Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon

Hizbullah in War and Peace

Update: See the bottom of this post for Joshua Landis’s response to Nick Noe’s article.

The much-promised post on the subject of Palestinian naturalization is coming soon, but in the meantime I thought I’d put up Nicholas Noe’s latest article for Bitter Lemons, to see what the QN readership makes of it.


Hizballah in war and peace

by Nicholas Noe

Four and a half years after Syrian troops were unexpectedly cajoled out of Lebanon, and more than three years after the end of a (nearly) “open” war with Israel, the Shi’ite movement Hizballah appears not only militarily stronger, as many of its enemies attest, but also politically and ideologically more secure, confident and, to a certain degree, coherent.

Indeed, as far as Hizballah is concerned, the March 14 movement that helped kick the Syrians out and that managed to maintain a narrow parliamentary majority in last summer’s election (reportedly with the help of more than $750 million in Saudi financing) has effectively ceased to exist. There is, quite simply, no domestic power right now that can substantially challenge or even “contain” Hizballah’s independent arsenal–all the more so since there is also no credible external power to provide the kind of support that would be vital in such an effort.

Reconciliations and “thawings” with nearby Damascus are instead the order of the day, as Saudi and Egyptian power in the country retreats and regional differences sharpen around the unexpectedly swift decline of the “settlement camp” as a whole.

These external factors, of course, have greatly helped in solidifying and clarifying Hizballah’s overall position. But as key theoreticians in the party, including its current head, Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, have long argued, the main existential danger threatening the movement’s twin goals of fully liberating Lebanese territories and hastening the demise of the Jewish state of Israel (setting aside the threat that a regional peace deal may pose) has always been the specter of internal division–not the army divisions that the IDF or the US Marines could conceivably muster up.

This was the lesson learned early on by Hizballah during the end of the Lebanese Civil War when conflict broke out with the Shi’ite Amal movement. Those bloody months saw the only sustained drop in Hizballah attacks on Israeli forces and their proxies during the occupation of South Lebanon and raised the possibility of a Shi’ite implosion.

Now, with the crumbling of domestic opposition, Hizballah finally feels confident enough to take a much-needed breather on the home front and concentrate its energies more fully on what it views as the main event with Israel–a confrontation that party leaders and cadres believe is nearing.

This is not to say, however, that there are no domestic vulnerabilities. There are, and, for the most part, they remain just under the surface as a spider web within which Hizballah still must operate.

Briefly, one would include on the list: the 2006 July War that ravaged the movement’s Shi’ite base and raised the countrywide “reasonability test” for any future conflict (is Hizballah going to go to war for a good enough reason?); its use of arms internally last year that magnified its sometimes violent, sectarian aspect; its loss in the June 2009 elections, demonstrating the overconfidence and atrophy in Hizballah’s vital political alliances; the “Shi’ite Bernie Madoff” scandal that sullied Hizballah’s reputation for incorruptibility; and, certainly, the Iranian election unrest that damaged Nasrallah’s increasingly tenuous claim to be heading a party that effectively synergizes reason and faith.

The problem here for Hizballah’s opponents is that these vulnerabilities (of which there are certainly more) would have to be activated and organized around in order to create a new domestic alliance able to decisively undermine Hizballah’s desire and ability to use violence. Unfortunately, as it currently stands, the potentially preponderant actor in Lebanon, the United States, appears unwilling and/or unable to invest in this particular course of action. This applies especially to convincing the Israelis to lend a critical hand by not objecting to sophisticated arms transfers to the Lebanese army, turning over to the UN small parcels of territory considered as occupied by the Lebanese government and shifting away from IAF over-flights that baldly violate UN resolutions and risk sparking another devastating war.

An internal debate may finally take place very soon in Washington over Lebanon policy–perhaps because policymakers have woken up to the idea that a war between Hizballah and Israel is more likely in the near term than a conflict with Iran. Yet deep divisions within President Obama’s “team of rivals” combined with the political and intellectual vortex that Lebanon has long been for Americans, all lessen the chance that any unconventional thinking on how to approach Hizballah might actually be translated into action.

In the absence of a “peace process” then, and without an oblique, non-military strategy on the part of the US to tighten the political, ideological and moral spider web around Hizballah, the movement has declared that it is now even more certain another victory is in the offing–war or no war, as Nasrallah argued recently.

If Israel launches a preemptive strike because it discovers a “game-changing” weapons transfer, for example, or as a prelude to an attack on Iran, Hizballah will be domestically protected since its response will likely be deemed as justified by important segments of Lebanon’s body politic. Even if Israel somehow resists attacking in the event of a strike on Iran, there are numerous other means by which Hizballah can become involved in an open conflict with the domestic backing it deems vital. Shooting down and/or capturing an Israeli pilot overflying Lebanon, for example, would likely entail a wide response by Israel but would be difficult for Hizballah’s opponents to condemn, given the violation of Lebanese sovereignty.

Either way, Hizballah is supremely confident that it can adequately protect itself both politically and militarily in any new conflict with Israel. In fact, the overwhelming sentiment within the party seems to be that a confrontation is not only inevitable, but that when it comes it will finally lead to the total collapse of Israel. This means, above all else, that the relative quiet of the past few years has not brought restored Israeli deterrence, but instead the deferment of a conflict that Hizballah feels vastly more secure in waging.

But what if there is no new war? Here, too, Hizballah sees a strategic gain since it believes Israel has passed a turning point such that the Jewish state’s perceived internal factors of decline (much discussed by Israelis themselves) can be decisively accelerated with the increasing application of pressure.

Revenge for Commander Imad Mughnieh’s assassination, then, does not have to be had in some kind of a spectacular attack and it does not have to be rushed. The revenge is ongoing and permanent, Nasrallah suggests, since as the missile capability of the “resistance axis” extends over and around Israel, fear multiplies the corrosive effects of occupation, demography, international missteps, political corruption and a military might that (supposedly) cannot sustain large casualties.

Of course, Nasrallah might very well be radically mistaken in all of this. The crucial point, though, is that both he and the party seem to firmly believe otherwise–a certitude and a righteousness mirrored by many of Hizballah’s Israeli opponents who are apparently no less eager to put their own Dahia doctrine, as well as Nasrallah’s “Tel Aviv doctrine” of mutual maximum destruction, to the test.

Sadly, if such a war does indeed come, as appears increasingly likely, one thing is certain–it will cost far more lives on both sides than the last round did.

Published 19/11/2009 © bitterlemons-international.org

Nicholas Noe is the editor-in-chief of Mideastwire.com and the author of a 2008 Century Foundation white paper entitled, “Re-Imaging the Lebanon Track: Towards a New US Policy”.


QN’s Response

Here are a few quick thoughts from me. While I do think that Nick’s diagnosis of Hizbullah’s current strategic position is probably accurate — with respect to the party’s strengths and vulnerabilities — I also suspect that the threshold of the “reasonability test” for any future conflict is a little lower than he portrays it to be.

There is very little appetite in Lebanon for another conflict with Israel, even among Hizbullah’s staunchest allies. And while the Lebanese may indeed rally behind the party if Israel launches a preemptive strike, I just don’t see that happening. Much more likely, in my opinion, is a preemptive strike on Iran, and any overt attempt by Hizbullah to retaliate would be, in my opinion, deeply unpopular in Lebanon.

I think back to the shooting of Samer Hanna, the Lebanese Army helicopter pilot who was accidentally killed by a Hizbullah fighter last year. The incident enraged large swaths of the Christian population, including the Aounists. Sure, they found ways of excusing Hizbullah and turning their anger upon the March 14 politicans who tried to score political points out of the tragedy, but the anger and frustration were there.

How forgiving are Hizbullah’s co-nationalists going to be in the wake of a war that is more destructive than the 2006 conflict?

Joshua Landis’ Response

It is hard to believe Hizbullah is really as confident as they make out. Certainly, “the resistance,” and that includes Hamas and Syria, must do something. The ball is in their court. Israel has won, at least it would seem that way for the time being.

What do I mean by won? The Gaza solution. Israel has defied Obama, who claims that only the two-state solution is viable. It has presented an alternative solution, the Gaza solution. By bombing Hizbullah hard and bombing Hamas hard Israel has mapped out a policy. It seems to be working. No Western power complained when Israel smashed Gaza, nor have they complained since.

No Hizbullah attack in over 3 years and quite on the Gaza front as the population languishes in its tents – that is success of the starkest kind. If the “resistance” does not respond within the year, there will be precious few remaining Israelis – or Westerner politicians for that matter – who will argue that concessions need to be made for peace. Hizbullah may talk a confident game, but the Israelis have promised that Lebanon will be Gaza’ed if Hizbullah strikes. I believe them.

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30 thoughts on “Hizbullah in War and Peace

  1. Very interesting article and analysis. Thanks for sharing. I am currently writing a research paper on Hezbollah for a class…it is more historical though.

    Posted by J1mbad | November 19, 2009, 1:42 pm
  2. What kind of feedback you’re looking for QN? It looks like Noe is way off mark:

    1) M14 was never reliant on any peace process for its life. It existed before Obama’s peace initiative (or lack thereof) and will continue to exist regardless.
    2) M14 popular base is intact regardless of some perceived realignment of some irrelevant players.
    3) Hezb’s sole reliance on weaponry is not going to help increase its popular base. It already reached its pinnacle by capturing most of the constituents within its sectarian boundary having proven itself to be an exclusively Shia organization in complete opposition to secularism and democratic governance.
    4) Hezb’s acts of May 7 have fatally and irrevocably exposed it as a non-trustworthy organization representing the greatest threat to the Lebanese State and its citizens.
    5) A defense strategy based on firing katyushas from Lebanese territory down south is futile and the Lebanese will not cheer such strategy as viable for the defense of the country. In fact they already know this strategy is nothing but a chess game played by Iran for its own interests that have nothing to do with Lebanon’s higher interests.
    6) The Lebanese would only consider Hassan Nasrallah’s claims of possessing a viable defense strategy if he can prove without any shadow of doubt, supported by facts, acts and figures that he is capable of moving the theatre of the war into Northern Israel with 24 hours of the break of hostilities. He should demonstrate that he can send enough fighters into northern Israel in order to engage the settlers and the IDF in battle on the ground away from Lebanese soil. He should also be able to demonstrate that he can actually chase ‘Jewish’ settlers out of their settlements and replace them with Palestinian refugees from Lebanon immediately. In this case the Lebanese people may rethink support for him and begin to consider his bravado as not just mere talk. The Lebanese are not interested in committing suicide while the settlers are bunkered down safely and Hassan Nasrallah is likewise sitting in a bunker connected to the outside world only through screens via fiber optic networks.
    7) Hassan Nasrallah will be totally on his own if he commits any acts of aggression or even if he fires back in defense without authorization from the Lebanese Government. It will be in the best interests of the Lebanese government to immediately notify World Governments and the UN Security that it dissociates itself from such acts. It should then declare a state of emergency and warn any ministers to abide by its decisions (and not Hezb’s dictates). Any ministers that dissent should then be fired and replaced accordingly. In other words all the ministers are expected in this case to be one voice.
    8) World governments including the US and UN Security Council will put enough pressure to ensure Israel will limit its operation to Hezb positions and areas where Hezb enjoys support. The population of these areas will be notified not to expect any compensation for damages from Lebanese, Arab or other governments due to their stand in support of Hezb. Any person who seeks compensation afterwards must demonstrate that he/she is and was opposed to Hezb and its leader.
    9) Hezb’s perception that it is in a secure and winning situation (according to Noe) is no more than a mirage that very much resembles the mirage it lived through prior to its defeat in the June 7 elections.

    That’s what I can think of, QN, at the moment. Will this be enough now to entice you to release your gem? Otherwise it looks like Syriacomment readership has already stolen your ideas and they are already discussing what we’ve been discussing a week ago here under Nahas’s article. So hurry.

    Posted by mike | November 19, 2009, 1:45 pm
  3. I do not know where that face came from. It was supposed to be number 8.

    Posted by mike | November 19, 2009, 1:46 pm
  4. Mike

    You call Hariri and Jumblat irrelevant players in M14? who is relevant Moawwad or Fares Souaid?

    You have to read the news about Hariri’s stance in the debate on the policy of the new Government to see his realignment.

    As for the attitude of the Lebanese in case of a war: that is the same mistake that several players made in 2006 they lived to regret it what makes you think that a lot have changed ?

    QN i agree with most of what you said except what makes you think that Hizbullah will retaliate for an attack on Iran? Do you think Nasrallah is stupid enough to risk all his political credit on such a move? If not directly attacked by Israel any Hizballah move at this stage is political suicide in Lebanon

    Posted by elsheikh | November 19, 2009, 2:19 pm
  5. Number 4,
    You think Hariri realigned? What can I say to a wishful thinker?

    But yes, I do think Jumblat is irrelevant.

    What changed since 2006?

    Lots. Where have you been?

    Posted by mike | November 19, 2009, 2:42 pm
  6. So Jumblat is irrelevant in March 14 ? ok so other that Hariri who is relevant? or is M14 Hariri Inc?

    What do you make of the trip Hariri is making to Damascus? his new found stance on the issue of Israel and the Arms?

    Posted by elsheikh | November 19, 2009, 2:55 pm
  7. I am lost for words bar saying that Objective thinking, rational debate, learning from history -particularly recent one- knowing the reality of what is going on in one’s territory south of Lebanon’s border…all this seem to be missing in commenting on what I felt was an enjoyable read that perhaps requires more consideration and analysis.


    Posted by Question Marks | November 19, 2009, 2:56 pm
  8. How can Hizballah not retaliate when Israel attacks Iran??? I would even think that Hizballah will attack Israel if there are biting sanctions on Iran.

    After all, that is exactly why they are funded. Why would Iran fund Hizballah except to use it in such situations???

    If they do not retaliate because of internal pressures, they will have to fight their main benefactor.

    At this point in time the Lebanese are left with two very bad options, fight Hizballah or fight Israel. Obviously, they will do nothing, which means they have implicitly chosen to fight Israel.

    Posted by AIG | November 19, 2009, 3:07 pm
  9. AIG: One would think that a citizen of a country that was arguably created by the West and receives far more money from the US than Hezbollah does from Iran but still doesn’t take marching orders from Washington would have a little more nuanced view of the relationship between Tehran and Dahiyeh.

    Until you realize that Hezbollah is a national group with national goals that sometimes diverge from and are independent of those of Iran, and that the relationship between the two is nuanced, you’re never going to understand either.

    Ironically, you make the same mistake when thinking about Iran and Hezbollah that many Arabs make when conflating the US and Israel.

    Posted by sean | November 19, 2009, 5:08 pm
  10. Sean,

    Maybe, I am willing to stand corrected.

    Israel receives about 1% of its GDP from the US as aid. What percent of the Hizballah budget comes from Iran? (I am seriously asking)

    If the US stops giving Israel any aid, Israel will survive. If Iran stops supporting Hizballah, will it survive? (Again, I am asking)

    Another related question: Iran has invested billions of dollars in Hizballah. What do they expect to get out of this investment?

    Posted by AIG | November 19, 2009, 5:18 pm
  11. M14 had based most their unity and outlook on a few key areas; Opposition to Syria, Opposition to Hezbollah’s power network of weapons and communication and also their unity as a mutual benefit in elections.

    Opposition to Syria is crumbled with M14’s pillar, Mr Saad Hariri likely to visit.

    Hezbollah’s weapons, communication lines and ‘state within a state’ has only progressed since the formation of M14. Even if Hezbollah protected these undemocratically in May 2008, the fact is they did because they had the real power on the ground.

    No one can argue that Politically M14 didn’t succeed in Their aim of gaining a majority over Hezbollah. However the mutual interest here is also crumbling, Jumblatt fell, Jumblatt is relevant as long as he has voters and followers. And murmurs followed of others to come. Whilst I don’t think anyone else will leave, M14’s majority has lessened, in fact it lasted a matter of weeks.

    So as you can see there is no point trying comment with a M14 perspective. All eyes are on Hezbollah and what the future holds for Lebanon and the region. I will hold back my comments on Hezbollah as I agree with this article from Head to Toe.

    Posted by Moustafa | November 19, 2009, 5:19 pm
  12. I agree with Landis. At the root of the Hamas and Hizballah problems is the fact that asymmetric warfare only works when there is asymmetry between the costs of the “strong” side and the costs of the “weak” side. By changing the rules of the game, Israel has made war too costly for Hamas and Hizballah. It also bodes badly for Hamas and Hizballah that in Gaza the cost in human life for Israel was so low. And when in about 5 years (maybe less but I doubt it), Israel’s Iron Dome missile short range missile intercept system becomes fully operational and effective, that will be checkmate. Hizballah and Hamas will be sitting on tens of millions of dollars of useless junk.

    Posted by AIG | November 20, 2009, 11:51 am
  13. Agree with Landis, but not necessarily for the reasons he cites. Have a look at Nasrallah’s 2007 interview with bin jiddu and you will see him explain that he believes a rhetorical strategy of confident re-assurance is optimal. Of course, rhetorical strategies are not political or military strategies (see: any politician anywhere), so I am left to wonder about Noe’s sources. This piece is an excellent close reading of Nasrallah’s words, but the words don’t necessarily get us into the ‘mind of hizbullah.’ Or at least, need greater context.

    Posted by david | November 20, 2009, 7:26 pm
  14. “Joshua Landis” (as he writes “resistance”) never stops dispensing recepies for successive US governments on how to conduct their racist Zionist policies in the Arab world. Unfortunately for him, no one is taking notes: neither the lunatic George W. Bush nor the WASP wannabe Barack Bushama. Trying to hide behind a separation wall of objectivity, he states: “No Western power complained when Israel smashed Gaza, nor have they complained since”. Notice the word “complain” (or this gem: “Gaza’ed”!) as if someone had a back spasm that’s a bit irritating. Is that a surprise from racist Western governments and their killer societies, especially in the US? As for Hizbullah, the party should take a harder line vis-à-vis its enemies in Lebanon and not try to cozy up to anyone. It should be stated loud and clear that the Zionists from Patriarch Sfeir to his favourite mass murderer “son”, Samir Geagea, have lost and they are in no position to put conditions on anything in the country. As for the outrage over the accidental shooting by a Hizbullah member of helicopter pilot Samer Hanna, where were the outrage over the killings of Shiite civilians in Mar Mkhayel by the army. Finally, I would say that relations between Hizbullah and the Free Patriotic Movement might not survive Michel Aoun’s passing. With every concession, they try to outsmart the criminal Geagea forces by adopting extreme sectarian views regarding some internal issues.

    Posted by Jihad | November 21, 2009, 9:37 am
  15. “Until you realize that Hezbollah is a national group with national goals that sometimes diverge from and are independent of those of Iran, and that the relationship between the two is nuanced, you’re never going to understand either.”

    You need to work very, very hard to prove your assertions.

    Posted by mike | November 21, 2009, 5:48 pm
  16. It is almost certain Joshua Landis’ wish will come true within the time frame which he specified. One party to the conflict (Israel) seems to be confident enough to go for the kill:


    I do not understand why Jihad is upset with Joshua and accusing him of what he cannot be accused of. I agree that the term Gaza’ed does not exist. I googled it already. I agree Joshua made it up. It is not in the English dictionary. What else bothers you about him, Jihad? Did you not cheer Abushama along with Joshua during election year as a saviour? Now, you and Joshua just have to wait until 2012, when you both will say: O’ Bush and team were angels after all.

    Posted by mike | November 22, 2009, 6:57 pm
  17. #16

    Your exhilaration at the prospect of ‘going for the kill’ is inescapable.I suspect that you have already reserved a seat in your favourite TV room to be a live witness to the ‘kill’.

    Back to reality however, how did you detect that ‘confidence’ you stated. Could it be because some Israeli officials tend to trumpet their endeavours at ‘learning’ the lessons from 2006 misadventure successfully (they could be justifying the budget, you know!)? If that is the case, I can point out a few announcements by similarly positioned Israeli current and former military officers who beg to disagree.

    What I am trying to say, I guess, is that war is inevitable, yes, but not until such time that Israel can be sure of achieving a clear unequivocal victory along the lines of 1967. I do not believe that Israel can afford another disastrous military campaign. It is hard enough as it is to maintain the façade of the ‘deterrent’ after 2006 and 2008.

    While Israel continues its endeavours towards resurrecting its ‘deterrence’ evidenced by the mass-mobilization efforts and anti-missile systems, the Lebanese side is not sitting idle basking in past glories, far from it. I believe that with the prevailing domestic political landscape, those supporting the resistance are quite relaxed in the knowledge that the Lebanese are working towards maintaining the ‘balance of terror’ with the Israeli entity.

    It is quite clear that in the absence of any serious military activity on the southern Lebanese border, the current phase could be considered as a ‘psychological warfare’, one that the Lebanese side is not taking too seriously, while at the same time is making sure is prepared.

    War is a very serious matter and ought no be taken lightly. It will take much more than a report, rather a compilation/translation piece of journalism from an M14 organ to convince anyone that Israel is now ready to make the wish of some Lebanese come true. We need to start looking at contemporary history and learn from it.

    The serious observer of the situation will wish to monitor various media; Lebanese, Zionist as well as international before he/she can verify the notion of ‘readiness to kill successfully’.


    Posted by Question Marks | November 22, 2009, 7:45 pm
  18. # 17,

    Well it looks like it is inevitable that I have to use the whip again.

    What is it with you? Do you really understand English? Did you understand what Joshua wished for? Go back and read him again and stop acting like a kid.

    Posted by mike | November 22, 2009, 7:58 pm
  19. Here again is another piece supporting the ‘inevitable’ fulfillment of Joshua’s wish:


    Please understand exactly what Joshua wants to see happening before jumping on your keyboard.

    Posted by mike | November 22, 2009, 9:10 pm
  20. Mike 18 & 20

    “Well it looks like it is inevitable that I have to use the whip again.”.

    Yes, I read and understood that part of the English language, and couldn’t ascertain whether I ought to feel sad for you or amused by you.

    No I didn’t read Joshua, if I did I would have commented on it if I felt it deserves one. I responded to what you wrote, and since you did not attribute the statement about readiness for the kill either by using quotation marks or allude to where it came from, I naturally supposed it is yours and commented on it. Simple and short English.

    War nowadays in the ME has become a dangerously serious affair and an option that requires the ‘right’ mix of strategic pieces to be put in place. This state is in utter difference to days past when Israel could roam at will picking a choosing when where and who to strike with complete immunity. I think the Israelis learned that pretty well in 2006, and I just hope against hope that some Lebanese and certain Arab governments see the changes afoot and use it to their strategic advantage and use as a level in their negotiations with their Zionist counterpart.

    Israel waging war is inevitable, as you and I pointed out. Israel needs it badly partly in an effort to try to redress the strategic balance to its ‘former glory’, and partly as it is the only way it knows to achieve its objectives, as history tells us.

    I think we diverge on the timing of that anticipated conflict and to a large extent on its anticipated results.

    My bone of contention with you is that I felt that you were looking forward with glorious anticipation at the prospects of an imminent war that would kill lives and destroy property and, yet again, uproot people.

    This is how I understood the English in your unattributed statement:

    “going for the kill’ is inescapable.”I suspect that you have already reserved a seat in your favourite TV room to be a live witness to the ‘kill’”;

    hence my response that apparently calls for whipping!


    Posted by Question Marks | November 23, 2009, 5:09 am
  21. I read Landis’s piece a few times looking for a shred of evidence that I could have missed in support of his ‘analysis’. Alas, none was found, and I was left with the impression that either Landis knows something the rest of us mortals completely missed to detect, or the learned gentleman feels that he can be judgemental without having to justify anything no matter how visibly incorrect it is.

    He starts his assertions by stating that “It is hard to believe Hizbullah is really as confident as they make out” without providing us with the methodology that led him to believe that Hizbullah is weak. Did he not read/hear of the numerous reports, by both Israeli and Western intelligence, monitoring the ever-increasing Hizb arsenal both in quantity and quality. Now, one might say that this is part of an elaborate ‘psy-op’. If he were to at least mention this, in passing even, one would have viewed his ‘analysis’ with a bit more credibility. He then goes on to advice the resistance that it “has to do something” before it is too late. Is he sure that it is not doing something? It could be that the resistance is doing what Landis doesn’t like, or he actually doesn’t see what the resistance is doing. In the same paragraph Landis committed a potentially dangerous omission by taking Iran out of what he considers the resistance camp. Again, does Mr. Landis know something that we and most of the world do not with relation to the stance of Iran vis-a-vis Israel, Lebanon/Hizbullah, Syria and Hamas! The absolute gem however arrives in the same paragraph when the writer states that “Israel has won”, only to water it down by qualifying his statement by providing an time frame for his observation. Landis then goes on, in the fashion of Aristotle before his students in the hills of Athens (with all due respect to the philosopher), by posing a question and answering it himself. Unfortunately, his justifications for the victory of Israel appear a mishmash of omissions, half truths and outright untruths. “Israel defied Obama”, over the two-state solution he opined. That may or may not be the case, but let us consider the statement to be true to the best of Landis’s knowledge; how, I ask, does this represent a ‘victory’ for Israel? Apart from Syria and to a lesser extent Iran (I will bring Tehran into the equation even if Mr. Landis doesn’t wish to do so himself) playing diplomacy, as states usually do, neither Hizbullah nor Hamas do actually care that much whether Netanyahu scores more points than Obama or the other way round. They are on the record in no uncertain terms that they believe USA not to be an honest broker. Indeed Nassralah doesn’t miss an opportunity to say exactly that. He even goes further by declaring that the Obama Administration is engaging in a charade to pull the proverbial wool over the resistance’s eyes.

    “By bombing Hizbullah hard and bombing Hamas hard Israel has mapped out a policy.” Mr. Landis, when in the history of the ME conflict did Israel not bomb its adversaries hard? What is the new policy that Israel actually mapped out post 2006 in Lebanon and 2008 in Gaza? The way I see it is that the resistance, especially in Lebanon was the one that dictated a new policy that deterred Israel from bombing hard at will, by carrying the destruction into its enemy’s territory, for the first time in the State of Israel’s 60+ history. The difference seems to me is the visible change in Israel’s behaviour not the other way round.
    “No Western power complained when Israel smashed Gaza, nor have they complained since”. Are you for real, Mr. Landis! We mortals have heard of the wide scale and sometimes vociferous international condemnation of Israel’s military campaign in Gaza, which culminated in the Goldstone Report.

    I read between the lines of your last paragraph that Israel is quite happy with the current status quo being the way it is, especially in south Lebanon because “No Hizbullah attack in over 3 years…”. You went on to surmise that if the situation prevails then Israelis would not have to make concessions for peace, neither will the West pressure them to do so. What is new, Mr. Landis in the holly alliance of Israel and the West regarding a peaceful and just solution for the Palestinian problem?

    Contrary to your summation, I believe that 2006 especially has imposed a new set of game rules in regionally and internationally; call it the balance of terror strategy if you will. Israel has learned that now it can be hurt by its enemies, unlike in the recent past. Israel has tried mass bombardment to no avail. I believe that putting the so-called Dahieh Doctrine into practice in Lebanon, and I think that is what you are referring to, in any future conflict would hurt Israel’s inside much more than it will Lebanon’s. I am certain Israeli planners and strategists are looking at this very closely as they look for a way by which they can regain the deterrent element they have lost in Lebanon. If there will be another flare-up in hostilities it will be because someone in Israel got impatient or was ill advised that Hizbullah could be defeated. Indeed the Israeli army that we knew would have not accepted that its reputation be damaged, and Israel would have reacted immediately to redress the balance. The fact that it didn’t is that the price will be extremely high and perhaps existential even.

    You end you speculative piece the way you started it by alluding again to what you deem is Hizbullah’s endeavours to camouflage its weakness by talking tough; again, quite a dangerous assessment.

    To end, I would like to draw attention to the terminology permeating the short piece, which is quite indicative of the mind set of Mr. Landis:
    – The term Resistance placed between quotation marks. A reflection of doubt on the writer’s part, perhaps!
    – The “Gaza Solution”, as if Mr. Landis want us to believe and be content with disproportionate fire-power and targeting of civilians and civilian compounds, including UN facilities no less, is a viable solution that ought to be pursued since it provided Israel with its Landis-deemed victory;
    – “will be Gaza’ed”, so insensitive and barbaric a coined term that makes it hard to respond to in any civilised manner!


    Posted by Question Marks | November 23, 2009, 6:26 pm
  22. You’re so full of nonsense and worse than that you do not have any shame to utter it. You really deserve the real hard whipping now.

    I’m almost certain ‘Mr.’ Landis will pop in sometime and serve you the real whip.

    As a start here’s one whip in English ethics for you. You do not say Regards to some one(s) you do not know or haven’t met. Formalities dictate that you should stick to the use of Sincerely until circumstances warrant the use of such more ‘intimate’ terms. So go back to English 101 and take the course again. You have missed on quite few important things that you need to learn.

    Posted by mike | November 23, 2009, 9:41 pm
  23. …And that has what to do with the post?

    If you feel that strongly about my comments, then enlighten us with your response. That is why we participate in this post, I presume.

    I am sure Mr. Landis is quite capable of defending his own thoughts, as he should and indeed will, in a rational to-the-point manner, once he finishes the conference in Boston.


    Posted by Question Marks | November 23, 2009, 9:55 pm
  24. I’m of the opinion that your curiosity is best satisfied if you stick to your native language. Here’s a good place to start:


    Posted by mike | November 23, 2009, 10:05 pm
  25. Oh, no whipps this time; I am shocked!


    Posted by Question Marks | November 23, 2009, 10:10 pm
  26. Question Marks,
    Do you really not get it???
    Even in the Yom Kipur (73) war none of Syria’s or Egypt’s infrastructure was targeted.

    The “resistance” thought it could hassle Israel with missiles without paying a price. Israel was able to break this equation and make the price unbearable for the “resistance”. The equation is now exactly as Landis says: You shoot missiles at us, we Gaza you, meaning that we target the infrastructure of your host country and cripple your economy severely.

    Why does Syria support the “resistance”? Because it wants the Golan back. The Syrians believed that if Hizballah and Hamas harassed Israel enough, the Israelis would have no choice but to deal with them. However, as Landis points out, the northern border of Israel has never been more quiet since 2006. The whole raison d’etre of the “resistance” from the Syrian point of view has vanished. If it is not pressuring Israel in any way, what is it good for? If the Israeli borders are quiet anyway, why would Israel need to make any concessions to Syria?

    As for Hizballah itself, imagine what would happen if for an additional 5 years, the situation remains as it has. The Lebanese will look at the situation and ask themselves: Since the Hizballah are not resisting Israel in any way, what is their excuse for keeping their weapons? Hizballah’s rhetoric already seems very empty since they did nothing to help the Palestinians during the Gaza offensive. Why was that? Either they didn’t want to, or they can’t. Either case undermines what they are saying.

    As for deterring Israel from attacking Lebanon, I really fail to see the logic of that at all. In 2000 Israel left Lebanon. If Israel has long term plans regarding occupying Lebanon, why did it leave in 2000? Israel was losing on average 10 soldiers per year there. Yet Israel deemed that even that was too much relative to the benefits of staying. There is ZERO support in Israel for any war except for self defense. Just look at the reaction in Israel to the first Lebanon war. Don’t forget, the Israeli army is a conscript army, nobody wants to fight and risk death unless it is essential to the safety of his family and country. In short, Hizballah is not deterring Israel, because Israel has no plans to attack Lebanon even if Lebanon were completely demilitarized.

    What Hizballah is doing is endangering Lebanon. Alas, only after the next war what I am saying will sink in.

    Posted by AIG | November 24, 2009, 12:53 pm
  27. AIG,

    Although you agree with Prof.Josh’s observations, I think the difference is that this depresses Prof. Josh but not you.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 24, 2009, 2:27 pm
  28. AP,
    You may be right though I do not see why it should. The quicker the Syrians forget about the Golan and focus on integrating into the world economy, the better for them. And I am sure Landis knows that.

    Posted by AIG | November 24, 2009, 2:58 pm
  29. AIG,

    Yes, but when your an anti-Israel, pro-Baathist American professor who is most likely tenured for life, and living the good life, who really cares about the Syrian people?

    Does the phrase “let them eat cake” mean anything to you?;)

    Posted by Akbar Palace | November 24, 2009, 3:30 pm
  30. “and I just hope against hope that some Lebanese and certain Arab governments see the changes”

    I can see that you can choose to be realistic when it suits you, and you choose not to be when it suits you rhetoric. Of course, you’re hoping against hope. How much support you think your Hezb can count on in Arab countries after its mask has been uncovered?


    Not to mention May 7 in Beirut and all that happened in Iraq.

    But then David (in # 13) had it right on the money with HN’s “rhetorical strategy of confident re-assurance”

    So, to you as long as you can win through rhetoric you’re actually winning. Good luck!!!

    Posted by mike | November 24, 2009, 9:10 pm

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