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Israel and Lebanon face a regional war impasse - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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There is a dangerous crisis brewing between Israel and Lebanon. For the Israelis, the crisis revolves around the International Tribunal and Hezbollah. Amidst the shock of the collapsed Lebanese government, Israel launched a unique set of statements, portraying the military power of Hezbollah as a mythical force, capable of threatening Israel. Yet this is the same country that proudly asserts it is capable of extending military control from Tel Aviv to the borders of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

This sudden consignment of Israeli statements claims that Hezbollah has rockets capable of striking Tel Aviv, and causing significant damage. The rockets would kill dozens or even hundreds of people. It would be impossible for civilians to evacuate, as the airports would be inoperative, and would have closed their doors. The statements go on to say that ‘they’ (without clarifying who the word ‘they’ refers to) have succeeded in bringing about a strategic balance, with strategic power, even without possessing a nuclear weapon. Of course, Israel here does not speak of the destructive power in its possession, the damage it could cause in the future, or the devastation it previously caused in Beirut, in 2006. The state has now intentionally concealed the aggressive statements it issued several months ago, which claimed that if a new war broke out between Israel and Hezbollah, Israel would hold “the state of Lebanon” accountable for this, and destruction would be directed towards the state of Lebanon as a whole. All talk about the military capacity of Israel has vanished, and instead there is only talk about the ability of others to harm it.

What the Israelis have forgotten, or declined to mention, is that there has been a global change in terms of arms and armament. This change happened not because of Hezbollah, but rather because of a global change in the type of armaments available. New missiles have necessitated that all armies around world adapt their strategies, and this has effectively nullified the previous theory of strategic security, which was in effect since the 1956 War, through to the Lebanese War in 2000. This security theory asserted that Israel’s wars against others always take place outside of Israeli borders. New missile technology has turned this equation on its head, and it can be claimed that future wars will in fact take place within the borders of Israel.

It is not true that Israel’s problem with Lebanon began with Hezbollah, or when the party obtained a particular kind of missiles. Previously, from 1950 to 1965 (before the emergence of the Palestinian commando operations), Lebanon, specifically its southern region, suffered full-scale Israeli attacks. This is well known and has been well documented in books and published studies, available to anyone. These attacks highlighted Israel’s aggression against Lebanon (driven by the greed for Lebanon’s water resources), at a time when the Israeli army was in strategic control of all areas surrounding Israel (Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Egypt). The current tension between Israel and Lebanon is, in fact, a continuation of Israel’s deep-rooted mentality, which is now presented to us under new titles like, for instance, the International Tribunal, the consequences of the Lebanese government’s resignation, and the dangers of Hezbollah’s rising political influence in the country. Yet, such grand titles seem to ignore the fact that Arab nations have a right to possess a modern military force to defend themselves.

Israel is now talking extensively about the Iranian nuclear threat, yet we are not certain whether there really is an Iranian nuclear danger. What we know so far is that Iran is seeking to possess nuclear knowledge, and is seeking to use this knowledge within an internationally approved peaceful framework (electricity, medicine, industry etc.) But the possession of such knowledge does not seem acceptable to Israel, as such information may develop into something else. Therefore we can now argue that Israel is waging a war against ‘knowledge’.

This war did not begin with Iran. In the 1960s, Israel was waging both an overt and covert war against Egypt. Citing self defense, Egypt sought to possess conventional missiles, the production of which required knowledge; and experts in both physics and chemistry. Israel waged a clandestine war on such attempts, and even resorted to direct killings, by sending parcel bombs to missile scientists in Egypt. These explosive parcels were being used in the region for the first time, and among those murdered were some German scientists, who had come to work in Egypt.

In the 1970s, Iraq was putting serious consideration into acquiring nuclear knowledge, and thus built a nuclear reactor. It also trained a group of Iraqi scientists, and the results dramatically altered the national state of affairs. Universities were built, medicines and medication were developed, and factory construction increased. However, Israel was unable to tolerate all of this and sent fighter jets to destroy the reactor. It was no coincidence that after the U.S. occupation was established there, Israel sent its spies to kill Iraqi scientists, thus killing knowledge at the same time.

In the 1980s, the al-Shifa pharmaceutical factories in Sudan were destroyed. The perpetrators believed that these factories were being used for something other than the production of medicinal drugs. So far, no one has been held accountable for this crime.

Now, what is happening with Iran is similar to what happened to Egypt, Iraq and Sudan. Israel is preparing to destroy Iran’s nuclear scientific knowledge whilst it is still in its infancy. It will do so by carrying out possible air raids on factories and research centers, assassinating scientists in the streets, and waging cyber warfare to cripple Iranian computers.

However, a dramatic change has also occurred in the regional landscape, and this has begun to worry Israel even more, causing its hostile disposition to come into view even further. Ever since Israel was founded, it had two strategic allies in the region: Iran and Turkey. Iran, as the State of the Shah, was an ally of the U.S. The American strategy was, and continues to be, to obtain full control of the Arab region, for oil purposes. Here, the U.S. entrusted both Iran and Israel as strategically dominant forces in the region; with Iran controlling the Gulf region, whilst Israel dominated the East. Such a strategy came to an end with the fall of the Shah regime in Iran.

As for Turkey, an ally of the US and a NATO member, it was also entrusted to enter into alliance with Israel, so they could act in a ‘pincer formation’ within the region. Turkey here served as Israel’s strategic geographic depth, providing training fields where Israeli forces could carry out aviation exercises on extremely vast areas of land. Yet, the Turkish-Israeli relationship ended when Turkey experienced internal changes. A new Turkish policy emerged, whereby Turkey considered itself part of the Arab and Islamic region, rather than simply an American guard in the Middle East. Thus Turkey distanced itself from the cloak of American policy.

Hence Israel became alone in the region, and now a situation has emerged in which every Israeli war could become a prospective regional one. The U.S. has also become heavily reliant on Israel, to the extent that the Americans cannot adopt an Arab policy, even if it is acceptable to the people of the region.

Bilal Hassen

Bilal Hassen is a renowned Palestinian writer and political analyst.

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