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Israel Kept Hezbollah out of the War

Israel Kept Hezbollah out of the War

To borrow a phrase from Sherlock Holmes: the “dog that didn’t bark” in the Gaza conflict (thus far, anyway) was Hezbollah. The Iranian-backed Lebanese Shiite militia has rockets and tunnels that equal or surpass the Hamas arsenal, and in 2006 was able to open a second front after Israel attacked Gaza in response to the kidnapping of Cpl. Gilad Shalit. But aside from a few bombastic press statement, Hezbollah stayed out of this latest round.

The main reason, no doubt, is that Hezbollah is deeply mired in the Syrian civil war, where it is doing the Assad regime’s dirty work. The atrocities carried out by Hezbollah or with its active support have all but destroyed its image in the Arab world, where it was once seen as heroic for its decades-long “resistance” to Israel. Moreover, it has suffered casualties and strain to its supply and personnel. It is not in shape to take on Israel at this time.

There are other possible reasons, too, that Hezbollah stayed out. Iran has been able to use the presence of two terror armies on Israel’s border–Hamas and Hezbollah–as deterrents to a possible Israeli pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. With Israel taking the punch out of one of those deterrents, there was no way Iran was going to risk losing the other. A weakened Hezbollah would not be able to protect Iran’s nuclear ambitions.

Regardless, the fact that Israel has been able to operate in Gaza without a significant challenge from Lebanon is one of the most revealing gains of the conflict. It also suggests that the Second Lebanon War, widely viewed as something of a loss for the Israeli military, was more successful than previously understood in helping Israel establish a deterrent to protect the home front. That, and Iron Dome, have shifted the balance in Israel’s favor.

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