February 22, 2024

Hezbollah Official to Al Jazeera: If Israel adheres, we will too

A Hezbollah official told Al Jazeera last week that Hezbollah would abide by the declared ceasefire if Israel does the same. Any escalation by Israel in southern Lebanon or Gaza during the ceasefire will be met with a response from Hezbollah.

This declaration surprised many in Israel, but Prof. Amatzia Baram, a senior researcher on Middle East affairs, had previously claimed that this was Nasrallah’s intention from the beginning of the ongoing war.

In his last speech, Nasrallah’s plea for a ceasefire went unnoticed by many. He emphasized three times that a ceasefire in Gaza was demanded because he recognized that by doing so, he would not have to respond with attacks in the north to show solidarity with the Palestinians. It is important to understand that Hezbollah, similar to the IDF, took Israel by surprise on October 7.

Nasrallah had previously made a public pledge that Hezbollah and Hamas would unite in their fight against Israel. It was widely understood that they were coordinating their efforts. Nasrallah assured Hamas representatives that their struggle would be a joint one.

However, he had never anticipated that Hamas would launch an independent attack. His plan, along with that of the Iranians, was for Hamas to join the Hezbollah attack on a prearranged schedule convenient for their goals. However, the reverse occurred, as Hamas acted autonomously and without prior notification, catching Hezbollah and the Iranians off guard.

According to Prof. Baram, Iran and Hezbollah are awaiting one of two scenarios to initiate an attack on Israel. The first option is if Israel were to target Iran’s nuclear facilities, and the second is when the disintegration process of Israel is complete.

Observing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s actions in dismantling the state and the army, Israel’s enemies realized that the country was undergoing a process of internal division and decay. They closely monitor these developments. Their assumption was that within about a year, Israel’s state institutions and the IDF would disintegrate, allowing them to attack when Israel was at its weakest.

However, Hamas’s surprising attack disrupted these plans. Once Hamas achieved initial success, Sinwar, the leader of Hamas, urged Hezbollah to join them. Consultations with the Iranians followed, and they advised against immediate action, stating that the timing was not right as Israel remained too strong. They preferred to wait for further disintegration within Israel brought about by the government’s actions. Their ultimate objective was to attack when Israel was at its weakest.

At present, if a ceasefire is implemented, Nasrallah’s dream will come true. On one hand, he will not be seen as a coward who refrained from launching a full-scale attack on Israel and failed to protect the Palestinians as promised.

On the other hand, he is aware that engaging fully in the campaign would result in devastating consequences for Lebanon. He cannot risk bringing destruction upon his country and its civilian population. Moreover, since October 7, Israel has been on high alert with a significant military presence along the northern border.

Reportedly, around 80% of the Lebanese population, especially the Christians and Sunnis, fervently pray multiple times a day to prevent war. The majority of citizens fear and oppose a war, comprehending the heavy toll it would exact. While they may support the Palestinian cause, they are not willing to sacrifice their own lives and exacerbate the crisis in Lebanon.

Therefore, if a ceasefire is implemented, Nasrallah will no longer be obligated to support Hamas by firing rockets. He can maintain the appearance of providing assistance while avoiding a full-scale involvement that would lead to Lebanon’s destruction.

Currently, his hope is for everything in Israel to return to the state it was on October 6, just before the attack, and for Israel’s internal disintegration to continue until they deem it suitable to launch a large-scale war. Nasrallah’s plan involves utilizing the ceasefire period to gather intelligence, organize, and intimidate Israel by deploying operatives along the border and establishing observation posts near Metula.

“The residents of the northern border say that they are not ready to return home in this condition and they are completely right. If indeed Hezbollah had attacked together with Hamas, in my opinion we would have lost the Galilee, and our luck is that there was no coordination between Hamas and Hezbollah, who were not ready to attack,” the professor estimates.

“Israel now does not have many choices, and as soon as it finishes its work in Gaza, it should, together with the USA, Great Britain and Germany, resort to a diplomatic move through the UN Security Council, and demand that Resolution 1701 from the Second Lebanon War be reimposed on Hezbollah.

“As I recall, among other things in Resolution 1701, it was determined that Hezbollah operatives will stay away from the border of Israel and southern Lebanon, and will remain north of Litani in Lebanon. Yesterday, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen appealed to the UN Secretary General to implement and give renewed approval to Resolution 1701, but there is a huge difference between the effect of the Israeli Foreign Minister’s request – and US President Biden’s request from the UN Secretary General. It is our duty to appeal to the Americans to start this work and enter a diplomatic event. If the diplomatic axis does not succeed, and Hezbollah refuses to withdraw north of Litani, the UN and the other countries should give Israel the full political backing to attack Lebanon, eliminate Hezbollah and provide us with additional weapons and ammunition.

“Until one of these moves is realized, in my opinion the residents of the Galilee settlements will not be able to safely return to their homes. This period, in which the residents are evacuated, cannot be wasted – we must stop abandoning the north and collapsing Hezbollah. At the moment, every step should be considered, keeping a small fire on both sides of the border. My hope is that with the help of American leadership in a diplomatic way, we can move Lebanon north of Litani, without the need to start a wide war.”