Ron Ben-Yishai

Hezbollah’s strategic skill

Op-ed: Lebanon coalition crisis a Hezbollah ploy to divert public attention from Hariri tribunal

The latest political crisis in Lebanon does not threaten to spill over into Israel for the time being. Chances are that this crisis will also prevent violence within Lebanon, and this is the reason why Hezbollah quit the government. The group wants Lebanese public opinion to be preoccupied with the task of forming a new government, thereby diverting its attention from the conclusions of the special UN tribunal in respect to Hezbollah’s responsibility for Prime Minister Hariri’s assassination in 2005.


It’s hard not to be impressed by Hezbollah’s strategic skill. In this case, it comes into play in the domestic Lebanese theater. Group leaders realized that Saad al-Hariri, the assassinated prime minister’s son, is hesitant about accepting the compromise offered by Syria and Saudi Arabia aimed at watering down the international tribunal’s conclusions and making them irrelevant. Instead of watering down the indictment’s recommendations, Hezbollah undertook a sophisticated step, instead toppling the Hariri government.


Once Hezbollah made its announcement, the Hariri government turned into a transition government, so even if it wishes to take steps against the culprits involved in the Hariri killing, Hezbollah would be able to argue that as a transition government it cannot do so. Prime Minister Hariri, who cut short his US visit immediately after his meeting with President Obama, will surely engage in consultations as to what should be done in the face of Lebanon’s severe coalition crisis.


Israel uninvolved, for now

The US supports the effort to bring Hariri’s killers to justice, but shares the concern over the prospect of an ethnic war that may break out in Lebanon as result of such move. Yet at this time the Americans need not worry, as the first task will be undertaken by Lebanese President Suleiman - forming a new government – and that will take time. Plenty of time. This is how things work in Lebanon. Meanwhile, the public will forget about the international tribunal’s indictment or could head to elections, which may enable Hezbollah to boost its position.


As to Israel, there were some fears that Hezbollah may try to divert the Lebanese public’s attention from the international tribunal’s findings by prompting a flare-up on the northern border. Experience shows that such tensions may lead to an all-out conformation, even if the sides are not interested in this. Hezbollah knows this as well, and one of the reasons it provoked a political crisis in Lebanon is its desire to avoid a violent confrontation, both within Lebanon and vis-à-vis Israel.


At this time it appears that the domestic Lebanese crisis has no direct or immediate bearing on us. However, Israel’s intelligence services will have to continue to keep a close eye not only on Hezbollah’s military buildup and movement’s pertaining to Israel, but also on the way the various political elements in Lebanon contend with the new situation. However, as is the case in Lebanon, a coalition crisis may also turn into an inter-ethnic bloodbath, which may then spill over into Israel as well.



פרסום ראשון: 01.13.11, 08:56
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