Israel Issues Stark Warning to Hezbollah Amid Political Instability in Syria, Iran

The significance of top IDF officers' recent statements on another Lebanon war lies not in their content but in their timing.

Amos Harel
Amos Harel
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Amos Harel
Amos Harel

No less than four times in the past ten days, senior officials in the IDF's Northern Command briefed representatives of the Israeli and foreign press.

The IDF's Northern Command gave its fourth press briefing in ten days on Thursday. The many meetings, as well as the identical messages that emerge from them, do not appear to be coincidental.

The commander of the IDF's 91st Division, Brigardier-General Hertzi Halevy, who met Thursday with reporters near the border, had some of the harshest words.

Should another Lebanon war break out, Halevy told the reporters, a week before the sixth anniversary of the second Lebanon war, it would require the IDF to enter Lebanese territory with a mighty force, and bring about the destruction of many villages.

"Lebanon will sustain greater damage than that done during the second Lebanon war," he said.

"The response will need to be sharper, harder, and in some ways very violent. After the Goldstone Report, people in the international community and in Israel thought that battle in a densely populated area could be carried out in a nicer way.It cannot be nice. Without the use of great force, we will find it difficult to achieve our aim, and the enemy should also know that. "

Halevy's threats are nothing new. For four years now, Israel is threatening to torch Lebanon should Hezbollah create a cross-border provocation. In October 2008, the Northern Command chief at the time, Gadi Eizenkot, presented what he called the "Dahiya doctrine."

In the next confrontation, Eizenkot said at the time, Israel will expand the destruction capability it showed when it bombed Dahiya, the Shiite quarter in Beirut.

"In every village from which shots were fired toward Israel, we will impose disproportional force and cause great damage and destruction. As far as we're concerned, these are military bases," Eizenkot said in 2008.

The significance of Halevy's comments, then, lies not in their content but in their timing. Given the assessments that Israel is likely to attack Iranian nuclear facilities in the coming months, and the possibility that the ramifications of the civil war underway in Syria (for instance, the possible transfer of chemical weapons from the Assad regime to Hezbollah) could lead to an escalation in Lebanon, Israel is sending a clear signal to Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

The message is this: Sit quietly, this issue is too big for you to get involved in. If you dare harm us, in the name of defending the honor of Syria or Iran, you will pay a steep price that Lebanon will not be able to withstand.

Since Lebanon has only recently finished recovering from the damages it sustained in the Second Lebanon War, this threat seems to be significant. The Dahiya doctrine, the 2012 version: The coming weeks will tell if Israel's threatening statements were received on the Lebanese side of the border.

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah speaks via a TV screen from a secret location, during a ceremony, in the southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, May 11, 2012.Credit: AP

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