Though the militant organization Hezbollah has long threatened Israel’s northern border, the nature of the threat has grown exponentially in recent years along with the risk of escalation, especially due to Iran’s continued efforts to supply its proxy via Syria and Lebanon with weapons that could devastate portions of the Jewish state.
According to estimates and analyses, Hezbollah as a fighting force has become more capable and lethal than at any time in the past, thanks in part to Iranian patronage as well as combat experience fighting in Syria’s civil war.
The group has amassed weaponry that surpasses that of 95 percent of the world’s conventional militaries to include 120,000 rockets and missiles — more than all of Europe’s NATO members combine and ten times more than the last time it fought a brief war with Israel in 2006.
As noted by Gen. Michael Hostage, USAF (ret.), a former Commander of U.S. Air Combat Command, and Lt. Col.Geoffrey Corn, USA (ret.), the Presidential Research Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law Houston:
Especially troubling is Hezbollah’s growing arsenal of powerful long-range precision missiles capable of striking targets throughout Israel. Unlike in recent conflicts, Israel’s missile defenses will be incapable of shielding the nation from such a threat. From the outset of conflict, Hezbollah will be able to sustain a launch rate of more than 3,000 missiles per day – as many as Israel faced in the entire 34-day conflict in 2006.
Despite this quantum leap in its capabilities, Hezbollah is under no illusion about its ability to inflict military defeat on Israel. It will not seek victory in the valleys of Lebanon or the skies over Israel, but in the court of public opinion.
Hezbollah will, for instance, deliberately attack Israeli population centers to provoke a similar response from the Jewish state in an effort to turn the public relations battle against Israel.
Analysis: The Israelis, with a superior military, superior technology, and air power are more than a match for Hezbollah, as the authors acknowledge. So it’s not as though the Jewish state is in danger of being overrun by Hezbollah when historically the country has defeated three countries with conventional militaries in the past.
The PR battle is what Israel must win, however, and that’s where the real challenge lies, as the authors correctly note.
That said, irrespective of what the media reports — and most media in the West and in the Arab world are not very Israel-friendly — the Israel Defense Forces and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will not sit idly by while Hezbollah rockets kill Israeli citizens, especially if the death toll from, say, an initial assault is significant. Nor should they.
International law aside, Israel has every right as a sovereign nation to defend itself, and if its civilians are being killed as well, then one should assume all bets are off.
Contrary to media reports, the Israelis do not arbitrarily target civilians. But constantly living under the gun, so to speak, brings special challenges that most people around the world have no familiarity with. So for the times when civilian casualties do result from Israeli military actions and acts of self-defense, it’s important to remember that the country is virtually surrounded by enemies.
Besides Hezbollah’s responsibility for targeting Israeli citizens and then causing Lebanese and/or Syrian civilians to suffer from IDF counterattacks, Iran should bear as much responsibility as those it has been arming. Hezbollah has revenue streams, for certain, but it could not have amassed its arsenal without Iranian assistance. Any civilians who are on the receiving end of hostilities between Israel and Hezbollah should have as much animosity for Iran as anyone.
The bottom line is that no matter what Hezbollah’s PR objective is in a future war against Israel, the Jewish state will be justified in defending itself as it always has been. And frankly, despite the media coverage, Israel is not likely to lose the support of its principal benefactor, the United States — not under the current administration, anyway.