|Daniel Sobelman's abstract:|
Since the Second Lebanon War of 2006, Israel and Hezbollah have been intensely preparing and rehearsing for yet a third war. However, more than a decade after the cease-fire took effect it appears that the longest and fiercest military confrontation between the two adversaries may be leading to a profound shift in Israeli-Lebanese relations. For a host of reasons, among them mutual deterrence and a realistic appreciation of the immense costs of another large-scale confrontation between the two sides, the international border between Israel and Lebanon has enjoyed a degree of stability unprecedented in recent decades. The core interests of Hezbollah, which is the most powerful actor in the Lebanese arena, and which arguably wields the greatest influence on Lebanese security, have led it to refocus its energies on the Syrian arena and adopt a policy of deterrence vis-à-vis Israel. Another factor that has contributed to this state-of-affairs is that since the end of the last war in 2006 Israeli and Lebanese military representatives have been holding regular meetings under the auspices of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL). These monthly tripartite discussions have provided the two sides with an effective conflict management mechanism, which they have been able to harness in the service of tackling and resolving border disputes, and preventing potentially destabilizing misunderstandings. Under these circumstances, can decades of deep-seated animosity and mistrust gradually give way to a certain degree of mutual trust and long-term stability between the two sides? Examining the shifts in the two states’ relations over the past two decades, as well as the broader geopolitical landscape surrounding Lebanon, this paper will analyze the evolution of Lebanon-Israel relations from instability and confrontation to relative stability, and attempt to provide scenarios that could sustain or unbalance this decade-long equilibrium, and potentially even lead to military confrontation. The paper will draw on primary sources (including interviews, official documents and statements and media resources) and on secondary works, and will employ theories of International Relations (especially Security Studies), conflict and peace.