Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah is making blatant threats that if no solution is found to Israel’s dispute with Lebanon over Israel’s Karish gas rig in the Mediterranean by September 2022, when drilling is supposed to start there, Hizbullah will not permit Israel to drill at the Karish site. These threats increase the possibility of a military escalation between Hizbullah and Israel.
Hizbullah’s launching of four unarmed drones at the gas rig in July, even with the knowledge that Israel would shoot them down, was meant as a concrete warning that if the sides failed to reach an agreement, Hizbullah would launch armed drones of different sizes and kinds. Nasrallah indicated that Hizbullah has various capabilities in the air, land, and sea and will use whatever serves it at the appropriate time and scale. Nasrallah further threatened that he was prepared to widen the clash “beyond Karish” (an allusion to his threat “beyond Haifa” in the 2006 war between Israel and Hizbullah) and to hit other Israeli energy facilities in the Mediterranean.
Hizbullah’s propaganda machine asserts that a new stage of the conflict with Israel has begun and that Hizbullah is in a state of operational preparedness for a wide-scale war that will not be limited to special operations. The organization published an interactive map of Israel’s energy production facilities in the Mediterranean, emphasizing that they are within Hizbullah’s striking range. Hizbullah also underlined that Israel’s IDF military command opposes military action and recommends that Israel’s political leadership show flexibility and reach an agreement with Lebanon.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Raad, head of Hizbullah’s bloc in the Lebanese parliament and a personal confidant of Nasrallah, said that Hizbullah “does not wish for war, but is ready and prepared for it…. You will see our might when you make a wrong choice and resort to aggression in the coming days.”
Hizbullah Perceives American Reluctance to Step In
Hizbullah is encouraged by the fact that the United States is not taking Israel’s side on the issues in dispute and by the fact that President Biden’s visit to Israel did not address the dispute. Furthermore, Hizbullah views transitional Prime Minister Yair Lapid’s silence in the face of Nasrallah’s threats as Israeli reluctance to be drawn into a military clash with Hizbullah. Hizbullah has put together a profile of Lapid, and it is now carefully observing his moves. Overall, it appears that Hizbullah interprets Israel’s silence as a desire to avoid a military confrontation during the election campaign for fear that it would influence the results.
Analysis of Nasrallah’s behavior indicates that he is prepared to take risks vis-à-vis Israel, which, for its part, has been sidestepping them so far. Nasrallah interprets Israel’s wariness of a confrontation as a weakness stemming from the fact that it is deterred and fearful of armed hostilities.