Weighing Israel's Lebanon Options

Israel must carefully weigh the options for bolstering Seniora's government while not embracing him in a fatal bear hug.

In light of the Hizbullah-backed street protests taking place in Beirut and the underlying threat of Lebanese civil war, Israeli officials are weighing strategies for strengthening the government of Lebanese PM Siniora.

The goal is to avoid a Hizbullah takeover of the government, resulting in a situation in which direct Iranian influence could be wielded in Lebanon.

Ha’aretz has identified this concern as not limited to Israel: a leading article states that several Arab countries, “…including Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan” are worried that the fall of Siniora's government may result in transforming Lebanon into what an Israeli government source termed "the first Arab state to become an Iranian protectorate."

Israel has a clear interest in avoiding a Hizbullah takeover. Yet any action which explicitly endorses one Lebanese faction risks the Bear-Hug Paradox. Any move meant to bolster Siniora could either discredit him because of the association with Israel; or may backfire by giving Hizbullah the credit for refusing to plunge Lebanon into a national crisis.

The Reut Institute contends that Israel should undertake a double strategy:

  • On the one hand, Israel should seek to resolve the outstanding issues with Lebanon in a way that would credit the Siniora government. Among these issues are the Ghajar village and the Shebaa farms.

  • On the other, Israel should seek out ways to support regional initiatives that bolster a coalition of similarly-interested Arab and Western states, such as that of Saudi Arabia.

Sources

A. Eldar, Israeli Officials Mull Ways to Strengthen Seniora Government, Ha'aretz, 12/3/2006. full text.

A. Eldar, Israel Fears Seniora Government May Fall, Ha'aretz, 12/3/06. full text.