While the current crisis unfolds, I have occasionally recalled a Charles Krauthammer column from years ago about Hezbollah and rockets. Talk about prescient. It was from April 2002. There was this:
“Watch Lebanon. If you want to know where the Israeli-Palestinian war is going, watch Lebanon. If the war goes — literally — ballistic, the fuse will have been lit by the Iran-backed Hezbollah guerrillas now firing rockets into Israel from Lebanon.
But did Israel not withdraw from Lebanon almost two years ago? Why is there still a problem with Lebanon?
Indeed, Israel had been in Lebanon for about 20 years. It was a classic defensive occupation. Israel laid claim to not an inch of Lebanese soil. It diverted not a drop of water. It had no interest in staying. It was in there for one reason: to protect Israel’s northern frontier from various guerrillas — first Yasser Arafat’s PLO, then the Lebanese Shiite Party of God (Hezbollah) — using south Lebanon to attack Israel.
Yet for two decades, Israel was hectored to comply with U.N. resolutions demanding Israel’s withdrawal. In May 2000, it complied. To ensure that there could be no possible residual territorial dispute, Israel asked the United Nations to draw the line demarcating the true Israeli-Lebanese border — the so-called Blue Line — then pulled back behind it.
Hezbollah was not mollified. While its ostensible mission was the liberation of Lebanese territory, it did not disband. On the contrary. It occupied south Lebanon, imported huge new supplies of weapons from Iran and began sporadic cross-border attacks on Israel…”
“Hezbollah is armed with 8,000 Katyusha rockets. Practically all of northern Israel lies under its guns. They are ready for firing. Hezbollah’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah, threatened Monday to hit Haifa with Katyusha rockets if Israel dared to respond to Hezbollah attacks.
Were that to happen, the northern front would explode. Israel has been sending urgent messages through the United Nations and the United States that it would not tolerate such aggression. It would be forced to counterattack — on Lebanon, on Syrian army positions in Lebanon and possibly on Syria itself, Syria being Hezbollah’s boss and patron.
Syria could not withstand such an Israeli attack conventionally. It might then launch its missiles equipped with chemical weapons into Israeli cities. And that could trigger Armageddon. Israel was established so that never again would the gassing of Jews be permitted.
Not only, therefore, is Lebanon the most dangerous piece of tinder in the region. It is the most instructive. The Arabs claim that their grievance is Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. Give it back and you’ll have land for peace. Like the Lebanon peace?…”