The Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security

Prof. Efraim Inbar: Hezbollah does not have the appetite right now for starting a war.

Israel Hayom 29.07.2020

By Rachel Avraham 

The IDF on Monday thwarted a terrorist attack by Hezbollah on the Israel-Lebanon border. This incident was an apparent retaliation by the Shiite terrorist group after one of its operatives was killed in an alleged Israeli strike in Syria last week.  The question remains, will there be another war with Lebanon in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic?

Prominent Middle East scholar Ephraim Inbar believes that war is definitely a possibility, although it is a small one: “Lebanon is in a domestic crisis. People are demonstrating against the government. I do not think that they have the appetite right now for starting a war.” Former Israel Consul General Dr. Yitzchak Ben Gad concurred: “Nasrallah knows that the situation in Lebanon is so terrible that he does not need further trouble now.”

According to Ben Gad, “The Lebanese are in big financial trouble. Sixty percent are unemployed.  The banks did not release the money.  The value of the dinar dropped terribly now.  Most of the day, most of the hours of the day, the Lebanese got no electricity in their homes.  Beirut was the Paris of the Middle East and now, there is no tourism because of the corona.  There is not enough bread and meat.  Now, they will have the Feast of the Sacrifice in the in the Muslim world, but there is not enough rich people that can afford to celebrate this holiday as it should be.  Most people in Lebanon live under the poverty line.”

Mendi Safadi, who heads the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights, agreed with Ben Gad: “The Land of the Cedars has never been as hostile to Hezbollah as it is today. This is due to the excessive corruption in all government institutions, the fact that Lebanese citizens are angry that the flights coming from Iran did not stop even though Iran is the largest source of contagion in the Middle East, Nasrallah insisting on trading with Iran, the economic sanctions causing the Lebanese currency to plunge, etc.  All of this brought Lebanon to the brink of starvation, leaving Hezbollah to face sharp domestic hostility and a gigantic drop-in support.”

Ben Gad claims this is what has caused daily demonstrations against the Lebanese government, but Hezbollah, Nasrallah and Iran cannot do anything to quell this internal dissent: “Iran has big troubles because of the sanctions.   More than that, Saudi Arabia is against Hezbollah and Iran.  There are not many countries that will help Hezbollah for they considered a terror organization and a proxy of Iran.”  According to Safadi, Hezbollah presently is not able to have any war with Israel, like they were in 2006: “He is unable to lead even the Shiite community that he belongs to.  Any significant military action could completely topple the Iranian base within the country.”

However, Inbar does not think that domestic discontent will lead to Hezbollah getting toppled from the country, even if the people are fed up with Hezbollah: “They are too deeply entrenched.  They have taken over all organs of the government and military. ”  However, prominent Middle East scholar Dr. Mordechai Kedar believes that just because there is domestic discontent now, this might prompt Hezbollah to seek an escalation with Israel, as Middle Eastern dictatorships typically seek to scapegoat the Jewish state so that the population won’t focus on their domestic woes: “It is as logical as the contrary.  You cannot overrule anything.”

Although it is impossible to predict anything at this point, it does appear that Nasrallah seeks to keep his promise and will retaliate against Israel for the loss of his terrorist.  However, he will likely try to confine this to being a minor border skirmish and will not seek to escalate the situation too much. Whether or not Hezbollah will succeed in that is another question.  Nevertheless, Hezbollah will be held accountable for any hostile action against the Jewish state, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu emphasized.

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