Who decided to let Hizballah get away with a rocket attack on the Israeli military on Sunday, Sept. 1? IDF retaliation was impressive. But the heavy smoke blanketing wide fields of south Lebanon concealed the fact that the IDF had shelled empty fields, well away from Hizballah bases or manpower. Similarly, when the military spokesman reported an Israeli air strike against the Hizballah rocket launch squad, no one was hurt.
The same policy appears to have been applied to the production in Lebanon of precision missiles, despite the dire threats of destruction coming from Israel’s leaders. On Tuesday night, Sept. 3, the IDF made a big show of discovering a secret Iranian-Hizballah factory upgrading surface rockets to precise missiles at Nebi Shait in the Lebanese Beqaa valley. While displaying a detailed diagram showing the inside workings of the factory, the IDF spokesman omitted to explain why it was still standing and not destroyed. And although the military spokesman could tell reporters that the valuable production equipment was being dismantled and transported to hidden storage sites, he left unanswered the question of why the trucks carrying the equipment were not bombed in transit.
These unanswered questions lead to the conclusion that Israel has desisted from offensive operations against Hizballah in Lebanon ever since its drone attack of Aug. 24 on the Dahya suburb of Beirut. Demonstrating the existence of a missile conversion factory in Lebanon to prove Hassan Nasrallah’s denials were false was no big deal. After all, he never took any prizes for telling the truth.
Could the IDF be pulling its punches to avoid an all-out war with casualties in the short time left before the Sept. 17 general election? Or do Israel’s government and military leaders trust that the information they release will scare the Lebanese people into leaning hard on Hizballah to shut down its missile upgrade project? That would be naïve; trusting ordinary people to rise up against brutal leaders has never worked in the Gaza Strip and is unlikely to work in Lebanon. And, moreover, that policy has the dangerous side-effect of leaving the initiative for violence in the hands of the enemy. Israel’s conduct this week has already given Hizballah valuable information: he understands that he can safely continue to upgrade his rocket arsenal.
The coming DEBKA Weekly (for subscribers) issue out on Friday, Sept. 6, examines the dynamic of the state of play in the Iranian-Hizballah conflict with Israel including exclusive disclosures. To sign on for a subscription, click here.