An old sardonic joke about the Arab-Israeli conflict suggests that if the Arabs truly wanted to destroy Israel, they should just leave it alone, as the Jews would end up destroying it themselves.
According to a Reuters report on Wednesday, Israel’s enemies may be considering that option – at least temporarily.
The headline to the article, datelined “Dubai,” reads: “Israel’s enemies see opportunity in its crisis.” The report states that a senior commander from Iran’s Quds Force, two Iranian security officials, and officials from Hamas met for a three-hour meeting to discuss the crisis in Israel and how they could benefit from it.
“After concluding that the crisis had already weakened Israel, they agreed they should refrain from any ‘direct interference,’ believing this could give Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the chance to shift blame to foreign adversaries,” the report read.
In other words, these sworn enemies of Israel are saying, “Let’s leave Israel alone for a while and let the country weaken itself. Let’s not do anything to provoke an Israeli military response because that is the type of thing that could unite the country and divert its attention from the judicial reform debate.”
Indeed, this is what happened earlier this year when Israel launched Operation Arrow and Shield in Gaza and Operation Home and Garden in Jenin.
During those brief campaigns, the country rallied around the IDF, and the whole judicial overhaul issue briefly fell off the headlines, even though the weekly Saturday night protests did continue.
This tactic of holding back from “direct interference” may contradict the exuberant voices among Israel’s enemies, especially from figures like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
On Tuesday, for instance, Nasrallah said, “Israel was once thought of as a regional power that can’t be beaten, and regional countries accepted its threat as a fact that can’t be removed... its trust, awareness, and self-confidence have deteriorated into the crisis it is experiencing today. This day, in particular [Monday], is the worst day in the history of the entity, as some of its people say. This is what puts it on the path to collapse, fragmentation, and disappearance, God willing.”
This, however, sounds like empty crowing, the type of propaganda the country is accustomed to hearing from Nasrallah in his long campaign of psychological warfare against Israel. If, however, his Iranian paymasters are saying that the better strategy to adopt now against Israel is to refrain from direct interference, then that is the policy he will surely embrace.
Nasrallah’s speech this week echoed his famous “spiderweb” speech in May 2000 in Bint Jbeil, just days after then-prime minister Ehud Barak withdrew Israeli forces from Lebanon.
“Our brothers and beloved Palestinians, I tell you: Israel, which owns nuclear weapons and the strongest war aircraft in the region, is feebler than a spider’s web – I swear to God,” he said. “The resistance has defeated the grand Israel. The resistance is conquering the great Israel.”
After the Lebanon withdrawal, Nasrallah was brimming with a sense of triumph and held a straightforward belief: Israel’s strength was as delicate and fragile as a spiderweb. He, along with the Palestinians and the Arab world, just needed to blow on it, and Israel would vanish.
Yasser Arafat acted on this advice four months later when the Camp David talks faltered, leaving him unsatisfied with the outcome. As a result, he launched a prolonged terrorist war against Israel known as the Second Intifada.
Arafat blew with all his might, but the spiderweb did not crumble. This resilient country did not buckle; its people lost neither their will to fight back nor their willingness to sacrifice, and they did not lose faith in the overall justice of their cause.
In 2006, Nasrallah himself attempted to blow on the spiderweb as Hezbollah kidnapped reservists Eldad Goldwasser and Ehud Regev. This action triggered the Second Lebanon War. Although Israel’s performance in that war was not as impressive as some had hoped, and despite certain shortcomings, Hezbollah was pounded, and the Lebanese border remained relatively calm.
Hezbollah provokes Israel because it senses weakness
In recent months Nasrallah has taken some provocative action, apparently thinking that with Israel weak and divided, now is the time to act. Hence the infiltration of a terrorist from Lebanon in March who set off a roadside bomb at the Meggido junction, the firing of rockets from south Lebanon into Israel, the placement of tents across the Blue Line, and various small acts of provocation along the border.
If the Reuters report holds true, however, then Iran does not want to see Hezbollah push too far or too hard.
Interestingly, there is a substantive difference between Nasrallah’s spiderweb speech and the recent reports about terror leaders discussing Israel’s crisis.
In May 2000, Nasrallah’s message was that Israel was fragile and that what was needed was simply to blow on the Jewish state, and it would disappear. The message that emerged from some of Israel’s enemies this week was the same but different: yes, Israel is weak, but don’t blow on it now because if you do, the country will rally around the web to ensure it does not disappear. But if you don’t blow on the web, it may just dissolve on its own.