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Israel should negotiate solution to Hezbollah, not depend on deterrence

Just like on the Palestinian front, Israel can change the way it handles its conflict with Lebanon by making a serious attempt to advance a solution.
06 February 2019, Lebanon, Beirut: Supporters of Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian Lebanese Islamist political party and militant group, wave flags of Iran and Hezbollah during a rally to mark the 40th anniversary of the Iranian Islamic Revolution which toppled Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran. Photo: Marwan Naamani/dpa (Photo by Marwan Naamani/picture alliance via Getty Images)
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What would have happened if the missiles fired from Lebanon on Sept. 1 had hit the military ambulance after all, and the news shows had started their broadcasts the next morning with five military funerals? The closer we get to the fateful Sept. 17 vote on the prime minister’s future, the chances of Israel showing restraint and containing the murder of Jews by Arabs grow smaller. Experience shows that the most likely outcome of situations like this is escalation of tension, culminating with Israel getting dragged into rash actions that have nothing to do with strategic considerations.

A similar series of events — the abduction of two Israeli soldiers and the killing of three more by Hezbollah — resulted in the 2006 Second Lebanon War, in which 163 Israelis including 44 civilians lost their lives and 2,628 Israelis (including about 2,000 civilians) were injured. Similarly, the abduction and murder of three Israeli youths in the southern West Bank resulted in 2014 in a military operation in which 50 members of Hamas released in the 2011 Gilad Shalit deal were returned to Israeli prisons. From there, the situation escalated, and Israel launched Operation Protective Edge, in which 68 Israeli troops and seven civilians were killed, and another 2,200 were wounded. The residents of Israeli localities surrounding the Gaza Strip were exposed to rocket fire even after the operation ended. Relative calm across the border was only maintained because of the suitcases of cash that Israel allowed Qatar to transfer to Hamas. It can only be hoped that a stray rocket doesn’t land by mistake on a school full of children, ending the shaky quiet.

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