On the first night of the Passover Seder, Hamas in Lebanon fired 34 rockets into Israel, causing significant damage in the towns of Metula and Shlomi. Nothing in Lebanon happens unless authorized by Hezbollah, and this Lebanese terrorist organization must get a green-light from the masters in Tehran. This barrage of rockets into northern Israel, allegedly because of the disturbances on Temple Mount and the al-Aksa Mosque, was the most intense since the Second Lebanon war of 2006. The timing and the size of the attack clearly signifies the perception in Tehran, Beirut, and Gaza, that Israel has been weakened by the three months of protests against the Judicial Reforms in Israel.
The protests in Israel that are causing a great deal of damage to Israel’s reputation, economic well-being, and external and domestic security. These protests have raised the specter of the Lebanonization of Israel. Sure enough, Israel’s institutions are still sufficiently strong to protect it from total government dysfunction occurring in Lebanon. But, if the rift between the left and right in Israel should widen further, Israelis would have to seriously consider the lessons of Lebanon.
To many observers, Lebanon was once a Middle Eastern paradise, and Beirut was called the “Paris of the Middle East.” The arrival of Arafat and his Palestinian terrorists to Southern Lebanon, hastened the conflict between the religious sects and factions, and perpetuated the civil war, which wrecked the “Land of the Cedars,” pitting Muslims against Christians, pro-Syrians, and anti-Syrians. The physical and mental destruction that befell Lebanon and the Lebanese people during the civil war (1975-1990), has not healed yet. The 1989 Taif Agreement that brought an end to the fighting, officially known as the National Reconciliation Accord, left the Iranian-backed Hezbollah militia/terrorist organization as the only armed militia force in Lebanon, supplanting the Lebanese Armed Forces. Hezbollah has subjugated all of Lebanon to its will, capitalizing on hatreds and conflict, and has thus become unchallengeable.
The Lebanese civil war ended in 1990, but the Lebanese people and the nation’s leadership failed to mend the wounds that tore its society, nor did its leaders manage to rehabilitate the state. Lebanon today is a “walking corpse,” its economy crushed, and its political system paralyzed, causing many of its young people to leave the country in search of a better life.
Israelis must internalize the lessons of Lebanon and find ways to bridge the gap between the political left and right before it is too late. The dream of Jewish resurrection and sovereignty in its historical homeland might fade away because of another clash between ideological factions that brought down the Temple and ended Jewish independence in 70CE, generating a 2000-year long exile. The unprecedented internal convulsion experienced by Israelis currently is too dangerous and mustn’t be allowed to go on. The prospect of a civil war in Israel although unimaginable, could erupt if the political divide isn’t bridged. It is rather urgent that Israelis look at their northern neighbors and realize that the Lebanese themselves destroyed the near paradise that was Lebanon. That is the consequences of a civil war.
The Lebanese failed to build national institutions around which the citizens of the state could unite. As a result, there is no viable political system that serves the Lebanese people. Nor is there a workable security apparatus that protects the people. Hezbollah has the arms and hence it has become the country’s “boss.”
The educational system and the judiciary no longer function. The media in Lebanon is separated by religious sects, each having their own newspapers, or TV stations, whether Maronite Christian, Sunni-Muslim, Shiite-Muslim, or Druze. And each has a militia of its own, albeit none compares in fire power to Hezbollah’s arsenal. The county’s leaders cared only about the welfare of their own clan or sect, and little about the national interest.
Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah’s Secretary General, emerged from his bunker somewhere in Southern Beirut last week, to announce boastfully in a speech that he was right all along when he stated that Israel is weaker than a “spider’s web.” Nasrallah predicted that Israel would self-destruct soon as a result of the chaos in Israeli society. He asserted that Hezbollah won’t have to lift a finger since Israelis will destroy themselves. These are rather ironic words coming from someone who helped in the destruction of Lebanon. Apparently, he knows something about destruction from of one’s nation.
For Israel, being in the amidst of disruptive protests, inspired by the mostly leftist anti-government groups, watching closely the demise of Lebanon, and counting the costs of a civil war is essential. Israel would do well to adopt a protective policy, to guard against Lebanon falling into Iranian full control through Hezbollah. Israel must use all its efforts to weaken Hezbollah and ensure that it does not take advantage of the internal breakdown in Lebanon, as a cover for military adventurism, or as a way to aid Tehran’s resolve to hit Israel at the expense of the Lebanese people. This week’s rocket barrage is a case in point.
While Lebanon self-destruction is entirely internal, the threats to Israel are existentially external, compounded by internal instability caused by the opposition to the Netanyahu government. As the attack on Passover shows, Israel’s enemies are pressing their perceived advantage as Israel is embroiled in protests and instability.
In an opinion piece in Israel Hayom, Meir Ben Shabbat, former national security advisor to Israel’s government, wrote that, “Passover seats all of us together at the table, returns us to our past, and obligates us to remember and recount our journey so far. No less important is that Passover renews our optimism and hope. We made it past the Pharaoh. We made it through crises, conflicts, and separations. We will make it through this too.” Meaning the current crisis over the Judicial Reforms. The attack from Lebanon gives the Jewish state a pause, and sharp reminder of its existential priorities.