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Hezbollah: A Proposal for a (Temporary) Solution to a (Chronic) Problem

As previously discussed in one of our strategic insights, Hezbollah and Israel are dangerously out of sync, and war seems inevitable. Theoretically, there's a potential for Israel and Hezbollah to reach a new arrangement in the North. In reality, the lack of synchronization of political and military strategies of Israel and Hezbollah poses a significant challenge. Israel has concluded the intense phase of the war in Gaza and now faces pressure from evacuees in the North to return to their homes. Conversely, Hezbollah sees no possibility of an agreement before the war in Gaza ends. Consequently, the likelihood of expanding the campaign is alarmingly high, with Israel being the one currently escalating tensions with Hezbollah.


Before the war, Israel adopted a doctrine termed the "Inter-war campaigns doctrine", aimed at countering Iran and its affiliates' strengthening in the region, primarily through covert, low-intensity operations, that are unlikely to escalate to an all-out war. In the year prior to October 7th, Hezbollah, adopted a similar approach, and initiated its version of inter-war campaign operation (such placing two tents in Israeli territory, launching a terror attach in Megido and firing anti-Tank missile).


During the war, both Israel and Hezbollah engage in what was called in Israel the “The campaign leading upto the war”. This phase primarily involves shooting artillery, missiles and drones (in the case of Israel, also using jets), but does not include on the ground combat. Each side aims to systematically destroy the other's observation posts, compounds, and military intelligence infrastructure near the border, which would become essential in a full-scale war. The campaign reached a peak following the assassination of al-Aaruri in Beirut, with Hezbollah targeting an Israeli strategic intelligence post and Israel conducting deeper operations in Lebanon, including the elimination of key Lebanese field commanders, including a one today.


We may be on the verge of a “limited war stage”. Without an agreement on the return of the evacuees to their homes, Israel is poised to initiate limited ground maneuvers based on the optimistic assumption that the conflict will remain confined to the northern border and not escalate into a broader war. However, this involves a lot of wishful thinking, and once Israel embarks on this phase, the risks of escalation and miscalculation significantly increase.

The question arises: what should be done? If Hezbollah and Israel were the only parties in the conflict, they might agree on a temporary solution, re-implementing UN Resolution 1701 and Hezbollah's withdrawal north of the Litani River (see here). However, despite public domestic pressure, Hezbollah views only Hamas as capable of declaring the end of the war, an unlikely near-term prospect.



In this scenario, where Hezbollah cannot cease fighting and Israel feels compelled to escalate for evacuee repatriation, yet neither desires a full-scale war, the diplomatic focus should perhaps shift. Rather than aiming for an immediate Israel-Lebanon ceasefire, efforts might better concentrate on establishing “rules” for the ‘campaign leading upto the war’ stage. This could involve reciprocal commitments to third parties: Hezbollah's assurance to avoid harming civilian settlements and Israel limiting its operations in the North. Such an agreement could potentially reassure northern residents, enabling their safe return home.


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