Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant yesterday warned Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah that the terror organization's actions were leading to war. Although he stressed that the day Beirut is attacked, he will know that Hezbollah has crossed the threshold of conflict, he did not define what that threshold actually is.
The anti-tank missile fired today by Hezbollah at Moshav Dovev, which injured six Israel Electric Corp. workers, one of them critically and five severely and a barrage of some 15 rockets later this afternoon has been the most severe escalation along the northern border in recent years. The question now is whether Israel will make do with ongoing exchanges of fire with Hezbollah, or will embark on an all-out war.
Orna Mizrahi, a senior researcher at Tel Aviv University's Institute for National Security Studies (INSS), who has previously served as deputy national security advisor for foreign policy and led strategic planning on regional and international policy on behalf of the National Security Council for the Prime Minister and Israeli security cabinet, tells "Globes" about the aims of Nasrallah, how much Israel will be prepared to take and whether UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon) remains a relevant force.
Are exchanges of fire at the current level what Nasrallah wants?
"Nasrallah is seeking the current threshold of conflict, because he has to prove to the Palestinians and Iranians that he is working against Israel," she says. He doesn't want to get to a full-scale war but he does want to prove that he didn't side on the sidelines. Nasrallah wants to remain beneath the threshold but might unintentionally find himself in a war. We need to think about responses that are proportional."
It could be that Israel will take the initiative
"Israel needs to be less reactive and more proactive but can still do so in a measured way that does not lead to war. There is a range within which we can conduct ourselves. Today we have still not lost the ability to use the word 'deterrence.' Hezbollah needs to remain deterred in order to create a new reality for the residents of the north. If we are talking about a year of war with Gaza, then it is unreasonable that we will also have a year with Hezbollah. Nasrallah likes to lead an equation in which the IDF reacts and does not initiate."
How much can Israel take? Gallant left the threshold unclear
"Creating ambiguity is good, but the leadership has to do it. We must not continue to play by Nasrallah's rules of the game. We must play by our own rules that keep Hezbollah away from the border and create a new reality, and even before the war in Gaza is over. It is right to initially focus on Gaza, but the border has heated up, and there is a mini-war is being waged with Hezbollah. It would have been better if we didn't operate according to Nasrallah's rules, so that we would be more in control of the events."
"UNIFIL has failed to achieve its main target"
UN Security Council Resolution 1701 was passed in 2006 at the end of the Second Lebanon War. According to Resolution 1701, Hezbollah's forces are supposed to remain at a distance from the Israeli border across the Litani River and UNIFIL is supposed to monitor this. In practice, the principles of the Resolution are no longer relevant in the field."
Is Resolution 1701 still relevant?
"The meaning of Resolution 1701 is UNIFIL. Do we need UNIFIL? UNIFIL has certain advantages during normal times by conveying messages between the two sides but it has failed to achieve its main target of maintaining the situation set by the resolution, which is that Hezbollah must remain on the other side of the Litani. I would not cancel Resolution 1701 but amend it and create a new resolution in which UNIFIL has more teeth."
Regarding UNIFIL, Mizrahi says, "According to its mandate, which was even improved two years ago, it can enter villages, make inspections, interventions, turn up, separate, and check the presence of Hezbollah in all kinds of places. But it doesn't do this. It refrains from entering Hezbollah's Shi'ite villages, and allows the presence of Hezbollah personnel. An international force does not want to enter into a military conflict, but to monitor: 'It is a force for peace and not war.' This makes them irrelevant to the main task of pushing Hezbollah away from the border."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 12, 2023.
© Copyright of Globes Publisher Itonut (1983) Ltd., 2023.