OpinionIsrael News

Nasrallah’s gamble has paid off, but it’s not too late to act

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.

Hezbollah flags just over the border in Lebanon, July 3, 2022. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
Hezbollah flags just over the border in Lebanon, July 3, 2022. Photo by Ayal Margolin/Flash90.
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 devolve into a third Lebanon war. 

As in 2006, no side currently wants war. Not Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who is still scarred from the Israeli military’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. The lack of response also strengthened Nasrallah’s belief that he could act with impunity against the Jewish state. 

The following rocket attack from Lebanon on April 24, 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 toward 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 or 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 retaliate.

Nasrallah’s assessment has proven correct, and his gamble has paid off.

But rather than stop and cash in his winnings, he has continued to play, and even raised the stakes by firing an anti-tank missile at 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 (through which the border runs) is tantamount to an Israeli occupation of Lebanese territory. 

Israel’s lack of response to these provocations is a mistake, and its 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 right away—as soon as the first of its members pitched a tent across 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 to 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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