Hamas’s attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7 may have forever changed its relationship with its northern neighbor. About 80,000 Israelis from northern Israel have fled their homes since the war against Hamas began, fearing missile attacks by Hezbollah. It is thought that Hezbollah may carry out a larger-scale attack similar to Hamas’s, putting pressure on the Israeli government to destroy Hezbollah and its weapons. Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has warned of war, stating that Israel will “act with all the means at its disposal” unless the international community compels Hezbollah to withdraw.
Israel also argues that U.N. Resolution 1701, which has been in force since 2006, was meant to ensure that Hezbollah would be removed from southern Lebanon. However, Hezbollah has fortified southern Lebanon, stockpiled rockets in civilian infrastructure, built unauthorized firing ranges, and repeatedly stopped UNIFIL from accessing certain areas. The Israeli Defense Forces claim that since Oct. 7, several attacks against Israel have been initiated from near Lebanese Armed Forces and U.N. posts in southern Lebanon. The Lebanese army’s support to Hezbollah gives Israel what it sees as a justification to attack Lebanon.
The U.N. Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has been sent under the authority of Chapter VI rather than Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, limiting its ability to enforce the resolution with military action. Sources in Israel and within the U.N. say that UNIFIL could have achieved more had the Lebanese Armed Forces wanted it to.
Israel is now trying to resolve the situation through diplomatic channels, seeking the influence of countries such as the United States, France, and Arab countries. U.S. energy envoy Amos Hochstein is proposing a deal to resolve territorial differences on the Israeli-Lebanese border and to achieve peace, but Hezbollah has ruled out any deal for now.
Despite the relative quiet in the region over the past decade, both Israelis and Lebanese feel that UNIFIL has not failed but could have achieved more with the Lebanese Armed Forces’ cooperation. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the relationship between Israel and Lebanon.