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Nasrallah only understands force

It's not to late for Israel to set new red lines against Hezbollah.

Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech on Jan. 3, 2023. Source: Screenshot/Al-Manar.
Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah delivers a speech on Jan. 3, 2023. Source: Screenshot/Al-Manar.
Eyal Zisser
Eyal Zisser is a lecturer in the Middle East History Department at Tel Aviv University.

The 17th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War was marked several days ago. For the first time since that conflict, Israel now faces a real prospect of yet another conflagration that could become the Third Lebanon War.

Like in 2006, neither side wants war. Not Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who is still scarred from the IDF’s onslaught in the previous round, and not the Israeli government, which is knee-deep in domestic issues. 

It seems that Hezbollah resolved to escalate things back in March when it apparently sent a terrorist across the border to stage an attack. Only by some miracle was Israel spared a mass-casualty event when the bomb exploded near the Megiddo Junction. 

Israel chose not to respond to that attack, which Hezbollah saw as weakness. It also strengthened Nasrallah’s view that he can act with impunity against the Jewish state. 

The following rocket attack from Lebanon, which was conveniently attributed to Hamas, gave him plausible deniability. 

Now Israel finds itself having to deal with tents pitched by Hezbollah on Israeli territory in what is the first step towards a battle to conquer the entire Galilee, a recurring theme in Nasrallah’s speeches. 

Cross-border incidents were very common in the 1950s when the borders were very porous and had almost no real barriers and early-warning systems. But back then we had a larger-than-life prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, who instructed the IDF to retaliate immediately every time people crossed into our territory—be they Egyptian, Jordanian or Syrian. 

But nowadays Israel doesn’t have this policy, and as a result, Hezbollah has been teaching us a lesson by consolidating its presence on our land while the security establishment and the government turn a blind eye. 

Nasrallah usually acts with caution and sophistication, but it appears that he has forgotten the lesson Israel has tried to sear into his memory by decimating his stronghold in Beirut—the Dahiyah—in 2006. 

Moreover, being the gambler that he is, Nasrallah is now convinced that Israel is bogged down with internal strife and will not take his bait by retaliating for his provocations. 

Nasrallah’s assessment has proved itself so far, and his gamble has worked. But rather than stop and cash in on his profits, he has continued playing and has raised his wager by firing an anti-tank missile on Israeli forces and repeatedly trying to sabotage the border fence. In recent days it added the disputed border town of Ghajar to the equation by saying that the Israeli control over the village (where the border runs through) is tantamount to an Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory. 

Israel’s lack of response to the provocations is a mistake and the effort to bring about a diplomatic resolution is a joke. People like Nasrallah only understand force. 

The fact that Israel has not chosen to resolve the issue of Ghajar over the years—it could have relocated the residents in the northern part that lies in Lebanon and given them compensation—is a sign of short-sightedness and perhaps a lack of faith in Israel’s future hold on the town (whose southern part was captured from Syria during the 1967 Six-Day War). 

Hezbollah should have been dealt with the right way as soon as the first of its members pitched up a tent on the border, and definitely before this became a month-long saga and a potential future claim to Israeli territory. But it is not too late and let’s hope that the government comes to its senses and sets new red lines for Nasrallah, thus averting another war.

Originally published by Israel Hayom.

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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