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November 21, 2023 Special Dispatch No. 10969

Lebanese Journalists: Hizbullah Is Dragging Lebanon Into A Devastating War With Israel

November 21, 2023
Lebanon, Palestinians | Special Dispatch No. 10969

Amid the escalating attacks launched at Israel from South Lebanon by Hizbullah and other armed organizations there, both Lebanese and Palestinian, many in Lebanon are increasingly concerned that the country will be dragged into a confrontation with Israel.[1]  There is also concern about the growing power of the Palestinian militias in the country, and a possible return of the situation that prevailed there in the 1970s and 1980s, when Palestinian organizations were given free rein and dragged the country into a devastating war.

Articles in the Lebanese press rejected Hizbullah's claim that its military action deters Israel from attacking Lebanon, and noted the heavy price that the country, and especially the south, are paying for Hizbullah's activity. They added that most of the public, even in Hizbullah strongholds, will not support a decision by this organization to drag Lebanon into a war with Israel, given the dire consequences this would have. Some of them complained about the helplessness of the Lebanese government, which is unable to prevent the presence of armed militias on the border with Israel, and argued that deploying the Lebanese army and UNIFIL there is the only way to avert further escalation.    


Destruction in the Dahiya, Hizbullah's stronghold in Beirut, in the wake of the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah (Image: Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, July 23, 2007)

The following are translated excerpts from some of these articles:

Editor Of Lebanese Daily: Most Lebanese Oppose Involving Lebanon In The War Between Israel And Hamas; UNIFIL And Lebanese Army Must Deploy Along The Border

In a November 6, 2023 article, Bechara Charbel, editor of the Lebanese daily Nida Al-Watan, which is known for opposing Hizbullah and Iran's involvement in Lebanon,  wrote that the majority of Lebanese will not support a Hizbullah decision to involve Lebanon in the war between Israel and Hamas, due to the heavy cost of such a war. He wrote: "Nobody can fool themselves and others into believing that the Lebanese will unite behind Hizbullah if the interests of the resistance axis require [it] to increase the provocations [against Israel] to the point of joining the war, with the goal of keeping Hamas in the equation of the conflict. Let's set aside the tactical discourse aired by the media of the resistance and the hypocrisy of their Christian allies, and ask the Lebanese people directly: Do you want war and are you prepared to pay the price for it? The overwhelming majority will say that war will be just another tragedy to add to the [country's] collapse, and that, in the best-case scenario, Israel will end up paying a heavy price, but Lebanon will still pay twice as much, because of the disparity [of power between them] – not to mention that the decision to join the war will be in the hands of one party [i.e., Hizbullah] or sect that does not represent the state or all of Lebanon.

"There is one solution today that will prevent war in South [Lebanon] and will serve as a basis for country-wide stability, and this is to immediately deploy the [Lebanese] military and the international forces [UNIFIL] along the border. Any influential element that ignores this bears responsibility for justifying aggression [against Lebanon], and is failing to fulfill its obligation to return the institutions and the security to the citizens..." [2]

Lebanese Journalist: Lebanon Is Quaking With Fear At The Prospect Of War With Israel; The Actions Of Hizbullah And The Other Militias Harm Lebanon

Lebanese journalist Yousuf Bazzi wrote in the online daily Almodon.com that Hizbullah's "deterrence" actions are very dangerous for Lebanon and anger even the organization's supporters. These actions, he argued, could embroil Lebanon in a war with Israel that would not improve the situation in Gaza but would have devastating consequences for Lebanon itself. He wrote: "There has recently been dissatisfaction among Hizbullah's supporters, under the headline 'the people of the South are Lebanese too'… Because, if the rationale for the military action [against Israel] is that it serves as deterrence and prevents aggression against Lebanon, then this argument excludes [the people of the south from the fold of] the Lebanese people, ignores them and ascribes no importance to their displacement [from their homes], the destruction of their homes and lands, the burning of their crops and forests, the death of their children and of innocent people among them and the loss of their honor…  

"The harvest [of the war] this month – even ignoring the economic damage caused to Lebanon and the social and political costs – has been very bitter from a military and humanitarian point of view. It seems that the entire perception of deterrence has been cast into doubt, as [Hizbullah's] irresponsible behavior continues to expand and deepen. In fact, there seems to be a withdrawal even from the April Understandings,[3] and a dangerous revival of the terrible Cairo Agreement,[4] which brought ruin upon South [Lebanon] and a historic tragedy upon the country. 

"The worst thing is that this limited 'campaign' will have no impact on the course of the disastrous Gaza [war]… [yet] this campaign increases [the likelihood] of the darkest scenario: that Israel's explosive madness and its war machine will be turned against Lebanon on the pretext of preventing a recurrence of [Hamas'] October 7 attack in the north [of Israel]. This excuse will be politically and militarily supported by the U.S., as evident from what is happening in the Mediterranean, which is full of warships.

"In this context, Lebanon is quaking with fear, because the military action is no longer just a testing of the balance of deterrence and power [between Israel and Hizbullah], and has breached the so-called 'rules of the conflict' that ensure the border security and the sense of security of both sides. A war that breaks out when [Lebanon] is bankrupt… and has no purpose except  saving the honor of the [resistance] axis, is not an attractive prospect for any Lebanese citizen. What is even worse is that [this war] may be an emulation of [what is happening] in Gaza, and we may not even enjoy the sympathy that is extended to the Palestinians thanks to their just cause…

"I say this so that blood will not be held cheap, so that the acts of heroism will not be in vain, and so that the death of our young people will not be considered insignificant. We do not need more massacres of children to prove that we are the victims and that the enemy is barbaric, especially since its barbarity may not outrage the world, [even] if we have become suicidal [enough to join the war]."[5]  

Lebanese Columnist: South Lebanon Is On The Brink Of A Volcano; The Lebanese State May Collapse

Nida Al-Watan columnist Alain Sarkis warned about a possible loss of control by the Lebanese government. He argued that the current situation, whereby Hizbullah and other militias attack Israel from South Lebanon, takes the country back to dark periods of its history when it was controlled by Lebanese and Palestinian militias that brought ruin upon it.

He wrote: "South Lebanon has become a lawless war zone again, and the Lebanese people's dream of having a real state, [which was born] after the 2005 Cedar Revolution[6] and the passing of [UN Security Council] Resolution 1701, has faded away. The south is on the brink of a volcano and nobody knows when it might erupt, because decisions of war and peace are not in the hands of the state, and the military events and developments leave room for every possibility."

Stressing the Lebanese people's opposition to weapons outside the control of the state, Sarkis expressed doubt that any organization except Hizbullah is really responsible for attacks launched at Israel from South Lebanon, writing: "After 2005, the political leaders of the sovereign [Lebanese state] called to confine weapons to the [Lebanese] military and legitimate [security] forces, and to formulate a defense strategy [for Lebanon]. There was opposition to Hizbullah usurping [the state's authority to make] decisions about war and peace. Yet the Lebanese, who are suffering from the collapse of their state, were [recently] surprised to discover that there is more than one faction taking responsibility, even if only formally, for [military] actions in South Lebanon under the protection of Hizbullah.

"[Military] action [against Israel] in the south is not limited to Hizbullah, for every now and again various elements, Lebanese and non-Lebanese, claim responsibility for firing rockets from the south, including [Fatah's military wing,] the Al-Aqsa Brigades, [Hamas' military wing, the Izz Al-Din] Al-Qassam Brigades and the Al-Fajr Forces, which belong to Al-Jama'a Al-Islamiya [a branch of the Lebanese Muslim Brotherhood]… and the state is the last to know anything about this.

"South Lebanon suffered the nightmare of the Palestinian fida'i [self-sacrifice] operations, which undermined the state's prosperity and devastated it. The climax came in 1969 when the Cairo Agreement, which legitimized these fida'i operations, was signed and ratified by the [Lebanese] parliament… The nightmare of the Cairo Agreement passed when president Amine Gemayel and the PLO agreed to abolish it in June 1987, and it ended for good in 1989 with the ratification of the Taif Agreement…[7] 

"But [today] the situation seems bleak, since the sovereign forces are witnessing a regression to previous [historical] periods. The Taif Agreement has been torpedoed by the militias' refusal to surrender their arms and by the improper implementation of the agreement. And that's not all. We have [in fact] revived something like the Cairo Agreement, only this time with no formal agreement and without the consent of the Lebanese people.  

"According to the military data, there are no military positions of Hamas and the [Palestinian] Islamic Jihad in South Lebanon, and it is also a known fact that the strongest Palestinian faction in Lebanon is Fatah. Therefore, the sovereign forces wonder where these [Palestinian] fighters come from and why the state and the [security] apparatuses do not arrest them, especially since the state controls the entrances and exists of the [Palestinian] refugee camps. We are not talking about smugglers of furniture, fuel or flour, but of people carrying rockets and rocket launchers without the knowledge of the legitimate [authorities], [an action] that can boomerang against Lebanon in the form of an attack by the enemy [i.e., Israel]. 

"Warnings about a loss of control in the south are increasing. If these factions are acting under the oversight of Hizbullah, and [Hizbullah] is simply [using them to] provide a Sunni and Palestinian cover for its own military action, then the Lebanese state seems helpless. If someone is thinking of reviving the Cairo Agreement, [they should know that] the great majority of Lebanese do not like the idea of the  state collapsing, and they might do something to extricate it from this anomalous situation."[8] 

 

[2] Nidaalwatan.com, November 6, 2023.

[3]  The April Understandings are a written but informal agreement signed by Israel and Hizbullah in 1996 after Operation Grapes of Wrath, which includes a complete ceasefire between the sides.

[4]  This was a secret agreement was signed in November 1969 by the PLO and the Lebanese government, which granted the former permission to conduct its activities from Lebanon.

[5]  Almodon.com, November 9, 2023.

[6]  The Cedar Revolution was a series of mass protests in Lebanon calling for the withdrawal of the Syrian military presence from the country following the February 14, 2005 assassination of Lebanese prime minister Rafik Al-Hariri. In the wake of the protests Syria completed the withdrawal of its forces from Lebanon and the pro-Syrian Lebanese government was ousted.

[7]  The Taif Agreement, signed in 1989 at the conclusion of the Lebanese civil war, distributed political, civil, and military authority in the country along sectarian lines.

[8]  Nidaalwatan.com, November 9, 2023.

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