(photo credit: Bilal Hussein/AP)
In January 2006, after Hamas won general elections in the Palestinian Authority,
Israeli intelligence officials spoke of a jealous Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah who
was watching Ismail Haniyeh become prime minister as he continued moving among
his different hideouts in Beirut as the head of a so-called guerrilla
Following Tuesday’s announcement that Hizbullah confidant
Najib Mikati would form the next Lebanese government, there is no question that
Nasrallah is no longer the jealous one. Haniyeh is confined to the Gaza Strip,
where he is busy trying to solidify his regime in the wake of Operation Cast
Lead and continued diplomatic isolation. Nasrallah, on the other hand, got to
play kingmaker in Lebanon on Tuesday.
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For Israel, this is a troubling
development and an example of how Iran is tightening its grip on Lebanon. It
also demonstrates the continued formation of a Shi’ite crescent which begins in
Iran, continues to Syria and ends in Lebanon.
A government led by
Hizbullah will likely remove any prospect of a future normalization of ties with
Israel and make even basic moves like the implementation of an Israeli
withdrawal from the split town of Ghajar more difficult.
On the other
hand, Hizbullah’s effective takeover of Lebanon also creates a window of
opportunity for Israel and could actually bolster its deterrence and force
Hizbullah to be more restrained.
From a military perspective, a Lebanon
controlled by Hizbullah potentially changes the bank of targets Israel will have
at its disposal in the event of a future war with the guerrilla group.
the Second Lebanon War in the summer of 2006, Israel, for the most part,
refrained from bombing Lebanese national infrastructure, as well as government
and Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) targets. Israel was willing to make the
distinction in 2006, since it understood that Lebanon as a country was being
held hostage by Hizbullah the guerrilla group.
This changed slightly
after the war when Hizbullah entered the government, but on Tuesday it went a
A future war with Hizbullah – either as a result of an
Israeli attack on Iran, or unrelated – would be met by a different Israeli
military response, one that could really set Lebanon back by several decades
this time, as chief of General Staff Lt.- Gen. (res.) Dan Halutz threatened
after reservists Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser were kidnapped on July 12,
Hizbullah’s position in the government will restrain the guerrilla
group. Now that it is not only part of the government, but basically the
official leader of Lebanon with a prime minister in Nasrallah’s pocket,
Hizbullah will have to think twice before launching an attack against Israel –
one that would bring devastating consequences to the Land of Cedars.