Khaled Alameddine

Netanyahu’s Triumph: what it
means for Hezbollah

Escalation of violence on Lebanon’s southern border seems inevitable (Source: ibtimes.co.uk)

Israel has chosen war.

Despite a racism row on Election Day, deep strains in his relationship with Obama, ridiculous campaign ads, and making controversial statements encouraging European Jews to immigrate to Israel, Netanyahu has won again. He has already vowed to prevent the creation of a Palestinian state; pushing the Palestinians into believing that violence and dissent are the only ways to achieve statehood. But what does this mean for Lebanon; how will Netanyahu deal with Hezbollah?

With the escalation of violence almost certain and inevitable, the extent of the violence remains a mystery. The Israeli public supported power over peace; many preferring the far-right wing parties in Israel. Since the Israeli right-wing party focuses on security and the Israeli left-wing party focuses on economy, then the former is more likely to be aggressive and the latter is more inclined towards preserving the status quo. In contrast, the Obama administration has removed Hezbollah and Iran from the National Intelligence terror list as negotiations continue over Iran’s nuclear program. With both parties addressing a number of unresolved key issues, Hezbollah and the safety of Israel will surely be on the table sooner or later. If the deal goes through, Israel will either be safe or isolated; the second option seeming more likely in light of Obama’s foreign policy to date. Yet, even if Iran vows to contain Hezbollah, Hezbollah will remain a very important bargaining chip it can use whenever necessary. Moreover, the US cannot guarantee that Israeli strikes against Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria would end or even decrease.

Netanyahu’s government, especially since it will be based on a right-wing Israeli coalition, will not cease to target Hezbollah’s operations in the Golan Heights whenever it is necessary. Hezbollah, on the other hand, cannot afford to overlook such strikes by not retaliating, because it would compromise its reputation as a resistance movement. They must be wary of being viewed by the Lebanese as akin to the Houthis of Yemen, and maintaining a strong standing amongst its supporters. Their latest retaliation came at a time when Israel was unsure about the popularity of a disproportionate response; now the public has rallied behind a man infamous for such ‘responses.’

Israel might be monitoring Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, as well as its alleged intervention in Iraq. Hezbollah is now more overstretched than possibly any other organization of its size. Thus, if the inevitable escalation descends into skirmishes and tit-for-tat operations, then Israel will be more set than ever to go to war with Hezbollah. However, Israel might be worried about the potential power vacuum such a war would result in; thus preferring a known enemy over a new enemy. A war the US would most certainly be against as long as the talks proceed and in case an agreement is reached. Keeping in mind that Netanyahu has already challenged Obama on his own turf by addressing Congress, he appears to be prepared to compromise Israel’s precious alliance with the US and betting on a Republican victory in the next elections.

Many scenarios are possible and most are equally probable: Israel’s preference of dealing with a known enemy versus taking a chance and attacking an overstretched threat (Hezbollah); Hezbollah’s necessary response to future Israeli provocation versus its limits due to its intervention in Syria and Iraq; Obama’s inability to tame a US ally versus the pressure on him to be more strict and decisive in his foreign policy, not to mention the outcome of the nuclear program negotiations with Iran.

Sounds like the only two things that are certain are: uncertainty and the escalation of violence.

Khaled Alameddine is a blogger at khaledalameddine.wordpress.com
You can follow the author on Twitter @KhaledA93.

Escalation of violence on Lebanon’s southern border seems inevitable (Source: ibtimes.co.uk)

But what does this mean for Lebanon; how will Netanyahu deal with Hezbollah?"

  • Beiruti

    The last thing Iran wants or needs is an actual nuclear weapon. All of the incentives it currently enjoys and will enjoy under a treaty will evaporate overnight. Saudi Arabia will purchase nuclear weapons from Sunni Pakistan and thus rather than increase its security by obtaining a bomb, Iran would have greatly increased its insecurity. The Iranians are well aware of this basic fact. More benefits flow to the Islamic State by threatening to get a bomb than by actually getting one. The greater the threat, the more benefits flow to Iran by forbearance. As long as forbearance brings more economic benefits and greater security than going forward to build a bomb, then forbearance will direct Iranian policy. The only way to have this outcome is by negotiations to find out how much benefit is necessary to win forbearance. It is a basic concept that is lost on Netanyahu and his lapdogs in the US Congress.

    March 24, 2015

  • Beiruti

    Israel prefers Hezbollah and the Assad Regime on its northern borders because both are agents of and controlled by Iran, a state that Israel, at the end of the day trusts more than it does the alternative. The main fear Israel has of the pending nuclear accommodation that the P5+1 is about to reach with Iran is not that Iran will one day get the bomb and thus affect Israeli security in that way. But the real fear is Israeli isolation in the region; isolated from regional states and isolated from its main protector, the United States. Israel, of late, has been doing nothing to counter its fear of isolation from the US, in fact, Netanyahu has seemingly gone out of his way to cause Israel to become alienated from the US and the US alienated from Israel. It is a poor strategy that does not serve Israel well at all. Iran, if it comes in from the cold and becomes a partner in an international consortium to control its nuclear program, gets everything it wants. It is out from the cold and it has posed itself as a strategic alternative to Israel, not militarily, but diplomatically, politically and economically. It is a much broader field of operation on which to isolate Israel. Netanyahu is delivering Israel to this Iranian strategy by his paranoia and the tunnel vision that it has created.

    March 24, 2015