nader said that the Is­raelis are ramp­ing up the pres­sure on Hezbol­lah.

“This is part of the Amer­i­can strat­egy of con­fronting Iran. Since they started im­ple­ment­ing this strat­egy we saw that they were ramp­ing up the pres­sure ev­ery sin­gle week by tak­ing ex­tra mea­sures. This is part of the game,” Nader added.

When asked about Is­raeli’s mo­tives be­hind trig­ger­ing the tun­nels is­sue at this spe­cific time, Khashan said that Ne­tanyahu may want to di­vert the at­ten­tion of the pub­lic away from his cor­rup­tion case.

On Sun­day, Is­raeli po­lice rec­om­mended that Ne­tanyahu be in­dicted for re­ceiv­ing bribes and other crim­i­nal charges, the most se­vere cor­rup­tion case he has faced this year.

“This may be an op­por­tu­nity for him to es­ca­late in the north in or­der to avoid do­mes­tic is­sues,” Khashan said.

Nader said that the mar­gin of ma­neu­ver of Is­raeli air forces in Syria has been re­duced a lot af­ter the down­ing by Is­raeli air forces of the Rus­sian plane in Syria in Septem­ber which cre­ated trou­ble with Rus­sia.

“This is why they are fo­cus­ing on Le­banon now where they have the big­gest mar­gin of ma­neu­ver,” he said.

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