June 5, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah is filling void left by Hamas, and gauging Israel’s reaction

Hezbollah is a powerful group and also a proxy of Iran. It has a lot of things to consider in Lebanon.
June 5, 2024 | The Jerusalem Post

Hezbollah is filling void left by Hamas, and gauging Israel’s reaction

Hezbollah is a powerful group and also a proxy of Iran. It has a lot of things to consider in Lebanon.

Hezbollah is intensely focused on Israel’s reactions to recent escalation by the terrorist group. It has increased the use of drones and anti-tank missiles over the last month, doubling the amount of attacks it has carried out. May saw a major escalation. Hezbollah is trying to fill the vacuum left by Hamas because Hamas is no longer capable of firing many rockets at Israel.

Hezbollah also wants to spread out its attacks more – it has sought to target the coast and the Golan. Their goal is to expand the war. Hezbollah’s attacks have also ignited fires.

But Israel is responding. Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi Halevi, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu all traveled to the North in the last two days. They have a message of warning to Hezbollah. But the Lebanese-based terrorist group is used to this, though: It has been hearing such “warnings” for almost eight months.

Hezbollah is keenly aware of the debate in Israeli media where some experts say that Israel does not want or is not capable of fighting a major two-front war. Hezbollah listens and learns, and then repeats this as if it had discovered it, when in fact it has merely laundered the debate of a democratic society.

There is no similar debate on Lebanese television among former Hezbollah commanders wondering whether Hezbollah is sleepwalking into a larger war. Thus, Hezbollah has the advantage that all authoritarians have over democracies: It can say and do what it wants and doesn’t have to have critical discussions aired in public. This doesn’t mean that within Hezbollah’s high command there are not such discussions – there probably are.

Hezbollah’s considerations

Hezbollah is a powerful group and also a proxy of Iran. It has a lot of things to consider in Lebanon. Along with Iran, Hezbollah has sought to change the “equation” with Israel. This means it has carved out a “right” to rain down missiles on northern Israel. This never has never happened without a major war resulting. Hezbollah has taken advantage of the situation.

The terrorist group is also part of Iran’s attempt to unite its proxy fronts against Israel. Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps recently said that one of its members was killed in Syria, leading to questions about whether the new Iranian “equation” in Syria may also be tested. This equation put forth by Iran posits that any harm to Iranians in Syria may result in direct retaliation against Israel. At the same time, Tehran is messaging that any flare-up between Israel and Hezbollah would lead to Iran mobilizing its other proxies.

Will Hezbollah climb down a bit after provoking Israel? Or will it continue, full steam ahead? As it watches how Israel responds to its recent escalation, Hezbollah must now answer these questions. 

Seth Frantzman is the author of Drone Wars: Pioneers, Killing Machine, Artificial Intelligence and the Battle for the Future (Bombardier 2021) and an adjunct fellow at The Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Issues:

Hezbollah Iran Iran Global Threat Network Israel Israel at War