Israel-Lebanon tension may trigger the ‘third’ Lebanon war

Adnan Abu Amer 

Middle East Monitor  /  July 19, 2023

Security tension continues to increase along the Lebanese-Israeli border, with the level of provocations increasing with every passing day, in light of Israeli expectations that Hezbollah wants to preserve its image as a fighting organization and maintain the image of “Israeli weakness”. This opens the door to more questions and answers about what is happening in this sensitive border area.

The Lebanese border is witnessing more sequences of events recently, as dozens of Lebanese citizens approached the border line, and were pushed away by means of dispersing demonstrations. This issue has become part of the resistance actions that the party has recently promoted, actions that are supposed to be below the level of war for it but, at the same time, contributes to the internal Lebanese policy. This raises questions about the background of all the recent events taking place on the Lebanese borders, and the party’s insistence on not evacuating its tents that it set up at the borders.

Israeli circles believe that, after resolving the problem of the maritime border line, the party is looking for points of friction with Israel that will preserve the concept of resistance and its image as a fighting organization. Today, there are 13 border checkpoints that are disputed between them, the most famous of which are the Shebaa Farms and the Ghajar Farms. A year ago, a fence was erected allowing the village to be opened to the Israelis, and the party did nothing, but now it chose to respond. The question about the reason for the party’s increased desire to escalate the situation and fan the flames recently is now legitimate.

It is true that the Israeli estimates confirm that the party still does not want to ignite a war in the area, but it has become more daring, because it believes that its room for manoeuvre has increased, so it is doing more things that it considers below the level of war.

The Israeli conclusion is that there is a debate about whether it is right to use force to move the tents, but it seems that there are more urgent matters to deal with and, therefore, there is an attempt to exhaust the diplomatic method. From the point of view of the occupation, it may be more appropriate to launch a military campaign against Lebanon, claiming to target the production of precision missiles that the party is trying to manufacture in Lebanon, although if the occupation army chooses to make a move, it will not be because of these tents.

At the same time, the party may choose a ladder to descend from the tall tree it climbed up and achieve an achievement in the Lebanese arena. If this does not happen, there are those in Israel who believe that a limited conflict over the tents is an opportunity to reshape the rules of the game, which began with the Megiddo attack, followed by the Karish field and firing rockets from southern Lebanon.

This escalating tension coincides with the passage of 17 years since the outbreak of the Second Lebanon War between the party and Israel during these days in 2006, which drew attention to the fact that they are preparing for the next northern war. The party increased its elite forces and shooting accuracy, and the occupation army reduced the party’s steps and increased its targets. The prevalent conviction is that the flames on the border are high and that any misunderstanding may lead to an armed conflict which no one knows how will end.

At the same time, Israeli society appears weaker than ever, as the army is making serious mistakes that are in the interest of the party, and Israel is now at the closest point to the party’s claims that it is like a “spider web” and against this worrying background. The army is taking measures that express weakness in the party’s eyes, and this is a bad picture, and a slippery and dangerous reality from the Israelis’ point of view.

The coincidence of this anniversary with the climax of Israeli tension with the party over setting up its tents is an embarrassment for the Israeli government and army because, despite their daily preoccupation with these issues, such as the provocations that took place today at the border fence area, during which the army was forced to use non-lethal measures, the real threat looks completely different.

At the same time, the passage of the 17th anniversary of the Second Lebanon War witnessed the party’s success in intensifying its special forces known as the Radwan Force in dozens of settlement sites along the border line in a manner that allows for a rapid infiltration into the occupation’s settlements and their seizure, albeit temporarily.

The party has also increased the pace of building its military sites near the borders, under the guise of environmental organizations. In addition to this, the party has improved its firing capabilities in terms of range, scope and lethality, and the most dangerous of all is the accuracy that allows damage to strategic facilities, vital infrastructure and symbols of the Israeli government.

Seventeen years later, the party has improved its air defence system with the help of Iran and Syria, and the range of drones that not only collect intelligence, but attack. According to Israeli predictions, the party is ready, in the event of a war, to launch 4,000 missiles per day during the first stage. Then, its rate decreases according to the attacks of the Israeli Air Force, which confirms that in 2023, the party is stronger and larger than it was in 2006.

Although, since the 2006 war, the occupation has succeeded in postponing another war, and its steps have strengthened the deterrence force that prevented the party from retaliating for the series of assassinations and attacks against it, including the liquidation of Imad Mughniyeh, it did not prevent the strengthening of the party. This party received many strikes on a large and accurate scale during the service of former Chief of Staff, Aviv Kochavi, and Air Force Commander, Amikam Norkin. The army also built a target bank that includes 8,000 targets, making it capable of quickly damaging the party’s capabilities, and causing massive destruction to its military facilities.

On the other hand, the size and extent of the fire that the party will unleash on the Israeli home front will leave the political class no choice but, from day one, to order the deployment of regular and reserve ground forces into the heart of Lebanon in order to control many of the launching areas, because there has always been friction on the borders, but one mistake on either side, coupled with a misunderstanding from the other side, will lead to a conflict that everyone knows how it will start, but no one will know how it will end.

Adnan Abu Amer is the head of the Political Science Department at the University of the Ummah in Gaza