JPOST EDITORIAL/Don’t forget Hezbollah


Don’t forget Hezbollah

 What we perceive as a danger to our lives and way of life can be a function of trends. The latest headline-grabbing focus of fear is Islamic State. This is not a bugbear of negligible proportions. Islamic State bloodlust and fanatic belligerence are nothing to scoff at. That said, however, Islamic State is not the greatest threat to the world’s democracies – Israel among them. Regardless of the repugnance Islamic State’s beheadings arouse, worse villains abound in our region. Iran with its nuclear ambitions is foremost, even though the White House is poised to appease Tehran’s ayatollahs, allowing them to keep the capability to build nuclear weapons. The Assad regime, until recently the side in the Syrian civil war the world most loved to hate, has not become any less evil just because Islamic State has emerged as uniquely barbaric. And propping up Assad is Hezbollah of Lebanon, whose menace to Israel has grown by leaps and bounds despite its absence from the front pages. This, in a nutshell, was the recent message of a “senior IDF commander” in the North who stressed that “no anti-Israel action on the Golan has thus far been perpetrated by the rebel forces in Syria, but only by the organizations that support the regime in Damascus.”

The subtext is clear. Transfixing as their macabre excesses may be, the jihadists have not attacked Israel. Here it needs be noted that the area on the border straddling the Golan’s Syrian side is mostly controlled by the Jabhat al-Nusra subsidiary of al-Qaida, as distinct from the better- known Islamic State. Nevertheless, those volleys fired into Israel in past months – not all of them by any means stray shells – almost always came from pro-Assad camp, i.e. from Hezbollah. These forces continue to batter without mercy the Syrian population, which is also pounded by the jihadists.
Israel thanklessly sends humanitarian provisions to the Syrian refugees (including food, fuel and clothing) and offers medical aid to all casualties regardless of their affiliation. Although in the immediate offing there is little risk of a Hezbollah offensive against Israel – as it is deeply embroiled in the Syrian conflict – the Shi’ite terrorist group remains a formidable foe of Israel. More than anything, Hezbollah operates as a proxy of Tehran, and its Lebanese and Syrian enclaves are for all intents and purposes Iranian outposts, beachheads close to Israel. Hezbollah, moreover, is just as prone as the Sunni Hamas in the Gaza City to use civilians as human shields, to deter Israel from using its full capabilities. In the past, Hezbollah has used force to prevent noncombatants in southern Lebanon from fleeing north, so that their presence would paralyze Israel’s military response. It gets worse: Hezbollah’s arsenals are incomparably larger than Gaza’s and comprise far more powerful weapons – all supplied by Iran under the noses of UN supervisors.

That, along with the battlefield experience garnered in Syria, makes Hezbollah “many times more dangerous” than Hamas ever was or could be, according to Maj.-Gen. Yair Golan, who just stepped down as head of the IDF’s Northern Command.
He warned that Hezbollah’s stockpiles include heavy missiles and that because of the quality and quantity of what that the group has been allowed to acquire, it would be wrong to expect the same degree of defensive cover as Israelis could count on during last summer’s war with Hamas. Hezbollah’s Iranian missiles are substantially more deadly than Gaza’s rockets, and Hezbollah’s caches and launching pads are closer to our population centers, meaning shorter warning time.

The bottom line is that while world opinion is mesmerized by the ghoulish high jinks of Islamic fanatics, it loses sight of Iran’s far reach, which in every respect surpasses the Islamic State’s potential for evil.
The sporadic bombings in Syria and Iraq, as well as America’s willingness to bend over backwards to engage Iran’s deception at the negotiating table, all point to the fact that the international community – perhaps a bit too expediently – has allowed itself to overlook fundamental perspectives. With Iran’s proxy Hezbollah at its doorstep, this is a luxury Israel cannot afford.