Israel’s Diplomatic Battle with the U.S. over Lebanon

July 20 2017

When the Syrian civil war threatened to spill over into Lebanon, the country’s military cooperated with Hizballah to keep Sunni jihadists out. This cooperation, combined with Hizballah’s increasing political influence, has blurred the lines between the terrorist organization and the Lebanese state itself. At least, this is how Israel and Saudi Arabia see the situation. The U.S. disagrees, as Jonathan Spyer writes:

As the 2006 war [with Israel] and subsequent events graphically demonstrated, Hizballah and its patrons [in Tehran] can operate an independent foreign and military policy without seeking the permission of the [government] in Beirut. What has happened in the intervening decade, however, is that Hizballah and its allies, rather than simply ignoring the wishes of the state, have progressively absorbed its institutions. . . . Hizballah and its allies prevented the appointment of a Lebanese president for two years, before ensuring the ascendance of their own allied candidate, Michel Aoun, in October 2016. . . .

What of the issue of security cooperation between Hizballah and the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)? No serious observer of Lebanon disputes that open cooperation between the two forces has increased over the last half decade. . . . The U.S., however, has continued its relationship with the LAF, which was the recipient of $200 million in assistance from Washington last year. . . .

The difference of opinion between the U.S. and Israel in this regard is of growing importance because of the emergent evidence of hitherto unreported Hizballah activities. In particular, there is deep disquiet in Israel regarding revelations of an Iranian-supported, homegrown Hizballah arms industry. This, combined with what may be the beginnings of a slow winding-down of the Syrian war raises the possibility of renewed tensions with Hizballah. . . .

[If and when war does come, Israel’s] intention will be to dismiss any distinction between Hizballah and the Lebanese state, and to wage war against Lebanon [itself], on the basis that the distinction has become a fiction. This will involve an all-out use of military force that will be intended to force a relatively quick decision. For this to be conceivable, a diplomatic battle must first be won.

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Read more at Jonathan Spyer

More about: Hizballah, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Second Lebanon War, U.S. Foreign policy

 

Hamas’s Deadly Escalation at the Gaza Border

Oct. 16 2018

Hamas’s weekly demonstration at the fence separating Gaza from Israel turned bloody last Friday, as operatives used explosives to blow a hole in the barrier and attempted to pass through. The IDF opened fire, killing three and scaring away the rest. Yoni Ben Menachem notes that the demonstrators’ tactics have been growing more aggressive and violent in recent weeks, and the violence is no longer limited to Fridays but is occurring around the clock:

The number of participants in the demonstrations has risen to 20,000. Extensive use has been made of lethal tactics such as throwing explosive charges and grenades at IDF soldiers, and there has been an increase in the launching of incendiary balloons and kites into Israel. At the same time, Hamas supplemented its burning tires with smoke generators at the border to create heavy smoke screens to shield Gazan rioters and allow them to get closer to the border fence and infiltrate into Israel. . . .

[S]ix months of ineffective demonstrations have not achieved anything connected with easing [Israel’s blockade of the Strip]. Therefore, Hamas has decided to increase military pressure on Israel. [Its] ultimate goal has not changed: the complete removal of the embargo; until this is achieved, the violent demonstrations at the border fence will continue.

Hamas’s overall objective is to take the IDF by surprise by blowing up the fence at several points and infiltrating into Israeli territory to harm IDF soldiers or abduct them and take them into the Gaza Strip. . . . The precedent of the 2011 deal in which one Israeli soldier was traded for 1,027 Palestinian prisoners has strengthened the feeling within Hamas that Israel is prepared to pay a heavy price for bringing back captured soldiers alive. . . . Hamas also believes that the campaign is strengthening its position in Palestinian society and is getting the international community to understand that the Palestinian problem is still alive. . . .

The Hamas leadership is not interested in an all-out military confrontation with Israel. The Gaza street is strongly opposed to this, and the Hamas leadership understands that a new war with Israel will result in substantial damage to the organization. Therefore, the idea is to continue with the “Return March” campaign, which will not cost the organization too much and will maintain its rule without paying too high a price for terror.

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Read more at Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security