Opinion| Can Israel avoid a conflict with Hezbollah without the support of the US?

Hatem Sadek
7 Min Read

Does Israel genuinely intend to initiate a military confrontation with the Lebanese state, specifically targeting Hezbollah, the Iranian military proxy? To address this question, one must meticulously analyse the broader regional and international context, as well as the internal challenges faced by Israel, which have intensified since 7 October.

The pressing predicament that Israel faces is Iran’s policy of uniting various fronts, which has left Israel insecure since 7 October. From Tel Aviv’s perspective, it is untenable for the people of Israel to remain exposed to missile and drone threats originating from Lebanon in the north, Iraq in the east, and Yemen in the south, solely because the Iranian Mullahs desire it. Consequently, the unification of these fronts necessitates political and military measures to either separate or suppress them, sooner or later. Among these fronts, Lebanon and Hezbollah pose the greatest danger, occupying a significant space in the minds of Israelis. Therefore, Israeli political and military decision-makers assert that the future of southern Lebanon and Hezbollah’s role therein is crucial for achieving what is commonly referred to as the “next day” in Gaza.

The recent developments caused by Hezbollah in the northern region necessitate a significant shift in Tel Aviv’s security priorities and objectives. It is evident that solely relying on warfare will not provide a solution, as various approaches have been attempted in the past, ranging from border attacks to the occupation of significant areas in Beirut. Moreover, eradicating the Hezbollah threat through a large-scale war would demand a highly intricate and extensive operation within Lebanese territory, which would likely face international opposition and dissatisfaction.

For Israel, Lebanon and the Eastern Front serve as an intriguing arena on the ground, despite the lack of significant achievements. The country is currently facing exceptional economic and political challenges, making it unwise to engage in conflicts at this time. However, regionally, the conditions may not be favourable for Israel to initiate a war, especially after Iran’s recent direct attacks using missiles and drones. This could potentially lead to further escalations if a military confrontation arises in Lebanon. Furthermore, internationally, Israel’s actions during the Gaza war have led to a decrease in support from the United States and Western countries. The United Nations and the International Criminal Court have taken steps to blacklist Israeli leaders, marking a significant development in the history of the Hebrew state.

Israel’s strategic plan following the events of October 7 was to prioritize defeating Hamas in Gaza to pressure Hezbollah into accepting a political settlement. The goal was to push the Radwan Force and their missiles north towards the Litany River, approximately 10 kilometres from the Israeli border. However, the situation took a turn for the worse when Hezbollah drones managed to capture detailed images and videos of sensitive military locations in Israel without being intercepted by Iron Dome missiles. This elevated Hezbollah to the status of the primary threat that Israel needed to swiftly address. The group’s actions, including the displacement of the population in northern Galilee and the holding of 50,000 Israelis hostage, necessitated urgent action to eliminate the threat posed by Hezbollah.

The Israeli military is facing a significant challenge in the Gaza Strip. Despite the devastating impact of the conflict, the progress made on the ground is minimal. The Israeli army’s expectations have not been met, as the images of destruction in the Strip have not deterred Hezbollah and its Iranian backers. This is evident in their increased retaliatory actions following each Israeli airstrike in southern Lebanon. This situation is likely to deteriorate further once Iran acquires nuclear weapons or the capability to develop them in the future.

The Israelis have come to realize a shocking and scandalous outcome: if Israel fails to bring an end to this conflict with a resounding triumph that reinstates its deterrence, it could potentially encounter recurrent assaults in the upcoming years. These attacks would be aimed at wearing down Israel’s military, economic, and social strength, ultimately resulting in its internal disintegration.

However, Israel will not engage in a major conflict in the northern region without the assurance of comprehensive American backing. This encompasses diplomatic, logistical, and interception support to counter the anticipated missile and drone attacks from Iran, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. The feasibility of this scenario is particularly uncertain amidst the backdrop of the American elections this year.

The most practical option at the moment is to find a temporary political resolution. If Israel is unable to prevent Hezbollah’s actions, it would be advisable to consider reaching a consensus based on United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought an end to the Second Lebanon War. Additionally, Israel should focus on enhancing the capabilities of the IDF to effectively address the shared Iranian threat posed by Hezbollah within a short timeframe. Ultimately, without the active involvement and partnership of the United States, Israel will not be able to secure even a limited victory in the ongoing strategic regional conflict.

Hence, some anticipate Benjamin Netanyahu’s forthcoming address in Congress, as he intends to outline a blueprint for the region’s future. The purpose behind this is his endeavour to secure explicit and obligatory agreements with the American government and political authorities, to obtain steadfast assurances for the continuation of the conflict, detached from electoral politics. Even if it necessitates making difficult compromises, it remains the sole path towards attaining a strategic triumph in the ongoing war.

 

Dr. Hatem Sadek: Professor at Helwan University

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