Nour Samaha on the prospects of another War between Israel and Hezbollah

Nour Samaha​ has another excellent piece in Al-Monitor about the possibility of another Lebanon-Israel war. A few points:

1) We should all dispense with calling this next war the “Third” one. It is not. In just the last 40 years, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1978, 1982 and 2006 (in 1992, 1993 and 1996 Israel and Hezbollah specifically went to a major confrontation but Israel was already in a longstanding occupation of a large part of Lebanon). This next war will also very likely (as Nour points out) involve Israeli territory directly. We should just say: another war between Israel and Lebanon.

2) Nour writes: “…According to sources familiar with Hezbollah, “A wider front will force Israel to spread out thinner, so now having the front expanded from Naqoura on the sea all the way to the end of the Golan Heights will prove to be more difficult for Israel in the event of a war.”

— This is a key point Nour raises about precisely why Hezbollah-Iran’s presence in southern syria is such an “existential” line for Israel.

3) Nour writes: “…Nor is Israel prepared to fight a war in which it cannot guarantee a total achievement of its goals. While it does have the capability of causing severe damage to Lebanon, it still cannot guarantee neutralizing Hezbollah. Israel also knows Hezbollah’s missiles have the potential to cause serious damage to both Israeli infrastructure and the security of its population…”

— I disagree with these key points. First, Israel is likely viewing the next war in its own “mowing the grass” framework, though at a much larger scale. In other words, who says “victory” or “total achievement” is going to be the Israeli objective as it was in past encounters? Ruin Lebanon. Make it a mess for Hezbollah and Lebanese and have them waste years picking up the pieces and fighting against each other for “causing” the vast destruction. In this view – right or wrong – the expectation is that Hezbollah will be hamstrung for quite sometime and it will get the appropriate “haircut,” all of which is a fine outcome from the Israeli perspective. Second, the danger is precisely that the Israelis do NOT believe the next war will cause them great damage anymore. And either way, the political damage is now greatly limited since the hawks can go to a cleansing war arguing they thought the missile defense was going to be great.

4) Nour writes: “…As one Hezbollah fighter told Al-Monitor, “While Israel may have the key to open the door for a war, it does not have the ability to close that door again when it chooses, and therefore won’t take the risk.”

— I disagree here with this expectation. Israel can just stop bombing the hell out of Lebanon at a point where Hezbollah and Lebanon has clearly “had enough.” Or at least I think this is the expectation. With the Dahiye Doctrine, the expectation may not be totally wrong.

Be all that as it may, I do believe that a climactic war involving these actors (and probably more) will very likely lead to another failed state on the Med i.e. Lebanon… and quite possibly, in Israel, a state which will be so deeply wounded – and not just in terms of the physical destruction – that its future will also be in question as perhaps it has not been since the 1973 war.

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