It’s comical, really. Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah, is so terrified of being killed by Israel that he changes his sleeping arrangements every night. “Sometimes,” he once admitted, “even I don’t know where I am.” Yet here he is, threatening Israel from his Lebanese hideout, warning the Jewish state not to start exploiting gas from the Karish field that Israel claims as its own. And while Lebanon once contested that claim, the Lebanese are now willing to concede that the Karish field lies in Israel’s exclusive economic zone. Even the UN accepts Israel’s claim. But Nasrallah has decided that he knows better. His latest threats to go to war with Israel are reported on here: “Hezbollah Chief Threatens ‘Escalation’ if Lebanon Doesn’t Get Maritime Rights,” Reuters, August 19, 2022:
The head of Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed group Hezbollah said on Friday the outcome of nuclear talks in Vienna would have no impact on maritime talks aimed at delineating Lebanon’s border with Israel.
“Whether a nuclear deal with Iran is signed or not, if the U.S. mediator does not give Lebanon what it asked for in terms of its rights, we are heading towards an escalation – we are heading towards a problem,” said Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah in a televised speech, without elaborating….
He didn’t elaborate. But what he likely meant was clear enough. Back on July 2, three Hezbollah drones were sent toward the Karish gas field, “only the beginning,” according to Nasrallah, in a campaign to frighten the workers at the rig. Quite the opposite happened. All three drones were shot down before they could even get close to the gas rig. The lesson from the episode is not how frightened Israel should be of Hezbollah’s drones, but how easy it was for Israel to bring them all down with its advanced anti-drone technology.
How does Nasrallah hope to get his drones and missiles past the multi-tiered defenses Israel has built, which include the Arrow 3, the David’s Sling, and Iron Dome, working in concert? He knows that in Israel’s 2021 war with Hamas, the Iron Dome anti-missile batteries intercepted 90% of the 4,000 missiles Hamas launched at Israel. He saw on July 2 how quickly Israel managed to shoot down the three drones. What leads him to think that Hezbollah “will reach Karish and everything beyond Karish and everything beyond that” (i.e., all of Israel), as he boasted in July, when Hezbollah has since the 2006 war been most unsuccessful in its missile attacks on Israel?
Nasrallah continues to claim that force is the only way to protect Lebanon’s interests, despite Lebanese leaders criticizing the terror group for the latest drone incident, saying it was an unnecessarily action that risked a conflict when Israel and Lebanon were close to an agreement on the Karish field.
Those Lebanese who have been negotiating with Israel over rights to gas fields in the Mediterranean are furious, though understandably afraid to express their fury, with Nasrallah’s attempts to threaten the Jewish state’s gas fields. Although at first they contested Israel’s sole ownership of the Karish field, they now recognize that Israel does, in fact, own it, as even the UN recognizes, and that it makes sense to drop that claim and instead to obtain Israel’s acceptance of the Lebanese claim to the Qana field, located to the north of Karish, as lying within Lebanon’s exclusive economic zone.
The compromise that has been taking shape between Israel and Lebanon calls for drawing a border running north of Israel’s Karish natural gas site in the Mediterranean – thereby declaring the area in dispute Israeli territory – but it also grants Lebanon the right to drill at a site that it is developing there.
Nasrallah appears not to recognize the considerable role his terror organization has played in bringing Lebanon to the brink of economic collapse. Hezbollah has kept in office those whose corruption and mismanagement have been largely responsible for the wretched state of the country, and does so because these crooks and incompetents have been – such as President Michel Aoun — loyal collaborators with the terror group.
The arrival of a drilling ship to the Karish gas site in June stirred tensions. Both Israel and Lebanon claimed the area belongs to them, and Lebanese group Hezbollah had previously threatened to attack Israeli operations there.
The U.S. and Israel are aiming to reach an agreement as soon as possible as they fear Hezbollah will try to attack the rig before it starts operating in September.
Hezbollah is trying to undermine the possibility of an agreement on maritime borders being reached between Israel and Lebanon, but the Lebanese themselves are close to an agreement with Israel, and furious at Hezbollah’s attempts to disrupt the negotiations by sending those drones toward the Kalish field, in order to “scare the workers,” and continuing to issue threats.
Despite Nasrallah’s threats, Hezbollah has been mostly unable to lay a glove on Israel – but the Israelis have always managed to respond to any attack with artillery barrages, drone attacks, or airstrikes.
Of 19 rockets that Hezbollah shot at Israel in August 2021, for example, the IDF reported that 10 projectiles were intercepted by air defenses, 6 struck open areas, and 3 fell short and landed in Lebanon. Israel’s response, on the other hand, was a punishing artillery barrage.
Israeli threats are never hollow. In April, after a single Hezbollah rocket landed in an empty field in northern Israel, a rocket barrage from Israel was the response.
The Americans, who have been godfathering the Israel-Lebanese negotiations, have stated clearly that the Kalish oil field falls within Israel’s exclusive economic zone, which no doubt helped persuade the Lebanese to drop their own claims and to settle instead for Israel recognizing the Lebanese claim to the Qana gas field. The Lebanese don’t want the hotheaded braggart warrior Nasrallah delaying the final agreement; the Lebanese need to start developing the Qana field at once, if the Lebanese economy is to have a fighting chance to recover.
The Europeans, meanwhile, are now hoping that Israel will at once start pumping gas from the Karish field, so that its gas, along with that from the already developed Tamar and Leviathan fields, can be sent by pipeline to be liquified at LNG facilities in Egypt and then shipped to their gas-starved nations. Just like the Lebanese, the Europeans don’t want Hezbollah to throw a spanner in the works, just when a partial solution to their gas problem has been found.
Bur if Nasrallah ignores the agreement, and insists that “Lebanon must not surrender any of its right to the Zionists,” and then should manage to land a blow – by drone or missile — on the Karish gas platform, this could delay implementation of the agreement. Unlike Israel, Lebanon can’t afford to wait, but Nasrallah doesn’t care. He will defend his attack as demonstrating that Hezbollah is the only true “resistance” to the Zionists. And more time will have gone by, while the people of Lebanon wait for Nasrallah to come to his senses and recognize the value of the compromise with Israel that the Lebanese themselves suggested. He’s never exhibited much common sense to date. Why should now be any different?