Magazine article Tikkun

Israel's Gamble in Lebanon

Magazine article Tikkun

Israel's Gamble in Lebanon

Article excerpt

ISRAEL'S MASSIVE STRIKES THROUGHOUT LEBANON, an attempt to weaken Hezbollah's military capability, is mounting pressure on the international community to try to find a way to secure Israel's northern border. Ifthe border cannot be secured, and I fear that it may not, Israel will either have to permanently re-occupy southern Lebanon, or be prepared to defend themselves again and again against a potentially stronger enemy. Either case leaves Israel in a potentially more vulnerable position than its pre-war status.

In my view, Israel reasonably perceives itself facing a long-term existential threat from Iran and Syria, which is being waged by proxy through Hezbollah and Hamas. By striking a decisive blow against Hezbollah, Israel hopes to compel a moderate government in Beirut to assert sovereignty over southern Lebanon.

The success ofthat strategy depends on replacing the vacuum created by Israel's campaign in southern Lebanon first with friendly, effective buffer arrangements, and then by a Lebanese government ready, willing, and able to assert sovereignty over the country's south. If not replaced, Hezbollah's military wing will simply regroup, stronger and bolder.

I fear that Israel has miscalculated its ability to disarm Hezbollah and to execute a replacement strategy.

First, international buffer forces are difficult to mobilize in the face of strong local resistance. One only needs to look at Lebanon itself, where the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was put in place in southern Lebanon in 1978 "to confirm Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon, restore the international peace and security, and help the Lebanese Government restore its effective authority in the area."

A well -trained NATO-led force might be stronger than UNIFIL. However, given Hezbollah's strong position in the southern Lebanon, and its supply links to Syria, a NATO force would be positioned for failure ; it would have to become a hostile occupying force, with the kind of checkpoints, roadblocks, border patrols, house inspections, and personal searches that made Israel's eighteen-year occupation of southern Lebanon a failure. That risk highlights the difficulty of organizing such a force in the first place. …

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