AnalysisThe only thing damaged in Dahiyeh was Nasrallah's ego

Nasrallah is lying about Israeli drones in Beirut; Lebanon must urgently wise up

Any terrorist knows Israeli drones don’t look or operate like the two in Beirut, and any child knows the result would have been very different if Israel had really wanted to attack

Avi Issacharoff

Avi Issacharoff, The Times of Israel's Middle East analyst, fills the same role for Walla, the leading portal in Israel. He is also a guest commentator on many different radio shows and current affairs programs on television. Until 2012, he was a reporter and commentator on Arab affairs for the Haaretz newspaper. He also lectures on modern Palestinian history at Tel Aviv University, and is currently writing a script for an action-drama series for the Israeli satellite Television "YES." Born in Jerusalem, he graduated cum laude from Ben Gurion University with a B.A. in Middle Eastern studies and then earned his M.A. from Tel Aviv University on the same subject, also cum laude. A fluent Arabic speaker, Avi was the Middle East Affairs correspondent for Israeli Public Radio covering the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the war in Iraq and the Arab countries between the years 2003-2006. Avi directed and edited short documentary films on Israeli television programs dealing with the Middle East. In 2002 he won the "best reporter" award for the "Israel Radio” for his coverage of the second intifada. In 2004, together with Amos Harel, he wrote "The Seventh War - How we won and why we lost the war with the Palestinians." A year later the book won an award from the Institute for Strategic Studies for containing the best research on security affairs in Israel. In 2008, Issacharoff and Harel published their second book, entitled "34 Days - The Story of the Second Lebanon War," which won the same prize.

A poster of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is seen amid other damage inside the media office in a stronghold of the Lebanese Hezbollah group in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP/Bilal Hussein)
A poster of Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah is seen amid other damage inside the media office in a stronghold of the Lebanese Hezbollah group in a southern suburb of Beirut, Lebanon, Sunday, Aug. 25, 2019. (AP/Bilal Hussein)

For many years, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah was seen as somebody who spoke the truth. He was regarded in this light not only in Lebanon but through much of the Middle East. Sometimes, especially after Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon in 2000 and at the time of the Second Lebanon War in 2006, this perception was justified.

In 2006, for instance, he acknowledged it had been an erroneous assessment that had led him to approve the cross-border kidnapping, and killing, of Israeli soldiers Eldad Regev and Ehud Goldwasser that prompted the Second Lebanon War.

But when it comes to the recent developments surrounding the Israeli attack at Akraba south of Damascus on Saturday night, and especially surrounding the two mysterious drones that subsequently crashed/exploded in the Hezbollah stronghold of Dahiyeh in Beirut, Nasrallah is lying. Lying through his teeth.

He lied in his speech on Sunday night when he described these two recent events. And he lied in the statement that his organization published on Monday night claiming that the two “Israeli” drones in Beirut were carrying explosives.

First of all, as has already been widely reported, these were not Israeli drones. Nor did they look like Israeli drones.

A drone that crashed in the Lebanese capital of Beirut on August 25, 2019. (Lebanese state media)

Every child in Dahiyeh knows that if Israel were involved in this incident, there was certainly no intention to blow up or assassinate but rather to convey a message.

Even if we believe for a moment the narrative Nasrallah advanced in his speech, where he described how one of these drones flew at such a low altitude that people in the neighborhood were able to bring it down by throwing stones at it, does anybody in the Middle East who’s ever encountered an Israeli drone find that description credible?

This picture taken on August 25, 2019 shows damage inside a media center of the Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah in the south of the capital Beirut, after two drones came down in the vicinity of its building earlier in the day. Hezbollah said that one of the drones was rigged with explosives. The early morning incident came hours after Israel launched airstrikes in neighboring Syria. (ANWAR AMRO / AFP)

Do the Hamas and Islamic Jihad activists in Gaza know of any Israeli drones like that, that explode and cause such minimal damage? Even a cursory examination of the pictures and clips of the scene of the “explosion” at Hezbollah’s media headquarters shows that if the “Zionist enemy” had wanted to truly blow up these offices, the result would have been very different.

If Israel were involved in this incident, there was certainly no intention to blow up or assassinate, but rather to convey a message

Nasrallah has been explaining that the threatened Hezbollah reprisals against Israel will not be in response to the drones in Beirut but rather to avenge the two members of his organization killed in Akraba, south of Damascus, in the Israeli strike there. But here too, Nasrallah’s faux-innocent description raises many questions — or should — in Lebanon and beyond.

Perhaps, before Nasrallah and Hezbollah drag Lebanon into a major escalation or heaven forbid a war, the organization would like to explain what exactly Hezbollah’s two activists were up to in this mysterious villa outside Damascus.

Were the two — Hassan Yousef Zabeeb and Yasser Ahmad Daher, who had been trained in Iran in operating drones — simply spending the last few days of summer vacation with their families around the pool before they headed back to their studies? Or were they, rather, planning and attempting to carry out attacks? And if the two were in fact there on some kind of military mission, does not Israel have complete legitimacy to protect itself from imminent attack?

Hassan Yousef Zabeeb, left, and Yasser Ahmad Daher, two Hezbollah members killed in an Israeli airstrike in Syria to thwart a plot to launch armed drones into Israel, seen flying from Lebanon to Iran in an undated photograph. (Israel Defense Forces)

The problem at the moment is that the Lebanese leadership, and of course the entire community of Hezbollah admirers, are prisoners of Nasrallah’s lies. It’s unlikely that Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun knew what really happened in Dahiyeh when he rushed to brand the incident a “declaration of war” by Israel against Lebanon. Aoun, who was previously the Lebanese army chief of staff and has commanded battles against Hezbollah in the past, should know how this organization’s manipulations can lead to drastic consequences.

The Lebanese leadership, and of course the entire community of Hezbollah admirers, are prisoners of Nasrallah’s lies

In the meantime, the official Israeli explanation of what really happened has not been heard, and therefore the field has been left open to the deluge of lies and fabrications being disseminated by Hezbollah. And through these lies and fabrications, Nasrallah has, in turn, painted himself and all of Lebanon into a corner.

Supporters of the Shiite Hezbollah terror group gather to watch the transmission on a large screen of a speech by the movement’s leader Hassan Nasrallah, in the town of Al-Ain in Lebanon’s Bekaa valley on August 25, 2019. (AFP)

When the truth is finally made known, the rhetorical escalation, the promises by Nasrallah to avenge the ostensible “Israeli aggression,” and any military consequences, will likely come to be recognized as another critical mistake by him.

Nasrallah has no genuine justification for a violent response. When the true picture becomes clear, it will be evident that what was harmed was mainly the honor of Hezbollah and Nasrallah. He has been humiliated. And his ego is what is driving his threats and actions at the moment.

The problem is that this does not only affect him. All of Lebanon is likely to find itself dragged into a grave escalation against Israel because of the inflated ego of a Hezbollah chief who should no longer be regarded as a man who tells the truth.

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