Friday, February 2, 2018

Israeli Threats to Strike Lebanon Were Intended to Distance War, Not Provoke It

Amos Harel, Haaretz

Image from article, with caption: Hezbollah fighters parade during a ceremony in Tefahta village, south Lebanon, February 18, 2017.

The last time Israel issued such warnings, in September 2017, the message was apparently received

  • Israeli army chief pledges strong deterrence against Hezbollah
  • Lieberman on possible war in Lebanon: If Israelis are forced into bomb shelters, all of Beirut will be too
  • Iran resumes building missile plants in Lebanon, Israeli army warns in rare article in Arab media
Israeli officials sounded all the alarm bells this week about the danger posed by Iran’s plans in Lebanon, but their intent was the opposite of war-mongering. Rather, they sought to distance the danger of war.

The warnings by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and Israel Defense Forces chief Gadi Eisenkot against Iran’s plans to set up arms factories in Lebanon were meant for every available ear in the region – in Beirut and Tehran, but also in Moscow. ...

Israel’s verbal blitz began with an article published by the IDF spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, on Arabic-language websites. This was followed over the next 72 hours with explicit threats by Netanyahu, Lieberman and Eisenkot. During the prime minister’s talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, the issue of Iran’s involvement in the region, and especially its efforts to set up arms plants, was a major topic of discussion.

As usual, however, Israel’s public-diplomacy offensive was less calculated and coordinated than might appear to the ordinary reader or viewer. Manelis had been seeking a suitable platform on which to publish his article for almost two weeks. Only after several Arabic websites finally agreed to publish it did the snowball begin. Hezbollah responded with denials and counterthreats. ...

Every so often, when Netanyahu gets carried away by hawkish rhetoric, conspiracy theories about how he plans to launch a major war to divert attention from the corruption investigations against him spring back to life. But when these allegations move from the cellars of internet comment sections to lead editorials, more convincing evidence is needed. And so far, it hasn’t been found. ...

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