OpinionIsrael at War

Hassan Nasrallah’s ominous silence in Lebanon

Israel must prepare for the worst-case scenario in the north to avoid being caught off guard.

Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah delivers an address, Oct. 2, 2023. Source: Screenshot.
Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah delivers an address, Oct. 2, 2023. Source: Screenshot.
Yoni Ben Menachem
Yoni Ben Menachem, a veteran Arab affairs and diplomatic commentator for Israel Radio and Television, is a senior Middle East analyst for the Jerusalem Center. He served as director general and chief editor of the Israel Broadcasting Authority.

More than two weeks have elapsed since Hamas’s attack on southern Israel. During this time, Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, has completely vanished from the scene.

Hezbollah has embarked on a war of attrition against Israel in conjunction with Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad organizations in southern Lebanon.

Thus far, Hezbollah has refrained from altering the rules of engagement, avoiding escalated attacks on Israel and steering clear of incursions into Israeli territory.

Nasrallah has promised that his organization will not remain idle while Israel targets Hamas in the Gaza Strip, but Hezbollah has been relatively quiet so far.

This response has disappointed Hamas. Khaled Mashal, a senior figure within the organization, has criticized the Lebanese terror group, stating, “This is not how history is written.”

Hezbollah remains on high alert and may launch an attack on Israel once the Israeli military has initiated a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip.

In such an attack, Hezbollah could deliver a substantial blow to Israel by launching thousands of rockets, precision-guided missiles and drones at strategic targets within Israel, while simultaneously attempting to seize territory in northern Israel.

Israel and the United States face challenges in deciphering Nasrallah’s intentions. Employing a strategy of ambiguity allows Nasrallah to retain the element of surprise.

As soon as he declared that he would not sit idly by in the face of Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip, Hezbollah began engaging in relatively low-level attacks on Israel.

The Lebanese government is deeply concerned by the specter of the Israel-Hamas conflict escalating into a wider war which would devastate Lebanon entirely.

Despite these concerns, Nasrallah acts independently.

According to foreign sources, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu rejected Defense Minister Yoav Galant’s proposal for a preemptive strike against Hezbollah. U.S. President Joe Biden also reportedly opposed such a move.

Netanyahu warned Nasrallah that entering the war would be the mistake of his life, and that the price paid would far surpass that of the Second Lebanon War in 2006.

Nasrallah has yet to respond to the warning.

Encouraged by Iran, he may seize the opportunity presented by Israel’s focus on ousting Hamas in Gaza Strip to launch an attack.

Israel faces a dilemma. On one hand, it must deal a severe blow to Hamas, topple its rule and secure the release of abductees.

On the other hand, given its substantial arsenal of missiles and rockets, an opportunity has arisen to address the significant threat posed by Hezbollah.

Iran established Hezbollah as a deterrent, equipping it with tens of thousands of rockets, missiles and drones to protect against potential Israeli attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities. The question now arises: will Iran risk its insurance policy and the state of Lebanon to save Hamas’s rule in the Gaza Strip?

There are no definitive answers to these questions. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, recently visited Lebanon to coordinate positions with Nasrallah.

Israeli and American intelligence agencies have thus far failed to discern Nasrallah’s intentions.

Consequently, Israel must prepare for the worst-case scenario to avoid being caught off guard.

Originally published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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