February 26, 2024

Residents of border communities in the north launched a social media campaign this week under the headline, “1701 or 10.07.” The number 1701 refers to the UN Security Council Resolution that ended the Second Lebanon War in 2006. Among that resolution’s clauses is one that states that there are to be no “armed personnel, assets, and weapons” between Israel’s border and the Litani River except for those of UNIFIL and the government of Lebanon. That clause has been honored more in breach than in observance. In the intervening 17 years, Hezbollah, one of the most heavily armed non-state actors in the world, has entrenched itself in southern Lebanon with arms, outposts, and forces directly overlooking Israel’s border communities. The date 10.07 is a reference to the Hamas massacre of October 7. The message of the “1701 or 10.07” campaign is clear: move Hezbollah back behind the Litani River – away from the border, where it observes Israeli communities such as Metulla and Zar’it; otherwise, it is just a matter of time before a massacre like the one that happened in the south on October 7 is replicated by Hezbollah’s Radwan commando force. Hezbollah has said in the past that it intends to invade the Galilee and take over Israeli communities. Since the outbreak of the war in Gaza – a war Hezbollah chose to join by firing mortars, anti-tank missiles, and rockets at Israeli soldiers and civilians – Israel has responded forcefully and destroyed some of the Hezbollah positions established on the northern border. The temporary ceasefire in the south to facilitate the release of hostages held by Hamas, a truce that Hezbollah has taken upon itself to honor in the north as well, has brought a few days of quiet. With the guns temporarily silenced, however, Hezbollah terrorists have once again menacingly reappeared directly on the border. In a meeting Tuesday between leaders of the northern communities and the IDF top brass, including Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, pictures and videos of armed Hezbollah men once again right on the border were presented. This is something that Israel simply cannot tolerate. One of the participants in the meeting, Kiryat Shmona Mayor Avichai Stern, was quoted as saying that he was surprised when he saw photos and videos of Hezbollah terrorists on the border in civilian clothes. While it is true that Jerusalem needs to focus on the war inside Gaza – dismantling Hamas’s capabilities and gaining the release of the hostages – it cannot permit a situation where Hezbollah, under cover of the truce in Gaza, once again takes up positions directly overlooking Israel’s communities in the north. That is in the short term. In the long term, Israel – either through military force, diplomacy, or a combination of the two – needs to ensure that UN Security Council Resolution 1701 is honored and that Hezbollah does not have armed personnel, assets, or weapons south of the Litani. As Metula local council head David Azulai said in the meeting with Halevi, “Israel needs to understand that if Hezbollah is not pushed back beyond the Litani, there will not be a state here. We are facing a second War of Independence for our existence. Every Arab state, Iran, and Hezbollah are watching us, and if we do not deal with the northern threat, they will see our weakness.” The IDF and the government, he said, “have to remove the threat from the northern border.” We wholeheartedly concur.