IF Israel proceeds to annex parts of the West Bank next month – as signalled by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) have considered how possible unrest there could embolden Hezbollah, a senior IDF spokesperson has stated.
In an online briefing from Israel, Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus responded to a question from The AJN about how the IDF would keep Hezbollah in check in Lebanon while at the same time quelling any potential outbreaks of violence by Palestinians in response to annexations.
Conricus told The AJN, that scenario “is an option” the IDF has contemplated. “We’ve been war-gaming for a while with regards to the political situation, thinking of different scenarios and how the different players around us will respond.”
But he added that “we are under the cautious assessment that Hezbollah understands the gravity of its situation, and they know that it’s almost impossible to control the size of the flames and the intensity of operations”.
“Even if it’s something they may perceive as a small attack, we will respond fiercely. Now that may lead to lots of Hezbollah casualties in Lebanon and then they might feel compelled to do something stupid in response and then we would respond again.
“So I think that the cautious way of assessing the situation prevails also in Lebanon – and strategically speaking Hezbollah are not in a good place in terms of local support, regional support. Iran isn’t in a good place in terms of its financial stability and the way they’re trying to reorganise their pieces on the chessboard after the very welcome killing of [Iranian general Qassem] Suleimani. In general, it does not appear to be an opportune time.
“Now we, to be clear, are the last ones to belittle and underrate Hezbollah or the Iranians – we’ve learned otherwise from bitter experience – but I just want to put it into context that, yes, [a Hezbollah attack] is a possibility.”
However, he said the chances of a Hezbollah offensive “because Hezbollah knows there might be some kind of uprising or different violent event in Judea and Samaria or elsewhere” are “relatively small and unlikely”.
Conricus said the rules that apply in Judea and Samaria “do not apply with Hezbollah, and they know that very well”.
The IDF spokesperson emphasised that Hezbollah, along with Iran’s entrenchment in Syria, pose significant strategic and military challenges to Israel, along with “the global footprint of Hezbollah, how they’re operating in Europe and elsewhere … as a bona fide terrorist organisation”.