Robert Fisk on renewed fears that Israel and Lebanon may be at war again soon.
The insanity of such a move is undoubted – both sides, Hizbollah and Israel, have been threatening the other – but it’s clear that Israel is determined to avenge its disastrous 2006 adventure against Lebanon:
Of course, the gentle countryside is an illusion. Benjamin Netanyahu and his colleagues in the Israeli government have been announcing that the only “army” of Lebanon is the Hizbollah, the Iranian-armed and Syrian-assisted guerrilla force whose bunkers and missiles north of the Litani river might just tip the balance in the next Hizbollah-Israeli war. And Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, the chairman of the Hizbollah, has been making some even more interesting threats: that his forces will “change the face of the Middle East region” if there is another war with Israel. No-one is in much doubt about what this means. The newly resurfaced Lebanese roads near the border – courtesy of Hizbollah money – suggest that someone might want to move men at high speed towards the frontier. Perhaps even to cross the border.
That’s what the Israelis suspect, too – and it makes sense of Nasrallah’s warning last week. The Hizbollah claimed that the 2006 war with Israel was a “divine victory” – it didn’t feel that way to us in southern Lebanon at the time – yet even Israel admits it was a near-defeat for its own ill-trained soldiers. But how would Israel react if the Hizbollah managed to enter Israel itself? Israeli army commanders are talking about this in the Israeli press. A fast, dramatic spring across the frontier to the west – in the direction of Naharia, perhaps, or a grab at the settlement of Kiryat Shmona – and Hizbollah would announce it had “liberated” part of historic “Palestine”. Israel would have to bomb its own territory to get them out.
You can see the way everyone is thinking. And here’s the big question, the camel in the room. If Israel ignores Obama and attacks Iran’s nuclear sites – a real aggression if ever there could be – the Hizbollah could fire rockets into Israel, perhaps even revealing its new anti-aircraft missile capacity. Hamas might join in from Gaza. Hamas is a tin-pot outfit; the Hizbollah is not. An Israeli attack on Iran will unleash Iranian military power against America. But part of that power is Hizbollah in Lebanon. This is serious business.