Part 1 of analysis
The sharp escalation in tensions on the Israeli-Lebanese front is not artificial. Israel’s security establishment is increasingly accumulating information showing that Hezbollah has recently boosted its activity in several areas that may lead to a clash. Yet for the time being there is no reason to get carried away: There is no immediate and concrete reason to fear war with Lebanon.
The main reason for the current tensions vis-à-vis Lebanon is growing frustration among Hezbollah’s leadership as result of its failure to advance any of its political or operational objectives. The main and almost only achievement Hezbollah can boast since the Second Lebanon War is its ability to rearm itself with more (and better) missiles and rockets than it possessed before the war.
Another achievement has to do with the fortifications built by the organization south and mostly north of the Litani River. Yet aside from these two achievements, Hezbollah has failed in almost everything it attempted to initiate or achieve on the political and military fronts.
However, what mostly frustrates Nasrallah is the impasse in the process of forming a new Lebanese government.
Hezbollah and the opposition bloc it leads wish to join the government from a position of power, with one third of the ministers – thereby possessing veto power on government decisions. However, elected Prime Minister Saad Hariri does not rush to comply with this demand.
Firstly, because Hezbollah and the bloc it leads failed to win the election majority they expected. Secondly, because Hariri realizes that Hezbollah’s status among the Lebanese public, including the Shiites, greatly weakened in the wake of the destruction prompted by Nasrallah’s escapade – the one that led to the Second Lebanon War. Thirdly, because Hezbollah’s bargaining power weakened greatly as result of the instability of the Iranian regime and the unrest over there.
The Lebanese know that Hezbollah will be very careful not to get into trouble at this time and get its patrons entangled in a needless confrontation with the West – while prompting a Lebanese clash with Israel.
And if that was not enough, we saw the explosion of a weapons depot in south Lebanon last month, which proved again – both to Lebanon and to the world – that Hezbollah has been violating the UN resolution while preferring its own military interests over the welfare and wellbeing of Lebanese citizens. This proves the group must not be allowed to run the country.
For all these reasons, Hariri does not rush to comply with Hezbollah’s demands. Nasrallah, on the other hand, is intensively seeking a way to end the impasse. The tried and tested means he is adopting at this time is the escalation of tensions vis-à-vis Israel.
The measured provocations in the north were meant to convey a message to the Lebanese government and people: “Hold us back.” If you fail to comply with our demands, we may initiate another destructive clash with Israel.
At the same time, Hezbollah’s leadership is careful not to go too far; the memories of the bombing of its Dahiya stronghold as well as of south Lebanon villages is fresh in their mind and still serves as a deterrent. Therefore, for the time being the group makes do with walking on the edge and trading verbal blows with Israel. The danger is that such situation could suddenly spin out of control, without any of the sides being interested in it. Both sides know this, and therefore tensions are escalating.
Part 2 of analysis to be published Wednesday