Israel and Hezbollah relations are beyond repair. It is inevitable that a conflict between the two will emerge. Neither side could claim victory in the inconclusive war of 2006, despite both professing themselves as the winner. Tensions have remained at boiling point since, and neither have been shy about directing threats at each other.
Naftali Bennett for example has promised that Israel will bomb Lebanon back to the Middle Ages if Hezbollah attacks; while Hassan Nasrallah has threatened to return any damage to Israel that the IDF would do to Hezbollah.
Clearly, any sudden movement could trigger a cataclysmic conflict.
In fact, this is what both have been preparing for. Various Israeli media reports reveal the IDF has bolstered its defence efforts. It has prepared for a mock war with Hezbollah in recent weeks. This shows they anticipate a conflict. Hezbollah on the other hand, have been relying on an increase in supply convoys through Syria, mostly for weapons.
Not only are venomous threats being unleashed from the two, they are seemingly acting on their words. It is therefore not a matter of ‘if’ a conflict breaks out, but ‘when’.
This time, a battle will not occur directly over Lebanon. Rather, it will emerge though Syria. After all, both sides are entangled in Syria’s devastating civil war, like many other forces in the region. Importantly, they both have opposite aims. Hezbollah has fought aggressively to protect Bashar al-Assad’s regime – in order to protect a key ally, and to ensure that the Lebanese border is safe. Israel on the other hand aims to topple the Syrian regime.
This would undoubtedly draw the Syrian regime into the conflict as well, against Israel. Israel has struck Syria numerous times, claiming to be targeting weapons convoys to Hezbollah. Yet the Syrian regime claims important infrastructure has been hit, as well as slamming the airstrikes as a violation of Syria’s sovereignty. Let’s not forget the Golan Heights too, which Assad has openly claimed he has his eyes on.
Of course, the prospect of such a conflict would have been unthinkable just a few years ago. Not only have both Hezbollah and Syria been preoccupied with the ongoing civil war, the latter especially has been crippled by it, facing numerous opposition forces – within its territory and from international actors.
Yet the tables have turned in due course, after the help of Russia and Iran. The Assad regime has had a profound morale boost, since the Russian air force has helped it regain much lost territory. While it still has limited control over the country, the Syrian government is in a much stronger position, and the army is still very powerful. Since Hezbollah has helped in these conflicts, many analysts believe it has gained invaluable battle experience.
This is vital to mention, as it means these consistent attacks from Israel would lead to a retaliation. After all, Assad has repeatedly threatened this, and has even suggested that once he wins in Syria, he can deal with Israel. He has also threatened to strike Israel himself if the airstrikes do not cease.
Then, once a conflict breaks out over Syria, Israel would target Hezbollah in Lebanon. This would draw the Lebanese army into the fray. President Michael Aoun, a Maronite Christian and Hezbollah ally, has cautioned Israel – saying if it attacks, there will be retaliation from Lebanon. Let’s not forget Iran either, who would surely provide support for their allies against their shared foe that is Israel.
Even though Israel has likely learn from its mistakes in the previous war, it would face a more significant opposition this time. If all the said factions continue to act on their own regional ambitions, it will inevitably lead to a clash of interests that will plausibly be more disastrous than the last, for everyone involved.