Uptick in Israeli Flights over Beirut -- Why Now?

Abir Sultan /Pool photo via AP

AP reports on Israeli jets carrying out “low-flying flights over Beirut” and reconnaissance drones “also buzz[ing] overhead…in what has become a daily occurrence.”


In AP’s description, Israel “regularly violates Lebanese airspace, often to carry out strikes in neighboring Syria” — though such “violation” has little meaning in the case of a country like Lebanon that has been taken over by Hizballah, a terror organization sworn to Israel’s destruction.

The report says, though, that “the frequency of low-flying warplanes over the capital has intensified in the last two weeks, making residents jittery as tensions run high in the region on the final days of President Donald Trump’s administration.”

As an Israeli, that greater “frequency” of flights is news to me — not only because our government doesn’t talk about such things but also because I haven’t seen reports on it in the Israeli media. But it comes as no surprise.

“Tensions” are indeed “high” amid speculations that in his last days in office, President Trump — though, in his current politically beleaguered state, it seems less likely — could order a strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities. If that happened, Iran could unleash Hizballah against Israel — hence the Israeli jets and drones signaling to Hizballah, and Iran, that it wouldn’t be a smart idea.


Another factor behind the uptick in aerial activity over Beirut is likely the threat of Hizballah’s precision-guided missiles — which, Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah recently boasted, have doubled in number over the past year. As Israel’s top security think tank, INSS, recently put it:

“The hundreds of precision missiles possessed by the Iranian axis, particularly Hezbollah, capable of causing large-scale damage in Israel and paralyzing critical military and civilian systems on the home front is a strategic threat, and Israel must devise a strategy to arrest further development of this threat.”

If Nasrallah’s claim that those missiles have multiplied is true and not just bluster, then the Israeli “low-flying flights” are a way of reminding Hizballah, and Iran, of Israel’s power and making sure Israel’s deterrence doesn’t falter.

Beyond the current situation, though, displays of Israeli might — along with actual increased Israeli military activity in Syria — are geared, among other things, toward the advent of the Biden administration and a possible strategic deterioration in the region.

As the INSS think tank — by the way, by no means a right-wing outfit — warned:


“The change in the US administration and President-elect Biden’s entry into the White House require Israel to find ways of conducting dialogue and exerting influence that will alleviate the risks of a potential return by the US to the faulty nuclear agreement.”

…Though the nuclear accord…had some supporters in Israel, most Israeli defense officials saw it, at best, as weaker than it could have been and, at worst, as granting international legitimacy to the Iranian regime and its nuclear program.

Alongside dialogue with Washington, INSS says that “a credible military option against Iran should be maintained, and an understanding reached with the United States on the conditions for taking military action to thwart Iranian progress toward a nuclear weapon.”

That notion of an “understanding,” though, is probably where the think tank takes leave of plausibility.

Considering that top defense and foreign policy posts in the new administration are already being filled by pro-nuclear-deal Obama-administration alumni like Tony Blinken, Jake Sullivan, and (it’s expected) Wendy Sherman, the likelihood that the administration would tolerate any sort of military action against Iran is low. Israel, in other words, could find itself in a situation where it has to go it alone.


In a better scenario than that, Israel, in a common front with its moderate Arab allies, convinces Washington to take a more realistic approach and recognize the implacably malign nature of the regime in Tehran. That has a nicer sound to it than warplanes, but don’t bet on the new administration acknowledging that Israel and the Arab states also targeted by Iran and its proxies might actually know what they’re talking about.

P. David Hornik, a longtime American immigrant in Israel, is a freelance writer, translator, and copyeditor living in Beersheva. In addition to PJ Media, his work has appeared in National Review, American Spectator, Frontpage Magazine, New English Review, American Thinker, The Times of Israel, the Jerusalem Post, and elsewhere. Among his books are Choosing Life in Israel and, recently released by Adelaide Books, the novel And Both Shall Row.










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