‘Israel’, the Coronavirus, & Hezbollah’s Weapon
By Yahya Dbouk, Al-Akhbar Newspaper
The “Israeli” media is not talking about national security amid the coronavirus pandemic even though COVID-19 affects security matters with strategic dimensions.
Between the excitement, the scoop to intimidate, and the public’s fear to carry on with life, security matters are not making the headlines, except those imposing themselves.
But the issue of security is ever present within decision-making circles in Tel Aviv. There are a number of questions regarding the relationship between the virus and security challenges, including strategic and existential challenges.
As a result, “Israel” is trying to make the other side understand that the presence of COVID-19 does not translate into the termination of activities by its security apparatus as well as their readiness to pre-empt.
It is likely that Tel Aviv launched recent attacks on Syria to confirm that its level of readiness and follow-up remains unchanged.
However, asserting itself on the battlefield in Syria – as one of the objectives of the attack – cannot be pursued in Lebanon due to its uniqueness and the level of deterrence there, which in turn poses a new challenge for the decision-makers in Tel Aviv.
In a recent research paper issued by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, questions arose about the impact of the coronavirus and Hezbollah's qualitative armament buildup, known in “Israel” as the ‘Precision Missile Project’.
The following is one of those questions. Is Hezbollah taking advantage of the virus and “Israel’s” preoccupation in combating it to advance its precision missile project? This question originally embodied Tel Aviv’s concerns and fears about its enemies exploiting exceptional circumstances. This is a possibility. Hence, it reveals an uninterrupted “Israeli” dilemma concerning the Lebanese arena.
According to the paper, one of the immediate threats that “Israel” might be facing is the possibility that COVID-19 is stimulating the project of production and development of precision missiles in the north, be it in Syria or Lebanon. “Hezbollah and Iran may think that the very great pressure facing the ‘Israeli’ security establishment due to the shortage of human resources amid the coronavirus is an opportunity to develop and protect production lines in Syria and Lebanon as well as efforts to store them.”
This narrative supports recent reports in the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper about "threatening messages" being sent by “Israel” to the axis of resistance. The reports did not eleborate on how this was communicated. These messages warned against provoking “Israel”.
"If anyone thinks that ‘Israel’ has neglected its security because it is occupied with the coronavirus, they must redo their calculations because it will not be silent about any provocation or any blow. Its response will be decisive."
At the same time, it is logical to assume that the same question came up in Hezbollah’s decision-making circles.
“Israel” sees Hezbollah preoccupied with combating the coronavirus in its direct environment and in the Lebanese arena. Would this be an opportunity for “Israel” to attempt to change the rules of engagement? Will false estimates lead to the belief that Hezbollah's preoccupation would prevent it from responding to an “Israeli” aggression? These two questions among others impose themselves and make us contemplate possible scenarios.
The approach by both sides can be described as preventive and more than reasonable. You cannot absolutely deny that these scenarios might not take place. These directions impose themselves on both sides and push them to more awareness and follow-ups.
However, what is more certain is that the exceptional circumstances brought about by the coronavirus, without the resistance’s weapons and the levels of its deterrence, would have been sufficient to push “Israel” to impose its political and economic interests on Lebanon without delay. But the resistance’s weapons and its ability to harm “Israel” has so far prevented it.