On June 6, 1982, Israel launched the First Lebanon War in response to the
assassination attempt against ambassador to the United Kingdom Shlomo
Israel is not about to go to war over the bombing of a diplomatic
car in New Delhi and an attempted bombing in Tbilisi. But, if Iran and Hezbollah
continue their efforts and succeed in perpetrating a large attack producing
greater casualties and devastation, the government will have a difficult time
holding itself back.
On the other hand, while Israel will likely not
respond militarily this time, it will have to consider the implication of
ignoring the attacks and what that will do to the deterrence it has tried to
create vis-à-vis Hezbollah following the Second Lebanon War in
Since the assassination of Hezbollah’s military commander Imad
Mughniyeh in Damascus in 2008, Israel has known that it was just a matter of
time before it would be attacked overseas.
The attacks carried out on
Monday were, however, against low-level embassy employees. The one in Tbilisi
was against a local employee who is not an Israeli, and the one in New Delhi
targeted the wife of the Defense Ministry representative.
This could mean
that Hezbollah is having an extremely difficult time in its efforts to attack
quality Israeli targets. It could also mean that it is intentionally targeting
low-level officials in order to send Israel a message while at the same time not
giving it an excuse to launch a counter- offensive, possibly against the group’s
infrastructure in Lebanon.
There is, however, concern within the defense
establishment that Hezbollah’s growing frustration with its failure to succeed
in perpetrating an attack – previous plots have been foiled in Thailand,
Azerbaijan and Turkey – could lead the group to escalate its activities and
perhaps launch an attack on a larger scale.
Until Monday, a debate had
been raging within the Israeli defense establishment on what the appropriate
response should be to an overseas attack.
Hezbollah is understood to
prefer such an attack – against an embassy, an El Al plane or a consulate –
rather than one along the northern border since this would allow it a level of
There are officials within the defense establishment who
believe that such an attack needs to be met by a fierce response.
Just last month, IDF Chief
of Staff Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz warned Hezbollah not to test Israel’s resolve by
perpetrating a terror attack against an Israeli target overseas. If
Israel does not respond, it could be perceived as a paper tiger.
officials believe Israel should not go to war over just any attack, and the
country’s reaction would need to depend on the chosen target and of course the
outcome, i.e. the number of casualties.
However valuable Mughniyeh was to
Hezbollah, the defense establishment believes there are other motives behind the
Lebanese group’s desire to attack Israel somewhere overseas.
One of the
motives is understood to be part of Iranian efforts to deter the West from
launching a military strike against its nuclear facilities by showing the world
that its proxy – Hezbollah – can strike anywhere it wants, even as far away as
Georgia and India.
This is meant to show the United States, Israel and
Europe that retaliation to a strike against Iran will be painful for everyone
and will not simply be the launching of rockets and missiles by Hezbollah and
Hamas into the Israeli home front.