יוסי יהושוע
Yossi Yehoshua
Karish natural gas rig; Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah

Israel's Hezbollah dilemma

Israeli security establishment has realized that Nasrallah will have a hard time getting off his high horse of threats without carrying out an attack to back his belligerent affirmations; but Israel can avoid it, if it plays its cards right

Yossi Yehoshua |
Published: 07.21.22, 23:24
The threats made by the leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah group, Hassan Nasrallah, to "flip the table on everyone" in light of the conflicts surrounding maritime oil and gas fields are being taken very seriously by Israel's security establishment.
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  • Nasrallah said in a speech last week that "no one" would be allowed to operate in maritime oil and gas fields if Lebanon was barred from its "rights" in extracting resources from areas off of its own coast.
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    חסן נסראללה
    חסן נסראללה
    Karish natural gas rig; Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah
    (Photo: AFP / HO / AL-MANAR)
    In the past the last few days, Prime Minister Yair Lapid, Defense Minister Benny Gantz, and IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi discussed the sensitive topic, and raised retaliation options in case Nasrallah makes good on his threats.
    Furthermore, the officials apparently raised the option of retaliating against the launches of UAVs by Hezbollah even if they are unarmed, something which Israel has turned a blind eye to in the past.
    5 View gallery
    ראש הממשלה ושר הביטחון בסיור בגבול לבנון
    ראש הממשלה ושר הביטחון בסיור בגבול לבנון
    Prime Minister Yair Lapid and Defense Minister Benny Gantz on tour of the northern border on Tuesday
    (Photo: GPO)
    By picking fights with Israel, Nasrallah is attempting to draw the public attention away from the festering domestic issues and depict himself as Lebanon's protector.
    The threats culminated in three drones launched by Hezbollah last weekend from Lebanon to Israel's Karish gas field in hopes to collect military intel and raise awareness of the Lebanese presence in the area.
    The attempt failed when the IDF intercepted the Hezbollah drones with the help of an Israeli Air Force fighter jet and an Israeli Navy corvette. Additionally, the IDF reported that it had intercepted a suspicious aircraft several days prior.
    Nasrallah was also left with an egg on his face when he posted "secret" images of the gas fields that has been previously published on Israel's Channel 12.
    5 View gallery
    אסדת ''כריש'' והספינה אח''י אילת
    אסדת ''כריש'' והספינה אח''י אילת
    An Israeli Navy corvette sailing next to Karish gas field
    (Photo: IDF Spokesperson's Unit)
    Hezbollah, meanwhile, is trying to blame Israel for the severe energy crisis in Lebanon, so much so that it is willing to risk days of war.
    "We're raising the bar so that the Americans and Israelis give in since the deterioration of Lebanon continues," wrote the Lebanese Hezbollah-associated newspaper Al Akhbar. "If the solution of some of the people in Lebanon is to surrender, this is under no circumstance is acceptable to us."
    It seems that several options are available to Nasrallah for attacking the gas field: sending explosive drones, underwater commando, or - what seems most likely according to IDF predictions - launching an aircraft for intelligence collection that wouldn't risk harming civilians.
    If this indeed takes place, IDF officials believe that it would be wrong to continue settling for downing the UAVs with no retaliation. The question is how to retaliate without causing an all-out war.
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    אסדת הגז כריש
    אסדת הגז כריש
    The Karish gas rig
    (Photo: Energean)
    One option is to identify Hezbollah targets in Syria, which the IDF already has a few of. Another option is to attack remote infrastructures within Lebanon, such as precision missile depots.
    Israel has come to a understand that Nasrallah got on his high horse and will have trouble demounting it without an action to back his belligerent affirmations, hence keeping the IDF on their toes.
    Some believe that Nasrallah views any agreement between Lebanon and Israel as recognition of the Jewish state's right to exist, what he refuses to submit to given he sees any hint of normalization as illegitimate. And yet, even if he achieves some improvement in the gas agreement, he will be able to take the credit for resistance, at least while he manages to avoid an armed conflict.
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    יאיר לפיד
    יאיר לפיד
    Yair Lapid
    (Photo: GPO)
    Israel is showing no intention of backing out of the agreements, as Yair Lapid said on Tuesday: "Israel's gas reserves have potential to contribute to the solution of the global energy crisis. Lebanon can also benefit from the development of the reserves in her territorial waters, through negotiation, which should be seen through as soon as possible."
    Nasrallah may be showing teeth and threatening an armed conflict, but it's clear that what he wants is not war, because he understands the costly aftermath a war entails.
    Israeli officials, meanwhile, claim that moving the gas fields from its current location is not on the table. However, it's clear that Israel is right to take steps towards negotiation, under American mediation, in a way that would benefit Lebanon as well.
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