Despite fiery speeches by HizbAllah chairman Hassan Nasrallah, Egypt’s FM Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Lebanon is engulfed in a “complete panic”, due to a perceived possibility of a war with Israel:
The panic was spurred by the recent reports that Syria has delivered Scud missiles to Hezbollah. But senior diplomats have told Haaretz that Western intelligence agencies, including those of the United States, have been unable to independently confirm that such missiles have been sent to the Shi’ite group. In recent months, Israel has used diplomatic channels via the United States and European Union to relay warnings that Syria was transferring advanced weapons systems to Hezbollah. (Haaretz)
CERTAINLY, THE LEBANESE’S sense of emergency is exploited by Nasrallah and his minions for own political purposes. While Israel did not declare any intention to attack, and officials’ speeches were far less aggressive than those of Nasrallah, the latter uses Israel’s warning as pretext to arm his group with as advanced arms as possible. Words of praise for his fighters and their skill in fighting the IDF seem to do little to calm the ordinary people of Lebanon. Anyone but most ideology-driven activists understand that in another conflict between Israel and Lebanon the former – rather than latter – will come out victorious.
While the Israelis would certainly suffer casualties, those would be far lower than of their Lebanese adversaries, due to better training and equipment of the armed forces, and thanks to advanced protective civilian infrastructure built by the Defense Ministry and the IDF. In 2006, despite constant shelling by Nasrallah’s men, less than 60 Israeli civilians died (including several Israeli Palestinians) thanks to shelters built specifically for such an occurrence. That is in stark contrast to hundreds of Lebanese citizens, trapped by HizbAllah thugs in their homes and villages, unable to escape, or having no fortified shelters to occupy. The people of Lebanon understand: provoking another conflict with the IDF is insanity. Sadly, it is not their call. In a surprisingly good article, Lebanese Daily Star offers an analysis of the events, from Lebanon’s perspective. While the authors believe Israel would attack and only waits for a suiting opportunity, the analysis is still quite sound:
In another view, if Syria has indeed smuggled Scuds to Hizbullah, it appears Damascus decided to raise the pressure in the region to draw US attention to the necessity of including Syria in the possible resumption of Palestinian-Israeli peace talks, Khashan said. But the ploy boomeranged when the US upped the stakes by calling into question all of Hizbullah’s rocket stockpile, said the AUB lecturer. “The Syrians want to create a controlled crisis because the US has not been forthcoming on peace between Syria and Israel,” Khashan said. “Their plans have backfired. The issue now has gone out of control. The US has now brought up the entire Hizbullah missile arsenal.”
Worsening the blowback, Syria might well find itself imperiled should a conflict erupt – if Hizbullah fires a Scud on Israel, blame would fall on Damascus, so Israel would be able to target Syria as well, Khashan added. … But if those peace talks collapse, Israel will move to eliminate the Scuds from near its northern border, Khashan said. He said he disagreed with the notion that a deterrent equation existed between Israel and Hizbullah; Israel was avoiding war with Hizbullah because the Israeli state was happy with the status quo, he added. “Israel does not want a confrontation with Lebanon,” Khashan said. “Israel has achieved its objectives: They have the water, they have the security and they have a demilitarized border.” (Daily Star)
The major upside of this article is that, unlike most other Arab media, it analyses the situation based on dry facts, which is quite uncommon in the Middle Eastern press, which usually mixes facts with ideology. While this author does not believe Israel would be the one to fire the first shot, it is certain the Jewish state would respond swiftly – and thus, not necessarily correctly – to an armed attack coming from Nasrallah’s men. Still, despite the militant rhetoric from both states, it is Lebanese civilians who would suffer most. They will not see the Lebanon Armed Forces protecting them, as some evidence suggests the LAF either turns a blind eye towards HizbAllah’s armament or actively cooperates with Nasrallah’s men.
Even less the Lebanese can count on the UNIFIL, which has no mandate to use arms and would likely disband itself the moment the fighting would begin. In any case, the best Lebanon’s civilians can count on is for the brave UN soldiers to lock themselves up in their bases and bunkers and wait the fight out. Ironically, while Nasrallah proclaims his intentions to protect the people of Lebanon, he is now their worst enemy. There is no doubt anyone from Bint Jbail to Beirut understand the threat of Israel and would like to see this rock off their shoulders. However, many also understand – and the Daily Star article attests to that – that Syria and it’s “Nasrallah subdivision” is the only one who by their own actions could bring the wrath of the IAF on them.