by Dana Halawi
BEIRUT, Dec. 5 (Xinhua) — As Israeli forces started their operation to thwart Hezbollah tunnels on Lebanon’s borders, Lebanese political analysts express different points of views about the possibility of a war between the two sides.
“A re-match between Hezbollah and Israel is inevitable,” Hilal Kashan, chair of the Political Studies Department at the American University of Beirut, told Xinhua.
Khashan said that the Israelis seem to be interested in an escalation of the situation.
“They brought up the issue of Hezbollah’s tunnels even though the tunnels are not new and they have been in place since 2014,” said Khashan, adding that Hezbollah’s leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah said many times that if the war starts, Hezbollah will be attacking northern Israel.
Israel has launched Tuesday an operation along its northern border with Lebanon to thwart cross-border tunnels which it says have been dug by Hezbollah.
It said it was neutralizing the tunnels before they became operational and a threat to civilian communities.
Khashan said that Israelis informed the U.S. secretary of state during a meeting that it is time to deal harshly with Hezbollah.
“I think this is the beginning of an escalation. This does not mean that the war will break out tomorrow. But Israel seems to be determined now to accelerate against Hezbollah,” he said.
Meanwhile, some believed that a war is possible.
“A war between Israel and Lebanon is more possible today than a year ago but it is not certain,” said Sami Nader, director of Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs in Lebanon.
Nader added that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is averse to war.
“Netanyahu is very cautious when it comes to using military power and we saw it in Gaza few days ago … Israeli minister of defense resigned and accused him of being weak,” he said.
Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman has resigned on Nov. 14 over the cabinet’s decision to accept a cease-fire ending two days of fighting with Palestinian militants in Gaza.
Lieberman denounced the move as weak and “surrendering to terror.”
Nader said that the Israelis are ramping up the pressure on Hezbollah.
“This is part of the American strategy of confronting Iran. Since they started implementing this strategy we saw that they were ramping up the pressure every single week by taking extra measures. This is part of the game,” Nader added.
When asked about Israeli’s motives behind triggering the tunnels issue at this specific time, Khashan said that Netanyahu may want to divert the attention of the public opinion away from his corruption case.
On Sunday, Israeli police recommended that Netanyahu be indicted for receiving bribes and other criminal charges, the most severe corruption case he has faced this year.
“This may be an opportunity for him to escalate in the north in order to avoid domestic issues,” Khashan said.
Nader said that the margin of maneuver of Israeli air forces in Syria has been reduced a lot after the downing by Israeli air forces of the Russian plane in Syria in September which created trouble with Russia.
“This is why they are focusing on Lebanon now where they have the biggest margin of maneuver,” he said.