Northern Shield: Border Operation or Big Distraction?

Northern Shield: Border Operation Or Big Distraction?
Our final topic, picked by you, dear listeners, earlier in a poll on our Facebook page, is “Northern Shield: Border Operation Or Big Distraction?”, focusing on Israel’s anti-tunnel activity along the Lebanese border.

Israel's anti-tunnel operation along its northern border with Lebanon is being portrayed by the IDF as a necessary security measure against Hezbollah, but some are suggesting that it's just one big distraction to take attention away from the police's recommendation to charge the Netanyahus with crimes. The early hours of the operation saw a lot of confusion over whether it was really just a limited action that would strictly remain on Israel's side of the border or if it was a cover for a much larger military campaign, but fears of a larger confrontation between the IDF and Hezbollah were assuaged after the anti-tunnel actions went off without a hitch.

Netanyahu claimed that Hezbollah was infiltrating fighters into Israel and had to be stopped, which came just days after the group's leader Hassan Nasrallah warned his enemies against attacking Lebanon. Tensions between the two have ebbed and flowed since Israel's disastrous summer 2006 war against the political-military organization, but they've recently spiked amid reports that Tel Aviv's anti-Iranian activities in Syria might soon be redirected towards Lebanon. That's why Operation Northern Shield set off so many alarm bells early on because some seriously thought that it might be the tripwire triggering a larger conflict.

That said, there are also those who have taken a much more cynical stance towards things, seeing Netanyahu's latest military drama as nothing more than a big distraction to divert attention away from the police's recent recommendation that he and his wife be charged with fraud and corruption. Whether intentionally or not, Operation Northern Shield did indeed succeed in getting Israelis to focus more on external politics for a moment than internal ones, but to revert back to the latter, there are also some who think that Netanyahu's right-wing coalition kingmakers might have pushed him to act against Hezbollah in order to retain their support.

It shouldn't be forgotten that Israel only narrowly escaped early elections this upcoming spring after a last-minute deal between Netanyahu and the Jewish Home party late last month saved his ruling coalition's one-seat majority in the Knesset, so the aforementioned theory is certainly plausible. At the same time, however, there's no overlooking the fact that Israel regards Hezbollah as an existential threat just like the Lebanese-based group considers the self-proclaimed Jewish State to be to it, so there are undoubtedly serious security considerations at play irrespective of whether Operation Northern Shield was more of a big distraction than a border operation.

Andrew Korybko is joined by Steven Sahiounie, Syrian-American journalist and Vladimir Golstein, Associate Professor of Slavic Studies at Brown University and frequent commentator on current affairs.

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