The Israeli newspapers over the last few days have been filled with reports of threats from Ehud Barak and the Israeli government about Israel dealing a blow, not just to Hezbollah but to Lebanon as a whole in the face of perceived threats to Israel from Hezbollah.
Ha’aretz reported today that Ehud Barak has said in a significant statement ‘the transfer of particular weapons systems from Syria to Hezbollah would obligate Israel to take action in Lebanon’. Within this threat is a not-so-subtle change in Israeli policy with regard to Hezbollah. One might note that the words are: ‘take action in Lebanon’ and not ‘take action against Hezbollah’. This policy was confirmed when Ehud Barak said that any reprisals by Hezbollah for the death of Hezbollah leader Imad Mughniyeh, who was killed a year ago this month, that Lebanon would be held responsible. Importantly, Barak qualified this by saying:
"Hezbollah is not just a terrorist organisation cavorting in the hills. It also sits around the cabinet table in Beirut, with a sufficient number of ministers to decide on how to act, and therefore the Lebanese government bears overall responsibility. Any attempt to strike at Israel will meet with a response. There is no need to elaborate."
Clearly, if the Israelis decide again to attack Lebanon, then they will not confine their attacks to Hezbollah targets, but all of Lebanon including its regular armed forces. Such an attack could also be followed up by a full on invasion of Lebanon.
Inextricably linked to the Israeli anti-Hezbollah rhetoric is the rhetoric against Iran which has also continued today in the Israeli press as Iran launched its first all-Iranian satellite into orbit yesterday.
Set against the backdrop of threats to Hezbollah, Lebanon and Iran and actual war still continuing in the Gaza is the forthcoming Israeli elections which are now less than a week away but which have somehow taken a back seat in the news due to the ongoing Gaza crisis. One can be forgiven for wondering why the Israeli wars and threats of wars has not become a major election issue among the parties. The reason for this is simple. For all of the parties the question is not so much; shall we or shall we not crush Hamas, Hezbollah or Iran but rather; how best can we achieve this. In other words, all of the major parties want to see regime change in Iran and Hamas and Hezbollah eliminated from existence.
The upshot is that, regardless of when war starts, as far as the Israelis are concerned with regard to the elections, it’s merely an opportunity for the Israelis to change the guard but otherwise pursue the same policy. If this is the case then one should not be surprised if the Israelis decide to attack Iran or Hezbollah even on the eve of the election. It will simply be business as usual as the top managers pass in and out of the doors.