How Lebanon was trapped in Hezbollah’s tunnels

Israel wants to expose the Lebanese state as incapable of assuming sovereignty over its territory and it wants to expose Hezbollah as a rogue armed force.
Sunday 16/12/2018
New dilemma. A man holds a Hezbollah flag at Meis al-Jabal village in south Lebanon, December 9. (Reuters)
New dilemma. A man holds a Hezbollah flag at Meis al-Jabal village in south Lebanon, December 9. (Reuters)

The existence of underground tunnels on the Lebanese-Israeli border, which Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke about to foreign diplomats, revealed Hezbollah’s fearful unwillingness to admit its responsibility in digging them.

The report of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon confirmed the existence of the tunnels and blamed Lebanon. The report considered them to be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which authorises the presence of only the international forces and the Lebanese Army in the area of the southern border, the so-called South of the Litani area.

Hezbollah has not issued any statement regarding the tunnels and has neither confirmed nor denied its responsibility. Israel engaged in a diplomatic campaign to show that it is a state under attack but Hezbollah observed complete silence.

During a visit to the southern border areas, silence reigned supreme. There were neither defiant speeches nor boasting about tunnels. Rather, there were indications of shirking responsibility, especially Hezbollah’s.

Hezbollah must have issued a clear message in the area not to comment on what is happening. If worse comes to worst, people must imply that these tunnels belong to drug smugglers or that they are remnants from the period of the Palestinian resistance movement in the 1970s.

Hezbollah’s abdication or non-acknowledgement of the tunnels is proof that it does not really intend to walk its talk of forging a road to Jerusalem through occupied Palestinian territories. On the contrary, the party is being extremely careful not to move beyond its populist and resistance rhetoric to actual military engagement with Israel.

In the affair of the tunnels between Gaza and Egypt and between Gaza and the occupied territories, Palestinian resistance groups never evaded their responsibility for digging the tunnels. They were very proud of what they achieved in this regard.

Hezbollah seems to be in a different state of mind. The party is mighty proud of what it accomplished in the name of Palestine against armed resistance movements in Syria. It considered the destruction of Syrian cities and the displacement of their inhabitants a proper way towards the liberation of Jerusalem. In fact, Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah explicitly declared that the road to Jerusalem passes through Aleppo, Homs and the Qalamoun.

However, when it comes to the reality of facing up to Israel, Nasrallah hides in total silence behind the Lebanese Foreign Ministry. This shows he is dealing with the tunnels issue as if it were an accusation instead of something to be proud of, as was the case when he was “liberating” Homs, Daraya, al-Zabadani or the Qalamoun.

To justify keeping its armed militias, Hezbollah has said time and again that the Lebanese state is weak and helpless. It does not hesitate a second in accusing anyone who speaks of the necessity to coordinate with the international community and abide by the international resolutions concerning Lebanon of complicity with Israel.

This kind of discourse, which the party relied on to strengthen its armed presence in Lebanon, was also deployed during the Syrian war when Hezbollah claimed it was protecting Lebanon from terrorism to justify its transgression of international borders and the flagrant violation of the Lebanese government’s official policy of staying neutral in the Syrian crisis.

Such violations and boldness in dealing with the Syrian revolution are contrasted by this deafening silence over the tunnels or over what Hezbollah has always decried as international conspiracies against the resistance. However, while Hezbollah is protecting itself with the Lebanese state, government institutions seem to be the last to know what the party is doing. Hezbollah has always refused to acknowledge that these institutions are the primary reference terms for Lebanese sovereignty.

Israel seems to be able to expose both the Lebanese state and Hezbollah. It wants to expose the Lebanese state as incapable of assuming sovereignty over its territory and it wants to expose Hezbollah as a rogue armed force acting without legitimacy and breaching international resolutions without acknowledging such breaches, although it proudly displays its overt military incursions in more than one Arab country.

Hezbollah’s tunnels eventually revealed the tunnel in which this party has trapped Lebanon. This party is neither serious about its claims of resisting occupation and of liberating Jerusalem nor is it capable of respecting a state that it has long accused of weakness. Instead, it persists in doing what Iranian interests demand, even if the cost is more sociopolitical and economic crises for the Lebanese state and society.

As the Lebanese state is thrust into one more dilemma, Netanyahu is laughing his head off as he watches how Hezbollah has trapped Lebanon in a tunnel from which it can neither get out of nor stay in.