Analysis: Lebanese rules of war

The similarities between Gaza now and 18 years in Lebanon are frightening.

iaf smoke lebanon 298 ap (photo credit: AP [file])
iaf smoke lebanon 298 ap
(photo credit: AP [file])
The events of the last few weeks in and around Gaza - the rocket fire on Sderot, the roadside explosions, the Israeli air raids, the "collateral damage," the capture of an IDF soldier, the captors' psychological warfare - all lead to one sinking, unmistakable feeling: Lebanon is here. The similarities between what is happening now in Gaza, less than a year after disengagement, and what happened for some 18 years in Lebanon are frightening. Yet it should come as no surprise - Hamas learned well from Hizbullah. If the Palestinians from Gaza shoot rockets on Israel as though they were in Lebanon, if they plant roadside bombs as though they were in Lebanon, if they attack IDF outposts and kidnap soldiers as though they were in Lebanon, then they should not be too surprised when Israel treats the Palestinian Authority like Lebanon and acts accordingly. Which is what the IDF did Wednesday by driving into Gaza, knocking out electricity and knocking down three bridges. Hizbullah has thousands of rockets along the border with Israel, its military outposts are directly on the border facing IDF outposts, yet since Israel's withdrawal from Lebanon six years ago a tense quiet has reigned in the north. It's not as if Hizbullah is uninterested in making our lives miserable, but rather that Israel has simply - through military action and clear diplomatic messages over the last six years - made it clear that, if Israel gets hit by Hizbullah, Lebanon and the Lebanese will pay the price. Now that Hizbullah is part of the Lebanese political process, this is not a price the organization/political party wants to pay, because it is concerned that if the Lebanese suffer Hizbullah will be blamed. The result, if not exactly Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) - the doctrine that governed Russian-US relations during the Cold War - is what could be called a Balance of Mutual Threats. Hizbullah doesn't attack Israel, or at least not much, because they know Israel can wreak devastation on southern Lebanon and that the Lebanese will then hold Hizbullah accountable. Israel's activities in Gaza Wednesday seem designed to create a similar situation in Gaza. But there may be one big difference. Whereas Hizbullah is concerned that a devastating IDF blow in Lebanon could hurt its political standing, and the terror organization has as a result restrained itself, this may not be the case in Gaza. It is not at all clear whether Israeli military action in Gaza hurts Hamas politically. In what to Israeli eyes seems like the logic-defying reality that is Gaza, it is not at all clear whether blowing up bridges and knocking out electricity in Gaza weakens public support for Hamas, or - paradoxically - whether it might in fact strengthen it. Furthermore, it is not even clear that Hamas doesn't want some IDF action to further its victimization narrative in the world. Already some in the world are asking whether the capture of one Israeli soldier merits the type of military action we saw Wednesday. Besides, some are whispering, what about the 10,000 Palestinians prisoners held by Israel? Before disengagement from Gaza, there were some dreamers who said that if everybody just played their cards right, Gaza could someday turn into the Hong Kong of the Middle East. Wrong. Try Lebanon, only more so.