Israel needs to reset its policy towards Hezbollah

There is a “golden opportunity” to severely weaken Hezbollah without using cinetic force

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Since the Second Lebanon War, “rules of play” have been formed between Israel and Hezbollah. When Israel tried in recent years to “change” them and attack Hezbollah elements in Syria (such as Jihad Ma’ania, the son of Imad Ma’ania), Hezbollah response was swift and was intended to preserve the same “balance of deterrence” that was built between it and Israel.

And so, those “rules of play,” Which appeared in numerous speeches made by Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, includes forbidding any Israeli activity in Lebanon, whether openly or covertly and killing Of Hezbollah operatives by Israel, anywhere (including Syria). The organization “accepts” (not willingly) Israeli activity in Syria, even one that is directed against the organization’s interests, if it does not end with casualties to the organization. It should be noted that despite the basic constraints on the organization in response to the northern border (Like the problematic political situation in the country) the organization did not hesitate to respond When he felt that Israel is violating these rules.

Israel’s strict adherence to these “rules of play” has fatally impaired its ability to act against arms transfers to Lebanon and regarding the organization’s entrenchment in Syria. A review of all of Israel’s attacks in Syria (those for which Israel has claimed responsibility and according to foreign publications) shows that the damage caused to the Hezbollah elements in Syria was highly negligible, not to mention the absence of Israeli attacks in Lebanon..

Thus, the organization was able to build an unprecedented military capability that could hit strategic centers in the State of Israel, making the organization the most dangerous adversary for the State of Israel in the region. This situation raises questions about the ability of the current Israeli policy to stop Hezbollah from his force buildup. Furthermore, the organization has managed to build in the past years hundreds of precision missiles, that increases the organization’s ability to hit any point in Israel accuracy.

The organization’s military strength leads to the understanding that the organization’s military dismantling by military means is almost impossible task considering the price Israel will pay if it seeks to realize this objective by brute force. Hezbollah will forcefully oppose any attempt to harm him, his people, and his intensification, in a way that makes any military action against him at enormous costs.”.

Therefore, in light of the futility of a military operation against the organization, it is important to take another course of action that will force Hezbollah to choose between a full takeover of Lebanon (in such a way that it will not allow the Lebanese government to continue to be the buffer that protects Hezbollah), or a complete disengagement between it and the government. As mentioned above, the ability to achieve these objectives through “brute force” is limited to none existing, and it will in any case demand heavy prices from Israel if it leads there.

Therefore, a plan must be built that exploits the fundamental problems and weaknesses of the organization to which it is struggling to find a solution. Among these problems are deep economic problems as a result of Iran’s economic crisis; the continuation of the never-ending war in Syria; difficulty in satisfying the expectations in Shi’ite society (due to the lack of resources) and political-economic pressure mainly from the US government and several European countries

However, perhaps the most difficult problem of Hezbollah that it faces is the dissolution of the political order in Lebanon that it has worked to build over the years. The rules of the game were well known – Hezbollah had the upper hand in every aspect of the Lebanese political system, from appointments, controlling the most important ministries in Lebanon and having the last word in every important subject to the Lebanese. But after years of controlling the Lebanese political system, the riots that erupted in October 2019, leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri, were the first call for change to the political system in Lebanon. In fact, undermining Lebanese stability undermines the most significant political achievement of Hezbollah – building a mechanism that allows control of the country behind the scenes, letting it allegedly be conducted as an independent state.  For this reason, the explosion in Beirut already comes on “fertile ground” and put Hezbollah ability to further control Lebanon political system at risk.

To deeply harm Hezbollah, there is a need to take a series of actions directly aimed at the “soft belly” of the organization. In this sense, “stability” in Lebanon in the form of a return to the “previous order” does not serve Israel’s interests and simply allows Hezbollah to continue his control over Lebanon. These moves cannot only be led by Israel but must be engaged l by leading parties in the international community that seeks to weaken Hezbollah.

Israel needs to push for A significant deepening of the economic pressure on the organization, taking advantage of the moves made against the organization in Germany and “duplicating them” in other countries all over the world based on a planned strategy, and to weigh the pressure on the Organization that is forced to receive more money from the Lebanese diaspora, given the grave economic situation in Iran. As part of these moves – opposition to any economic assistance to Lebanon, or cooperation with the Lebanese government, as if allows the organizations to take part in the Lebanese government. The formation of the new government in Lebanon and the outrage that exists in the Lebanese public over the organization’s conduct requires conditioning of any assistance to the future Lebanese government in disconnecting Hezbollah from the Lebanese government.

On top of that, Israel needs to Influencing the new American administration to stop the transfer of funding to all elements in Lebanon that are working with Hezbollah . It is true that such a move could allegedly harm an alleged “moderate” element in Lebanon that works to build the stability of the country, but in practice it is wrong to continue accepting the situation in which the Lebanese army for example receives international assistance on the one hand, and on the other continues its ties with Hezbollah.  And also to continue sanctions the political leaders in Lebanon that are cooperating with Hezbollah. Jubran Basil sanctions was an important first step but not enough. There are numerous political and military leaders like  Abbas Ebrahim, the general director  of the general directorate of the Lebanese general secutiry, that are playing both sides and only direct actions against them can signal to the political leaders in Lebanon that any cooperation with Hezbollah will be dealt harshly

In addition, a demand for a complete solution of the border disputes between Israel and Lebanon (both land and sea alike) to “pull the rag” under the organization reason of existence – the resistance to Israel.

Only combination  of actions aimed at Hezbollah’s underbelly (the economic situation, the disappearance of Soleimani, Iran’s dire economic situation, the government’s need for international assistance, and fears of increased protests inside Lebanon) could lead to a significant change in Lebanon. There is a golden opportunity to build a mechanism that will cut him off the country’s power centers.

About the Author
23+ years of experience in 8200, IDI Research Division and the Israeli Embassy in the US. Retired from the Israel Defense Forces Senior fellow at the Abba Eban institute.
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