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The Regional Campaign: A Post Insisting on Optimism Even on This Difficult Day

This morning in Israel, we woke up to the tragic news of the loss of 10 IDF soldiers in the fighting in Gaza. In this difficult day, we want to highlight sources of optimism.

As time passes, it seems Iran was unaware of the exact timing of the Hamas attack. However, undoubtedly, the attack's various aspects – the military tactics, financing, training, and almost every aspect of the attacks – originated in Tehran.

Sinwar sits on a fish island

One can only guess what was happening behind the scenes. Hamas was interested in seizing an opportune moment to attack Israel. Iran had indeed been building its regional presence for a major campaign against Israel. But at the war's onset, it was incomplete: the proxy force deployment in Syria was insufficient, and Iran had not yet achieved nuclear threshold status (though it is close). These were its prerequisite conditions for launching a full-scale war, which were not met.

Hezbollah, for its part, faced additional constraints related to internal politics in Lebanon. The American threat played a minimal role in the decision of Iran and Hezbollah to exercise restraint, as shown by the Houthi activity in the Red Sea and the Shiite militias' attacks on American bases in Iraq.

Sinwar launched an offensive, assuming Iran and Hezbollah couldn't afford to stay out of this campaign. He was nearly correct. The internal debate in Tehran and Beirut was intense. However, Nasrallah's speech, four weeks into the war, hinted at the direction: Hezbollah would escalate the fighting and conduct battle routines, but was not seeking a full-scale campaign.

The path to dismantling Hamas in Gaza remains long, exhausting, and bloody. The hostage issue is unresolved, and the casualty count, due to the changing nature of the conflict, is rising and expected to continue to rise. Nevertheless, all signs indicate that the region's key players recognize Israeli determination and have accepted the expected fall of Hamas in Gaza.

This assessment includes Iran and Hezbollah. The frequency of incidents in the north by Hezbollah has consistently been between 9 and 13 for many days. Recently, Israel has been the one escalating tensions there. There's a significant chance that if a larger scale war starts in the north, it will most likely be initiated by Israel.

Therefore, even on one of the hardest days since October 7, there are reasons for optimism:

  1. As opposed to most political analysts, we believe there's a moderately high chance of an agreement with Lebanon to withdraw Hezbollah forces north of the Litani River. Hezbollah understands that the alternative is war. While undeterred, war doesn't align with its current plans, nor those of its Persian patron. To avoid the perception of surrender, Israel might be willing to compromise and withdraw from several disputed border points. Hezbollah would likely portray the agreement as a victory, but it would be an Israeli triumph.

  2. If today's report that Qatar has asked Hamas leadership to leave Doha is accurate, then Qatar too has accepted the fall of Hamas. The given reason was the inability to ensure the safety of Hamas leaders. This is somewhat surprising, as Netanyahu reportedly assured Qatar he would not target Hamas leaders there, considering Qatar's crucial role in mediation. The report suggests Haniyeh and his associates were offered relocation to Algeria. It's notable that Turkey was not mentioned in this context, possibly indicating a reluctance to place their bet on the losing horse.

  3. The Houthi Threat: There is a high likelihood of an imminent international attack led by the US and Britain against the Houthis. The Houthis' attacks aim to pressure Israel to cease its military actions but might backfire, increasing international pressure on the Houthis and possibly Iran. The British did not build the Suez Canal to allow Yemeni militias to block this critical trade route.

Israeli determination is key to realizing these scenarios. As we wrote last week, while the international pressure on Israel will surely continue to grow, the notion of a political hourglass is baseless.

Israel's fight for survival heavily depends on its social cohesion. A concerning trend is the gradual return of theatres of polarization and little sectorial politics. We already worryingly observe its beginning.


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