Hezbollah (“the Party of God”) continues to cast its extremist rhetoric in Israel’s direction but we are at a confluence of events that make war possible. Typically, Hezbollah devotes much of its time to overheated rhetoric directed toward Israel and the Zionist enterprise. It is possible to ignore or at least pay little attention to Hezbollah’s bloated rhetoric. But some differences are morphing into a political environment that just might ignite violence from Hezbollah or perhaps Israel.
First, Hezbollah has been a powerful and overwhelming presence in Lebanon such that Israel is convinced that there is little difference between Lebanon and Hezbollah. The political and government structures of Lebanon have been thoroughly penetrated by Hezbollah. Consequently, Israel is threatening violence against Lebanon on the assumption that there is no difference between the two and attacking Lebanon is by definition attacking Hezbollah.
Furthermore, Hezbollah poses a number of genuine threats to Israel some of which Israel has not taken seriously enough yet. Hezbollah, for example, has built up a weapons cache that can inflict considerable pain and damage on Israel. Hezbollah keeps claiming that damage to Israel in the next war will be greater than ever and they are potentially right.
Hezbollah’s agenda has been reinforced by its victories or gains in Syria and Lebanon and they just might be “feeling their oats.” Still, Israel does not respond to Hezbollah with overwhelming force with the goal of defeating it thoroughly. Critics in Israel keep turning their attention to the military and saying, ”what are you waiting for?” The time to deal a final blow to Hezbollah is now and Israel should not wait until Hezbollah damages cities and destroys infrastructure. It appears that Israel has already conceded the first strike option – at least that’s what Netanyahu wants you to think.
There are, however, good reasons for avoiding war with Hezbollah and that has to do with the fact that this would essentially mean a war with Iran also. For starters, Hezbollah does not need a war with Israel while it is making progress in places like Syria and Iraq. Moreover, Hezbollah is spread out over large geographic areas and in no coherent position to deploy militarily against Israel. And Israel might know it has to engage Hezbollah one day but also knows that such engagement has a high cost attached to it. Hezbollah has an increasingly large arsenal of rockets and they will do plenty of damage. Additionally, Hezbollah has been working with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard to form Shiite militias which can be called upon to join forces with the core Hezbollah military units.
The average Hezbollah or Quds recruit grew up on “divine victory” and the “glorious battles” in the name of Allah. Given the interpenetration of religion and the state in Iran fighting battles and dying is a religious experience. But even the most compliant Hezbollah recruit knows that he sees more blood, loss of livelihood, and dim future than any “divine victories.” The Washington Institute for Near East Policy reports that many members of Hezbollah are disillusioned and there is discontent.
In the end, both Hezbollah and Israel have serious issues to consider. Neither wants to initiate a first strike but neither side wants to be the recipient of a first strike. Both sides will inflict considerable damage on the other but also suffer it. And both sides, with the use of violence, will initiate a sequence of events that have implications for other countries and unknown consequences. This is all to say, I suppose, that nothing has changed.
I don’t usually write about domestic politics in this blog space but since Trump is so uninformed, and proud of it, I thought I would help him out a little bit. Trump barely knows what he’s talking about – and on other occasions knows nothing about what he’s talking about – but is actually one of the few candidates who has turned that into a positive because he gets aggressive with anybody who questions him. During a radio interview the other day he was asked about the differences between has Hezbollah and Hamas. When his ignorance is challenged he returns the aggression by accusing the questioner of asking “gotcha” questions, as if the leader of the free world isn’t supposed to know anything. Trump continues to claim he’s is an excellent delegator who will get the best people in place and five minutes after he’s President he’ll be thoroughly informed and know more than everybody else. I guess Trump believes that the American people are electing a delegator not a leader. In one interview when Trump was asked what he would do about Obama care he answered by saying, “I’ll get rid of it and replace it with something terrific.” It was comforting to hear that his health care program will be “terrific.”
Trump whines like a baby every time someone asks him a question that requires a substantive answer. So I thought I would help him out a little bit since the issues do fall within the confines of this blog. I’ll briefly outline some distinctions for him that should be sufficient to get him through the next debate. If he wants more detail – and I’m sure he doesn’t – he will have to dig it up himself or have one of his delegates do it.
For starters, Hamas and Hezbollah share a few things in common as both oppose the West and Israel and they are fundamentally animated by Islamic extremism. But the differences remain clear enough and the Donald can strut his stuff if he learns them. If Trump offers up even a morsel of accurate information his credibility will soar.
Hamas is based in Palestine and has a military wing. It was founded by Shaeikh Yassin and is rooted in the Muslim brotherhood. It operates primarily in the West Bank and Gaza and when it’s not challenging Israel it emphasizes social services for the people of those areas. The Israelis started out by supporting Hamas because they thought it would be a counter influence to secular Fatah. But after a number of Hamas attacks Israel altered its relationship.
In 2006 Hamas was successful at winning a majority of seats in the Palestinian legislature thus establishing themselves as the representatives of Gaza. Interestingly, Hamas and Hezbollah share a common hatred and opposition to Israel but differ fiercely with respect to their own brand of Islam. Hamas is primarily a Sunni organization and Hezbollah is Shia. This is a significant difference between the two.
Hezbollah is based in Lebanon not Palestine and fights Israel from southern Lebanon. Hezbollah means “army of God” and carries out suicide bombing, kidnappings, along with support from Iran.
Both of these groups are dangerous threats to Israel and have easy access to weapons, especially Hezbollah who receive sophisticated military support from Iran.
I could provide Trump some reading but how simple it is to Google these two groups and just do it himself. Or, Trump could delegate the task since he is such a skilled delegator. Have one of his delegates Google it for him.