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Sarah: Good afternoon. While all eyes are focused on the conflict in Gaza, there is a lower-intensity conflict on the northern border that threatens to escalate to a wider war. Hezbollah has been trading fire with the Israelis across the Lebanese border. Hezbollah began supporting their Palestinian ally, Hamas, well before the war broke out on October 7th. Since the war, there has been sufficient danger in the North, for 61,000 Israelis to have to evacuate their homes. They are living in temporary residences, often crowded into hotels in one room. Estimates of the number of Israeli evacuees vary. The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) estimated a hundred thousand Israelis from the North have had to evacuate. Yesterday, in front of thousands of enthusiastic supporters, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah gave a speech. During his speech, he warned that if Israel decided to wage war in Lebanon, those displaced from Israel, “will not return” and Israeli officials should “prepare shelters, hotels, schools, and tents for two million people.”

Also, yesterday, the French Foreign Minister, Stéphane Séjourné, submitted a written proposal requiring Hezbollah’s elite Radwan unit retreat ten miles north of the border with Israel. Nasrallah responded, “You read the paper, it is nothing. There is Israeli security.” Many members of Israel’s cabinet, including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, threatened a wider war. He said to the Israeli Air Force last week, “Point the noses of our aircraft northward.” Last week, Israeli Foreign Minister, Israel Katz, warned “Time is running out to reach a diplomatic solution in Southern Lebanon. Israel will act militarily to return the evacuated citizens in its northern border area if no diplomatic solution is reached.” Today, we are most fortunate to have Sarit Zehavi with us once again. Sarit is a Lieutenant Colonel of the IDF in reserve, and one of the world’s leading experts on Israel’s northern border,

Sarit is the founder and president of Alma. Alma is a wonderful nonprofit organization and an independent research and education center. Alma specializes in Israel security challenges on its northern border. Sarit briefs numerous influential groups and forums, both in Israel and overseas. The groups comprise US senators, congressmen and women, politicians, senior journalists, and visiting VIP groups. Sarit authors many position papers and news updates focused on Lebanon, Syria, and Israel’s national security challenges. She served for 15 years in the IDF where she specialized in military intelligence. Sarit holds an MA in Middle Eastern studies from Ben Gurion University, and she was selected by the Jerusalem Post as one of the 50 most influential global Jewish personalities of 2021. It is always a privilege and an honor to speak with Sarit.

So Sarit, yesterday, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah doubled down on his threats against Israel. He said that all options are on the table and the eyes of Hezbollah are on Gaza as they fight in the North. He said that if Israel widens the conflict, Hezbollah will widen it and if Israel intensifies, they will do the same. He also said, “You will have to find a place to shelter two million people from the north.” How serious is Hezbollah about taking on the IDF?

Sarit: Serious. I must say though there was nothing new in this speech. Nasrallah pretty much set the rules of engagement in this conflict from the beginning. He joined this campaign on October 8th. The war in the North is on a different scale than in Gaza, but there has been war in the North since October 8th. Actually, it was in Hezbollah’s interest to destabilize the situation on the northern border of Israel before October 7th. As you can learn from his speech, this interest has not changed. However, Hezbollah does not want to go to war in support of the Palestinian cause. After seeing what is happening in the world, Hezbollah is also not interested in going to war with Israel without a good narrative. It will be much easier for them to drag Israel into war by placing us in an untenable situation and then telling the world Israel initiated the war.

You mentioned the 60,000 Israelis who were evacuated from the North. The past few days have been especially rough over here in the North. A woman soldier was killed by Hezbollah missiles which reached all the way to Safed. Safed is the biggest city in the Galilee with 40,000 people. It sounds very small to Americans, but in Galilean terms, it is big. A barrage of rockets reached Safed today and a few more people were wounded. The head of the hospital in Safed made a statement alleging the war in the North has already started and they have already treated around 160 wounded Israelis from this war.

Yesterday a mother and her 15-year-old son were wounded by an anti-tank missile in Kiryat Shmona. Kiryat Shmona is the second biggest town in the region with 23,000 people. The difference between Safed and Kiryat Shmona is that Safed is 15 kilometers from Lebanon while Kiryat Shmona two kilometers or less from the border. We have evacuated Kiryat Shmona. This mother and child came to make some arrangements. They had to come to Kiryat Shmona and they were hit directly. When Hezbollah fires anti-tank missiles, there are no alerts and no Iron Dome, because the missiles are launched directly. You can see it over here behind me.

The rockets that reached Safed were regular rockets. Sometimes the Iron Dome misses. We do not have all the information yet but that is probably what happened today.

So, Nasrallah has not changed. We have experienced the implications of his threats already. In his most recent speech, he is just emphasizing the cost of war to us. We know the cost of war. However, there is also a high cost for the low-scale war we are engaged in now.

Sarah: After the 2006 War, the United Nations passed UN Security Council Resolution 1701. Resolution 1701 requires Hezbollah to move north of the Litani River. Have they complied with this resolution in any way?

Sarit: No. Resolution 1701 was problematic because it had no deadline for implementation and no definitive enforcement provisions. There is a question of who is responsible for enforcing the resolution. The Israelis believe it is clearly the responsibility of the UN. The number of United Nations Interim Force to Lebanon (UNIFIL) soldiers was greatly increased due to this resolution. According to Israel, UNIFIL’s 10,000 soldiers should ensure their area of operation is free from violent activity.

Resolution 1701 states that the area between the border, the Blue Line, and the Litani River in Lebanon, should be empty of any illegal presence. This area spans around 25 kilometers and currently includes warehouses, armed personnel, weapons and uniforms. Who should enforce the resolution? The resolution states that UNIFIL should assist the Lebanese army in safeguarding this area. UNIFIL has no direct authority to act and it is too much to expect from the Lebanese army. The bottom line is this resolution was never enforced, and the outcome is what we see today.

Sarah: Right. UN Security Council resolution 1559, states that all foreign forces must evacuate Lebanon. Israel evacuated from Lebanon on May 24th, 2000. It is ironic.

Sarit: I want to say something about 1559. 1559 is more important than 1701 because it had nothing to do with Israel. 1559 is a resolution from 2004, which is after the Israeli withdrawal. It actually called the Syrian forces to evacuate from Lebanon and it called for elections there. Both of these happened. 1559 also demanded the disarmament of all local militias in Lebanon, including Lebanese or Palestinian militias. This demand was not met.

Sarah: Of course, the world does not remember that. Can you talk about the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF)? Why are they so weak and why has Hezbollah tended to dominate both them and the UNIFIL forces?

Sarit: There is no compulsory service in Lebanon anymore. The salaries of the soldiers of the LAF are much lower than the salaries of Hezbollah. It is also about demography. Around half of the Lebanese people are Shia Muslims, meaning that they are dependent on the civilian services they receive from Hezbollah. They are therefore natural supporters of Hezbollah. So, around 45% of the LAF are actually Shia Muslims who view themselves as brothers of Hezbollah. There is often competition between Hezbollah and the LAF about who is the protector of Lebanon but there is also coordination and collaboration between them at times.

In Southern Lebanon, there is definitely collaboration between them. I have personally witnessed this collaboration on the border. I saw Hezbollah taking photos of me while a Lebanese soldier actively supported him. I saw Hezbollah using Lebanese army positions to observe an IDF exercise in the north. The LAF admitted these were Lebanese army positions. So, the collaboration between Hezbollah and the Lebanese army is alive and kicking.

The Lebanese army actually assisted Hezbollah in hiding its military deployment in South Lebanon from UNIFIL. I will give you a small example from the last UNIFIL report. UNIFIL discovered Hezbollah’s aerial shooting ranges during their helicopter patrols. They wanted to access these shooting ranges on the ground but the Lebanese army made various excuses for them not to be able to do so. The UNIFIL forces complained about this. The current French proposal asks the Lebanese army to serve as a buffer between Israel and Hezbollah and it is obviously unrealistic. It is not going to happen. Hezbollah will not allow it and the Lebanese army will not do it. If they did, we would find ourselves in the same situation that we were in until October 6th.

Sarah: So, it sounds like UNIFIL’s function is to report, but not to enforce any provisions of the resolution.

Sarit: Behind me are some videos which give you some idea of the relationship between UNIFIL and Hezbollah.

Sarit: What you can see is a UN vehicle hit by stones thrown by Hezbollah. This is something that happens all the time. The video shows how Hezbollah uses UNIFIL soldiers as human shields when they launch rockets. Hezbollah launches rockets into Israel from next to UNIFIL bases.

The video shows Hezbollah military operatives attacking and burning a UNIFIL vehicle a few years ago. They made the soldiers get out of the vehicle, took their guns and threatened them with their own guns. Even though UNIFIL was armed, they were not willing to get into a conflict with Hezbollah. It is an ineffective mechanism and the reason does not matter.

In the video, you can see a UN post with a poster of Nasrallah just below it. Next to the same UN post, you will see Hezbollah training to kidnap someone. When I used to take the groups to the border, we used to look at this UN post. It is very close. It is like 100 meters from the border. The video shows them pushing somebody into a vehicle. That is training for a kidnapping. Hezbollah’s flag is right next to the UN position. These are just some examples from the past year.

Sarah: Amazing footage. We have also done some research on Hezbollah’s work with the Lebanese Boy Scout movement. I am sure you are aware of this collaboration. These young kids are indoctrinated to join Hezbollah. It is amazing.

Sarit: I agree. Completely indoctrinated. It is part of the problem.

Sarah: Totally. How many incursions have there been from the northern border into Israel? Has there been a big increase since the war began on October 8th?

Sarit: Look, the IDF is not publishing everything that is going on the border. I am speaking as a resident of the North. We feel there is much more going on than what is reported in the media. I can tell you that there are days we hear a lot of explosions. From my town, you can feel the heat of Hezbollah’s fire. You can hear the Iron Dome interceptions, you can hear the Israeli artillery, the drones, the jets and all the sounds of war. Sometimes we wake up from the sounds of the blast in the night, and nothing is reported the next day. We do not know what was happening during the night. At the end of 2023, the IDF published a figure of 2000 projectiles launched by Hezbollah, meaning 2000 missiles of various kinds. Since then, of course, the numbers are much greater. We are attacked seven or eight times every day.

When I say attack, I am referring to more than one missile. Most attacks comprise more than one missile. For example, there was a salvo of rockets fired at Safed today. We do not know exactly how many there were. Last Friday, there was a salvo of 40 rockets fired at Safed. This is just one example. This is one attack out of five that day. The munitions that are being used are either rockets, like those fired at Safed, or anti-tanks that I mentioned previously. These are extremely heavy missiles that fly very low because they are very heavy. These rockets are almost half a ton in weight, it is challenging to intercept them, and they create a lot of damage.

They are also using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which are very accurate. Not all of the UAVs have been intercepted. The oldest reservist killed in this war, was killed up north by a direct UAV hit. He was 53 years old.

With respect to attempts at infiltration, I know of at least two, but there were probably many more. Again, not everything is made public. If you read between the lines of the IDF spokesperson’s announcement last week, you would conclude there have probably been many more attempts at infiltration. The IDF retaliated. I think the IDF is trying to achieve some military successes while negotiations are going on and prior to reaching the stage of all-out war with Hezbollah.

For example, the IDF has already responded to what happened in Safed. They retaliated and targeted an area the IDF has not yet attacked since this war began. Hezbollah is mostly attacking areas zero to five kilometers from the border. Most, but not all, of the IDF’s responses hit targets within a similar range. Today, however, the IDF attacked an area around 30 kilometers from the border. In fact, this area is north of the Litani River and outside of UNIFIL’s area of operation. However, there is a lot of Hezbollah activity over there as well. So, even if 1701 were to be implemented, it would not solve the problem completely and nor would it eliminate the threat.

Sarah: Right. They have around 150,000 to 200, 000 missiles with precision-guided munitions as well.

Sarit: Yes, they have around 2000 drones which are very accurate. They have probably used a few tens of them. They have a few hundred accurate precision guided missiles with a range of between 100 to 350 kilometers. They have anti-tank missiles and we do not know how many. They have a range of up to 10 kilometers and they are very accurate.

Sarah: So, what would it take for the evacuees from the northern communities, to feel secure and safe enough to return to their homes?

Sarit: Elimination of the threat. First and foremost, is elimination of the threat of the anti-tanks and of Radwan brigades invading the Galilee. I was not evacuated, but I am definitely within range of these risks.  I have changed but Hamas and Hezbollah have not. They wanted war. They wanted to eliminate us. They wanted to rape Israeli women and to kill Israelis. This was the reality before October 7th. This is the reality after October 7th. It has not changed. Their motivation has not changed. What has changed is the Israelis. I walked along the border every day, I took the photos I showed you and I never carried a gun. Today I will not go back to these places without a gun. I am not sure that I will take tourists to these places that quickly either.

We have changed, and we demand our government eliminate the threat. At minimum they must eliminate the threat of Radwan and of anti-tanks. How do you do that? France, and the US are leading the negotiations. They are using words like pushback or other similar words with no meaning. The distances are very close. If Hezbollah was pushed back eight or ten kilometers north, it would take them minutes to drive back. The term that we should use is disarm. I want to see Hezbollah disarm in these areas. I want to see trucks loading rockets from their homes and driving away. Unfortunately, there is zero chance that I will see this happening.

Sarah: Do you think that Israel has the capability and the will to fight Hezbollah while it is still engaged in the war with Hamas in Gaza?

Sarit: Israelis know if we do not have a choice, we are capable of everything. My son told me, “Mommy, we are going to win this but the question is at what price?” Smart boy.

Sarah: Very smart. How old is he?

Sarit: 19.

Sarit: We can win this. The correct first priority, of course, was Gaza. We are getting closer to something else in Gaza. I am not saying we are getting closer to the end because the end is the return of all hostages. This is going to take a while if there is no deal, and it does not seem like Hamas is interested in a deal for now. Even if Hamas no longer controls Gaza, we still need to bring the hostages home and it is going to take a while.

Nasrallah is saying he does not want to contemplate negotiations while there is no ceasefire in Gaza. I do not know exactly at what point Nasrallah will be ready to negotiate a ceasefire in the North. As I said, the current situation is comfortable for Nasrallah. He has successfully placed Israel in a dilemma and we will have to decide what actions to take next. At what point do we want to bring our people home and at what point are we militarily prepared enough for another campaign in Lebanon.

The biggest question here relates to the level of support we are going to get from the United States. The biggest issue is not Israel’s capabilities. If it were, I think we could resolve the conflict, if not tomorrow, the next day and if not the next day, then the next year. We got a lot of support from the United States for the Gaza operation, which was extremely important. I am not sure we are getting the same vibe with regard to support for a Lebanese operation.

I was interviewed just before we met. The situation here is not being reported completely. This is true internationally and even inside Israel. As such, I am still being asked when Hezbollah will join in the war against Israel. Hezbollah joined in on October 8. We need the United States to understand that if 60,000 Israelis cannot go back to their homes, there are implications for them as well. This impacts how the United States is viewed by Iran, Russian and China. This influences how the United States is viewed in the Middle East and impacts the amount of power the United States wields in the Red Sea. There is a connection between all these fronts. That is why it is extremely important that we agree on what message we want to deliver on the northern front.

Sarah: Right. Nasrallah has made several speeches in the past indicating that all of these terrorist proxies of Iran are acting totally independently of Iran. What do you have to say to that?

Sarit: It is not a complete lie. If you want to create a metaphor to understand the reality here, you should not use the head of the snake. You should use the octopus. The octopus has eight arms. The arms of the octopus in this case include Hamas and Islamic Jihad operating in Gaza and in Lebanon. Hezbollah is in Syria and in Lebanon. There is the Islamic Resistance of Iraq and more militia subordinate to the IRGC in Syria. Then you have the Houthis operating in Yemen, you have the Ansar Allah. Then you have Iran itself, which is very careful to become directly involved in Yemen.

All these proxies received ideology and training money from Iran and have different kinds of relationships with the IRGC. Some of them, like Hezbollah, are partners and full-time, full-scale allies of Iran. As a comparison, if you consider Meta International as Iran, Hezbollah is Zuckerberg’s most senior CEO. I am not implying anything about Meta or Zuckerberg, rather I am providing an illustration of the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah on a business level.

Hamas has a different relationship with Iran. It is a freelance relationship. It is not a natural alliance because Palestinians are Sunnis. However, over the past decade, Iran invested a lot in mobilizing Hamas and they succeeded. They created a mutual interest.

Iran cultivated and equipped the Houthis as well. I believe the Houthis do not need specific Iranian orders for everything they carry out in the Red Sea. All they needed was a very general order to start the campaign. So, we do not know the exact daily level of coordination between each of the militias.

What we saw this week is a very good example. Abdollahian, the foreign minister of Iran, met with Nasrallah in Lebanon. Then Nasrallah met with Ziad al-Nakhala, the head of Islamic Jihad, and Abdollahian flew to Syria for more meetings. This week is just an example of the coordination between the players that is occurring constantly. We tend to give too much credit to what Nasrallah says. Sometimes what he says is true but sometimes he talks next to the truth. We just need to interpret what he is saying correctly.

Sarah: Amazing. All right, so now it’s my honor to have my colleague Joseph Epstein, read some of the questions that have come in from our audience and maybe pose a few of his own. Joseph?

Joseph: Thank you, Sarah, and thank you Sarit for that amazing presentation. One of the questions from the audience is whether Christian and Druze Lebanese might join the fight on the side of Israel if Israel succeeded in weakening Hezbollah significantly?

Sarit: Wow. I don’t know. I am not sure they will join in the fight, but they would definitely enjoy such an outcome. If you rely on them it is going to take a while. There is a question of how many Christians will be left in Lebanon when this campaign ends. Very few. That is the real problem. There is negative immigration from Lebanon. Over the past few years, Lebanon has been in a state of political and economic crisis. I think that was one of the reasons Hezbollah created a situation of war with Israel. The war helps them to weaken their partners. If Hezbollah survives, it will be able to push them out of Lebanon and win the whole game. Your question refers to an opportunity, but relying on collaboration from Lebanese groups could be a risk as well. We do not know. When entering a war, you never know how it is going to end.

Joseph: Thank you. So, as you know this year is an election year in the United States. I am sure that this impacts Israel’s policy, especially when it comes to war in the north. The Biden administration has been very vocal about wanting to keep the conflict in Gaza from widening. How do you think this will affect Israel’s strategy when it comes to Hezbollah?

Sarit: It is a problem. We need to consider the US position here. I believe that as we talk, there are conversations occurring between the Israelis and the Americans and the Israelis and the French. As I said, we need the administration, in particular, and the United States in general, on our side in this conflict with Hezbollah. We do not want to go to war with Hezbollah without US support for many reasons. One of them, of course, is the fact that the conflict could spread. The second, as I have said, is that we are the Western front against Iran. It is not about Israel and Hezbollah or Israel and Hamas. It is about something much greater than that.

Joseph: Thank you. When it comes to the Israeli residents of the North, are they pressing the Netanyahu administration to widen the conflict or not?

Sarit: They are pressing Netanyahu to find a solution, and, if needed a military solution. Today, the mayors from the North went to the Knesset and met with Knesset members there. We have a lobby of residents without any official position. Lobby 1701. Perhaps you can have a webinar with them as well. They are demanding the Israeli government find a safe way to bring the people back. Young families who saw what happened to other young families in the South are afraid to go back.

Joseph: What do you think needs to happen? Do you think there is any way that this gets solved peacefully? What would Hezbollah need to do for that to happen?

Sarit: I do not think it will get resolved peacefully because I do not believe Hezbollah will take the missiles out of the homes. I believe that there will be a diplomatic arrangement because this is what everybody wants, especially the Americans. A diplomatic arrangement, however, is not the same as a solution. In my assessment, and I hope I am wrong, those among those Israeli evacuees who have an option, will not come back. Those who have another economic option and who can continue to pay the mortgage on their home in the north, and at the same time to live elsewhere in Israel, will not come back. So, who will come back? Those who do not have an option. Those who do not have an option are not successful businessmen. We are going to have a deep social and economic crisis over here up north and we are very worried about it. We are worried as to how our future will look when the north is populated by people who do not have any other choice but to go back to their homes and fear for their lives.

That is one issue. Second is the question of the IDF. After what happened in the South, we are not 100% sure the IDF will protect us. I am saying that with pain because I was an officer in the Army and I believe in the Israeli spirit. However, something was shaken and deeply undermined on October 7th. We understand that in order to protect us IDF needs to invest a lot of resources for a long time. How do we keep reservists in service for long periods of time? These are civilians with businesses, work and their own lives. Imagine if you were pulled out of your daily life and were drafted for months. This means you lose your business and life as you know it. How do you continue like that for years? You do not. Eventually, the IDF will have to let the reservists return home and reduce their presence in the North. How are we going to do that exactly? Who will protect us and how are we going to protect ourselves? Many things need to be done at the military level to prevent another massacre. There is a lot of work to be done.

Sarah: Right. I want to reiterate some of the points you raised. One, Israel is the eastern outpost of America’s national security interests against Iran and all of the Iranian terror proxies. If Israel’s border is shrinking and people from the north and south are crowding into the center, it is going to eventually come back to haunt the United States. Whether or not people want to acknowledge it, our enemies perceive Israel as an eastern outpost of Western democracy. I think that is one of the reasons why Israel is resented so much. If we do not give Israel the military capability to defend itself, it will really come back to bite us. That is just my two cents. Joseph, are there other questions that have come in or do you have some of your own?

Joseph: I have a couple. You mentioned the domestic pressure in Israel as regards the situation in the North. You discussed how the situation in Israel is untenable for the long term. There have been many evacuated from Southern Lebanon as well. Is there any sort of domestic pressure on the Lebanese government or on Hezbollah in this regard?

Sarit: No. The pressure on Hezbollah is the same pressure as it was before the war. People always ask me, what about the Lebanese, what about Lebanese society? I cannot talk about the Lebanese or Lebanese society in general. I have to divide Lebanese society into the Shia Lebanese and the Christian Lebanese, and actually, into those who are with Hezbollah versus those who are against. This has not changed. You still have those who are with Hezbollah and those who are against them. Those who are against Hezbollah are not necessarily friends of Israel, but they do not want Lebanon to be involved in a campaign on behalf of Iran or Hamas. Those who are for Hezbollah are saying, we are going to stand for our brothers and sisters in Gaza. According to them, Israel is committing genocide, and they are going to fight and die and sacrifice themselves. That is the terminology they are using. They will sacrifice themselves for the bigger cause.

Actually, the bigger cause is to spread the values of the Islamic Revolution. That is the bigger cause. People love to say that there is a lot of pressure in Lebanon. If there was a pressure in Lebanon, Hezbollah would give up on the presidency, which it has not. If there was pressure in Lebanon, Hezbollah would stop firing on Israel, which it does not. If Hezbollah was under pressure, it would agree to negotiate an arrangement with Israel, which it does not. I do not believe this pressure exists. Moreover, the Lebanese media barely reports the damages in the south. I learned about the damages in South Lebanon from the social media of the people in the towns in South Lebanon and not from the Lebanese media. So today there was a kind of apologetic, or maybe even blaming, tweet from one of Hezbollah’s Palestinian reporters. He noted that while Lebanese reporters are not coming south to report, international reporters are. The Lebanese reporters are afraid for their lives, that is why they’re not coming south. You don’t need reporters to report on what is happening in Southern Lebanon, you can use the videos on social media like I am doing.

We can say there are difficulties for those who were evacuated on the Lebanese side. This is true. We can say that there is a humanitarian situation for a few thousand people there. This is also true but does it influence the policy of Hezbollah? This is not happening. I do not see any willingness on the side of Hezbollah to reach a ceasefire. We can pretend to ourselves that there is pressure, but I do not see it. They are still shooting at us. That is the bottom line.

Joseph: I would like to discuss Iran’s calculus. When Israel started its campaign against Hamas and Gaza, there was speculation Iran was willing to sacrifice Hamas in order to save Hezbollah. This means Iran would not want to start a war because it could risk losing a very valuable partner. What do you say to that speculation? Is that still the case? What do you think Iran’s calculus is in general when it comes to Israel’s northern border?

Sarit: As I discussed, what we are seeing in the Middle East is not just an offensive against Israel but one against the Western presence in the Middle East. Israel is just a part of it. We can see this when we consider the campaigns in places like the Red Sea, Syria and Iraq and Germany.

I think the Iranians sacrificed Hamas because they made the decision to start the multi-front campaign against the state of Israel. I think the Iranians sacrificed Hamas to assess the reaction and tactics of the IDF. They also wanted to assess the response of the international communities. They did not sacrifice Hamas instead of Hezbollah, rather, they sacrificed Hamas first. They started with Hamas. Their intention was to involve Hezbollah at a certain level at some later point and then to escalate their level of involvement. The problem is that we and Iran are not operating on the same timeline. According to our Western perception, war lasts a few weeks or maybe a few months. Iran, on the other hand, has all the time in the world and is prepared to wait for years. If you want to understand what I am saying, look at Ukraine. Ukraine has been at war for two years, and nobody is attacking Moscow. This is what the Iranians are learning from the war in Ukraine.

Joseph: I think you bring up a good point. Iranian military officials have constantly referred to the “war of attrition” that they are waging against Israel. Their proxies have said that as well. How long do you think they can really draw this out before Israel has to strike?

Sarit: I believe that once Israel is prepared militarily, we will see a change. At the same time, I believe that Israel wants to have a diplomatic arrangement, even a diplomatic arrangement that is not good enough from my point of view as a resident of the North. I believe it will end up with a diplomatic arrangement that would mean a cease-fire but not a solution. It would mean that Hezbollah retains the initiative for restarting the war and this is a dangerous scenario.

Joseph: Thank you. We just received a question. We have heard a lot about Hezbollah’s missile stockpile. What about their conventional forces and maybe other means of waging war? Can you discuss that?

Sarit: Yes. Hezbollah has 50,000 full time military operatives. Out of them, around 3000 are commando members of the Radwan brigades, the Nukhba of Hezbollah. Comparing the Nukhba Hamas special forces unit to the Radwan brigades is actually insulting to Nasrallah. The difference between the Radwan forces and the special Hamas forces is that the Radwan forces are not only trained, they are also experienced because they fought in Syria. They came back to South Lebanon from Syria. These are the photos that you see behind me. Other than the military operatives I discussed already, Hezbollah has thousands of reservists that are less trained and less professional. To tell you the truth, it does not matter whether Hamas has 50,000 or 30,000 soldiers. It does not matter. Both are enough to carry out an offensive plan similar to that of Hamas.

We tend to believe Hezbollah has more disciplined forces than Hamas. If a scenario similar to the October 7th attack were to happen again, it would allow others to cross the border. It is not likely that an October 7th like attack will happen now because we are much more prepared, but it may happen in the future. And you know there is Hamas in Lebanon as well. You do not need big numbers of attackers to cause chaos. 3000 invaders from 30 areas along the fence were sufficient to devastate the communities next to the border in the South. If they are able to surprise the IDF, they can do a lot of damage.

Joseph: Unlike Gaza, which is under a blockade from Israel and Egypt, Southern Lebanon shares a border with Syria. From Syria, there is a path to Iraq and then to Iran. That Shia land bridge that is very much under Iranian influence. Could you see Iran shipping other proxies to Southern Lebanon. Examples of such proxies are the Fatemiyoun from Afghanistan, Syrian groups or even Iranian operatives.

Sarit: We know that there is a militia composed of various nationalities, including a lot of Syrians and Iraqis, already positioned in South Lebanon.

Sarah: That is very sobering. It is very close to home because I have a dear family member fighting with the IDF in the north. We hope and pray that there will be no more casualties. The news of what had happened earlier today is very troubling. I want to ask all of our viewers to please contribute to the Alma Research and Education Center at There is a Donate Now button. Salit does amazing work up there. I adore her. Of course, we really do need your contributions to EMET, . We are on Capitol Hill every day trying to fight the good fight and inform people that Israel is the eastern outpost of Western democracy.

It is in America’s national security interest to have a very strong and very secure Israel and IDF. I am hopeful that the IDF has learned the sobering lessons of October 7th and will keep all of Israel’s borders safe and secure and strong. I hope Sarit and her beautiful family can soon go to bed at night without hearing booms in the middle of the night. I want to thank all of our listeners who have tuned in. Please come back next week at the same time for another exciting topical and timely EMET webinar. Thank you so much Sarit.



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