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OpinionIsrael at War

Israel’s northern border heats up

Iran and Hezbollah should fear the formidable will of the Israeli people.

The Israeli and the Lebanese flag near the border with Lebanon in northern Israel on April 7, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
The Israeli and the Lebanese flag near the border with Lebanon in northern Israel on April 7, 2023. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern
Sarah N. Stern is the founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a think tank that specializes in the Middle East. She is the author of Saudi Arabia and the Global Terrorist Network (2011).  

I landed in Israel last Thursday and found the Israeli people as united as ever. Their moral resolve to both defeat Hamas and bring home all the remaining hostages has not wavered. This is shown by the 360,000 young men who have volunteered for reserve service. Moreover, in the center of Israel where my daughter lives, there is not a single family that has not given clothing, food and toys to the displaced families of Israel’s north and south.

At the same time, Israel’s northern border is heating up. Just this past Saturday, according to Reuters, 62 rockets and missiles were fired into Israel by the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah. The group claimed the rockets were a response to the alleged Israeli execution of one of Hamas’s chief strategists, Saleh al- Arouri; who was a chief liaison between Hamas and Hezbollah. Just now, Hezbollah commander Jawad al-Tawil was killed in an airstrike in southern Lebanon.

Because of Hezbollah aggression, the northern Israeli towns of Kiryat Shmona and Metula have been evacuated. Two kilometers of the border area are now a closed military zone. 80,000 residents have been displaced.

Hezbollah has been given the opportunity to attack Israel by the cowardice of the international community, which has refused to enforce two essential U.N. resolutions.

Security Council Resolution 1559, passed on Sept. 2, 2004, called for all foreign forces to leave Lebanon and the immediate dismantling of all foreign militias. Given that Iran is the only reason Hezbollah exists, the terror group can clearly be considered a foreign militia and Iran can certainly be seen as a foreign force in Lebanon.

Indeed, Iran has used Hezbollah to demolish Lebanese domestic politics. The “confessionalist” government, which is supposed to represent the various factions of the Lebanese demographic mosaic, mandates a Maronite Christian president, a Shiite Muslim speaker of parliament and a Sunni Muslim prime minister. Through terrorism and intimidation, however, Hezbollah and Iran have taken over Lebanon and marginalized all other communities. It also dominates the Lebanese Armed Forces and runs roughshod over the U.N. peacekeeping force UNIFIL.

Following a series of Hezbollah terror attacks on Israel, the Second Lebanon War broke out. On Aug. 11, 2006, the Security Council passed Resolution 1701, calling for a complete ceasefire and for all armed personnel, assets and weapons—other than those of the Lebanese government and UNIFIL—to be removed from the area between the Israeli border and the Litani River.

Of course, Hezbollah ignored the resolution and turned southern Lebanon into an armed terror fortress. Since Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, Hezbollah has used this territory to launch a war of aggression against Israel, killing nine IDF soldiers and four Israeli civilians.

At any other time, Israel would have retaliated with overwhelming force. At the moment, however, it does not want two full-scale wars on its hand. Nonetheless, Israel’s arsenal is waiting for precisely the right time to strike. Most Israelis know that Hezbollah must be crushed so the residents of northern Israel can return to their homes. They also know that destroying Hezbollah’s 150,000 missiles, some precision-guided, would make Israel much more secure.

It should be noted that, since Iran sees Israel as simply “the puppet of the United States,” demolishing Hezbollah would also make the U.S. more secure.

Clearly, Hezbollah is playing with fire. They do not appear to understand that. Last weekend, they tried to hit the Israeli side of Mt. Hermon. On Saturday, they fired as far south as Meiron. Yet Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said last week, “If the enemy thinks of waging a war on Lebanon, we will fight without restraint, without rules, without limits and without restrictions,” as if Hezbollah has ever been restrained or ever fought within limits and restrictions.

“We are not afraid of war,” he claimed. “For now, we are fighting on the front line, following meticulous calculations.”

In fact, Nasrallah inadvertently signaled fear. It appears that Tehran, pulling Hezbollah’s strings, is afraid of starting World War III. It likely does not wish to contend with the sheer strength of the United States and Israel, two of the world’s most militarily powerful countries. Iran and Hezbollah should also fear the formidable will of the Israeli people.

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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