The increasing provocations by Hezbollah on the Israeli-Lebanese border doesn’t mean the two enemies are on the verge of war, but the bigger picture tells a story of Iran and its proxies hoping to destroy Israel in the coming years, one of Israel’s top security experts told Jewish News in an interview on Monday.
The situation is “serious but it doesn’t necessarily mean we are on the verge of an immediate military confrontation,” Maj. Gen. (ret.) Giora Eiland, former head of Israel’s National Security Council and head of IDF Strategic Planning Branch, said.
But the bigger picture of Iran, and thereby Hezbollah, tells a different story: “The Iranian conclusion is that maybe the time has come to destroy Israel in the next few years.”
Eiland listed three developments in the Middle East in recent years that have accelerated Iran’s ultimate goal. Firstly, Iran is more “comfortable” in the international system due to restored ties with Saudi Arabia and greater cooperation with Russia.
Secondly, Eiland said, Iran has more “precise weaponry” at its disposal: “The past 40 years, Israel enjoyed this advantage. But today, Iran has accurate cruise missiles, suicide drones, and ballistic missiles with GPS censors that are much more accurate.”
The third development is the internal crisis in Israel. “They see Israel as getting weaker and weaker. Now this interpretation might not be true but that’s how they see it,” he said.
Eiland believes that Iran and Hezbollah are looking to accelerate the process what they see as Israel’s inevitable demise.
“Based on those developments, they believe that if they mange to arrange a simultaneous attack against Israel by Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Shia militias in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, and an uprising of Palestinians in the West Bank, this will be something that Israel won’t survive,” Eiland said.
In order to succeed with this goal, Iran and its proxies don’t have to provoke any military confrontation right now.
“It might even be premature, as far as they are concerned. Iran is not interested in a full scale war with Hezbollah today. Hezbollah also isn’t interested in that. They understand that a war might bring total devastation to Lebanon. And Israel certainly isn’t interested either,” Eiland said.
Eiland also said that Hezbollah is not a terrorist organisation. “It’s not true. Hezbollah is a political, religious, popular movement with strong roots in Lebanese society. But they have to justify their existence and the $800 million they receive from Iran. So they have to provoke Israel.”
Eiland said that Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who spends most of his time in an underground bunker for fear of being assassinated by Israel, likes to “take risks.”
“Nasrallah believes he knows Israel very well, that he can control the volume of the conflict, predict the Israeli response, and create smaller provocations that will embarrass Israel and create fear in the north,” he said.
Eiland said that it’s a “dangerous” game that Hezbollah is playing due to the possibility of miscalculations: “And we have seen in the past what that can lead to.”
For Israel, the current strategy is to “contain” Hezbollah’s provocations, such as the noise bomb planted on the border fence earlier this month which scared off members of Hezbollah who were trying to damage the border fence.
But the increasing attempts to damage the border fence, Hezbollah members patrolling along the border, as well as a two tents erected by Hezbollah on Israeli soil in the contested Mount Dov region/Shebaa Farms, has brought Israel on high alert.
Last week, Nasrallah warned Israel to ‘beware of any stupid step or decisions of one kind or another, the resistance does not take its responsibility for responding and liberating lands, lightly. We are ready for any option and we will not remain silent in the face of any stupid act,” as tensions continued along the border.
Prime Minister Netanyahu responded to a threat by Nasrallah, saying: “It’s better for him not to put us to the test.”
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