Palestinian resistance is jubilant after an efficient, unified and comprehensive counter-attack against Israel. Avigdor Lieberman’s resignation in protest over Netanyahu’s ‘surrender to Hamas’ in the form of restoring the ceasefire merely 48 hours after a provocative assassination of a Hamas commander one has been followed by demands for early elections.
There is disarray in the Israeli camp similar to that seen after its debacle in the 2006 July War in Lebanon. Israel’s underwhelming response and the sad quality of its troops make a contrasting picture to the absolute ambition and hegemonic essence of the country’s strategic approach over the last few decades.
With useful pieces on the fact that an Israeli Fifth Column in the US (often with members in the government yet with its most powerful power base in lobbying) has pursued specifically enunciated Israeli geostrategic goals to be found here, here and here, the current day provides a useful point in history to look back and analyze the outcomes of this approach from the perspective of Israeli goals toward designated enemy states with Lebanon serving as a prime case study.
Major themes of Israeli strategy
With a study of their various writings, ideological dispositions and of course actual policies of the Israelis and their Fifth Columnists in the US Post-Camp David, certain themes can be spotted which include:
  • Balkanize (i.e break up into smaller states)
  • Covert and overt support to secessionist movements within enemy states
  • Plant puppet regimes in enemy states
  • Reliance on the ability of Fifth Column in the US to ensure US policy parallel to Israel’s
  • Usage of direct attacks against enemies preoccupied with internal strife
The quest for dominance over Lebanon
Egypt’s days of resistance were done thanks to the 1978 Camp David accord and Syria was facing a Muslim Brotherhood insurgency (which helped Israel to annex more of the Golan Heights in 1981) while Iraq tussled with a new leadership in Iran thus keeping its anti-Zionist leader Saddam Hussein occupied. Lebanon, to Israel’s north and in the midst of a chaotic civil war, had already been occupied up till the Litani River by the Israelis in 1978 and a full invasion was launched based on false pretexts by Israel in June 1982. The invasion would involve terrible massacres of Palestinians and Lebanese and earn then Defence Minister Ariel Sharon the title ‘Butcher of Beirut’.
While the goal of neutralizing the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was perhaps achieved, the formerly marginalized Lebanese Shia had begun to emerge from the disarray of the Lebanese sectarian and religious civil war as a unified faction owing to outreach and support from Iran’s diplomatic mission in Syria. By the mid-1980s, Hezbollah emerged as a powerful resistance army and its guerrilla tactics forced the Israelis out of Lebanon (barring a few small southern territories) in 2000. Iran, which despite covert Israeli supply of weapons to it for use against the ‘officially’ US-backed Saddam (a strategy secretly involving some Reagan administration officials; the Fifth Column as aforementioned), had through its support to the Lebanese resistance established itself as an enemy and thus no longer a potential candidate for a non-Arab ally as some of these Israeli agents pondered about briefly after Khomeini took power.
Syria and Iran’s strategic relations based on mutual opposition to Israel were rapidly cemented and Hezbollah was proving to be a unifying force to an otherwise completely divided Lebanon that even included some parties collaborating with the Israeli occupation. Following the end of the Muslim Brotherhood insurgency, dealt with by Hafez al Assad’s iron fist, by 1982, Syria had become more capable of exerting influence in Lebanon where its direct military presence would soon grow into a facilitator of Hezbollah, forming what is today called the ‘Axis of Resistance’ featuring Iran, Syria and Hezbollah. Courtesy of the multilateral Taif Accord of 1989, Syrian military presence in Lebanon was legitimized and Syrian-Lebanese relations underscored by Arab unity proclaimed in the text which also condemned the Israeli occupation.
The defeat of Israel by Hezbollah – comprehensive on the military, intelligence and psychological fronts – in the July War of 2006 would serve to cement Hezbollah’s March 8 Alliance, involving Lebanon’s largest Christian party whose founder Michel Aoun is now president. The coalition also holds the most parliamentary seats and cabinet seats in Lebanon as of the 2018 elections. Hezbollah’s popularity and importance to Lebanon have been grudgingly acknowledged by domestic political foes since then as well. The joint Israeli-Saudi attempt last year to destabilize Lebanon also produced no real results on the ground.
The PLO was ceasing to be a serious rival even prior to the invasion, antagonizing its Lebanese hosts with petty politics, and Yasser Arafat’s descent into corruption and soon selling-out to Israel during the Oslo ‘peace process’ would naturally follow soon anyway. Iran would immediately forge a close relationship with the religious Palestinian group Hamas that arose during the First Intifada to fill the void left by the PLO as well. The new Iranian-Shia rival, geographically widespread and not one familiar to Israel unlike past Arab foes, was a more serious one than the PLO and Egypt had been in years prior.
Iraq: Saddam is gone, what’s next?
With the aforementioned Israeli Fifth Column establishing a death grip over the Pentagon in the Bush administration in 2001, the surge to compel the US into entering a war it had no interest yet which was a prime Israeli strategic objective began. By setting up offices such as the Office of Special Plans to produce bogus intelligence linking Iraq to WMDs and coordinating with their comrades in the media to ensure rapid dissemination of the war hype, these Israel-Firsters such as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Scooter Libby and John Bolton secured the removal of Saddam.
Israel gained a valuable source of oil imports in its now-almost-liberated Iraqi Kurdish partners as well as American military closer to Iran. However, the Shias being brought into power didn’t work as planned and Iranian influence in Iraq grew exponentially to the point where Iraq’s primary source of defence against ISIS (whose Syrian partners al Nusra Israel openly sided with against Syria) was Iranian-trained Shia militia groups from 2014 onwards. Pro-Iran elements in Iraqi politics are powerful today, and the Kurds’ independence referendum in late 2017 – backed only by Israel among the world’s states – was met with an Iraqi military re-establishment of its sovereignty over Iraqi Kurdistan thus neutralizing a long-term Israeli asset.
Breaking the Syrian node of the Iranian-led bloc
Following the disastrous July War, which had been preceded by the full withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon in 2005, Israel’s target turned in major part to Syria. The Israel Lobby had already been forcing sanctions onto Syria post-Iraq invasion despite its cooperation with the US in counter-insurgency because of its links to Hezbollah – evidencing the readiness to prefer Israeli needs over immediate US ones. Claims were already being made months into the Iraq invasion by the Pentagon cabal about the WMDs having been ‘shifted into Syria’ and Syria’s status as one of the countries allowing the CIA to run an international torture programme on its soil didn’t spare it becoming targeted by the same lobbying organizations that spared no costs in attempting to get Iran attacked as well.
With numerous other states aiming for the same goal, Israel hedged its bets on a Syrian collapse against the Takfiri armies it faced on each front, well-armed and deadly. With decisive Russian air support in 2015 and Hezbollah and Iran assisting it, the Syrian state has by and large prevailed over the terrorist threat. Israel’s constant exploitation of its leverage over Russia has resulted in the latter finally providing Syria with the famed S300 surface-to-air missile system which means spells bad news for Israel with its over-reliance on its air force.
The Iran-Syria-Hezbollah bloc stands strengthened militarily and the recent revelation of Russian-made anti-tank missiles in the possession of Palestinian militias coupled with larger missile and mortar stockpiles has alarmed Israeli policymakers. Despite the immense power of the Israeli power apparatus within the US to push its policy, Israel’s rivals have grown in strength in the Levant region and Israel’s own immediate frontiers are brimming with hostile forces.
Israel still has the ever-enhancing power of its Lobby within the US to rely on increasingly open ties with the Gulf States to provide a plan B for it, but suffice to say the typical Israeli behaviour of continuing illegal settlements, wanton disregard for neighbouring states’ sovereignty and openly racist laws and rhetoric will meet more immediate consequences than before.
DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.
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Agha Hussain is currently attached with Institute of Strategic Studies Research and Analysis at National Defense University. His areas of interest are Middle East Affairs, Geopolitics, and History.