The claim by the Israeli government that it has just found tunnels inside its territory is about internal politics rather than security. Israel's tunnel vision is about Netanyahu as much as it is about Hezbollah
Just how much of what we read about Israel discovering new Hezbollah tunnels on its northern border with Lebanon is real? Some of it? None of it?
Recently, international media in London and Washington went big on the “tensions” between Lebanon and Israel over these tunnels. Given that nearly everything we read from the Israeli government about the West Bank and Gaza is a magnum of lies, how seriously should we take this latest news item?
If Israel can’t even tell the truth about how its soldiers killed scores of unarmed protestors earlier this year (citing that they were a threat to the border itself), then why should anyone take their latest news event seriously?
Even from a distance, there are many aspects of the Hezbollah tunnels story that just don’t add up.
It might be a good starting point to ask why Israel is raising this issue now. The tunnels themselves have been there for years and many are known to the IDF, who surely looked into them in 2014 or perhaps even earlier. For years the tunnels have been known about, and for years they haven’t spooked the Israelis. Until now.
What happened in Israel in the last few days which coincided with this amazing discovery? The corruption case against Netanyahu’s is building, and it can't be ignored. The tunnels story, which actually isn’t a story at all, is designed entirely to distract both international and local media away from the real crisis that the Israeli leader has: opposition parties now, for the first time, calling for his resignation.
Israel has never felt more vulnerable than now, as, its own campaign to hit Iran and Hezbollah in Syria flounders and increasingly, we are hearing and reading reports about Iranian cargo jets landing in the dead of night in Beirut to offload GPS technology to turn rockets into high precision missiles.
The UN draft resolution put forward by the US, condemning Palestinian armed groups for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, was submitted a few days before the operation. The Israeli operation acts as a convenient public relations component to lend credence to the Israeli narrative.
What we are seeing with the tunnels story is a sort of panic from Israel, all designed to crank up and win an entirely different war with Hezbollah: the media one conducted across the salient op-ed pages of the world’s most prestigious newspapers.
From a distance, pundits might argue that Israel has won this war. Its own generals cause a stir in Israel and give their opinion on a nuance of the “inevitable” war with Hezbollah; this is then written up as fact, in Israeli media, which is then reported on and analyzed by an army of academics in the US who compound the ‘facts’ and before you know it, American journalists are quoting the academics writing about the same ‘fact’ – which all along was fake news.
But then there’s the cherry on the top for Netanyahu, which is that Israeli media and public opinion is affected by US media giants and what their top people are writing, so the fake news goes full circle and comes home in a new suit.
And this is what the latest Hezbollah story is all about.
There are no new tunnels which Israel has just discovered and is threatened over which are creating a “new tension”. The entire news fable is just a yarn, and one designed to score Netanyahu political points back home – but one which in reality is showing Israel to be more of a loser in the power struggle between itself and Iran in the region, rather than a victor.
It’s a game of double and triple bluff. And Hezbollah, to its credit, usually doesn’t rise to the bait. Both sides know that the tunnels themselves are a military parenthesis to a bigger story.
Israel does not fear Hezbollah will use them to ‘invade’ as the group doesn’t have ambitions in this direction.
They are a deterrent and a scare tactic which works very well. They may well be used in the event of an Israeli attack, to fill Israeli villages with Hezbollah fighters – which is a genuine fear for the IDF – but the bigger worry for Israel is not the tunnels that it claims it has discovered, but more the ones that it hasn’t found yet.
For people in the UK and the US who are not familiar with the details and practices of both sides, the video clip provided by the IDF of a tunnel, complete with a Hezbollah fighter approaching an IDF soldier would be quite convincing.
But let’s be serious. Anyone who knows Hezbollah and understands that it is a disciplined, military organisation, knows it would not put its own people in tunnels so close to the Israeli border, without at least a weapon – and not in uniform.
Hezbollah would not risk losing one of its own fighters which it has invested so much time and money in, simply to be captured by the IDF, while hanging out in the tunnel.
Also, what sort of a tactic is it from the Israeli side to apparently identify and block or destroy the tunnels and let the other side know this? The idea that the IDF has discovered tunnels dug by Hezbollah and now need to blow them up, doesn’t add up. We’re being sold a kipper here and the fact that no journalist – local or international – are allowed a peep for themselves leads me to suspect that the entire story is fabricated.
In reality, this new item is woefully designed to calm the Israeli public after the reports of missiles being delivered to Beirut were more or less accompanied by a tranche of carefully timed intel leaked by the Lebanese group about cities in Israel it can target – complete with satellite photographs – which has vexed Netanyahu, and rightly so.
Sorry, no war.
But the truth is that there is no ‘new tension on the border’ which is being reported now. And there is no imminent war between the two sides as both sides need one another for their own political objectives.
Indeed, one of the greatest myths perpetuated by the Western media is that Israeli hawks dream of destroying Hezbollah, when in reality this could not be further from the truth. The hawks need Hezbollah.
Israel could be at peace with itself regionally, but the political capital gained from the so-called war with Hezbollah is too great, and far outweighs, for example, the pretext of Iran being Saudi Arabia’s enemy.
Both scenarios present the incumbents with a cause, which deflects from better governance. If there was no threat from Hezbollah, then the media and political elite of Israel – let alone armchair experts in Ohio or Oxford - may look more closely at Netanyahu’s leadership and stumble upon more incriminating evidence. The same goes for Hezbollah, Israel provides a great distraction.
The next time you see a video clip on youtube of Israeli military carrying out operations on its border and the mention of Hezbollah tunnels, you may as well click on the clip of the back-flipping performing kitten which knocks grandma’s wig off. There will, at least, be more integrity in this video montage.
The next news item about Hezbollah tunnels you are likely to see is a report about a Hollywood movie made about them. That’s where they belong, after all.
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