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In a series of statements and tweets over the last weeks, Israel has intensified its threats against Lebanon. Hoping to generate international support for military action, Tel Aviv has doubled down on demonizing Hezbollah, with the wider goal of destabilizing Lebanon as a whole.

In an orchestrated social media campaign, Israeli authorities have aggressively tried to present the Lebanese population as hostages held by Hezbollah.

In early December, the IDF launched a military operation at the Lebanese border, claiming it was destroying tunnels that had allegedly been dug by Hezbollah. The United States supported Israel’s actions. For its part, Lebanon complained that Israel failed to present any credible evidence about the existence of these tunnels.

It is important to view these latest attacks within the context of Israel’s domestic political problems. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been confronted with several corruption cases, involving bribes, fraud, and breach of trust. His wife Sara has been indicted on corruption charges, and accused of fraudulently obtaining $100,000 from the state. Their son Yair has been criticized for calling for the expulsion of Palestinians and Muslims on social media. Yair has previously spread anti-Jewish conspiracy theories online.

Manufacturing war could help Netanyahu strengthen his domestic power. As Israeli writer Yoav Litvin argued in Counterpunch, “Netanyahu gets to divert attention from his corruption and can consolidate power by unifying Israeli society behind a common enemy.” Problematizing Hezbollah has always worked for Israel because of how extensively the movement has been demonized as an alleged “terror organization” in the West and Arab world.

Israel’s problem with Lebanon has, however, never been about Hezbollah only. Israel occupied Lebanon  before Hezbollah ever even existed. Indeed, Hezbollah initially emerged as a reaction to Israeli aggressions. As Israeli Chanel 10 News reported this month, Israeli governmental minister Yoav Galant explicitly threatened to destroy not only Hezbollah, but all of Lebanon and to send the country to the Stone Age. His latest remarks are in line with the Israeli government’s long-standing fantasies of destroying the Republic of Lebanon.

Indeed, Israel’s problems with Lebanon are structural in nature. Unlike most Arab countries, Lebanon was never successfully coerced into normalization or peace with Israel. In fact, Lebanon continues to resist Israel, across sectarian lines.

As long as Lebanon’s existence poses an obstacle to wider Israeli hegemony, and serves as a convenient distraction from the country’s domestic political problems, the Israeli government will continue to target all Lebanese people.

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