Israel Must Seize the Initiative in the Simmering Conflict with Hizballah

At least since March, when its operatives set off a bomb near the town of Megiddo, injuring an Israeli, Hizballah has engaged in acts that seem intended to provoke Jerusalem, or at least to test its limits. Jacob Nagel argues that a firmer approach is necessary:

Israel must punish Hizballah for every provocation and attempt to change the situation on the ground in Lebanon, but this is not enough: Israel must also punish those who fund and encourage Hizballah, i.e., Iran. The Iranian punishment does not have to come immediately or directly; there are many ways and means to harm and weaken Iran.

The IDF knows how to carry out such a shift in policy. As has been the case in the recent operations in Jenin and many times in the past in Gaza, Judea, and Samaria, this must include the element of surprise, subterfuge, and a disproportionate response that will harm [Hizballah’s secretary general Hassan] Nasrallah, his organization, and the state of Lebanon. The fear of escalation is understandable, but it cannot be the leading factor in the decision-making process by the IDF and the cabinet. The IDF is the strongest power in the Middle East; those who should fear a potential deterioration are Hizballah, Iran, and Lebanon. If Israel will act wisely, this will be the case, as we have seen in the past.

Nasrallah understands strength and identifies weaknesses, and now his perception (never mind if he is right or wrong) is that Israel has been deterred; . . . he must be disabused of that notion.

I am definitely not calling for a war in the north, but in order to prevent a war, Nasrallah must understand that it will not break out on his terms, nor will it end by the power of his decision. If Nasrallah will not understand the message, Israel must take the initiative.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon

Recognizing a Palestinian State Won’t Help Palestinians, or Even Make Palestinian Statehood More Likely

While Shira Efron and Michael Koplow are more sanguine about the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict, and more critical of Israel’s policies in the West Bank, than I am, I found much worth considering in their recent article on the condition of the Palestinian Authority (PA). Particularly perceptive are their comments on the drive to grant diplomatic recognition to a fictive Palestinian state, a step taken by nine countries in the past few months, and almost as many in total as recognize Israel.

Efron and Koplow argue that this move isn’t a mere empty gesture, but one that would actually make things worse, while providing “no tangible benefits for Palestinians.”

In areas under its direct control—Areas A and B of the West Bank, comprising 40 percent of the territory—the PA struggles severely to provide services, livelihoods, and dignity to inhabitants. This is only partly due to its budgetary woes; it has also never established a properly functioning West Bank economy. President Mahmoud Abbas, who will turn ninety next year, administers the PA almost exclusively by executive decrees, with little transparency or oversight. Security is a particular problem, as militants from different factions now openly defy the underfunded and undermotivated PA security forces in cities such as Jenin, Nablus, and Tulkarm.

Turning the Palestinian Authority (PA) from a transitional authority into a permanent state with the stroke of a pen will not make [its] litany of problems go away. The risk that the state of Palestine would become a failed state is very real given the PA’s dysfunctional, insolvent status and its dearth of public legitimacy. Further declines in its ability to provide social services and maintain law and order could yield a situation in which warlords and gangs become de-facto rulers in some areas of the West Bank.

Otherwise, any steps toward realizing two states will be fanciful, built atop a crumbling foundation—and likely to help turn the West Bank into a third front in the current war.

Read more at Foreign Affairs

More about: Palestinian Authority, Palestinian statehood