ISSN 2330-717X

Hezbollah’s potent ‘verbal bomb’

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By Mohyeddin Sajedi

Secretary General of the Lebanese resistance movement of Hezbollah, Seyyed Hassan Nasrallah detonated a potent political bomb by asking his group’s members to capture al-Jalil (Galilee) region in the event of any Israeli attack on Lebanon.

“I say to the fighters of the Islamic Resistance: be ready. If a new war is imposed on Lebanon we may ask you to take Galilee, to free Galilee,” he said.

Flag of Hezbollah
Flag of Hezbollah

His speech served as a response to recent remarks by Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak. While visiting Lebanon’s border with Israel, he told Israeli soldiers “[…] you may be called to enter again […] we must be prepared for every test.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded promptly to Nasrallah, saying, “Nasrallah announced today that he can occupy the Galilee, but I have news for you, he can’t…Anyone who hides in a bunker will stay in a bunker.”

Although, the premier has tried to respond to Narallah with confidence and in a derogatory tone and assure the public opinion inside Israel, the Hezbollah leader’s response has caused concerns for some in Israel.

During the 33-Day War, Nasrallah lived up to his every promise and avoided rhetoric about goals not within his power to achieve. This caused the Israelis to believe that his remarks do not serve as psychological or military bluff. His famous slogan of “Haifa and after Haifa” materialized in the form of Hezbollah’s missile attack on the city.

In 1992, ten years after Israel attacked Lebanon and advanced as far as Beirut, Tel Aviv’s political leaders mocked the remarks by Hezbollah’s leaders pointing to Israel’s defeat. The Israelis were, however, forced to accept defeat in 2000 and forever abandoned any designs on permanently occupying a part of Lebanon.

Six years later, when Israel entered into another war with Lebanon to restore its military prestige and grandeur, the Israelis again mocked Nasrallah’s remarks – vowing to crush the resistance movement in the very first days. It took Tel Aviv a month to suffer its biggest military defeat.

For many, there was no doubt that Israel would enter into another war with Lebanon to retaliate the defeat and restore its ‘power of deterrence.’ Dates even came up setting the time or the commencement of the war. Israel was awaiting the findings of the international tribunal investigating the assassination of Lebanon’s former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Official Israeli sources have announced since last year that the court would hold Hezbollah responsible for the assassination. Weakening of Hezbollah and pushing Lebanon into a civil war would make for a golden opportunity for Israel to attack the country.

After the 2006 war, Hezbollah managed to match Israel’s threats with those of its own. The secretary general repeatedly said Lebanon would return Israel’s potential attack on Beirut Rafiq Hariri International Airport with targeting the Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv and hit Tel Aviv [itself], should Israel assault the houses in the Lebanese capital’s southern suburb: An eye for an eye.

Now, Hezbollah has expanded this warning, saying any Israeli military advancement would be met with advancement of the movement’s fighters into the northern parts of occupied Palestine.

During the 2006 war, Hezbollah fired its missiles deep into Israel and caused much damage. The fighters fought the Israelis inside Lebanon, killing some, destroying some tanks and even managing to drown an Israeli frigate in the southern Lebanese coast. Unconfirmed reports even suggested that some of Hezbollah’s units had entered into northern Israel.

Ground incursion is different from guerilla warfare and is in need of aerial and armored support. This is a classic formula. This probably the reason why Netanyahu says Hezbollah would never attack Israel. Nasrallah’s audience, however, are accustomed to not hearing idle talk from him.

Another issue is that the Tunisian, and more importantly, the Egyptian revolutions have created a new situation in the region, which has caused Israel to seriously pause before launching any wholesale or limited war in Lebanon and Gaza.

In 1982, Israel attacked Lebanon after signing the Camp David Accords with Cairo. The agreements turned Egypt into the Arab alliance’s black sheep, creating disunity and confusion among the Arab states and convinced them not to launch a war on Israel without Cairo’s cooperation.

In 2006, Israel enjoyed Arab backing in its attacks on Lebanon and Jordan, with Egypt and Saudi Arabia laying the blame on Tal Aviv’s opponent, namely Hezbollah.

This Arab axis has now lost its balance. Meanwhile, the United States and Europe are distracted by developments of another nature in the Middle East.

Jordanian Justice Minister Hussein Mjali’s calls for the freedom of the Jordanian soldier, who killed seven Israeli troops in the border area in 1997, prevents Amman from resting assured that Israel would not take any military action.

The Hariri tribunal has lost its practical sense. Until one month ago, an atmosphere of angst dominated Lebanon and the people feared that the court’s verdicts could push their country into the abyss of civil war.

The concerns, though, have now disappeared. Even if the court accuses Hezbollah’s secretary general of being the main element behind the assassination, nothing would change.

Furthermore, neither anyone in Lebanon nor any government in the Middle East would undertake steps to back up the allegation.

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