Why Arabs Cheered for Israel This Week

Israel’s strike against a group of high-ranking Hizballah operatives, which also killed an Iranian general, met with approval and praise from many Arabs, much of it expressed via social media. In explaining this surprising groundswell of appreciation for the Israeli military, Abdulrahman al-Rashed points to Hizballah’s “heinous actions of targeting its rivals in Lebanon and its involvement in the killing of thousands in Syria.” He continues:

Those who shifted from admiring Hizballah to hating the group did so in less than one decade. These people used to support Hizballah in Lebanon in the past and they used to adopt the Shiite party’s political and military agenda. Anger began to surface when Hizballah’s militias occupied West Beirut [in 2008]—three years after the party’s involvement in the assassination of [Lebanese] Sunni leader Rafiq al-Hariri in 2005.

Hizballah, and also Iran, have lost the respectful and honorable status which they’ve always enjoyed in the name of Islam, Lebanon, and Palestine. Hizballah’s biggest fall [from grace] came in the wake of its clear sectarian bias in Syria as its members joined the filthy war which has killed more than 250,000 people in the biggest crime in the history of the region. This Iranian involvement in Syria will also have further repercussions.

There’s no doubt, in my view, that if a confrontation occurs between Israel and Hizballah or between Israel and Iran, many Arabs will pray for the defeat of Hizballah’s militias and [the] generals of its Iranian ally. This strange feeling, even if temporary, reflects the change in the region’s alliances and political stances.

Read more at Al-Arabiya

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel-Arab relations, Lebanon, Shiites

The Possible Death of Mohammad Deif, and What It Means

On Saturday, Israeli jets destroyed a building in southern Gaza, killing a Hamas brigade commander named Rafa Salameh. Salameh is one of the most important figures in the Hamas hierarchy, but he was not the primary target. Rather it was Mohammad Deif, who is Yahya Sinwar’s number-two and is thought to be the architect and planner of numerous terrorist attacks, of Hamas’s tunnel network, and of the October 7 invasion itself. Deif has survived at least five Israeli attempts on his life, and the IDF has consequently been especially reluctant to confirm that he had been killed. Yet it seems that it is possible, and perhaps likely, that he was.

Kobi Michael notes that Deif’s demise would have major symbolic value and, moreover, deprive Hamas of important operational know-how. But he also has some words of caution:

The elimination of Deif becomes even more significant given the current reality of severe damage to Hamas’s military wing and its transition to terrorism and guerrilla warfare. However, it is important to remember that organizations such as Hamas and Hizballah are more than the sum of their components or commanders. Israel has previously eliminated the leaders of these organizations and other very senior military figures, and yet the organizations continued to grow, develop, and become more significant security threats to Israel, while establishing their status as political players in the Palestinian and Lebanese arenas.

As for the possibility that Deif’s death will harden Hamas’s position in the hostage negotiations, Tamir Hayman writes:

In my opinion, even if there is a bump in the road now, it is not a strategic one. The reasons that Hamas decided to compromise its demands in the [hostage] deal stem from the operational pressure it is under [and] the fear that the pressure exerted by the IDF will increase.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza War 2023, Hamas