Australia must apply real pressure on Hezbollah and Iran over Israel


Australia must apply real pressure on Hezbollah and Iran over Israel
Bren Carlill, Canberra Times, 9 July 2024

The October 7 Hamas invasion of southern Israel, and the war it launched, came out of the blue. But for the last nine months, in northern Israel, Hezbollah and Israel have been drifting towards war. The international community must do more to stop it.

October 7 was significant for two key reasons. The first was the sheer horror that accompanied the rape, mutilation and murder of more than 1000 people, and 250 more taken hostage.

The second was the realisation within Israel of its strategic situation – that the openly declared threats made by Hamas and Hezbollah for many years were not idle. Israel realised the presence of these armies on its borders had become an existential threat.
That’s the rationale for the war against Hamas. It’s not revenge; it’s a determination to remove from Israel’s border a government and army able to do October 7 and desirous of repeating it.

On October 8, Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed, proscribed terrorist army to Israel’s north, began attacking Israel. It hasn’t stopped since. Near daily rocket, missile and drone attacks have seen 60,000 Israelis internally displaced from the northern border for nine months.

If a full-scale Hezbollah-Israel war does break out, the only people who’ll be surprised are those who haven’t been paying attention. Hezbollah’s motivation is that, just like Hamas, it is religiously dedicated to Israel’s violent destruction.

However, Hezbollah is vastly superior to Hamas in terms of offensive capabilities, possessing at least 150,000 rockets and missiles. This means Hezbollah possesses the world’s eighth largest rocket and missile arsenal. It stores these weapons throughout southern Lebanon, mostly inside civilian homes. Doing so is an illegal attempt to use these civilians as human shields, but also renders those buildings valid military targets.

Hezbollah has a 40,000-strong army of highly trained soldiers that could invade Israel at any moment and carry out the kind of atrocities we saw on October 7. They are battle-tested. They fought alongside Syrian dictator Bashar al-Asad in that country’s civil war, in which they helped ethnically cleanse Sunni Muslims from large areas of the country.

Israel does not occupy a single centimetre of Lebanon – a fact the UN has recognised. In 2006, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1701, which insisted the Lebanese Armed Forces and UN peacekeepers be the only armed groups in southern Lebanon. Indeed, the resolution authorised UN forces to “take all necessary action” to enforce this.

They took no action. Hezbollah openly deploys in southern Lebanon, and waves away UN troops, who have never attempted to disarm Hezbollah or move it away from the border.

The international community’s constant tendency to take the path of least resistance almost always makes things worse, and this is another example. In the 18 years since Resolution 1701 was passed, Hezbollah has massed armaments, and created heavily fortified positions in southern Lebanon. If a war breaks out now, it will be much, much worse for Lebanese and Israeli civilians than had action been taken by the UN when it was mandated to do so, in 2006.

But why has the risk of war increased? That a murderous and heavily armed army is on Israel’s border, firing missiles into Israel on a daily basis, and which has forced the evacuation of tens of thousands of civilians is both immoral and untenable.

Acknowledging this, the US has deployed a special envoy to try to forge a diplomatic agreement. The idea is to get Hezbollah to deploy north of the Litani River, which flows roughly parallel to but 30km north of the international border.

But Hezbollah isn’t agreeing to the offer and, from its perspective, why should it? It is hurting Israel physically, economically and psychologically.

However, the current situation cannot continue. Israel cannot have 60,000 people indefinitely displaced from their homes. It cannot continue to absorb hundreds of rocket and missile strikes. No country would.

Hezbollah must be removed from Israel’s border. Rather than wait until war begins and then issue statements of regret, the international community must issue clear threats to both Hezbollah and, more importantly, Iran to stand down.

The US has made clear, due to the fact Hezbollah is the aggressor, with absolutely no legal or moral right to attack Israel, it would back Israel if war breaks out.

Recent unconfirmed reports Australia has indicated it would not support Israel, a democracy whose citizens are internally displaced because of daily attacks by a proscribed terrorist organisation is, if true, a poor decision.

Governments have a choice when it comes to foreign policy. They choose whether to be guided by principles of international peace and security and good practice on the one hand, or be blown by the winds of domestic politics. One can’t help but feel the Australian government, when it comes to Israel, is increasingly choosing the latter.

A principled and correct response would be applying pressure – real pressure – on the cause of the current risk of war: Hezbollah and its patron Iran.

Dr Bren Carlill is the director of public affairs at the Zionist Federation of Australia.

Share this post

Program Partners

Platinum Sponsors

Gold Sponsors

Silver Sponsors

Organisational Partners

Subscribe for the latest news and events