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Will Israel attack Hizbollah?

Nov 13,2017 - Last updated at Nov 13,2017

The sudden resignation of Lebanon’s prime minister, Saad Hariri, and his mysterious sojourn in Saudi Arabia have taken almost all observers by surprise.

Not long ago, Hariri was trying to even mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia. Hence, the timing and place of his resignation are puzzling, to say the least.

It is hard to avoid thinking that Saudi Arabia pressured Hariri to step down in order to bring an end to the coalition government in Lebanon, a government that has provided Hizbollah with legitimacy.

While some observers argue that Riyadh seeks to roll back the Iranian influence in Lebanon, the move should also be seen within a wider context.

With the obvious victory by Iran-backed forced in both Syria and Iraq, the Shiite crescent, a threatening development to both Saudi Arabia and Israel, is almost complete.

Hizbollah stands out as the most important proxy Iran has been using to further its interests and influence. As a result, Israelis often talk about when, not if, they will get in an armed confrontation with Hizbollah.

In 2006, Hizbollah fought Israel to a standstill. Israeli military strategists have learnt their lesson and intend not to go through the same scenario, so any military confrontation will be both difficult and different.

Many Israelis are encouraged to take advantage of two developments. First, Hizbollah is in a war of attrition in Syria. It follows that the last thing Hizbollah seeks is a war with Israel.

Second, the regional scene has changed since 2006. As the war in Syria winds down, a deepening understanding between Saudi Arabia and Israel has begun to come to the surface. Of course, this kind of understanding is encouraged by key figures in the White House. In fact, the American attempts to play up the Iranian threat to help form some sort of rapprochement between Israel and key Arab Sunni states is not new. 

Currently, both Saudi Arabia and Israel share a common enemy: Iran and Hizbollah.

At the heart of the Israeli thinking is the need to roll back Iran from the Levant, a goal that is shared by Riyadh.

Explicit in many Israeli official statements is the threat Iran and its protégées in Lebanon have been posing to the region.

Not surprisingly, Israel backs the Saudi move and the resignation of Hariri as an indication of Iran’s menacing influence.

Neither Saudi Arabia nor Israel acknowledges direct contact. Nevertheless, the need to push back Iran is enough reason for both to come to an understanding.

Indeed, Saudi Arabia does have economic sway over Lebanon. But when it comes to a direct military interference, Israel is the side to do that.

There is no clear joint strategy cocked up by the Saudis and the Israelis, but some pundits point to the role played by Jared Kushner in that regard.

I suspect that the war is a most likely scenario in the months to come.

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