Crisis in Lebanon and Jordan threatens Israel's security

What is happening in Lebanon and Jordan, and how might it affect Israel? Analysis.

Yochanan Visser ,

Israel-Lebanon border
Israel-Lebanon border
Hadas Parush/Flash90

With the media in Israel almost solely focused on the unprecedented political crisis in the country, something important is taking place in two neighboring countries which succeeded in staying out of what was errantly called “the Arab Spring.”

If one takes a look at what is happening in Lebanon and to a lesser degree in Jordan, the need for a stable government in Israel becomes apparent because the crisis in both Lebanon and Jordan could affect Israel’s security in the long term.

The popular uprising in Lebanon began one-and-a-half month ago and was initially supported by the Shiite militias AMAL and Hezbollah.

The protests were initially triggered by a government plan to level taxes on the use of the internet app WhatsApp but quickly turned into a mass protest against the Lebanese political establishment which is one of the most corrupt ones in the world and is dominated by Iran’s local proxy Hezbollah.

The Lebanese economy is in dire straits with experts expecting recession over 2019 while the country’s sovereign debt stands at $86 billion the world’s third-highest debt relative to gross domestic product.

The crisis has already led to the resignation of Prime Minister Saad Hariri on October 29 leaving the country without a government that can introduce necessary reforms or even austerity measures in order to receive foreign financial assistance.

Much of the current anger is also directed at Lebanese banks which are accused of using a Ponzi scheme that enriched them while the Lebanese population paid the bill.

Insiders say that the crisis is no longer "threatening" the economy but is already taking Lebanon in the direction of default and this will have a huge negative impact on the social fabric in the country.

While Hezbollah and the smaller AMAL militia initially joined the protesters they quickly realized the uprising was also directed at them and their Iranian backers and retorted to the use of violence to scare the masses.

A stand-off last Tuesday, in the predominantly Christian neighborhood Ain el-Rummaneh in Beirut, where the civil war started in 1975, between Lebanese Christians and AMAL and Hezbollah fugitives stoked fears Lebanon could slid into a new civil war.

After the incident in Ain el-Rummaneh demonstrations became ever more violent and reminded older protesters of the bloody civil war that devastated Lebanon between 1975 and 1990.

By now it has become clear that Hezbollah and AMAL are not interested in forming a better government which according to many Lebanese should consist of technocrats who can introduce the necessary reforms.

Both Shiite militias are only interested in consolidating their grip on affairs in Lebanon and oppose a government of technocrats while they protect President Michael Aoun who’s hated by most Lebanese and who has remained largely passive during the current turmoil.

Hariri briefly contemplated returning to office on condition Hezbollah and AMAL would allow him to form a technocratic government but withdrew his candidacy after the two Shiite militias made clear they would oppose such a government.

The Shiite movements need Hariri, a Sunni Muslim, to get domestic and international support for a new government and they realize that when they should grab power Lebanon will be regarded as a banana republic that isn’t worth foreign investments.

Hezbollah also realizes that when it uses brutal force to stamp-out the current unrest it risks plunging Lebanon in a new civil war and that would spell the end of its participation in the Iranian ‘resistance’ axis which is currently building up forces to attack Israel in the future.

The Iranian proxy has already lost a lot of sympathy under the Lebanese population because it had become part of the corrupt political establishment in the country and realizes it cannot win over the hearts of the people with ‘resistance’ propaganda at this point in time.

The only option Hezbollah currently has is creating an artificial crisis with Israel and this could be the reason a Lebanese drone entered Israeli airspace this weekend.

A new crisis with Israel could divert the anger of the Lebanese population and save Hezbollah’s deteriorating standing in Lebanon.

Then there is Jordan, where protests against the corrupt rule of King Abdullah II are continuing unabated albeit on a smaller scale than those in Lebanon.

Human Rights Watch just published a detailed report about regime attempts to curb the increasing protests against Abdullah’s rule over Jordan.

“Jordan faces significant economic and political problems that are adding to citizens’ frustrations, but jailing activists and violating protesters’ rights may only hide popular discontent,” said Michael Page, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch in the report.

Sources in the Jordanian opposition reported to me that on November 20 rebels from Taiflah threatened to storm the King’s palaces during a large demonstration in downtown Amman.

“You are living in palaces, wake up, wake up, we won’t let you enjoy sleep no more,” chanted the protesters who refrained from using violence.

“Don’t play with us, you’ll lose. We will attack the palace,” was another slogan heard during the demonstration while the demonstrators threatened to kidnap tourists to hurt the large tourist industry in Jordan.

To divert attention from the rising anger against his regime the King is increasingly playing the anti-Israel card and constantly makes comments about Israel’s policies in Jerusalem which according to Abdullah are responsible for the significant deterioration in the ties between Jordan and Israel.

Those relations are at an all-time-low, the Jordanian ruler said in Washington during a recent visit to the United States.

He made his comments a couple of days before the Jordanian army embarked on a large-scale drill which simulated war with Israel.

The drill involved the Jordanian air force and was aimed at stopping an (Israeli) invasion via the border crossings and was overseen by Abdullah and members of the Jordanian government.

“It appears that this (drill) is expected, in light of the deterioration of relations with the occupying state and the increasingly harsh tone of (Israel’s) statements vis-à-vis Jordan… It seems that we will be waging a ‘cool battle’ with the occupier in the near future,” Jordanian media reported.

The drill took place a few days after an Iranian army delegation paid a secret visit to Amman, according to the source in the Jordanian opposition.