To provide security for its citizens, Israel must go to war with Hezbollah

Opinion: Notion of Hezbollah withdrawing to Litani River is outdated and naive, offering no long-term solution; Hezbollah would still possess approximately 200,000 missiles and rockets, a fleet of UAVs, and advanced surveillance capabilities

Dr. Omer Dostri|
Nearly five months into the Gaza conflict, Israel's primary front is now in Lebanon. Hezbollah has intensified its attacks against Israel in recent days, corresponding with Israel's increased actions, including the elimination of field-level commanders within the terrorist organization.
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Since the conflict's inception, approximately 80,000 Israeli residents have been evacuated from the northern region due to Hezbollah attacks from Lebanon. Media reports and statements from Israeli officials suggest that Israel aims to resolve the limited conflict with Hezbollah through a diplomatic agreement, akin to Security Council Resolution 1701. This agreement would require Hezbollah to withdraw several kilometers from the Israeli border, pushing their forces beyond the Litani River. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, for his part, does not seem so sure – he argued cynically that it would be easier to bring the Litani river closer to the Israeli border than to push Hezbollah from the Israeli border to the Litani river.
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בניין הרוס ב א-נבטיה
בניין הרוס ב א-נבטיה
Building hit by an Israeli air strike in Nabatieh in southern Lebanon
(Photo: Mahmoud ZAYYAT / AFP)
Despite this, it appears that the Israeli government remains committed to the concept of October 6th. Meanwhile, mayors and residents in the north have stated that they will not return to their homes until Israel provides them with a sustainable solution.
Even if Israel succeeds in pushing Hezbollah several kilometers back from its border through limited political or military means, such a move would be far from resolving the northern threat. The notion of Hezbollah withdrawing beyond the Litani River is outdated and naive, offering no long-term solution. The threat from Hezbollah extends beyond border incursions and settlements adjacent to the fence.
Hezbollah would still possess approximately 200,000 missiles and rockets, a fleet of UAVs, and advanced surveillance capabilities. They would continue to upgrade their air defense systems and bolster their military presence throughout Lebanon. Even if Hezbollah abides by an agreement to retreat beyond the Litani and refrains from attacking northern settlements, its power and capabilities are likely to strengthen over time.
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Israeli home hit by a Hezbollah anti-tank missile in Kfar Yuval
(Photo: Yair Kraus)
This scenario would leave Israel to confront a more formidable enemy in the future, as Hezbollah already represents a serious and dangerous threat, second only to Iran. Additionally, Hezbollah's arsenal of missiles and rockets would continue to pose a significant and destructive threat to Israel as a whole.
The likelihood of Hezbollah agreeing to voluntarily withdraw from southern Lebanon is slim. As its attacks persist and Israel responds with measured severity, deterrence may continue to erode, emboldening Hezbollah. Hezbollah's identity as a "resistance organization" is rooted in its opposition to Israel, ostensibly to protect Lebanon. Withdrawal could weaken its image as Lebanon's defender and the champion of Palestinian aspirations, leading Hezbollah to resist such a move.
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Hezbollah head Hassan Nasrallah
For Israel to push Hezbollah beyond the Litani River, it would likely require significant military force. Israel must reassess its security strategy, not only in the south but also in all areas, especially in Lebanon. Relying on a military or political solution that only safeguards northern settlements is insufficient. Israel should not assume that Hezbollah will agree to evacuate voluntarily, and even if it does, there is no guarantee it won't return to the area south of the Litani River.
Israel must shift from a strategy of deterrence to one of decisiveness. Military actions should not aim solely at deterring Hezbollah, as was the case in the Second Lebanon War, but should be part of a comprehensive war to defeat Hezbollah. This would involve preparing the Israeli public for a large-scale war in Lebanon aimed at dismantling Hezbollah, including the occupation of southern Lebanon and the destruction of major Lebanese cities like Beirut.
Dr. Omer DostriDr. Omer Dostri
In such a scenario, the American administration would likely support Israel's actions, given Israel's restraint in responding to Hezbollah's provocations since October. This restraint was part of an unofficial agreement with the Biden administration, which sought to prevent a war in Lebanon. If Hezbollah does not withdraw beyond the Litani River through diplomatic efforts, Israel would have American legitimacy for a full-scale war.
Ultimately, Israel should take control of its destiny and not rely on foreign entities. Only by defeating Hezbollah and destroying its infrastructure throughout Lebanon, even if it means devastating Lebanese cities, can Israel achieve a better security reality and long-term peace.
  • Dr. Omer Dostri holds a Ph.D. in political studies. He is a military strategy and national security expert, and a researcher at the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security (JISS) and the Israel Defense and Security Forum-Habithonistim.
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